Pro-slavery mob at Leavenworth.--Ballot-box stolen and clerk beaten.--The jail and printing office destroyed.--The election and fight near Easton.--Murder of Capt. E. P. Brown.--Shannon receives authority to employ the troops.--Congressional Committee.--Arrival of Buford and his southern regiment.--Sheriff Jones shot at Lawrence.--Rev. Pardee Butler tarred and feathered.
It would be impossible, in the limits allotted to this work, and to carry out its intentions, to give more than a mere passing notice of the most important events that occurred prior to Governor Geary's arrival in the territory. Party spirit increased daily in violence, new accessions were constantly being made to each of the contending factions, and hordes of desperadoes rushed into the country to take advantage of its disturbed condition, simply to plunder and destroy, regardless of the consequences, or of who might be the sufferers. Brutal and shocking crimes were of daily occurrence, and a state of affairs existed too disgusting and deplorable for language properly to describe.
The Topeka Constitution being submitted to the people, an election was held in regard thereto on the 15th of December. This went off quietly, excepting at Leavenworth City. Here a drunken mob from Platte county, Missouri, with horrid yells, curses and threats, attacked the house in which the votes were being polled, and beating one of the clerks almost to death, seized and carried off the ballot-box. Three days afterward they assailed the Leavenworth jail, and after releasing one of their companions who was held a prisoner, burned it to the ground; and on the 20th of the month a similar mob, infuriated by evil passions and bad whiskey, destroyed the printing office of the Territorial Register, the free-state newspaper at that place.
An election for officers under the Topeka Constitution was ordered for the 15th of January, 1856. The Mayor of Leavenworth, a pro-slavery man, elected by force and fraud, forbid such election being held in that city. It was therefore adjourned for that district to the 17th, at a house near Easton, twelve miles from Leavenworth. At that time armed parties of pro-slavery men stationed themselves at various places on the road, and intercepted the passage of the free-state people, whom they disarmed and drove back from the place of voting. Threats being made to take and destroy the ballot-box, and a dispatch having been sent to Kickapoo for a company of the "Rangers" to assist in that work, a party of twenty free-state men remained, after the polls were closed in the evening, to protect the box. Late at night three of these, Mr. Stephen Sparks, his son, and nephew, supposing the danger over, started for their homes. When close to Easton, through which they had to pass, They were assailed by a party of a dozen armed men, who rushed upon them from a grocery where they were drinking and carousing. Mr. Sparks and his son retreated into a fence corner, where they drew their revolvers and kept their enemies at bay. The nephew made his escape, and spread the alarm among the free-state people, and Captain E. P. Brown, with fifteen mounted men, speedily came to the rescue of their friends. As they approached, the pro-slavery party retreated. At that moment a large body of the Kickapoo Rangers rushed upon the scene, and commanded Brown and his party to surrender. This being refused, the Rangers commenced firing, which was promptly returned by Brown's men, and a general fight ensued, in the course of which both parties retreated to some empty houses, from which they continued their fire upon each other. This fight lasted over two hours, during which a pro-slavery man named Cook was killed, and several on each side were wounded.
A short time after this rencontre, Brown, with seven others, left for their homes near Leavenworth, in a buggy and a one horse wagon. They had not proceeded far when a wagon filled with armed men passed them in the road, without anything being said on either side. Scarcely had they passed, when, at a bend in the road, two other wagons appeared, and also a party of mounted men. These were the Kickapoo Rangers, who had thus fairly entrapped Brown and his party. Escape was impossible, and as resistance would have been certain destruction, Brown yielded to the wishes of his friends, and surrendered. Then commenced a series of cruelties never exceeded by the wildest savages. Capt. Martin, of the Rangers, being unable to restrain his men, after numerous efforts, turned away in disgust from their wanton atrocities. While, however, the most of them were engaged in tormenting Captain Brown, Martin succeeded in aiding the other prisoners, who, in the meantime, had been confined in the store of a man named Dawson, to make their escape. The ruffians assaulted their unarmed prisoner with kicks and blows, and finally, after amusing themselves for some time in this way, literally hacked him to pieces with their hatchets, which, in imitation of the less savage Indians, they always carried. The fatal blow was given by a man named Gibson, who buried his hatchet in the side of Brown's skull, sinking it deep into the brain. Before life was extinct, his murderers carried him to his own house, when meeting his wife on the threshold, he exclaimed, "I have been murdered by a gang of cowards in cold blood," and instantly fell dead in her arms. Can Heaven look upon such deeds and bless the cause in which they were committed?
February 16th, 1856.--Governor Shannon, in reply to his dispatches to Washington, received authority from the Federal Government to employ the United States troops to enforce the laws of the Shawnee Legislature. The President, in the meantime, had issued a proclamation denouncing the acts of the Topeka Assembly, and endorsing those of the pro-slavery party. The Secretary of War had also forwarded orders to the commander of the military department of the west to support Shannon in his efforts to enforce the enactments of the Shawnee Assembly, and to disperse the Topeka Legislature.
March 19.--The House of Representatives appointed an Investigating Committee to inquire into the validity of the Shawnee Legislature, and of the election as a delegate of Gen. Whitfield. This committee arrived in Lawrence an the 17th of April. During its sittings numerous attempts were made by pro-slavery men to interfere with the investigations, and threats were freely uttered against the personal safety of free-state men who should furnish them with evidence. A Mr. Mace, having been before the commission, was on the same night shot at and wounded in his own house. Whilst Governor Reeder was before the committee as a witness at Tecumseh, a subpoena was served upon him by Deputy Marshal Fain, who demanded his immediate presence at Lecompton, to appear before the grand jury. Reeder, knowing that the sole object was to embarrass the investigation, refused to obey this summons. Mr. Howard, the chairman of the commission, could scarcely imagine it possible that these apparent attempts were actually intentions to interfere with their proceedings, but declared that if they were thus to be molested, he would call to their aid a sufficient force to arrest and send the offending parties as prisoners to Washington. After a lengthy and thorough examination, this commission published a voluminous report, clearly setting forth the facts of the election outrages which have been briefly narrated in this book, and showing conclusively that General Whitfield and the Kansas Legislature were alike elected by violence and fraud.
Early in the month of April, Colonel Buford arrived in Kansas, with a regiment of men from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The most inflammatory appeals had been made to the patriotism of these people, and flattering promises of reward given to induce them to enlist in this service, the avowed objects of which were to drive the abolitionists out of the territory and make Kansas a slave state. Some of these proved to be worthy men, and afterwards became good citizens. But the vast majority were "lewd fellows of the baser sort," who were qualified and prepared for the practice of any villany, however enormous. They disgraced themselves by their violence and depredations before they reached the territory, and, passing through Missouri, were a terror to some of its inhabitants. After their arrival in Kansas, Marshal Donalson took them into pay as his posse, and Shannon armed them with United States muskets, furnished for the use of the militia of the territory. Many of these men subsequently traversed the country as bands of highwaymen and robbers.
After Governor Shannon had received authority from Washington to employ the United States troops to enforce the enactments of the Legislative Assembly, Sheriff Jones was in his glory. Writs were obtained for the arrest of numerous free-state men, who were charged with sundry trivial offences, and the sheriff trooped about the country executing these writs, with companies of dragoons following at his heels. He several times visited Lawrence, where, although his very presence was considered an insult and an outrage, he succeeded in making arrests without resistance. The people, though not acknowledging his authority, bowed in submission to the government forces.
On the 23d of April, the sheriff entered Lawrence, with a large force of United States dragoons, and arrested a number of persons, who were held as prisoners in the tents of the soldiers. At night, Jones was in his own tent, which was lighted, and, when stooping down, some person from the outside fired at him, and the ball took effect in his back. The wound, though severe, did not prove mortal.
This affair created a lively sensation in Lawrence. Much as the citizens despised Jones, they were averse to any outrage being committed upon him in that place, as they well knew nothing would have proved more gratifying to their enemies. They consequently held a public meeting, at which the attempt upon the life of Jones was censured in the severest terms, and a reward of five hundred dollars offered for the detection of the intended assassin.
Jones and his party determined to make capital out of this affair. Although he does not seem to have been seriously injured, dispatches were forwarded to Washington on the subject, and even the president considered it of sufficient importance to elicit his official action. Communications, at the same time, were circulated through Missouri, and the pro-slavery papers teemed with inflammatory articles. Of these, the following is but a fair and even moderate specimen:--
"Kansas is once more in commotion. The traitors of Lawrence have again set the laws of the territory at defiance, and this time had added murder to their crime. Sheriff Jones, of Douglas county, than whom a braver man never lived, has been murdered while in the performance of his official duties--shot down by the thieving paupers of the north, who are shipped to Kansas to infringe upon the rights of southern settlers, murder them when opportunity offers, steal their property, and if possible, to raise a storm that will cease only with the Union itself.
The sacking of free-state towns--the burning of free-state houses--the ravishing and branding of free-state women, and turning them and their helpless children naked upon the prairies--the murders of free-state men and shocking mutilations of their dead bodies,--were all nothing, and less than nothing, when weighed in the balance against this villanous attempt to take the life of Sheriff Jones. That gentleman, however, was less violent than his friends and associates, in regard to this transaction; and he was far less anxious than they, for secret reasons of his own, to discover and arrest his assailant.
On the 30th of April, the Rev. Pardee Butler, having terminated safely his voyage on the raft, again ventured to cross the Missouri River, and make his appearance in the pro-slavery town of Atchison, when, as he says, "I spoke to no one in town save two merchants of the place, with whom I had business transactions since my first arrival in the territory. Having remained only a few minutes, I went to my buggy to resume my journey, when I was assaulted by Robert S. Kelly, junior editor of the Squatter Sovereign, and others; was dragged into a grocery, and there surrounded by a company of South Carolinians, who are reported to have been sent out by a Southern Emigrant Aid Society."
Here they exposed him to every sort of indignity, calling him a d--d abolitionist, and many of them insisting upon his being instantly shot or hung. There were present those, however, who protested strongly against the outrage, when Kelly, who was the prime mover in the business, fearing the consequences of murdering his victim, said he "did not take Butler to be hanged, only tarred and feathered." To this some demurred, calling it a "milk-and-water-style" of doing things. Eventually they concluded upon their arrangements, and, as Mr. Butler himself says:--
"They stripped me naked to the waist, covered my body with tar, and then, for the want of feathers, applied cotton-wool. Having appointed a committee of three to certainly hang me the next time I should come to Atchison, they tossed my clothes into the buggy, put me therein, accompanied me to the suburbs of the town, and sent me naked out upon the prairie.
"I adjusted my attire about me as best I could, and hastened to rejoin my wife and two little ones, on the banks of the Stranger Creek. It was rather a sorrowful meeting after so long a parting. Still, we were very thankful that, under the blessing of a good, Providence, it had fared no worse with us all.
"The first mob that sent me down the Missouri River on a raft--always excepting Robert S. Kelly--were courteous gentlemen compared with this last one. When I was towed out into the middle of the stream, I do not remember to have heard a word spoken by the men on shore. This last mob, when they left me on the border of the town, shrieked and yelled like a pack of New Zealand cannibals. The first mob did not attempt to abridge my right of speech. In reply to all the hard and bitter things they said against me they patiently heard me to the end. But these men, who have come to introduce into Kansas that order of things that now exists in South Carolina, savagely gagged me into silence by rapping my face, choking me, pulling my beard, jerking me violently to my seat, and exclaiming, `D--n you, hold your tongue!' All this was done while my arms were pinioned behind me.
"Many will ask now, as they have asked already, what is the true and proper cause of all these troubles which I have had in Atchison. `The head and front of my offending hath this extent, no more': I had spoken among my neighbors favorably for making Kansas a free state, and said in the office of the Squatter Sovereign, I am a free-soiler, and intend to vote for Kansas to be a free state. It is true that Kelly, by an after-thought, has added two new counts to his bill of indictment against me. The first is that I went to the town of Atchison last August, talking abolitionism. I have not the honor of being an abolitionist. And, second, that I spoke, somehow or other, improperly in the presence of slaves. All this is not only utterly false, but the charges are ex-post facto; for not a word was said of this day they put me on the raft."