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The Kansas War
by J.J. Lutz  -  -

Published starting February 3, 1899 in The Oskaloosa Times

The Kansas War.
History of the Period from 1855 to 1859.
Of Interest To All Alike.
A Sanguinary Struggle in Which There Were Pitched Battles, Midnight Invasions and Massacres.

J. J. Lutz describes the early history of Kansas and the border war for the readers of the Topeka Capital, as follows: 

     What is known in history as the Kansas war, formed the skirmish line of the great rebellion. Like the civil war, it was a four years' struggle, from 1855 to 1859. While not a very sanguinary struggle, yet there were pitched battles, armed invasions, midnight assassinations and massacres that equaled in barbarity that of the savage Indians. Forts were erected and stormed, United States troops called out, the whole nation stirred up and the eyes of the world turned toward "bleeding Kansas." The number of lives lost in the four years' struggle has been variously estimated at from 100 to 200. There is probably no complete list of the casualties, and in my investigations I have been unable to find but fifty-five, and that includes those killed on both sides. I do not propose within the limits of this article to give anything like a complete account of the struggle, but to notice briefly the different engagements and record the names of those who fell on both sides as far as I have been able to ascertain them. The opening scene of the Kansas tragedy was the killing of a pro-slavery man by the name of Davis by a free state man, Bibbee, who lived at Hickory Point, south of Lawrence. While returning form the election held at Lawrence for territorial delegate to Congress, November 29, 1854, with two others on a wagon, they met a short distance south of Lawrence a half dozen rude, boisterous fellows from Missouri, who had taken up claims on the Kansas river. Kibbee, it seems, remonstrated them for destroying a shanty by the roadside. Hot words followed. Davis attacked Kibbee with a knife, whereupon the latter shot his assailant dead with a long range single barrel pistol. The first action of the Kansas troubles in 1855 was when a free state man, Samuel Collins, was killed by a pro-slavery man, Pat Laughlin, at Doniphant, October 25. Some four weeks later, November 21, Charles Dow, a free state man, was murdered by Franklin Coleman near Hickory Point, about thirteen miles southeast of Lawrence. Out of this tragedy grew the bloodless Wakarusa war, the threatened attack on Lawrence in November of the same year. From 700 to 1,000 free state men rallied to the defense of Lawrence which was threatened by about 2,000 border ruffians from Missouri. The only casualty growing out of the Wakarusa war was the murder of Thomas W. Barber, a free state man, by a pro-slavery scouting party December 6, when he was returning to his claim southwest of Lawrence. The year 1856 can bee called the battle year in Kansas history, the first event of importance being the taking of Lawrence, May 21. The Free State hotel and two newspapers were destroyed and George Robinson's house burned. Sheriff Jones of Missouri was wounded. Two other casualties occured about this time near Lawrence. On May 19 a young man by the name of Jones was killed at Blanton's store, south of Lawrence, by a pro-slavery party from Franklin. In the attempt to capture Jones' murderers a Mr. Stewart, a young medical student from New York, was killed. On January 17 of this year, Captain R.P. Brown, a free state man, was killed by a Kickapoo ranger named Gibson, near Kickapoo, his offense being that he had assisted in the rescue of a man named Sparks form a pro-slavery party who captured him on his way home from the election under the Topeka constitution at Easton. Another startling event was the slaying of five pro-slavery men on Pottawatomie creek on the night of May 25-26 by a party of seven men under John Brown. The victims were Allen Wilkinson, William Sherman and a Mr. Doyle and his two sons. The massacre is known as the Pottawatomie execution. Brown claimed it was in retaliation for the murder of the free state men mentioned above. The Pottawatomie executions were closely followed by the battle of Black Jack, five miles east of Baldwin City, where John Brown, with twenty-eight men, defeated Captain Pate on the 2d of June. Pate's loss was 26 prisoners. Dr. Graham, a free state prisoner in the hands of Pate, was wounded. O.A. Carpenter, a Mr. Parmley and Henry Thompson, a son-in-law of Brown. 

     The next engagement occured near Lawrence, which was at this time surrounded by a line of pro-slavery forts. These forts were log cabins, sometimes barricaded and provided with loopholes through which to shoot. The first of these "forts" to be reduced was a block house at Franklin. It was captured on the night of August 12. The loss of the free state side was one man killed and two severely wounded. The free state men next turned their attention to Fort Saunders, on Washington creek, twelve miles southwest of Lawrence. Major S.D. Hoyt, a citizen of Lawrence, went to Fort Saunders on a peace mission and was foully murdered. The fort was captured August 15, the enemy fleeing before their free state assailants. The victors now advance upon Fort Titus, which was two miles from Lecompton, the pro-slavery capital. Captain Titus, whose log cabin was converted into the fort bearing his name, was from Florida, and had brought his slaves with him to Kansas. The free state forces were ! under the command of Captain Sam Walker. A cavalry attack was led August 16 by Captain Shombre, who was mortally wounded by a shot in the groin. Captain Bickerton then opened with canon, whereupon the garrison of seventeen surrendered. Captain Titus was wounded in the hand. The other casualties were two of Titus' men killed and two wounded. One free state man was killed and six wounded. On the 30th of August, 1856, was fought the battle of Osawatomie. General Reid commanded the pro-slavery forces, which numbered about 400, Captain Brown had fifteen regulars, as he called them, and twelve or fifteen others. The victory was with the pro-slavery party, who burned the town and put Brown's forces to flight. Brown's loss was five killed, viz: David Garrison, George Patridge, Charles Kaiser, Theron Bowers and Frederick Brown, a son of the Captain. Dr. Updegraff and a Mr. Collins were wounded, and John Brown was struck by a spent ball. A marble monument, unveiled August 30, 1877, in the town of Osawatomie, the twenty-first anniversary of the battle, records the names and deeds of the five men who fell there. A man by the name of Williamson, whom neither party claimed, was killed by the border ruffians. The pro-slavery loss is variously estimated. A Missouri paper, soon after the battle, printed the following exaggerated report:"General Reid made a successful charge! , killed thirty-one and took seven prisoners. The notorious John Brown was killed. The pro-slavery party has five wounded." The next movement was the third attack upon Lawrence. The same force that burned Osawatomie, agumented to 2,700 men, under Reid and Atchison, approached the town September 14, and skirmishing began. The cause of this foray was the capture of the forts about Lawrence by the free state forces. A force of United States troops, cavalry and artillery was sent from Lecompton under Colonel Johnson next day and a collison was averted.

     A free state man, David C. Buffman, living on the north side of the Kansas river, was murdered September 17 by the border ruffians on their retreat to Missouri. The battle of Hickory Point, thirty miles northeast of Lawrence, was fought September 13. A pro-slavery party hastening to the attack on Lawrence was intercepted by a free state force from Lawrence under Capt. Harvey. The pro-slavery party fortified tow or three log houses and a blacksmith shop. After a six hours' combat, in which a brass 6-pounder was used to bombard the log houses, the pro-slavery party capitulated. One pro-slavery man was killed and several wounded. In the rooms of the State Historical Society can be seen a sketch of the battle of Hickory Point, drawn by Wm. Breyman. Capt. Harvey's men, 101 in number, were intercepted and captured by the United States troops under Col. Cooke on their return to Lawrence. The were incarcerated in the Lecompton jail. A young man, a prisoner under Col. Titus by the name of Wm. Bowles, died in a log cabin soon after. His death was reported to be the result of confinement and semi-starvation. Another tragedy as a result of the pro-slavery troubles was the murder of a Mr. Hoppe of Lawrence. The murder was committed near Leavenworth, ostensibly because he was an abilitionist. An inoffensive German who expressed his horror at the brutality exhibited by the murderer of Hoppe was shot dead.

     The board of commissioners appointed by the territorial Legislature of 1859, composed of men of both sides, estimated that the entire loss and destruction of property, including the cost of fitting out the various expeditions, amounted, up to December 1, 1856, to $2,000,000, one-half of which loss was sustained by the actual settlers of Kanss. they reported 417 cases as entitled to indemnity. Their report showed the amount of crops destroyed to be $335,394; property taken or destroyed by pro-slavery men, $318,718; property taken or destroyed by free state men, $94,529;buildings burned or destroyed, 73; horses taken or destroyed, 368; cattle taken or destroyed, 533. As regards the loss of life, they report as follows: "The number of lives sacrificed during the period mentioned November 1, 1854 to December 1, 1856, probably exceeded rather than fell short of two hundred." The year 1857 was one of caparative peace in Kansas. No conflicts between armed bodies occured. It was not without bloodshed, however. In January trouble grew out of Governor Geary's refusal to issue a commission to Wm. Sherrard as sheriff of Douglas county. Sherrard was a pro-slavery man. The trouble culminated in the wounding of Joseph Shephard and John W. Jones, Governor Geary's clerk and brother-in-law. Jones then shot and killed Sherrard. In an election fray at Leavenworth, June 29, Wm. Haller, a free state man, killed James T. Lyle, the pro-slavery city recorder. The Kansas anti-slavery troubles were renewed in 1858 and were confined mainly to Linn and Bourbon counties, which border on Missouri. John Brown and James Montgomery harrassed the Missouri border with small bands who were watching their opportunity to liberate slaves. With Brown were several men who were from outside Kansas and who followed him to Harper's Ferry. The Missouri bands were under a Col. Hamilton. 

     United States troops were sent to quiet the disturbances, and in pursuing Montgomery two dragoons were killed. In May a battle took place between Hamilton's and Montgomery's men. Montgomery's loss was 11 killed and 5 wounded. Hamilton had 2 men slightly wounded. On May 19, 1858, occured what is know in Kansas history as the Trading Post massacre by the Hamilton and others who lived near West Point, Mo. Ten free state men were taken prisoners. They were drawn up in line and shot by the ruffians. Five were instantly killed and all the others except one wounded. The murdered men were Wm. Stilwell, Patrick Ross, Michael Robinson, John F. Campbell and Wm. Colpetzer. Those wounded were Wm. Hairgrove, Asas Hairgrove, Chas Reed, Amos Hall and Chas. Snyder. One of the wounded men was killed afterward. Whittier's poem, "La Marals du Cygnes," is founded upon this tragedy.

      On the 16th of Decmember Montgomery invaded Fort Scott and liberated one of his men who had been confined in jail. In the melee J. Blake Little, deputy United States Marshal, was killed by Montgomery's men.

     A military post of considerable importance in connection with the operations in this section was Fort Snyder. It was a log blacksmith shop by a spring in a rocky ravine with breastworks thrown up around it. It was owned by a free state man and later a captain in the Tenth Kansas regiment, Eli Snyder. Brown and Montgomery occupied the fort at different times.

     On the night of December 29 John Brown's band made a raid across the border into Missouri for the purpose of rescuing slaves. They were resisted by a slave owner named Cruise, who lived on the Marmaton bottoms. Cruise was shot and killed by Aaron D. Stephens, who was one of Brown's men who fought at Harper's Ferry. With Brown he was captured and executed. John Brown loaded his nine Negroes in wagons drawn by oxen taken from the slave owners and started nortward through Kansas on his way to Canada. on the 29th of January, 1859, the fugitives were stopped at Spring Creek, a little north of Holton, by a band of horsemen from Leavenworth. A reinforcement of eighteen men was sent from Topeka to aid Brown. On January 31 he drew up his men in line, charged across the creek, capturing four men and five horses and putting the rest to flight. This is known as the "Battle of the Spurs," and was the last battle of the Kansas war.

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