William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 27] [part 25] [Cutler's History]


The Missourians, wild with frenzy at being thus thwarted, attempted to intercept the courier who bore the letter. Their plot was foiled by Gen. Strickler, who managed to have him sent out by an unusual route at 2 A. M. Col. Sumner had received no order from Washington to move, on the receipt of Shannon's summons, and consequently declined to act, but sent another good letter of advice to the agitated Governor.

It is doubtful if, after Wednesday, December 5, at which time the force and determination of the defenders of Lawrence was known in the camp of the invaders - a corporal's guard of sober men could have been found willing to attack the place. Shannon's positive orders not to do so, and the expectation of the arrival of United States troops, gave them an opportunity to show cheap courage without great risk, and they continued to rage and swear and threaten. J. C. Anderson, a member of the Territorial Legislature, and other Pro-slavery non-combatants who, as camp followers, were watching the turn of events, saw plainly that with the enlightenment of Shannon and the presence of United States troops on the ground, the extinction of Lawrence, and the humiliation of the law-abiding Free-state men would be averted, and made strenuous efforts on paper to avert the threatened catastrophe to the border ruffian plans. Here is Anderson's contribution to law and order, written on the 6th of December, from Lecompton:


Sir - I have reason to believe, from rumors in camp, that before to-morrow morning the black flag will be hoisted, when nine out of ten will rally around it, and march without orders upon Lawrence. The forces at Lecompton camp fully understand the plot, and will fight under the same banner.

If Gov. Shannon will pledge himself not to allow any United States officer to interfere with the arms belonging to the United States now in their possession,* and, in case there is no battle, order the United States forces off at once, and retain the militia, provided any force is retained, all will be well, and all will obey to the end, and commit no depredation upon private property in Lawrence.

I fear a collision between the United States soldiers and the volunteers, which would be dreadful.

Speedy measures should be taken. Let me know at once - to-night - and I fear that it will then be too late to stay the rashness of our people.

Respectfully your obedient servant,

* The arms had been stolen from the U. S. Arsenal at Liberty, Mo.

Gov. Shannon, in spite of the warnings and protestations of Jones and his friends, saw plainly that the opposing party were too strong to be wiped out by the mongrel crew that were encamped at Wakarusa and their allies who were straggling up and down the country. He saw that the citizens of Kansas, intrenched at Lawrence, could no longer be ignored. They did not come out to meet him, he determined to go to them. He, accordingly, on the evening of the 6th of December, notified them of his desire to visit the place with the peaceful and laudable intent of negotiating a peace, and asked an escort from the Wakarusa camp to the city. It was granted. The escort sent down consisted of ten of the leading Free-state men of Lawrence, led by G. P. Lowery. Guarded and protected by this deputation, the Governor, accompanied by Col. Boone, of Westport, Mo., Col. Kearney, of Independence, Mo., and Gen. Strickler, also from Missouri, entered Lawrence on Friday, December 7, and repaired to the room of the Committee of Safety, in the Free State Hotel. The interview lasted an hour or more, being conducted on the part of the Committee by Charles Robinson and James H. Lane. The Governor was still further enlightened, and admitted that he had misunderstood the conduct and sentiments of the Lawrence people, and had been entirely misled by the false representations of Jones and others. He desired that a memorandum of a treaty be drawn up, to be submitted to the invaders as a basis of settlement, and strenuously urged that they should give up their arms as a condition of peace, which was peremptorily refused. The Governor returned to his friends, somewhat disheartened, but with his heart more firmly set than before on negotiating peace. He found the Pro-slavery camp in a state bordering on mutiny, threatening to raise the black flag, and march on Lawrence with or without orders. He immediately issued orders to Gens. Richardson and Strickler to repress all movements of a disorderly character, to take no step except by his special order, and, in case of any unauthorized demonstration on Lawrence, to use all their force to repress it, as, "in the present state of negotiations an attack upon Lawrence would be wholly unjustifiable."

Through the day the Governor worked unremittingly among the officers in the interest of peace and reconciliation, and so successfully, that in the evening he again repaired to Lawrence with fresh hopes of adjusting a settlement. He had drawn up a paper as a basis of treaty, as had the Free-state men during his absence. They were compared, and, with some slight modifications, that of the Free-state men was accepted by Gov. Shannon in behalf of himself and the leaders of the invading army, and by Charles Robinson and James H. Lane on the part of the Committee of Safety and the citizens of Lawrence.

The result of the negotiations was announced by Dr. Robinson from the steps of the Free State Hotel, to the excited crowd gathered there in waiting, amid much disorder and cries for the reading of the treaty. Its reading quelled the disorder, and its provisions were generally accepted. It was as follows:


WHEREAS, There is a MISUNDERSTANDING between the people of Kansas, or a portion of them, and the Governor thereof, arising out of the rescue at Hickory Point of a citizen under arrest and other matters; and,

WHEREAS, A strong apprehension exists that said misunderstanding may lead to civil strife and bloodshed; and,

WHEREAS, As it is desired by both Gov. Shannon and the citizens of Lawrence and its vicinity to avoid a calamity so disastrous to the interests of the Territory and the Union, and to place all parties in a correct position before the world; now, therefore, it is agreed by the said Gov. Shannon and the undersigned citizens of the Territory in Lawrence now assembled, that the matter is settled as follows, to wit:

We, the said citizens of said Territory, protest that the said rescue was made without our knowledge or consent, but that if any of our citizens were engaged in said rescue, we pledge ourselves to aid in the execution of any legal process against them; that we have no knowledge of the previous, present or prospective existence of any organization in the said Territory for the resistance of the laws; and we have not designed, and do not design, to resist the execution of any legal service of any criminal process therein, but pledge ourselves to aid in the execution of the laws when called upon by the proper authority in the town of Lawrence, and that we will use our influence in preserving order therein, and declare that we are now, as we have ever been, ready to aid the Governor in securing a posse in the execution of such a process, provided, that any person thus arrested in Lawrence and vicinity while a foreign foe shall remain in the Territory, shall be examined only before a District Judge of said Territory in said town, and admitted to bail; and provided further, that all persons arrested without legal process shall be set at liberty; and provided further, that Gov. Shannon agrees to use his influence to secure the citizens of Kansas Territory remuneration for any damage suffered in any unlawful depredations, if any such have been committed by the Sheriff's posse in Douglas County; and further, Gov. Shannon states that he has not called upon persons, residents of any other States, to aid in the execution of the laws, that such as are here, are here of their own choice, and that he does not consider that he has any authority to do so, and that he will not call upon any citizen of any other State who may be here.

We wish it understood that we do not herein express any opinion as to the validity of the enactments of the Territorial Legislature.


Done in Lawrence, K. T., December 8, 1855.

Satisfactory evidence being apparent that the beleaguered citizens of Lawrence would accept the terms of the treaty, Messrs. Robinson and Lane, at the request of Gov. Shannon, accompanied him to Franklin, to lay before the commanders of the invading forces, for their approval, the terms agreed upon. Thirteen of the Pro-slavery leaders there met them in council, listened to speeches from Gov. Shannon, Robinson and Lane, and, after full discussion, agreed upon the terms of the treaty, and promised to aid the Governor in quietly and peaceably withdrawing the Missouri crowd to their homes.

Jones, Stringfellow, Atchison and their motley gang of followers were disappointed at the denouement, and, while submitting, swore roundly for relief to their feelings, most ungratefully cursing Gov. Shannon, who had already given them relief from danger. Stringfellow announced to his followers that "the thing was settled" - "they were sold" - "Shannon had sold himself, and disgraced himself and the whole Pro-slavery party" - and accepted the terms of the treaty. Atchison accepted the terms, saying to his followers, "Boys, we cannot fight now. The position the Lawrence people have taken is such that it would not do to make an attack upon them; it would ruin the Democratic cause, too. But, boys, we will fight some time, by -----!" Jones was not heard from that night, but afterward declared that, "had not Shannon been a d---d fool, he would have wiped out Lawrence."

On the same evening, Gov. Shannon formally disbanded the forces, in the following "General Order," addressed to Commanders Richardson, Strickler and Jones:

CAMP WAKARUSA, December 1, 1855.

SIR: Being fully satisfied that there will be no further resistance to the execution of the laws of this Territory, or to the service of any legal process in the county of Douglas, you are hereby ordered to cross the Kansas River to the north side, as near Lecompton as you may find it practicable, with your command, and disband the same at such time and place as you think most convenient.

Yours with great respect, WILSON SHANNON.

Many of the soldiers left during the night, although broken squads remained for several days, foraging for subsistence on the country round about. The war, however, was ended, and with peace came congratulatory jollification in Lawrence.

A Love Feast. - On the evening of December 9, the trouble being virtually over, and the troops on both sides disbanded, although not dispersed, Gov. Shannon was again in Lawrence, the guest of the city. An informal gathering was held at the Free State Hotel. There was more hilarity in the committee rooms than was consonant with a Sabbath, evening in that puritanical town. The Governor felt, and stated, that "it was the happiest time of his life," and Robinson and Lane, although not so expressive, felt likewise. In the midst of the hilarity, word was brought that detached bands of Missouri stragglers, who had not, and would not, disperse at the order of the Governor, were threatening an attack on the city. The Governor, justly indignant that his orders were thus contemned, gave a carte blanche commission to Robinson and Lane on the spot. It read as follows:


You are hereby authorized and directed to take such measures, and use the enrolled forces under your command in such manner for the preservation of the peace, and the protection of the persons and property of the people in Lawrence and its vicinity, as in your judgment will best secure that end.


LAWRENCE, December 9, 1855.

The Closing Festivities. - On Monday evening, December 10, there was a grand peace party, held under the auspices of the ladies of Lawrence, at the Free State Hotel. The hotel was illuminated, a big table spread, the band played, speeches were made by Robinson, Lane, James Christian, S. C. Smith and many others. Many of the invaders were there - among them Jones, as an invited guest. The party did not break up until the "wee sma' hours" of Tuesday.

At 10 o'clock A. M., on Tuesday, the soldiers passed review and were dismissed, after exultant, laudatory and patriotic speeches from Gens. Lane and Robinson. The various companies, as they marched for home - to Topeka, Bloomington and other points - were escorted out of town by the 'Lawrence Guards,' and sent on their way with the enthusiastic cheers of the citizens whom they had helped defend and protect in the danger now passed.

Incidental Occurrences. - During the progress of the siege, the roads in all directions from Lawrence were guarded, with the ostensible object of preventing the escape of Jones' prisoner, and such persons as he desired to arrest, who were assumed to be harbored in the doomed city of Lawrence. Thus, every person going in any direction from Lawrence, or found upon any road leading thereto, was subject to arrest, and many persons were thus arrested without any process of law.

On December 6 S. C. Pomeroy was dispatched to the East with important details of the situation, for help. He was taken, and held as a prisoner in the Wakarusa camp until liberated under the provisions of the treaty. George F. Warren and Dr. G. A. Cutler, the latter an invalid just recovering from a severe sickness, were taken, on suspicion, at Atchison, and conveyed to Lecompton, where Cutler was subject to such inhuman cruelty, indignity and intimidation at the hands of Jones as to render him for the time delirious, and to nearly cost him his life. Several other Free-state men were prisoners in the camp of the enemy at the time the treaty, by one of its positive provisions, gave them an unconditional release.

The only fatal casualty occurring during the siege resulted in the death of one of the Free-state men who had come up to the defense of Lawrence. It is difficult now and will grow more difficult as the years go by, to get at the truth of the story. Making due allowances for misrepresentations of exasperated Free-state newspaper correspondents and analyzing what sworn testimony was elicited by the Congressional Investigating Committee, the facts as gathered were as follows:

Thomas W. Barber, with his young wife, had taken a claim on the northwest quarter of Section 13, Township 13, Range 18, just north of the Wakarusa, seven miles above Blanton's Bridge, and about eight miles southwest from 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 Thursday noon, December 6, all being quiet, but the town 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. He was unarmed. 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 men, approaching them from the direction of Lecompton. It proved afterward to be a party from the camp at that place, on their way to the Wakarusa camp.* Two of the party, George W. Clark, Indian Government Agent for the Pottawatomie Indians, and James Burnes, known as Col. Burnes, a merchant of Westport, Mo., 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, rode a hundred yards, told his brother with a faint, sickly smile that "that fellow had hit him," rode swaying in his saddle supported by his brother a little further, then slipped off into the dust and died soon after in the road. His brother and Pearson, fearing further violence, fled, leaving the body in the highway.

* Phillips in his: "Conquest of Kansas," p. 211, states that the party was led by Maj. Gen. Richardson, and that Judge Cato was one of the party. The positive proof of the statement is wanting. Dr. John P. Wood, of Lawrence, was of the party, but had no part in the murder.

The credit of the murder was claimed by both Clark and Burnes.* Neither of them ever knew who fired the fatal shot. Clark said to an acquaintance three days after, "I tried to kill him. and if it was not me I wish it had been."

* See testimony of Harrison Nichols, Report of Kansas Committee, p . 1126; also testimony of William Phillips, p. 1127.

The man who fired the fatal shot rode a gray horse, had on a cap and a light-colored overcoat. He was a short, stout man. Neither Clark nor Burnes in years after, sought to solve the uncertainty or claimed the honor attached to "shooting an Abolitionist." History will rank them as a brace of murderers, it matters not who gave the coup de grace.

The body of Barber was brought into Lawrence during the evening and lay in one of the rooms of the Free State Hotel while Gov. Shannon and his Missouri friends were consulting as to terms of peace in an upper room of the same building. It was temporarily interred in Lawrence and subsequently removed to the 'cemetery on the hill' and buried with military honors.

The excitement attending the murder, increased by the stricken wife who came in the next morning after Barber's death, threatened to break out in ungovernable and immediate vengeance. Only the constant watchfulness, cool counsel and determined orders of Robinson, Lange, and others in command, prevented a wild sortie of the infuriated friends bent on vengeance and indiscriminate slaughter of every armed man found in the invading camps. One bloody page in Kansas history thus remains unwritten.

[TOC] [part 27] [part 25] [Cutler's History]