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


[TOC] [part 36] [part 34] [Cutler's History]


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.

* It is stated by John H. Gihon - "Geary and Kansas" - page 90, that Whitfield was not present at the sacking of Osawatomie; that he, with a part of his command, had taken the direct route to Westport, while another divisions, under the command of Gen. Reid, with Capts. Pate, Bell and Jenigen, took in Osawatomie on their march. The question of his personal participation in the affair is, perhaps, immaterial. - ED.

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.

* For details concerning the disorders prevailing, and the outrages suffered at that time by the Free-State men in the border counties north of the Kansas River, the reader is referred to the histories of Atchison and Leavenworth Counties, which are a part of this work.

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:

"It is my painful duty to inform you that Allen Wilkinson is no more. About 12 o'clock on Saturday night last, a party of some twenty men entered his house, and in spite of the entreaties of his wife, dragged him out of his bed and brutally murdered him. They then proceeded to the house of an old man named Doyle, and murdered the old man and two sons. They then went to a Mr. Sherman's where they murdered three more men. A man named Whitman was also killed. The bodies of the murdered men were terribly mutilated."

This dispatch says: "The only reason that could be assigned for this inhuman butchery was that the Abolitionists (the court being in session) were afraid that these men would be called upon to give evidence against them, as many of them were charged with treason."

An appeal is made to the South for men and money. Civil war, with all its horrors, now rages in Kansas Territory. Where is Gov. Shannon? Where are the United States troops? are (sic) the oft repeated questions. How they are to be answered, time alone will show.

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.

* * * * * * * *

A stranger, reading these papers, would never dream that Kansas was a large Territory, and that in all its broad domain, and all its territory, settled townships and villages save one, the people were pursuing their usual avocations in peacefulness and contentment. But such is the fact.

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 people of Kansas have been sorely annoyed and plagued with these creatures, and we trust they will now drive out, root out the whole gang, root and branch, and leave not one of them in the whole Territory. It would be a pity to hang them, since some of them are the dupes and tools of greater knaves than themselves.

If Beecher and Dutton and Greeley and Sumner could be made to suffer their deserts, we would hold up both hands for their immediate punishment; but, as they have been too cunning and too cowardly to do what they have urged others to do, justice must fall upon the heads of weaker and less deserving creatures. We would, therefore, ask that it be seasoned with mercy, and the poor creatures that infest Lawrence be driven out of the Territory with stripes on their backs, and admonished never to show their faces west of the Missouri River again.

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!"

We have 150 men in Atchison ready to start at an hour's notice. All we lack is horses and provisions. Cannot our friends in Missouri, whose interests are identical with ours, contribute something that will enable us to protect our lives and families from the outrages of the cowardly assassins of the North? If the South ever intends to act, now is the time! Our murdered friends must be avenged! We again repeat, let not this war cease until Kansas is purged of Abolitionists!

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.

We publish this statement without any embellishment, that the world may judge between us and our opponents.

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 time has arrived when prompt action is required, and, in the interior of Kansas, can easily be supplied from various points in the above named counties, they embracing our whole front on the Missouri River. The Pro-slavery party is the only one in Kansas which pretends to uphold the Government, or abide by the laws. Our party, from the beginning has sought to make Kansas a Slave State only by legal means. We have been slandered and vilified almost beyond endurance, yet we have not resorted to violence, but steadily pursued the law for the accomplishment of our objects, believing it the only proper course - and the party is still of the same opinion. Twice have we been called out in large numbers to aid the officers in the execution of the laws, and under very aggravating circumstances, when, if our people had been willing to trample under foot the laws, as our enemies do, we were in a condition to wage a war of extermination against all the enemies of the Pro-slavery party in Kansas. Yet we controlled ourselves, our enemies promising in future to obey the laws. Notwithstanding the many falsehoods circulated by the Abolitionists, in and out of Kansas Territory, the day never has been that we were not able, legally and fairly, to out vote them; and to-day, if all restraints and obligations to support the Government and abide by the laws were thrown off, and open war declared between the Pro-slavery and all other parties in the Territory, we could, in less than a month, rid ourselves of our last enemy without the help of a single outsider.

Let not these statements, however (although true to the letter), prevent any one from coming to Kansas, who intends to become a citizen of Kansas, for we need all that will come; and remember that in October next, our Representatives to the Legislature will be elected, and our enemies will make a desperate struggle. Bring your slaves with you. They are safe here, Abolitionists cannot steal them and get them out of Kansas.

We have proclaimed to the world that we recognize the principles of the Kansas Bill as just and right, and although we preferred Kansas being made a Negro Slave State, yet we never dreamed of making it so by the aid of bowie-knives, revolvers and Sharpe rifles, until we were threatened to be driven out of the Territory by a band of hired Abolitionists, bought up and sent here to control our elections and steal our slaves and those of our friends in adjoining States. These threats made us prepare ourselves for whatever issue might be presented.

We are still ready, and intend to continue so, if our friends abroad stand by and sustain us. We are now in a condition that requires constant vigilance, day and night. Our people are poor, and their labor is their capital, deprive them of that, which we are now compelled to do, and they must be supported from abroad, or give up the cause of the South. The Northern Abolitionists can raise millions of dollars, and station armed bands of fanatics throughout the Territory, and support them in order to deprive Southern men of their constitutional rights. We address this to our friends, only for the purpose of letting them know our true condition and our wants. We know that our call will meet a ready, willing and liberal response. Since we left Lawrence, on the day of its surrender and humiliation, the Free-State men, having learned, we suppose by the aid of Howard and Sherman of the Congressional Committee of Investigation, that our laws were all unconstitutional and void, and would be so declared by Congress, have begun a regular system of midnight assassinations, robberies and the whole catalogue of crimes, wherever they can find unprotected men, women and children. Hence the absolute necessity of our people everywhere being constantly ready for any emergency, and, in order to be thus, we need money, horses, cheaper than our friends can supply us, except in Missouri. From twenty to thirty of our people have recently fallen by the hands of fanatical Abolitionists, without any pretended excuse, except that it was known they believed "Southern people had equal rights with Northern in the Territories." They are being hunted up and brought to justice, and the blood of our slain people, and the tears of their widows and orphans will continue to cry aloud for vengeance until the last assassin and traitor is brought to justice. Their cry will not be in vain. We profess to be a law-abiding people, and we practice what we profess, but when the law ceases to afford protection, and revolution, insurrection and rebellion are forced upon us, we expect to be ready to meet that issue, too. Thus far we have sustained the principles of the Pro-slavery party in Kansas, peacefully - we prefer thus to continue, but if our party is to be put down, or civil war follows, we are ready to do our duty.

Heaven and earth are being moved in all the Free States to induce overwhelming armies to march here to drive us from the land. We are able to take care of those already here, but let our brethren in the States take care of the outsiders - watch them, and if our enemies march for Kansas, let our friends come along to take care of them, and if nothing but a fight can bring about a peace, let us have a fight that will amount to something. Send us the money and other articles mentioned as soon as practicable, and if the Abolitionists find it convenient to bring their supplies, let our friends come with ours. Arrangements have been made with Messrs. Majors, Russel & Co., Leavenworth, K. T.; J. W. Foreman & Co., Doniphan, K. T.; and C. E. Woolfolk & Co., Atchison, K. T., to receive any money or other articles sent for our relief, and will report to the undersigned, and we pledge ourselves that all will be distributed for the benefit of the cause. Horses we greatly need - footmen being useless in running down midnight assassins and robbers.

Leavenworth County W. E. Murphy, Chairman; J. J. Clarkson, C. B. Norris, D. A. N. Grover, Hugh M. Moore.
Doniphan County - T. J. Key, Chairman; J. F. Foreman, C. L. Newman, A. Heade, J. S. Pembertou.
Atchison County - P. T. Abell, Chairman; J. A. Headley, A. J. Frederick, J. F. Green, Jr., E. C. Masons.

ATCHISON, K. T., June 6, 1856.
All Pro-slavery papers will please copy.


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:

May 26.


Sir. - With feelings of Surprise and Disgust we have been noticing the unjust manner in which you have been Conducting this Investigation.

We therefore request you to alter your Obnoxious course, in order to avoid the consequences which may otherwise follows. CAPT. HEMP - in behalf of the citizens.

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.*

* Both the majority and minority reports of this committee have been quoted from extensively in the preceding pages of this work. - ED.

[TOC] [part 36] [part 34] [Cutler's History]