|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
WAR SOUTH OF THE KAW, PART 2.He then ordered Capt. Brown and his company to disperse. Brown protested against the injustice and cruelty of dispersing his own and other Free-State forces, while Whitfield, with an armed force of Missourians, remained undisturbed in camp only two miles away. On the pledge of Col. Sumner that he would immediately order them from the Territory, he urged no further objection, but broke camp and departed.
Col. Sumner, on reaching Whitfield's camp, was received with the polite and affable consideration due his rank and authority. He was told by Whitfield that he had been misinformed both as to the character and intention of himself and his men; that instead of being, as he had been led to believe, a hostile force from Missouri, threatening to destroy or even harass the Free-State men, they were mostly residents of the Territory, armed for the defense of themselves and their Pro-slavery neighbors, and for the rescue of their friends now in the hands of lawless bands of armed men who, in defiance of law and order, were threatening destruction to all Pro-slavery residents in that part of the Territory. The various creeks and settlements in the Territory from which these immaculate defenders of the innocent had come were given with a frankness calculated to deceive one ignorant of the geographical catalogue of names of creeks and settlements scattered over the Territory. With the assurance that the Free-State companies had already been, or would be, immediately dispersed, and that Pate's command had been already liberated from captivity, Whitfield declared that the warlike mission of his troops was at an end, promised to immediately disperse them to their numerous homes, and pledged them, on his word of honor, not to again assemble in arms. Col. Sumner, relying upon his promise, withdrew toward Prairie City, while Whitfield broke camp and moved down the Santa Fe road to a point some five miles below, and encamped on Black Jack for the night.
The other Free-State forces from Franklin, Wakarusa, etc., on the order of Col. Sumner, disbanded sufficiently to be invisible if they did not go home.
Whitfield's men, on their march to Black Jack on the evening of the 5th, took prisoner and carried along with them a Free-State man named Cantrel. He was a Missourian, had rendered assistance at the battle of Black Jack, although not one of those engaged, and had otherwise shown himself a stanch Free-State man. Four other prisoners had fallen into their hands on the march. On the 6th, with their prisoners, they moved to Cedar Creek, some fifteen miles, where they encamped about noon. Here the party divided, the actual Pro-slavery residents who had joined the force after it entered the Territory, disbanded, leaving the Missouri wing, now numbering with Pate's men, who had joined them, not far from two hundred men. At this place, Cantrel was tried for "treason to Missouri," by a mock court organized for the purpose, convicted, taken out into a ravine, so near that his cries of terror and pain were distinctly heard in camp by the other prisoners, and shot dead. Two of the remaining prisoners, having given satisfactory evidence that they were Pro-slavery men, were liberated immediately after Cantrel's execution. The fate of the others is not known. The finding of dead bodies near the continued line of march, which were never identified, led to the belief that they met the fate of Cantrel.
Meanwhile, Col. Sumner, with part of his command, having confidence in Whitfield's promises, returned to Fort Leavenworth, leaving a company of dragoons, under command of Lieut. McIntosh, encamped in the vicinity of Palmyra, and still another company near Osawatomie, under Maj. Sedgwick. There was also a small force on Middle Ottawa Creek, guarding John Brown, Jr., Jason Brown, Mr. Williams, Mr. Partridge, and other prisoners taken by Pate at Osawatomie. Unfortunately, Sedgwick, not apprehending further trouble from Whitfield's men, moved his force up toward Ottawa Creek, several miles away from Osawatomie, on the morning of June 7, not many hours before the Missourians approached the town. The assurance given that Sedgwick with his troops was still encamped near the town, and would therefore protect it, prevented the Free-State men from rallying to its defense, as they were otherwise determined to do, and had so re-assured the citizens that they had nearly all gone out upon their claims to work, leaving the women and children, with not over a dozen men, in the village.
As the army approached the town, their outriders ascertained that Sedgwick's force was gone, and that the town was defenseless. Thus re-assured, the soldiers entered. No resistance was made by the inhabitants, and a general pillage began, which did not end until every house had been entered, the portable valuables taken, and other property destroyed. They fired several buildings, which were, however, extinguished by the citizens. Owing to the uncertain proximity of the United States Dragoons, the destruction of the town was averted, and at the end of an hour and a half, the sack being complete, the raiders hurriedly departed, drunk with whisky and brandy which they had found, and loaded with booty. Thus did Gen. Whitfield* make good his "word of honor," pledged to Col. Sumner two days before. Murder and pillage marked his homeward march, done with cowardly impunity, since the United States Dragoons unwittingly covered his retreat and kept the Free-State men at a safe distance.
A few days later, the force reached Westport, where it was disbanded. Open hostilities for a time ceased south of the Kansas River, and affairs relapsed into the less demonstrative and milder form of anarchy which had hitherto prevailed.
While the war was progressing south of the Kaw, the Free-State settlers living north of the river and in the border towns of Atchison, Leavenworth and other places of less note, made no aggressive demonstrations. Being numerically weak, without organization, and thus at the mercy of their foes, they sought safety in silent neutrality, allowing their friends on the Pottawatomie and Wakarusa to fight their battles single-handed, in their own way. They were, nevertheless, subject to every outrage which their defenseless condition invited, or the vindictiveness of their foes could devise. They were threatened, forcibly driven from the Territory, robbed, imprisoned and murdered.* Every Free-State man in that region was under surveillance of committees of vigilance, or put under the ban of open proscription. No men displayed more unflinching courage, or suffered more for the cause of freedom in Kansas, than did the Free-State men of Leavenworth and Atchison Counties, during the reign of terror that began there in June, and continued, with slight intermission, until near the close of the year.
The Free-State papers were suppressed, those at Lawrence being destroyed. The only one remaining, the Kansas Tribune, Topeka, was in a state of temporary suspension, its supply of paper having been stopped in transit by the Law and Order men of Missouri. Thus, with no means of contradicting any reports, however false or exaggerated they might be, the Pro-slavery papers made the most of their advantage, and their columns fairly overflowed with fictitious accounts of abolition outrages perpetrated daily upon Pro-slavery settlers. All counter outrages on Free-State men were either suppressed, given with palliating circumstances, or justified and commended. The history of American journalism furnishes no such example of unmitigated falsification, systematic distortion of facts, and infamous libels of reputable citizens, as appeared in the Pro-slavery journals of Kansas and the border counties of Missouri during the summer and fall of 1856. The leading Kansas papers were the Squatter Sovereign, Atchison, J. H. Stringfellow, editor; the Kansas Herald, Leavenworth, L. J. Eastin, editor. Both editors were members of the Territorial Legislature. They were supported largely by Government advertising patronage, which gave to their reprehensible editorial effusions a semi-official authority in the minds of their readers, which rendered them doubly mischievous.
During the summer, these two papers vied with each other in inflaming the already aroused passions of the Pro-slavery people along the border, and inciting them to deeds of lawless violence against all persons not openly in favor of making Kansas a Slave State, classing all such, indiscriminately, as Abolitionists. They urged with vehemence the necessity of exterminating all such as remained in the Territory, and the establishment of an effectual blockade against all Free-State emigrants on the Missouri and along the northern frontier. Short extracts are given below, showing the pervading spirit of the Pro slavery press of Kansas and Misosuri at that time.
The Westport Border Times, of May 27, announced the Osawatomie murders under the head "War! War!" as follows:
We learn from a dispatch just received form Col. A. G. Boone, dated at Paola, K. T., May 26, 1856, and signed by Gens. Heiskell and Barbee, that the reported murder of eight Pro-slavery men in Franklin County, K. T., is but too true. The dispatch says:
The Kansas Herald (Leavenworth) announced Pate's capture in an extra, June 4, under the startling headlines, "More Abolition Outrages!" And enumerated in capital letters the following list of casualties in his company:
"Supposed Murder of J. M. Bernard - I. W. Foreman, H. Hamilton and J. Lux, who Went in Search of Bernard, Taken Prisoners - Deputy U. S. Marshal Attacked - Fifteen of Capt Pate's Company Killed - Capt. Pate and Several of his Men Taken Prisoners - James Magee Badly Wounded."
The account foots up Pate's loss, after displaying desperate valor, at fifteen killed, many wounded. It says: "The Abolitionists numbered between seventy and eighty strong." Pate's men numbered only thirty. The abolition loss in killed is set down at nine.
The leading editorial, in the same issue containing the above, under the caption, "War in Kansas," apprehensive that too great exaggeration of the frightful conditions of affairs may have a depressing effect on Pro-slavery immigration, commences with this re-assuring paragraph:
Notwithstanding the earnest efforts of two widely circulating morning papers in this city to make the public believe that all Kansas is up in arms and about engaging in a fierce and bloody war, peace reigns throughout all her wide domain, save and except in one miserable little town, where, under the auspices of a few New England fanatics, have assembled a gang of Yankee-negro thieves, who, encouraged by political demagogues and ambitious clergymen, are acting out the evil propensities of their nature, setting the laws at defiance, and declaring their independence of courts, penal statutes, governments and everything but their own made, ungovernable passions.
Further on, it continues:
We have little respect for any of the psalm-singing button-makers and tin peddlers of New England, and see enough of them about our own city whining and intermeddling with everybody's business, not to appreciate the feelings of contempt and abhorrence the people of Kansas must feel for the nest of thieving paupers and tract distributers of Lawrence. Here the better class of them come and "speculate" and "trade" and "dicker," calling themselves merchants, and assume to be respectable and law-abiding citizens, but once give them a chance to cheat, or in any way act out their propensities, and they will rob their best benefactors.
The Squatter Sovereign, June 10, says:
Hundreds of the Free-State men who have committed no overt act, but have only given countenance to those reckless murderers, assassins and thieves will of necessity share the same fate of their brethren. If civil war is to be the result, in such a conflict there cannot be and will not be any neutrals recognized. "He that is not for us is against us" will of necessity be the motto; and those who are not willing to take either one side or the other are the most unfortunate men in Kansas, and had better flee to other regions as expeditiously as possible - they are not the men for Kansas.
In the same issue, under the heading: "Startling News! - More Outrages by the Abolitionists!" commencing with the outrage upon Capt. Pate, at Black Jack, seven distinct outrages upon Pro-slavery men are detailed, varying in atrocity from hose and negro stealing to murder in a majority of instances. Many of the stories were pure fabrications; but at that time there was no opposition paper in the Territory to contradict any statement put forth, however false it might be. The editorial comments on this column of atrocities read thus:
We also have rumors of the murder of Pro-slavery men in other portions of the Territory. The Abolitionists shoot down our men without provocation wherever they meet them. Let us retaliate in the same manner. A free fight is all we desire. If murder and assassination is the programme of the day, we are in favor of filling the bill. Let not the knives of the Pro-slavery men be sheathed while there is one Abolitionist in the Territory. As they have shown no quarters to our men, they deserve none from us. Let our motto be written in blood upon our flags, "Death to all Yankees and Traitors in Kansas!"
The Squatter Sovereign, May 27, gave what is entitled a "Summary of events in Douglas County." It denied the charge of robbery and theft on the part of the invaders. The summary closed thus:
With a force of 750 men, the town disarmed and at our mercy, we simply executed to the letter what the law decreed, and left, as though we had been to church - by the way, there is no church in Lawrence, but several free love associations.
In the Leavenworth Herald, on June 14, on the first page, and in the column adjoining Gov. Shannon's proclamation ordering Col. Sumner to disperse all armed bands throughout the Territory, appeared a circular, signed by the Pro-slavery committees of Doniphan, Atchison and Leavenworth Counties, calling on friends in the South for material aid - arms, ammunition, etc. It was afterward copied by nearly every paper throughout the Slave States, and was there generally accepted as a true statement of the condition of affairs in Kansas. It read as follows:
To our friends throughout the United States - The undersigned having been appointed a committee by our fellow-citizens of the counties of Leavenworth, Doniphan and Atchison, in Kansas Territory, to consult together, and to adopt measures for mutual protection, and the advancement of the interests of the Pro-slavery party in Kansas Territory, this day assembled at the town of Atchison, to undertake the responsible duties assigned us; and in our present emergency deem it expedient to address this circular to our friends throughout the Union, but more particularly in the slave-holding States. We would not officiously undertake to represent the whole Pro-slavery party; but on this occasion, when every man is required at his post to protect his family, friends and property from the attacks of bands of midnight assassins, it is impossible to call a general meeting of our party.
THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE.
This committee arrived in Leavenworth from Lawrence, where it had concluded its work, Tuesday, May 13, and held its first session there on the following day. They were continued, without any serious interruption, until the excitement which followed the sacking of Lawrence, and the consequent disorders south of the Kansas River. Up to that time, the opposition to its work was confined to acrimonious newspaper strictures on its proceedings, and bitter denunciation of the Free-soil members - Messrs. Sherman and Howard. Almost as soon as the soldiers had returned from the sack of Lawrence, and news had been received of the Osawatomie tragedy, the opposition to the committee became bolder and the hindrances more annoying, if not more dangerous to a majority of its members and officers. Threatening letters were received by Mr. Sherman personally. Some witnesses were arrested, and others so intimidated that they dared not testify. The Free-soil members were openly execrated in a public indignation meeting. On the morning of May 26, there was found posted on the door of the committee room the following:
At a meeting of Pro-slavery citizens, held in Leavenworth May 31, the government of the city was taken entirely out of the hands of the legal authorities, and placed in the hands of a Vigilance Committee* (*See "History of Leavenworth") with power to appoint a Chief of Police, who, with his posse, was to hold himself subject to the direction and control of the committee, and "obey strictly, to the letter, neither falling short of nor exceeding" its orders. The appointment of this committee, as embodied in the resolutions, was: "To re-establish peace among us, and give security to persons and property; and this in order that men may pursue their lawful avocations, without being interrupted by lawless violence; without being subjected to such fearful excitements, and without apprehension of depredations from such outlaws as now infest our community."
The avowed intention was to conquer a peace. The organization was declared to be "not against opinions properly entertained and respectfully expressed," but against those "who openly strike at our peace and security, or who clandestinely and treacherously give them aid and comfort." "In one word," the resolution concludes, "we organize against treason, whether open or secret; against outlaws, incendiaries, traitors, and all their aiders and abettors." All those who came "armed with Sharpe's rifles, under the patronage of Eastern Emigrant Aid Societies," were branded as suspicious characters, and commended especially to the attention of the Vigilance Committee. Other counties and towns cherishing opinions expressed in the resolutions adopted, were urged to organize in like manner, pledged not to cease their united efforts until "outlaws be either expelled from the Territory, or receive summary justice."
The "Capt. Hemp" placard already given, which had been placed on the door of the committee's room, was condemned as "ill-advised" and "not in accordance with the views and feelings of the peaceable and law-abiding people of this community," but the resolution was "not to be construed into an indorsement of the respectability of said committee, or the propriety of their course and mission."
The committee was appointed by the Mayor, and commenced its work of proscription June 5, by serving notice on several prominent Free-State citizens to leave on the next boat, on pain of serious consequences not definitely described in the writ of ejectment. The work of this committee was shortlived - Gov. Shannon's proclamation was received in Leavenworth October 8, and thereupon the committee formally disbanded.
The effect of the meeting of May 31, although its committee did not immediately get to work, was to so intimidate witnesses that further testimony from Free-State men could not be procured, and the committee left the Territory. A short stay was made at Westport, Mo. From there, the majority - Howard and Sherman - proceeded to New York, and thence to Washington. Mr. Oliver, the Pro-slavery member of the committee, did not accompany them, but tarried to take exparte testimony concerning the Osawatomie murders, and on other points calculated to strengthen the Pro-slavery cause or rebut the Free-State testimony taken, which testimony accompanied the minority report presented to the House by him.*