Governor Shannon soon began to see that he had raised a storm that he could not control. He had called out the militia to aid Sheriff Jones in enforcing the laws. But no resistance had ever been offered to any regular legal process. Jones often went through Lawrence, and could have served any legal writ he might have. There never had been any resistance in Lawrence. The rescue of Branson had occurred several miles from Lawrence. The citizens of Lawrence knew nothing of it. When Governor Shannon called out the Kansas militia the response came from Missouri. Of the fifteen hundred men camped at Franklin not over two hundred were from Kansas. They had come, too, for a purpose of their own. They had come to destroy Lawrence. They were eager to make an attack. They clamored to be led out to battle. They would have raised the black flag and marched without orders had they not conceived a wholesome fear of the Sharpe’s rifles with which the defenders of the town were armed. They were a lawless lot, many of them. They roved about the country committing depredations, and a collision between the two opposing forces was liable to occur any day. The picket lines confronted each other, and a stray shot might at any time precipitate a conflict. Only the firm determination of the free-state men not to give any possible excuse for violence prevented serious results. Governor Shannon saw something of the danger and was anxious for a settlement. General L. J. Eastin, editor of the Leavenworth Herald and commander of the northern brigade of the Kansas militia, wrote to the governor. He told him "the outlaws," as he called them, were strongly intrenched at Lawrence and were well armed. They had cannons and Sharpe’s rifles, and numbered about a thousand men. It was not going to be easy to dislodge them. The militia was disorganized and poorly armed. He advised the governor to call on the authorities at Fort Leavenworth for government troops. This might overawe "the outlaws" and prevent bloodshed. The governor at once telegraphed the president, stating the condition of things, and asking authority to call on the regular troops at Fort Leavenworth. He sent a dispatch also to Colonel E. V. Sumner, who was in command at the fort, to hold himself in readiness to march at once on receipt of orders from Washington. Colonel Sumner replied, under date of December 1st, as follows:
"I do not feel that it would be right in me to act in this important matter until orders are received from the government. I shall be ready to move instantly when I receive them. I would respectfully suggest that you make your application extensively known at once, and that you countermand any orders that may have been given the militia until you receive the answer."
The colonel seemed to understand wherein the real danger lay. The real danger lay in the lawlessness of the "posse" which Sheriff Jones had gathered about him at Franklin. The governor accepted the suggestion. He wrote to Jones ordering him to refrain from any attempt to serve writs until the answer should come from Washington. But Jones did not relish the idea of submitting his action to the inspection of such a man as Colonel Sumner. He knew that he had no case which would stand for a moment in the eyes of a clear-headed, fair-minded man like him. He replied to the governor from the "Camp at Wakarusa," under the date of December 3rd, that the volunteer forces at that point and at Lecompton were growing weary of inaction. He feared that they would remain but a few days longer unless a demand was made for the prisoner. He thought he should have a sufficient force to serve the writs by the next day. He was not disposed to disobey the governor’s order, but he really thought the demand should be made just as soon as a sufficient force had been collected to enforce it. He added that the force at Lawrence was not nearly as strong as had been reported. He said he had sixteen writs to serve against persons in Lawrence. He could not give all the names as the writs were in his office at Lecompton. He said he had heard that the men who had aided in the rescue of Branson had been run out of town and probably could not be found.
Governor Shannon received word from Washington that orders would be sent to Fort Leavenworth putting the United States troops there at his disposal. He was anxious Colonel Sumner should not wait for the formal orders, but move at once on the strength of his information. But Colonel Sumner refused to move until the orders were actually received. The orders never came and Colonel Sumner did not move. It has never been known why the orders promised by the president were never sent. Governor Robinson, in his "Conflict," suggests the most probable explanation. Jefferson Davis was secretary of War. The pro-slavery leaders were anxious to bring about a conflict in Kansas. Technically the law was on their side, and the power was on their side. A conflict would embarrass and perhaps crush the free-state movement. Jefferson Davis doubtless knew the situation and was in the secret of the pro-slavery counsels. He therefore never sent the orders which had been promised by the president.
While this was going on, the committee of safety at Lawrence were not idle. They wished to avoid a conflict, although they were preparing for it. So long as the two armies lay side by side a conflict might occur at any hour. They knew that the governor had been misinformed and that there was no just reason for assembling so large a force on their borders. It was a continual menace and peril. They determined to lay the case before the governor, and appeal to him for protection. They wrote to the governor, therefore, and sent the letter by a select committee consisting of G. P. Lowry and C. W. Babcock.
"To His Excellency, Wilson Shannon, Governor of Kansas Territory:
(Signed by the committee.)
It was no easy matter to reach Governor Shannon. All the roads were guarded and all lines of communication closed. Lowry and Babcock had to work their way through the lines of the border ruffians as best they could. They were halted several times and detained, but they were equal to the emergency. Each time they beguiled the pickets and were allowed to pass on. At last they reached the governor at Shawnee, and presented him their letter. Their interview is set forth in G. P. Lowry’s testimony before the congressional committee.
"We got to Shawnee Mission a little after sunrise, and presented our letter to Governor Shannon. * * * Governor Shannon said that he would answer the letter, and we went out while he was doing so. When we returned we had a long conversation about these affairs. The governor said there had been sixteen houses burned by free-state men, and women and children driven out of doors. We told him we were sorry he had not taken the pains to inquire into the truth of the matter before he had brought this large force into the country, which perhaps he could not get out again; that this information was wholly false, and nothing of the kind had happened. We told him what we knew of our personal knowledge, of men from Missouri being there. He was not inclined at first to admit that there was anybody from Missouri there. He made a general argument against the free-state men, and quoted their resolutions passed at different meetings in regard to the territorial laws. We explained to him that the territonal laws had nothing to do with this case. We were getting ready at Lawrence to fight for our lives, and the only question was whether he would be a particeps criminis" to our murder, or the murder of somebody else, if we should all be slaughtered. We explained to him that the rescue, upon which he based his proclamation, took place a number of miles from Lawrence; that there were but three persons living in Lawrence who had anything to do with it, and they had left the town and were not there at all; that from what we could judge from the force at Wakarusa, at Lecompton, and in the country about, from their own declarations, they intended to destroy the town for a thing in which they had no part or parcel.
"We took our own individual cases as instances. We had not been present at the rescue; we did not undertake to have any sympathy with it, or talk about it at all. But if we submitted to the force which he had called in, all our throats would be cut together -- the innocent and the guilty -- if there were any guilty.
"He denied that these Missourians were here by his authority; that he had anything to do with them, or was responsible for them. He said he had communicated with Colonel Sumner at Fort Leavenworth, and had sent an express for him to meet him that night at Delaware Ferry, and go with him to the camp on the Wakarusa. He said he should go to Lawrence and insist upon the people obeying the laws and deliver up their Sharpe’s rifles. We denied his right, or the right of anybody else, to make any such condition of a community, or make any such demand of them, until it had been shown that they had resisted the laws, which they had not done. There had as yet been no proceedings in Lawrence under the territorial laws. He had no right to presume that there would be any resistance to them when they were instituted. He gave up that point after some argument. I asked him why he insisted on the giving up of the Sharpe’s rifles, and if he intended to demand, too, western rifles, shot.guns (sic) and other arms. He said he did not intend to demand other than Sharpe’s rifles, but he intended to demand them because they were an unlawful weapon. After some time he said they were dangerous weapons, to which I agreed. I then told him if he had any such ideas in his head as that, he had better stay away and let the fight go on. I thought the thing was not feasible, and he would do no good by coming here, if those were his terms. I told him he might as well demand of me my pocket-book, or my watch; and I would resent the one no more than the other. I told him I did not consider myself safe, or that General Robinson or Colonel Lane would be safe, in going before our people with any such proposition.
"He then gave us the letter and we started to Kansas City to change horses."
Governor Shannon now began to "see men, as trees, walking." He saw at least that he had acted without investigating the grounds of his actions. The rumors of free-state outrages he had accepted as true. He now found they were false. He had called a great army to enforce laws which had not been resisted. Whatever the people of Lawrence had said about the territorial laws, they had not resisted them, for no attempt had been made to put them into operation. They certainly had not merited extinction at the hands of a mob, and they were only doing what any set of men would do: defending their lives. He saw that his hasty proclamation had brought a lot of Missourians into Kansas, and sectional passions, as well as hate, had been appealed to. A bloody conflict was likely to occur, and he would be held responsible for the consequences. His first work was to get rid of the sheriff’s posse without any further depredations. This was not an easy thing to do. Many of them were border desperadoes full of bad whiskey and worse passions. They had come swearing that they would "cut the heart out of some abolitionist" before they went back. While they shrank from confronting the Lawrence rifles, they were not disposed to be foiled in the purpose for which they came.
Now that the governor began to understand the situation, he was anxious to avert any further violence. He repaired at once to the Wakarusa camp to endeavor to persuade the men to go home, and let peaceful measures be tried. He arrived at the camp on the evening of December 5th. He found that many of the officers had come to a "realizing sense" of the awkwardness of the situation, but the rank and file were still of the idea of "helping Jones wipe out Lawrence." They had been waiting from three to five days, living on what they could steal of the people, and drinking up their stock of whiskey. They were not disposed to go back till they had finished their work. The governor was anxious to have Colonel Sumner with him to help in the negotiations, and to enforce the conclusions they might reach. His letter to him was as follows:
Colonel Sumner had received no orders from Washington, and he was too much of a soldier to move without orders. He therefore very courteously but firmly declined.
After conferring with the officers at the Wakarusa camp, Governor Shannon sent word to Lawrence that he wished to visit that place in the interests of peace, and asked for an escort. An escort was furnished, consisting of leading citizens of the place, led by G. P. Lowry. The governor was accompanied by Colonel Boone, of Westport; Colonel Kearney, of Independence, and General Strickler, also of Missouri. He entered Lawrence December 7th and went at once to the rooms of the committee of safety at the Free-State Hotel. The committee of safety was represented by Dr. Charles Robinson and Colonel James H. Lane. The interview lasted over an hour. He heard the whole story from the free-state standpoint, and found that he had, been entirely misled as to the condition of affairs. He suggested that a memorandum of a treaty be drawn up which could be presented to the other camp as a basis of settlement. He also urged that they surrender their arms as a condition and pledge of peace, but this they refused to do.
He returned to the camp at Wakarusa, and insisted that no movement should be made while negotiations for peace were going on. The men in camp were almost in a state of mutiny, and were threatening to raise the black flag and march on Lawrence, orders or no orders. But the governor insisted that the officers must repress any such movement, as an "attack on Lawrence, in the present state of negotiations, would be most unjustifiable."
Having done all in his power to impress his views on the officers, and to quiet the ugly temper of the men, he returned to Lawrence in the evening to complete the work. He had drawn up a paper as a basis of a treaty, and the free-state leaders had also drawn up one. With a fe.w verbal changes that presented by the free-state men was accepted by the governor. The governor accepted it for himself and the leaders of the invading army, and Robinson and Lane for the people of Lawrence. The "treaty" was as follows:
The agreement was very adroitly drawn, and the last clause in regard to the territorial legislature, left it an open question as to what was meant by "legal processes" and "proper authorities." Each side could put upon these phrases the interpretation which suited them. When it was read to the people of Lawrence, therefore, they all assented to it, and the "treaty" was ratified as far as they were concerned.
The next point was to secure its adoption by the invaders at Franklin. This was the principal object of the treaty, to persuade these ruffians from Missouri to go home. This was no easy matter. They came up with a great deal of bluster, and had swaggered around for a week, boasting the great things they were going to do. To go home without doing anything, and acknowledge themselves outwitted, was very humiliating.
MILITARY LEADERS IN BORDER-RUFFIAN DAYS.
Governor Shannon was extremely anxious to affect a settlement. He realized that the difficulty would be with the invading army. they were beyond his control, and the officers had little authority. Discipline was little more than a form and the whole multitude was coming to be a disorganized mob. Governor Shannon had arranged to have a joint meeting of the leaders of each side. He asked that a delegation from Lawrence go with him to Franklin and meet with the leaders of the opposite party. Lane and Robinson went with him, when he took the treaty, to explain more fully the attitude of the free-state men. This meeting is best described in Governor Robinson’s own language, as found in his "Conflict:"
"At the meeting, in an unfinished building, Governor Shannon led off with an explanation of the settlement, giving the position occupied by the citizens of Lawrence. After him Colonel Lane attempted to speak, but his opening so offended the thirteen militia captains that they started to leave the room, saying they did not come to be insulted. The governor begged them to remain and hear Dr. Robinson. Lane did not proceed, and Robinson in a few words explained the action of the citizens of Lawrence, saying that no attempt had ever been made to serve any process by any officer, real or pretended. Jones was appealed to by a military captain to know if Robinson told the truth. Jones replied that he did. 'We have been damnably deceived, then.’ As to the Sharpe’s rifles, Robinson appealed to them to say if they would as American citizens submit to be deprived of their constitutional right to bear arms, or if they would respect any people who would submit. The leading men saw their predicament, and said: ‘Boys, it is no use. They have got us. We can do nothing this time.’ The conference ended; with a pressing invitation to remain to supper. This Robinson and Lane, as it was getting dark and a cold north wind had arisen with heavy sleet, tried to decline. But they said Governor Shannon and party had dined with Robinson, and no refusal would be accepted. When supper was over it was so dark no object was visible, and the sound of the horses’ hoofs on the hard ground was the only guide. A solitary horseman started to escort the visitors through the line, but he proceeded only a few hundred yards when he said goodnight, and left his charge to get through the lines as best they could. At this Lane said: ‘Hurry up. This means assassination. They mean to kill us.’ He started his horse on a run. * * * Deep gullies had been washed in the road at this point, causing the travelers to turn sharply to the right to avoid them. As Robinson’s horse was on the left, his horse ran into one of these gullies, while Lane’s horse escaped. The horse fell with great force, and for some minutes was unable to rise. No damage was done, however, except the delay."
Sheriff Jones and his friends were very sullen at the turn affairs had taken. All the hot-heads were very bitter at the governor for interfering, and there was a good deal of grumbling in the invaders’ camp. But the old saying that "fortune favors the brave" was again made good. The weather had been delightful during the whole week, so that many of the soldiers on both sides were in summer clothes. But on Saturday, December 8th, the day of the treaty, there was one of those sudden changes for which Kansas is noted. The wind veered to the north, and in the evening a tremendous sleet storm set in -- a regular Dakota blizzard. Though Dakota was not then known, her blizzards were as terrific as they have been since. The cold became so intense that the zeal of the Missourians was cooled off; and even "Dutch courage" was found to be a poor defense against ten degrees below zero. The blustering braggarts of a sunny afternoon
and scud for home. They might defy the governor’s proclamation, but when the north wind joined with the governor, they yielded and fell into line for the home march, or more properly the home rush.
Governor Shannon returned to Lawrence after peace was assured highly pleased with the outcome of affairs. In the evening the ladies arranged a sort of banquet in his honor. They all did their best to make it pleasant for the governor. Although it was Sunday evening, and Lawrence was a sort of Puritan town, neither the stillness of the Sabbath nor the austerity of Puritan customs characterized the banquet. Dr. Robinson and a large portion of the people of Lawrence were teetotalers, yet there is a tradition that tea was not the only drink furnished. At all events the governor was delighted, and said it was the "happiest day of his life." Lawrence people were also happy. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and some boulders were thrown into the course of this current. Right in the midst of this delightful "era of good feeling" a report was brought in that the Missourians, instead of going home as the governor had ordered them, were marching on Lawrence and were going to "wipe it out." The thing was not at all unlikely, and when the report came to the governor’s ears he was very much disturbed. He knew these fellows had no very kind feelings towards him. If they came he would fare no better than the hated abolitionists.
"What shall we do?" said Robinson.
‘‘Call out your men and defend the town as best you can."
"But the charge against us has been acting without authority, and defying the law."
"I will give you authority," the governor said.
He at once wrote out the following paper:
The foe did not come. It was a very common feeling that the free-state men did not expect him. It was the common opinion that the report came from another room in the hotel, and was intended to accomplish just what it did accomplish. When Governor Shannon learned several days after that a hoax had been perpetrated on him for the sake of securing the order he had written for Robinson and Lane, he "let his angry passions rise," and expressed himself in some vigorous English.
Monday evening, December 10th, there was a grand peace party at the Free-State Hotel. Governor Shannon did not remain, but a number of the invaders were there as invited guests, and among them Sheriff Jones. The hotel was illuminated, a long table was spread, the band played, and speeches were made by Robinson and Lane and many others. The festivities continued until far into the night. The next day, Tuesday, the soldiers were dismissed and went home rejoicing. The companies from a distance were cheered by the Lawrence people as they passed out.
The only casualty of the siege was the killing of Thomas W. Barber. Andreas, in his history, gives an account of this murder, which is perhaps as near the truth as it is possible to get:
"Thomas W. Barber, with his young wife, had taken a claim just north of the Wakarusa, seven miles above Blanton’s bridge, about eight miles southwest of Lawrence, and perhaps a mile on the road between the Bloomington settlement and that town. He had gone up to the defense with the rest of the Bloomington free-state men, contrary to the wishes of his wife, who had strong premonitions, which she expressed to him, that he would never return alive. On Tuesday noon, December 6th, all being quiet, but the town being still in a state of siege, he started to visit his wife, in company with his brother, Robert, and his brother-in-law, Thomas M. Pearson, both members of the same company, and having claims near his. His companions had revolvers. They were all mounted, and had ridden some three miles out of Lawrence when they discovered a party of horsemen, numbering ten or twelve, approaching them from the direction of Lecompton. It afterwards proved to be a party from the camp near that place on their way to the Wakarusa camp. Two of the party, George W. Clarke, government Indian agent for the Pottawatomie Indians, and James Burnes, known as Colonel Burnes, a merchant of Westport, Missouri, left the main party, rode across so as to confront them in their road, and ordered them to halt. Angry words were bandied, the Barbers refused to turn back at the command of the highwaymen, who obstructed their way. Pistols were drawn on both sides, and shots fired. Thomas Barber, the only unarmed man, received a shot in his side. He rode a hundred yards, told his brother, with a faint, sickly smile, that ‘that fellow hit him.’ He rode swaying in his saddle supported by his brother a little further, then slipped off in the dust, and died a little later in the road. His brother and Pearson, fearing further violence, fled, leaving the body in the. highway. The credit of the murder was claimed by both Clarke and Burnes. Neither of them knew which fired the fatal shot. Clarke said to an acquaintance three days after, ‘I tried to kill him, and if it was not me, I wish it had been.’ History will rank them as a brace of murderers, it matters not who gave the coup de grace."
When the body of Barber was brought to Lawrence the settlement was at fever heat. Only the cool counsel of Robinson and other leaders prevented the armed men from rushing out and attacking the invaders in their camp and avenging the murder of their comrade. The body of Barber lay in the hotel the next day when Governor Shannon came to confer with the committee of safety. He was much moved by the sight, and it had much to do with his eagerness to bring about a peaceful settlement.
The funeral of Thomas W. Barber was one of the closing features of the campaign. The military companies attended and the scene was very solemn and impressive. Dr. Robinson pronounced a funeral oration which is interesting as showing the temper of the times. The oration was published later in the Herald of Freedom. The following extract will show the tenor of the speech:
"By whose act do the remains of the lamented Thomas Barber now await interment at our hands? By whose hand is his wife made a widow? By whose instrumentality are we made to mourn the untimely fall of a brave comrade and a worthy citizen? Report says Thomas Barber was murdered in cold blood by an officer, an officer of the government, who was a member of the sheriff’s posse, which was commissioned by the governor, who is backed by the president of the United States. Was Thomas Barber murdered? Then are the men who killed him, and the officials by whose authority they acted, his murderers. And if the laws are to be enforced, then will the Indian agent, the governor, and the president, be convicted and punished for murder. There is work enough for the law and order men to do, and let us hear no more about resistance to the laws, until this work is done. If all Missouri must be aroused, and the whole nation convulsed to serve a peace warrant on an unoffending citizen, may we not expect some slight effort to bring these capital offenders to justice?"
No effort was ever made to bring these "capital offenders to justice," and they not only remained at large, but boasted of their deed as something to be proud of.
Another incident of the Wakarusa war is alluded to by Prof. L. W. Spring in one of the most eloquent passages of his book. Having spoken of the general satisfaction with which the treaty of peace was received, he quotes an exception.
"A single. voice was raised in solemn and public protest against the peace. After the treaty and its stipulations had become known; after the speeches of felicitation on the happy subsidence of troubles which threatened to engulf the settlement, had been made, an unknown man -- tall, slender, angular; his face clean shaved, sombre, strongly lined, of Puritan tone and configuration; his blue-gray eyes honest, inexorable; strange unworldly intensities enveloping him. like an atmosphere-mounted a dry goods box and began to denounce the treaty as an attempt to gain by foolish uncomprehending make-shift what could be compassed only by shedding of blood. Since that day the name of this unknown man, plucked down from the dry goods box with his speech mostly unspoken, has filled the post horns of the world -- Old John Brown."
This was the first appearance of old John Brown among the free-state men of Kansas. His sons had come to Kansas the year before, to make themselves homes in the new country. They were so annoyed and harrassed by marauders from Missouri that they wrote to their father for arms to defend themselves. The old man had been for years a foe of human slavery. He concluded it was time to strike a blow for freedom. So he came out to Kansas to join his sons, and arrived some weeks before the Wakarusa invasion. When he heard of the siege of Lawrence, he started with his four sons for the place to join in the defense. He arrived the day Governor Shannon came to confer in regard to peace. He was welcomed and put in command of a company. He did not like the treaty of peace. He thought the miscreants should have been driven away by bullets, and taught a lesson, and not parleyed with. But the people were too glad to be relieved from the strain and peril, and refused to listen to him.
John Brown was one of the unique characters which the Kansas struggle drew out. He was a man by himself. Very few of the free-state men agreed with him in his policy or action. Many of them were in constant fear that he would precipitate a conflict by some rash deed. He came to Kansas because he hated slavery, and his hatred of it was as a fire to his bones. He had a further thought than the freeing of Kansas. As he said to Governor Robinson once, "he wanted to strike a blow at slavery." A little incident in his early life may throw light on his later conduct. In 1837 the family lived on a farm in the Western Reserve, Ohio. They were members of the village church near by. When Elijah P. Lovejoy was killed at Alton by a pro-slavery mob, the news reached the village on the evening of the week-day prayer meeting. The members of the church all being intensely anti-slavery, the killing of Lovejoy became the theme of the meeting. John Brown and his father were present. After the meeting had proceeded some time, the elder Brown arose and offered a marvelous prayer. He seemed to take the case right up to the heavenly court, and lay it before the Righteous Judge. Everybody was electrified by the prayer. At its conclusion John Brown arose and made avow, that "he would devote his life to unceasing hostility to human slavery." One is reminded of the boy Hannibal, taken by his father into the Carthagenian temple, and made to swear eternal enmity to Rome. Thirty years later that vow echoed on the plains of Italy in the tramp of conquering legions. And the vow of this young man in the village church in Ohio echoed, eighteen years later, on the plains of Kansas, and a few years later still echoed again in the tramp of armies, who sang;
While his soul goes marching on."