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


[TOC] [part 28] [part 26] [Cutler's History]


(Transcriber's note: this section does not appear in the table of contents of the original copy of the book.)

As late as Friday noon, December 7, a wagon load of men, five in number, came in armed and equipped for battle. A father and four sons. The father was tall, spare, at that time close shaved, hair sprinkled with gray, gray eyes, thin, compressed lips, distended nostrils, and armed with a rifle and two revolvers in his belt. His four sons were all armed in like manner. The wagon was loaded with provisions, and an American flag floated from a staff fastened to the front of the wagon. It was OLD JOHN BROWN. This was his first appearance among the Free-state men, although he had been in the Territory with his boys for several weeks. The Herald of Freedom noticed his arrival as follows:

About noon (December 7), Mr. John Brown, an aged gentleman from Essex County, N. Y., who has been a resident of the Territory for several months, arrived with four of his sons - leaving several others at home sick - bringing a quantity of arms with him, which were placed in his hands by Eastern friends for the defense of the cause of freedom. Having more than he could use to advantage, a portion of them were placed in the hands of those more destitute. A company was organized and the command given to Mr. Brown for the zeal he had exhibited in the cause of freedom both before and since his arrival in the Territory.

A letter written soon after the close of the war by John Brown, to his wife and children, gives his own truthful account of the affair, the part he took in it, the information on which he acted, the final result, and his opinions concerning it. It reflects somewhat severely on the habits and characters of some of the actors, and robs the old hero himself of some tawdry plumes in which small men have decked him out. It is, without doubt, entirely truthful in so far as the knowledge of the writer could so render it. The original letter is deposited in the collection of the Kansas State Historical Society. It reads as follows:

OSAWATOMIE, K. T., 16th December, 1855. Sabbath evening.


I improve the first moment since my return from the camp of volunteers who lately turned out for the defense of the town of Lawrence, in this Territory, and notwithstanding, I suppose you have learned the result before this (possibly), will give a brief account of the invasion in my own way.

About three or four weeks ago, news came that a Free-state man by the name of Dow had been murdered by a Pro-slavery man named Coleman, who had gone and given himself up for trial to Pro-slavery Gov. Shannon. This was soon followed by further news that a Free-state man who was the only reliable witness against the murderer had been seized by a Missourian, appointed Sheriff by the bogus Legislature of Kansas, upon false pretenses, examined, and held to bail under such heavy bonds to answer the false charges, as he could not give; and, that, while on his way to jail, in charge of the bogus Sheriff, he was rescued by some men belonging to a company near Lawrence; and that, in consequence of the rescue, Gov. Shannon had ordered out all the Pro-slavery force he could muster in the Territory, and called on Missouri for further help; that about two thousand had collected, demanding a surrender of the rescued witness and the rescuers, the destruction of several buildings and printing presses, and a giving up of the Sharpe's rifles by the Free-state man, threatening to destroy the town with cannon with which they were provided, etc.; that about an equal number of Free-state men had turned out to resist them, and that a battle was hourly expected, or supposed to have been already fought.

These reports seemed to be well authenticated, but we could get no further account of matters, and I left this for the place where the boys were settled at evening, intending to go to Lawrence to learn the facts the next day. John was, however, started on horseback, but before he had gone many rods word came that our help was immediately wanted.

On getting this news, it was at once agreed to break up at John's camp, and take Wealthy and Johnny to Jason's camp (some two miles off), and that all the men but Henry, Jason and Oliver should at once set off for Lawrence under arms, those three being wholly unfit for duty. We then set about providing a little corn bread and meat, blankets, cooking utensils, running bullets, loading all our guns, pistols, etc. The five set off in the afternoon, and after a short rest in the night (which was quite dark) continued our march until after daylight next morning, when we got our breakfast, started again, and reached Lawrence in the forenoon, all of us more or less lamed by our tramp. On reaching the place, we found that negotiations had commenced between Gov. Shannon (having a force of some fifteen or sixteen hundred men) and the principal leaders of the Free-state men, they having a force of some five hundred men at that time. These were busy night and day fortifying the town with embankments and circular earthworks up to the time of the treaty with the Governor, as an attack was constantly looked for, notwithstanding the negotiations then pending. This state of things continued from Friday until Sunday evening. On the evening we left, a company of the invaders of from fifteen to twenty-five attacked some three or four Free-state men, mostly unarmed, killing a Mr. Barber, from Ohio, wholly unarmed. His body was afterward brought in and lay for some days in the room afterward occupied by the company to which I belonged (it being organized after we reached Lawrence).

The building was a large, unfinished stone hotel, in which a great part of the volunteers were quartered, and who witnessed the scene of bringing in the wife and friends of the murdered man. I will only say of this scene that it was heart-rending, and calculated to exasperate the men exceedingly, and one of the sure results of civil war.

After frequently calling on the leaders of the Free-state men to come and have an interview with him by Gov. Shannon; and after, as often getting for an answer that if he had any business to transact with any one in Lawrence to come and attend to it, he signified his wish to come into the town, and an escort was sent to the invaders' camp to conduct him in.

When there, the leading Free-state men, finding out his weakness, frailty and consciousness of the awkward circumstances into which he had really got himself, took advantage of his cowardice and folly, and by means of that and the free use of whisky and some trickery succeeded in getting a written arrangement with him, much to their own liking. He stipulated with them to order the Pro-slavery men of Kansas home, and to proclaim to the Missouri invaders that they must quit the Territory without delay, and also give up Gen. Pomeroy, a prisoner in their camp, which was all done; he also recognized the volunteers as the militia of Kansas, and empowered their officers to call them out whenever, in their discretion, the safety of Lawrence or other portions of the Territory might require it to be done.

He, Gov. Shannon, gave up all pretension of further attempt to enforce the enactments of the bogus Legislature and retired, subject to the derision and scoffs of the Free-state men (into whose hands he had committed the welfare and protection of Kansas), and to the pity of some and the curses of others of the invading force.

So ended this last Kansas invasion, the Missourians returning with flying colors after incurring heavy expenses, suffering great exposure, hardships and privations, not having fought any battles, burned or destroyed any infant towns or Abolition presses, leaving the Free-state men organized and armed, and in full possession of the Territory, not having fulfilled any of all their dreadful threatenings, except to murder one unarmed man, and to commit some robberies and waste of property upon defenseless families unfortunately in their power.

We learn by their papers that they boast of a great victory over the Abolitionists, and well they may. Free-state men have only to hereafter retain the footing they have gained, and KANSAS IS FREE. Yesterday the people passed upon the Free-state Constitution. The result, though not yet known, no one doubts.

One little circumstance connected with our own number showing the true character of the invader: On our way, about three miles from Lawrence, we had to pass a bridge (with our arms and ammunition), of which the invaders held possession; but as the five had each a gun, with two large revolvers in a belt (exposed to view) with a third in his pocket, and as we moved directly on the bridge without making any halt, they, for some reason, suffered us to pass without interruption, notwithstanding there were some fifteen to twenty five (variously reported) stationed in a log house at one end of the bridge. We could not count them. A boy, on our approach, ran and gave them notice. Five others, of our company, well armed, who followed us some miles behind, met with equally civil treatment the same day. After we left to go to Lawrence until we returned when disbanded, I did not see the least sign of cowardice or want of self possession exhibited, by any volunteer or the eleven companies who constituted the Free-state force, and I never expect again to see an equal number of such well behaved, cool, determined men, fully as I believe sustaining the high character of the Revolutionary Fathers. But enough of this, as we intend to send you a paper giving a fuller account of the affair. We have cause for gratitude that we all returned safe and well, with the exception of hard colds, and found those left behind rather improving. We have received $50 from father, and learn from him that he has sent you the same amount, for which we ought to be grateful, as we are much relieved, both as respects ourselves and you The mails have been kept back during the invasion, but we hope to hear from you again soon Mr. Adair's folks are well, or nearly so. Weather most pleasant, but sometimes most severe. No snow of any account as yet; can think of but little more to write.

Monday morning - 17th. The ground for the first time is fairly whitened with snow and it is quite cold but we have had before a good deal of cold weather with heavy rains. Henry and Oliver, and I may say, Jason, were disappointed in not being able to go to the war. The disposition of both our camps to turn out was uniform. * * * *

May God abundantly bless you all and make you faithful.

Your affectionate husband and father,



(Transcriber's note: this section does not appear in the table of contents of the original copy of the book.)

The whole force enrolled for the defense of Lawrence numbered not far from seven hundred. They consisted of eleven companies. The rosters with officers commanding, are the property of I. R. Blackman, a resident of Lawrence. Copies are in the possession of the Kansas State Historical Society. Capt. Lyman Allen commanded the company known as the Lawrence Stubbs; Samuel Walker commanded the Bloomington Company; J. B. Abbott, the Wakarusa Company; Samuel T. Shore, the boys from Ottawa Creek; McWhinney, the Palmyra Company.

John Brown as appointed Captain of the boys who came up from his neighborhood. They did not arrive, nor was the roll completed until as late as December 7. They, however, got credit for service for sixteen full days, and the credit was all the pay they ever received. The muster roll reads as follows:

Muster roll of Capt. John Brown's company in the Fifth Regiment of the First Brigade of Kansas Volunteers, commanded by Col. George W. Smith, called into the service of the people of Kansas to defend the city of Lawrence, in the Territory of Kansas from threatened demolition by foreign invaders, enrolled at Osawatomie, K. T., called into service from the 27th day of November, A. D. 1855, when mustered, to the 12th day of December when discharged. Service sixteen days.

Names and Rank


John Brown, Sen., Captain 55
Wm. W. Updegraff, 1st Lieutenant 34
Henry H. Williams, 2nd Lieutenant 27
James J. Holbrook, 3d Lieutenant 23
Ephraim Reynolds, 1st Sergeant 25
R. N. Wood, 2nd Sergeant 20
Frederick Brown, 3d Sergeant 25
John Yetton, 4th Sergeant 26
Henry Alderman, 1st Corporal 55
H. Harrison Updegraff, 2d Corporal 23
Daniel W. Collis, 3d Corporal 27
William Partridge,* 4th Corporal 32
Amos D. Alderman 20
Owen Brown 31
Salmon Brown 19
John Brown, Jr. 34
Francis Brennen 29
William W. Caine 19
Benjamin L. Cochran 34
Jeremiah Harrison 22


Muster roll of Capt. John Brown's company, Kansas Volunteers:

I certify on honor, that this Muster Roll exhibits the true state of Capt. John Brown's Company of the Fifth Regiment of Kansas Volunteers for the period herein mentioned; that each man answers to his own proper name in person; that the remarks set opposite each man's name, officer and soldier, are accurate and just.


Colonel commanding the Fifth Regiment Kansas Volunteers.

DECEMBER 12, A. D. 1855, Lawrence, K. T.

* One keg of powder, twenty-three pounds, at sixty cents; also eight pounds of lead at fifteen cents, was furnished by William Partridge to the Quartermaster, and was used in the service.


(Transcriber's note: this section does not appear in the table of contents of the original copy of the book.)

The Indians took little interest in the disturbance. A few Pottawatomies were in camp at Lecompton to aid the invaders. They had been induced to enlist by the Indian Agent Clarke, knowing little, and caring less, about the merits of the question, so long as the employment was not dangerous nor laborious, and brought them plenty of whisky. The chiefs of the Delawares and Shawnees offered their services to the Lawrence Committee of Safety, which were thankfully declined until it should be ascertained that the enemy was employing Indian allies.

Up to December 8, the weather had been that of mild Indian summer. On the evening of that day, at the time Robinson and Lane went down to Franklin to close the peace negotiations, a cold and tempestuous rainstorm set in, which lasted through the night. It doubtless had much to do with cooling the fierce passions of the disappointed soldiers, and inducing them to accept the terms of the treaty and return home, instead of marching under the black flag to the destruction of Lawrence, which, under a brighter sky, they might have attempted. The storm was a not unimportant element in the final consummation of peace.

The closing weeks of the year 1855 were filled with disorder and excitement which showed that the end of the Wakarusa war was but the beginning of the great struggle. An immediate and bloody collision of the opposing forces had been averted by diplomacy, but the cause of the trouble had not been removed. The opposing parties had made no compromise which could bring lasting peace. It was but a truce, to be followed by further contests, intensified in bitterness as the struggle was prolonged.

The Free-state Constitution, as has been recorded, was ratified at an election held December 15, less than one week after the close of the Wakarusa war, at which time, spite (sic) of the treaty, there were found to be scattered at thirty-nine different precincts 1,731 voters for the revolutionary document, and the organization of a provisional State government under its provisions. Disorders occurred in the border counties where the Missouri mob could be brought into requisition. At Leavenworth* the ballot-box was destroyed, the office of the Territorial Register, a Free-state paper, edited by Mark Delahay, destroyed, and the city generally given over to the mob who represented, at that place, the 'Law and Order Party,' organized a few weeks before at the convention over which Gov. Shannon had presided.

* The details of the outrages at Leavenworth are given fully in the history of Leavenworth County.

The persistent opposition to the bogus government set up by the Territorial Legislature, seemed to have gathered strength and courage from the results of the recent 'war,' and Lawrence was still the unconquered and defiant citadel of the Free-state men. There, on the 22d, they met and nominated a full Free-state ticket for officers under the accepted constitution.

In fact, the movement went on, each meeting being held, and each forward step being taken as heretofore appointed with the precision and punctuality of fate. Even during the excitement of the war itself the Thanksgiving proclamation of the Executive Free State Committee, signed by James H. Lane, had been duly promulgated.

The slavery propaganda, desperate and exasperated at the defeats of the year, yet still undismayed and confident of ultimate victory, were plotting in Washington, and sullenly planning in the secret lodges of eastern Missouri for a renewal of the conflict, out of which, through outrages innumerable - murder, robbery, arson, and the other nameless curses of oppression, which only a ruthless foe under the authority of law could impose - the people were to come unconquered, bearing as their sheaf of victory the Free State of Kansas, wherein are now bound up all the ties of a hundred thousand free homes, the hopes of a million free people, and the glory of a great commonwealth of freemen.

Despite the constant and varied political excitement and disorder which prevailed during the summer and fall of 1855, the close of the year found hundreds of families fairly established in their new homes, their cabins built, and their first crops, more bounteous than they had ever known before, safely garnered. They were the bona fide settlers of the Territory. They were scattered throughout the eastern portion of the Territory, and, unvexed by outside influences, would have lived peaceably with their Pro-slavery neighbors, many of whom like them had come in to peacefully till the soil and establish themselves and families in better homes than they had left. They were largely anti-slavery in sentiment, and had come with all their worldly possessions from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the Northwestern Free States, all so far distant that a return was not among the possibilities thought of. They had not, as had the Missouri squatters, a place of covert near, to which they could flee for safely, nor from which they could carry on desultory or predatory warfare with safety. They were, therefore, from considerations of prudence, the most peaceably inclined settlers in the Territory, avoiding conflict wherever possible. Such men, when fairly brought to bay, proved most desperate foes. They could neither be driven from the Territory, crushed into submission, nor deprived of their homes.

Neither the General Government nor the Pro-slavery junta which controlled it, nor Gov. Shannon, Judge Lecompte, Sheriff Jones, Senator Atchison, nor any of the local workers, seeking to fasten slavery upon Kansas, had any adequate conception of the power of these men when fairly aroused, nor of the desperate resistance to be encountered in attempting to drive them from the homes they had come so far and risked so much to secure, nor of the uncompromising opposition to be confronted in the effort to force upon them an institution which their early education, their life-long principles and their deep-rooted prejudices alike taught them would render their homes valueless and their lives a reproach to themselves. They had not emigrated from their free homes to the Territory of Kansas intending to make of it a Slave State; quite the contrary. The desperate contest which was forced upon them reached the culminating point during the year 1856, and marks the most interesting epoch in American history.


(Transcriber's note: this section does not appear in the table of contents of the original copy of the book.)

The Thirty-fourth Congress convened December 8, 1855. In the House the Free-soilers, although not united under a single and well organized party organization, held the balance of power on a test vote. The Senate was still overwhelmingly Pro-slavery. The administration was unanimously bent on establishing slavery in Kansas at all hazards. The popular uprising against the iniquities attending the passage of the Kansas bill and the succeeding outrages had yet only had time, through the election of new members, to reach the Lower House. The first conflict was on its organization. The contest for Speaker lasted nine weeks, and resulted in the election of Nathaniel P. Banks, of Massachusetts, by a plurality of votes cast. It was a Free-soil victory, and was so viewed by Pro-slavery men everywhere. It showed that their power was broken, and rendered them desperate to secure Kansas quickly, and before the accumulating force of the aroused people should make it possible.

The House being organized on February 4, 1856, J. W. Whitfield appeared with his credentials, and was sworn in as the delegate from Kansas Territory. A. H. Reeder appeared with his certificate of election, signed by the Territorial Executive Committee, and there contested Whitfield's right to a seat on the ground of fraud in the election, denying that he was the choice of the people, and claiming himself to he the only delegate chosen through their votes.

[TOC] [part 28] [part 26] [Cutler's History]