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


[TOC] [part 35] [part 33] [Cutler's History]


The murders struck terror to the hearts of the Pro-slavery settlers all along the valley of the Pottawatomie. Many fled panic-stricken from the region, to the borders of Missouri, carrying with them the news of the massacre. What few remained, although unanimous in the belief that "old Brown" and his sons were the murderers, were so completely unnerved and horrified that they made no effort for their arrest, nor attempt at retaliation, but waited trembling for outside succor to arrive. From the night of the terrible deed, the attempt of Pro-slavery residents to drive Free-State settlers from their claims by dire threats of arson or murder, in case they remained, ceased to be the common mode of harassing and intimidating them. It was plain that their own safety lay in not suggesting to their aroused foes, any outrages planned for their destruction, since they thus invited the danger of their prompt and premature execution upon themselves. There is this much to be said in palliation of John Brown's bloody code of retaliation.

Pate's Campaign. - Capt. Henry Clay Pate, who, with his command, was still in the vicinity of Franklin, had, in addition to his military rank, the somewhat questionable authority vested in him by his commission as Deputy United States Marshal, granted him during or just prior to the sack of Lawrence. On hearing of the murders, he set out for Osawatomie with his company, with the design of "capturing or killing old Brown," who was assumed to be the leader of the murderous gang. The old man was in hiding on his arrival. Failing to find him, he took prisoners two of his sons, John Brown, Jr., and Jason, whom he found at work upon their claims, on suspicion of their being accessories to the crime.* They were charged with murder, and put in irons. Other arrests of Free-State men were made and a few cabins burned. A company of United States dragoons, under Capt. Wood, joined Pate soon after the arrests were made, to whom he turned over his prisoners. On May 31, the two companies moved together as far as Middle Ottawa Creek. There they separated, Pate going into separate camp a few miles further on. The prisoners were kept under guard of the dragoons, near Middle Ottawa Creek, for several days, and were subsequently conveyed to Lecompton, where Gaius Jenkins, G. S. Brown, and other Free State prisoners were already in confinement. Agony, horror, anxiety and fatigue, unsettled the mind of John Brown, Jr., to that extent that, while in camp as a prisoner, he was at times violently insane.**

* Both were guiltless. Townsley's testimony, which is given in the history of Franklin County, corroborated by other witnesses, proves conclusively that John Brown, Jr., discouraged the expedition, and that on hearing of its murderous outcome he resigned his command and, in an excited condition bordering on insanity, left the camp and went home.

** In a letter written by John Brown, Sr., to F. B. Sanborn, Concord, Mass., dated June 24, 1956, he says:

"John's company soon after disbanded, and also the Osawatomie men. John tried to hide for several days, but from the feelings of the ungrateful conduct of those who ought to have stood by him, excessive fatigue, anxiety and loss of sleep, became quite insane, and in that condition gave up, or, as we are told, was betrayed at Osawatomie into the hands of the Bogus men."

His allusion to the "ungrateful conduct of those who ought to have stood by him" and his suspicions of betrayal, and other allusions to "the cowardly, mean conduct of Osawatomie and vicinity" quite likely had reference to the proceedings of a public meeting held at Osawatomie three days after the murders. The official report of the meeting was as follows:

"At a meeting of the citizens of Pottawatomie Creek, without distinction of parties, held at the branch between Messrs. Potter and Partridges, on the 27th day of May, 1856, C. H. Price was chosen Chairman and H. H. Williams Secretary."

The Chairman then stated the object of the meeting, and a committee was appointed to take the subject under consideration. The committee consisted of R. Goulding, R. Gilpatrick, N. C. McDow, S. V. Vandaman, A. Castele and John Blunt. After consultation, the committee reported the following preamble and resolutions, which were unanimously adopted and a copy of them ordered to be printed:

WHEREAS, An outrage of the darkest and foulest nature has been committed in our midst by some midnight assassins unknown, who have taken five of our citizens at the hour of midnight from their homes and families, and murdered and mangled them in the most awful manner; to prevent a repetition of these deeds, we deem it necessary to adopt some measures for our mutual protection and to aid and assist in bringing these desperadoes to justice. Under these circumstances, we propose to act up to the following resolutions:

"Resolved, That we will from this time lay aside all sectional and political feelings and ict (sic) together as men of reason and common sense, determined to oppose all men who are so ultra an their views as to denounce men of opposite opinions.

"Resolved, That we will repudiate and discountenance all organized bands of men who leave their homes for the avowed purpose of exciting others to acts of violence, believing it to be the duty of all good disposed citizens to stay at home during these exciting times and protect and, if possible, restore the peace and harmony of the neighborhood; furthermore, we will discountenance all armed bodies of men who may come amongst us from any other part of the Territory or from the States, unless said parties shall come under the authority of the United States.

"Resolved, That we pledge ourselves, individually and collectively, to prevent a recurrence of a similar tragedy and to ferret out and hand over to the criminal authorities the perpetrators for punishment."

H. H. WILLIAMS, Secretary.
C. H. PRICE, President.
R. GOLDING, Chairman}
W. C. McDOW, }
S. V. VANDAMAN, } Committe."


Battle of Black Jack. - Capt. Pate's company, once more in camp, began anew their system of marauding and plundering of Free-State settlers on a more extensive scale than before. His campaign came to a sudden and inglorious end on June 2, in an encounter with an armed party of Free-State men, much inferior to his in numbers. It is memorable, as the first pitched battle in which the Free-State men were engaged. Many conflicting accounts of the affair have been published, varying so widely in detail as to throw distrust on the entire accuracy of any of them. The following, gathered from what are deemed reliable sources of information, is believed to be an essentially correct account of the battle of Black Jack. This battle occurred June 2, 1856. Old John Brown came up from the Pottawatomie the day before, Sunday, to Prairie City, with twelve mounted men, including himself, three of his sons - Frederick, Owen and Watson - and his son-in-law, Henry Thompson (who was hanged at Harper's Ferry), James Townsley, a Mr. Winner, a German named Wininger, and Charles Kaizer.

Six of Henry Clay Pate's men had that day made a raid on Palmyra, in retaliation for the Pottawatomie massacre, and had taken several prisoners, among them two of the Barricklows and Dr. Graham. They then concluded they would go over to Prairie City and take that village also. The people were in church when the descent was made. Services were immediately closed, without the formalities of a benediction, and firing commenced. After a round or two of firing, two of the attacking party were wounded. All retreated, effecting their escape to the main command of Pate. Pursuit was made, but Pate's forces were not found that day. About 10 o'clock the same night, Capts. Brown and Shore, having collected their men, started out again to find Pate's men, and about daylight next morning, discovered them near a small rivulet, with quite a little grove of Black Jack oaks, amounting then to but underbrush, on the west and south sides, about three miles from Prairie City.

The Missourians were about seventy-five or eighty in number, commanded by Capt. Pate, of Missouri, and Lieut. Brockett, of South Carolina, and drawn up behind their wagons, which they used for breastworks. Capts. Brown and Shore's men dismounted two or three hundred yards from where the skirmish began, and leaving Wininger and Henricks in charge of the horses, advanced upon the enemy in a curved line, wings farthest advanced. Brown, armed with a revolver, was in the center, in advance, in command. He repeatedly cautioned his men to aim low. Brown's men were armed with a variety of short range guns, while Shore's men had Sharpe's rifles. When within supposed range of the latter, fire was opened on Pate's army, the whole thirty-one guns going off simultaneously. A second and a third volley were poured in, when Brown ordered an advance, so that the short-range guns of his own men might be more effective. Some of the men started forward on a run, and the line became somewhat broken. When the line was again formed, the order was given to lie down in the grass, then from one to two feet high. From this time, until a flag of truce was raised by Pate's command, firing was promiscuous and continuous. In the meantime, Dr. Graham had escaped from his captors, by running directly across from them to Brown, falling down from time to time in the grass, to escape the shots fired at him by the Missourians. He told Capts. Brown and Shore that they could capture the whole outfit if they persisted, so when the flag of truce appeared and Capt. Pate proposed to capitulate, upon the condition of retaining their arms, Capt. Brown informed him they were not taking prisoners on those terms, and that the surrender must be unconditional The flag was withdrawn and the battle renewed.

It was soon discovered that Pate's men were one by one falling back, mounting their horses, and "skedaddling." Orelius Carpenter, a crack shot, was detailed to stop that kind of business by shooting their horses, and in six shots brought down six horses, himself having the end of his nose shot off, and receiving the ball in his right arm, near the shoulder. The flag of truce was finally run up the second time, and terms of unconditional surrender accepted by Pate. Only twenty-eight of Pate's men were captured, the rest having escaped during the fight.

The men of Capt. Shore's command actually engaged in the fight were the following: Capt. Samuel T. Shore; First Lieut. Elkanah Timmons; Second Lieut. Elizur Hill; Silas H. Moore, Elias Bassinger, Richard M. Pierson, Orelius A. Carpenter, Sylvester Harris, Augustus Shore, Montgomery Shore, Hiram McAllister, - Collins, William A. David, C. L. Robbins, J. M. Robbins, John S. Edie, James P. Moore, Hugh McWhinney, John McWhinney and Dr. Westfall.*

* A list of those engaged in the battle or holding the horses, made out and subscribed to by John Brown, now in the Kansas Historical Society's collection, gives the names as follows: Capt. S. T. Shore, David Hendricks, Hiram McAllister, - Parmely, Sylvester Harris, O. A. Carpenter, Augustus Shore, James Townsley, - Hayden, John McWhinney, Montgomery Shore, Elkanah Timmons, Jacob Weiner, A. Bunda, Hugh McWhinney, Charles Keiser, Elizur Hill, William David, B. L. Cockrain, Henry Thompson, Elias Bassingler, Owen Brown, Frederick Brown, Salmon Brown, Oliver Brown, John Brown; all reported more or less severely wounded but nine.

[Image of John Brown]

Battle of Franklin. - Two days after the battle of Black Jack, a night attack was made by a party of Free-State men and boys, numbering fifteen or sixteen, from Lawrence, upon a party of Law and Order marauders who were at Franklin, where they had stored considerable plunder. The assailing party entered the town at about 2 o'clock on the morning of June 5, and, after reconnoitering, marched to the guard-house, where the enemy had their headquarters, and demanded a surrender. The summons was answered by a discharge of their cannon, the only piece of artillery they had, which had been crammed to the muzzle with nails and other missiles calculated to scatter destruction. Owing to the darkness the aim was not deadly, and the murderous charge passed harmlessly over the heads of the assailants. The cannon was not again loaded. The assailants lay down and commenced firing with their Sharpe's rifles, their fire being sharply returned by the inmates of the house. The engagement was thus kept up, without sortie from within or assault from without, until near daybreak, when, as the coming light would render the firing more deadly, the firing from within and from without ceased almost simultaneously. The Lawrence boys melted away with the darkness, and were in Lawrence with the rising sun. None of them were hurt. The Law and Order men had suffered more during the siege. Six were wounded, one of whom, Tischmaker, died the next day. Of the wounded, the Pro-slavery papers report two from North Carolina, one from Georgia, and one from Alabama. Tischmaker was a resident of Franklin. At the time the battle began there were in the guard-house twenty-three Georgians, Alabamians and Missourians, Samuel Salters, the redoubtable Deputy Sheriff, and several Pro-slavery residents of Franklin. This force, like that of the besiegers, melted away with the rising sun, but it did not re-appear in Lawrence - it fled to friendly camps elsewhere - all but Tischmaker, who was to badly wounded - where they told the story of the dreadful siege they had withstood, repulsing the enemy, whom they represented as two hundred strong. The expedition was not an entire failure, although not carried out as it had been planned. The Wakarusa Company, under the lead of the gallant but modest Capt. Abbott, who had led the Branson rescue, was to have come up to the attack of the town on one side, while the Lawrence boys assailed the other. Owing to the intense darkness, the Wakarusa boys missed their way, and instead of being at the appointed place at the appointed time, were groping about in the ravines at the south of the town. It was intended to have captured the cannon, arms and ammunition, and bring them away with what provisions could be found, by way of reprisal.

The Lawrence boys, unsupported and disappointed as they were, having begun the battle, the Wakarusa force, guided by the noise of the musketry, found their bearings, and at last entered the town. To approach the vicinity of the guard-house in the darkness, knowing neither friend from foe, would have been foolhardy. They therefore proceeded to levy on the Pro-slavery stores of Buford's men. They loaded the only wagon they could procure with powder, shot, caps, a few Sharpe's rifles, some muskets, making up their load with flour, bacon, coffee, sugar, and other provisions, and, like their fighting allies, disappeared at break of day. The cannon, the prize most coveted, although undefended at the close of the battle, was reluctantly left behind, no means for its transportation having been provided. The grand object for which the expedition was planned was however, accomplished. Franklin ceased to be a base of supplies for the invaders, or a place of rendezvous for the Southern soldiers, from which they could constantly menace Lawrence and plunder the Wakarusa settlers. If the assailants did not take Franklin to hold, they made it too hot for the enemy, and compelled them to evacuate.

The Pro-slavery version of this affair, as it appeared in the Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, was as follows:

On Wednesday morning last, about 2 o'clock, eighty Abolitionists attacked the town of Franklin. There were but eight Pro-slavery men in the town at the time. They resisted the attack. The firing was kept up for four hours. Mr. Tischmaker, a good citizen and a Pro-slavery man, was shot through the lungs and died in a few hours. His house was riddled with bullets. His child narrowly escaped being killed. The pillow on which it was lying was shot to pieces, just missing the child's head. Mr. Connelly and one other man used a piece of cannon, and at about daylight drove back the Abolitionists, who were in wagons. How many were killed of the outlaws is not known. They shot from behind wagons, and thus kept themselves concealed.

Mr. McGouldrick, a South Carolinian, was shot through the neck, supposed to be mortally wounded. Mr. Carrol, a South Carolinian, was wounded in the hip. Capt. Chapman, another South Carolinian, was in the fight and fought bravely. It is supposed that some fifteen to twenty of the outlaws were killed.

As soon as the news of the Osawatomie murders reached the Missouri border towns, the soldiers just returned from Lawrence were rallied for a new invasion, not as before, under the call of the United States Marshal, but, as the Pro-slavery papers put it, to protect the Pro-slavery settlers who were being driven from their homes or slaughtered without mercy by their abolition neighbors.

In addition to the command of Capt. Pate, whose career was temporarily checked at Black Jack, a considerable force was raised at Westport, Independence and other Missouri towns for a new invasion. The Commander-in-chief was Gen. Whitfield, the Pro-slavery Delegate of Congress, who had left the Investigating Committee, then in session at Leavenworth, to engage in the more congenial work of organizing and leading a force from Missouri into the Territory, to whale into submission the abolition part of the constituency he claimed to represent. The force with which he left Westport for the seat of war numbered something over two hundred and fifty men, well armed and accoutered for a short campaign. He entered the Territory on June 2, intending to be joined by Pate's company and the other smaller bands that were still there. (Pate, for reasons apparent, did not make a junction.) He marched as far as Bull Creek, twelve miles east of the present site of Baldwin City, Douglas County, where he encamped on June 8. His army was increased while there by numerous small accessions, and now numbered 300 men. Among his under officers were: Capt. Reed, of Independence, Mo.; Capt. Jenigen, who had shortly before been taken prisoner by Capt. Samuel Walker, while making an unsuccessful night attack on his (Walker's) house, and released by Walker on parole; Capt. Bell and several prominent Southern officers of Buford's regiment.

As soon as it became known among the Free-State men that an armed force had entered the Territory from Missouri, the Free-State companies were called to arms, and began to muster defensively, within supporting distance of each other, round about Prairie City. On the 5th of June, the Free-State troops in the neighborhood were encamped as follows: At Hickory Point, one mile from Palmyra, 115 men - fifteen from Franklin; a few from Bloomington, under Capt. Walker; a small detachment of the "Lawrence Stubbs," under Capt. Cracklin; and the Wakarusa Company, under Capt. Abbott; a little back of Prairie City, Capt. Shore, with forty men; in the thick woods, near Middle Ottawa Creek, strongly intrenched and guarding Pate and his fellow-prisoners, Old John Brown, with fifteen men.

Not many miles away, his exact whereabouts known only to his friends was Charley Lenhart, the wild young printer, who had been strongly suspected of the attempt on Sheriff Jones' life in Lawrence, a few weeks before. He was the leader of the Free-State guerrilla bank (numbering some twenty young men, quite as reckless and fearless as himself), who since the sack of Lawrence had been making reprisals on Pro-slavery men wherever and whenever an opportunity offered. Cooke, afterward hung at Harper's Ferry, was one of the party. All efforts to capture them or break up the gang had proved futile, and they were, at this time, well armed and mounted, acting as cavalry scouts to the determined little army of Free-state infantry encamped about Prairie City.

At this time (June 5), Whitfield moved his army to the immediate vicinity of the Free-State forces, and encamped in a ravine half a mile south of Palmyra. He was within a short distance of the hiding place of Old John Brown, of whom he was in search, and under the careful surveillance of the Free-State troops encamped near by, who had come out to fight most desperately in Brown's defense, in case the invaders should attempt his capture. A most bloody and desperate battle seemed imminent.

The efforts of Gov. Shannon to disarm the Free-State men, and thus render them defenseless, and to break up "the d---d guerrillas," proved alike ineffectual. Tidings of Pate's disaster, the raid on Franklin, and the continued depredations of Lenhart and his men, convince the Governor that his friends were being hard pressed, and that the advance of Whitfield's army would meet with desperate resistance. As on a former occasion, he raised his reluctant voice in the interests of peace, and summoned Col. Sumner to the task of quelling the disorders which had grown out of his withdrawing him from Lawrence a few days before it was sacked. On June 4, he issued the following proclamation:

WHEREAS, information has been received by us that armed bodies of men exist in different parts of the Territory, who have committed and threaten to commit acts of lawless violence on peaceable and unoffending citizens - taking them prisoners, despoiling them of their property and threatening great personal violence.

It appearing also that armed combinations have been formed for the avowed purpose of resisting the execution of the Territorial laws and preventing the execution of any process by the officers of this Territory.

It appearing further that individuals, as well as associated bodies of men, have assumed to themselves the power of notifying citizens of the Territory to leave their abodes, and in some cases to quit the country, under threats of inflicting severe penalties on those who do not comply.

Now, therefore, I, Wilson Shannon, Governor of the Territory of Kansas, do issue this, my proclamation, to command all persons within this Territory, not authorized by the laws thereof, to disperse and return peaceably to their respective abodes; and to warn all such persons that these military organizations for such purposes are illegal, and if necessary will be dispersed by the military force placed by the President of the United States at my disposal for the purpose of preserving the peace and enforcing the laws of the Territory. That steps have been taken to disperse all unlawful military organizations, which are threatening the peace of the country, and the good order of society, and to disarm them should they assemble. All civil officers of the Government are required to be vigilant in enforcing the laws against such offenders and in protecting the citizens, both in their persons and property, against all violence and wrong.

I further declare that all notices given to citizens or persons found in the Territory to leave the same or their houses or any particular locality are unauthorized by law and highly reprehensible as tending to breeches of the peace and violence and disorder.

I further declare that all law-abiding citizens of the Territory, without regard to party, names or distinctions, must be protected in their persons and property. And that all military organizations to resist the execution of the laws of the Territory, or to disturb the peace thereof, must be dispersed. All aggressive parties from without the Territory must be repelled. That the military force placed under the control of the executive of this Territory is amply sufficient to enforce the laws and to protect the citizens in their rights.

I further declare that in carrying out this proclamation, no distinction or inquiry is to be made as to party, but all persons of all parties are to be treated alike under like circumstances. "Obedience to the laws, and consequent security to the citizens of Kansas are primary objects; and all lawless violence within the Territory, in whatever form it may manifest itself must be repressed," and the proclamation of the President of the United States of the 11th of February last will be strictly enforced; and a requisition has been made upon Col. Sumner for a sufficient military force to insure obedience to this proclamation.

I call on all good citizens to aid and assist in preserving peace, repressing violence and bringing offenders to justice, and in maintaining the supremacy of the law.*

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Territory to be affixed this 4th day of June, 1856.

By the Governor. WILSON SHANNON.


* The following dispatch, sent by President Pierce to Gov. Shannon, May 23, doubtless influenced him in the somewhat tardy issue of the above proclamation:

WASHINGTON CITY, May 23, 1856.


Since my telegraph of this morning was sent, the Secretary of War has laid before me Col. Sumner's letter to you of the 12th inst. His suggestion strikes me as wise and prudent, and I hope that before this reaches you decisive measures will have been taken, to have the process in the hands of the Marshal quietly executed. My knowledge of facts is imperfect, but, with the force of Col. Sumner at hand, I perceive no occasion for the posse, armed or unarmed, which the Marshal is said to have assembled at Lecompton. The instructions issued to yourself and Col. Sumner, during your last visit to this city, must be efficiently executed. Sufficient power was committed to you, and you must use it.

Obedience to the laws and consequent security to the citizens of Kansas are primary objects. You must repress lawless violence within the Territory, in whatever form it may manifest itself.


In response to the Governor's orders, Col. Sumner with his command moved promptly to the scene of disturbance. He was accompanied by Deputy Marshal Fain, who was to make such arrest as should prove necessary in dispersing the armed band on either side, and otherwise effecting obedience to the proclamation. They arrived at Prairie City June 5, in the neighborhood of which the opposing forces were disposed as before stated. Capt. Shore's camp was first visited by Col. Sumner, who commanded him to immediately disband. Without offering objection or protest, he gave cheerful and prompt obedience to the command, coming, as it did, from a recognized and respected source of authority. Old John Brown having been informed that Col. Sumner desired to see him, came forthwith out of his lair, and appeared in camp. Contrary to his expectations, Sumner, without preliminary parley, informed him that he must consider himself a prisoner, "as a civil functionary who accompanied the troops had a warrant out for him which he was there to serve." The Marshal did not, however, serve any papers on him at that time, holding Brown in wholesome dread, albeit he was then in military custody and urrounded (sic) by armed soldiers.* He was demanded to immediately surrender up Pate and his other prisoners, which he offered to do on condition that they should be held for trial for robbery. An unconditional surrender was insisted on by Col. Sumner, whereupon, without further discussion, Brown conducted the soldiers, accompanied by Deputy Marshal Fain, to his place of retreat, where, on a spot naturally adapted for defense, he had intrenched himself so strongly that Col. Sumner is reported to have said that a thousand men could not have dislodge him. Within the intrenchment (sic) were Pate and twenty-six of his men, prisoners, guarded by fifteen of Brown's party. The whole camp, including prisoners were at once taken in custody by the United States troops. Col. Sumner called upon Fain to serve such writs as he had given him to understand he held against Brown and his men. His reply that he saw no one there whom he desired to arrest brought an indignant rebuke from the bluff soldier, who, despising both cowardice and deceit, felt that he had been imposed upon by both, the Marshal having declined to arrest any of the party. Col. Sumner liberated the prisoners (Pate and his men), returned to them their horses, arms and equipage, and ordered them to leave the Territory forthwith.**

* Redpath, in his "Life of Capt. John Brown, " page 138 says: "Capt. Brown answered that if any Territorial official dared to serve a writ on him, he would shoot him dead on the spot; and, fixing his stern glance on the Marshal, convinced that trembling official that the presence of a company of soldiers would not save him from the fate the old man threatened."

The same, author, page 136, puts the strength of Whitfield's force "at twenty-one hundred mounted men."

Mr. Redpath's known exaggerations, added to the fact that he wrote under excitement and strong prejudice, and always with a view to influence his readers to adopt his own line of thought, detracts much from the historic value of his writings.

** Phillips, in his "Conquest of Kansas," page 362, tells how Col. Sumner, in terms more emphatic than polite, upbraided Pate for prostituting the U. S. Arms Gov. Shannon had given him to such unauthorized and unsoldierly uses.


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