KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


TERRITORIAL HISTORY, Part 41

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BATTLE OF OSAWATOMIE.

The troops were guided by Rev. Martin White, who was one of the most biter Pro-slavery partisans in the Territory, and had himself fled from the country about the time of the Pottawatomie murders, and claimed to have been driven out. He was with the advance scouting party, which, as it approached the town, fell in with David Garrison and Frederick Brown, a son of old John Brown. Both were, without warning or provocation, shot dead. White boasted afterward that he gave Fred his quietus, asserting in justification of the act, that Brown, when shot, was known to him as one of the pestiferous gang of Abolitionists, and was riding at the time a horse stolen from him; and that, it being a time of war, it was no murder.

The village was reached shortly after the double murder, by the whole force. They were there confronted by a party of about forty Free-State men, under command of that grim, mysterious, unrelenting old hero, John Brown. The town was hotly defended by the little party for a time, but at length, overpowered by numbers, they were forced to retreat and leave it to pillage and destruction. After the sacking of the store and dwellings of all valuables that could be transported, the soldiers set fire to the town and destroyed it. When the conflagration ceased, but four buildings remained among the smouldering (sic) ruins of what had been the thriving village of Osawatomie.*

The following was Capt. Reids' report of the affair:

CAMP BELL CREEK, August 31.

Gentlemen - I moved with 250 men on the Abolition fort and town of Osawatomie - the head-quarters of Old Brown - on night before last; marched forty miles and attacked the town without dismounting the men, about sunrise yesterday. We had five men wounded, none dangerously - Capt. Boyce, William Gordon, and three others. We killed about thirty of them, among the number, certain, a son of old Brown, and almost certain Brown himself; destroyed all their ammunition and provisions, and the boys would burn the town. I could not help it.

We must be supported by our friends. We will want more men and ammunition - ammunition of all sorts. Powder, muskets, ball and caps is the constant cry.

I write in great haste, as I have been in the saddle, road 100 miles, and fought a battle without rest.

Your friend,
REID

Old John Brown, in his modest account of the battle, states that his force consisted-of 'some twelve or fifteen recruits,' which he brought into the town in the morning, together with ten or fifteen mounted men, under Capt. Cline, whom he met just before the battle began, and who joined forces with him in the defense. The whole defensive force did not number over thirty men. Capt. Cline's men got out of ammunition, and were forced to retire across the river. The remaining force kept up the fire until but six or seven remained. Capt. Brown summed up the losses as follows:

We had one man felled - a Mr. Powers, from Capt. Cline's company - in the fight. One of my men - a Mr. Partridge - was shot in crossing the river. Two or three of the party, who took part in the fight, are yet missing, and may be lost or taken prisoners. Two were wounded, viz., Dr. Updegralf and a Mr. Collis. * * *

The loss of the enemy, as we learn by the different statements of our own, as well as their people, was some thirty-one or two killed, and from forty to fifty wounded. After burning the town to ashes, and killing a Mr. Williams they had taken, whom neither party claimed, they took a hasty leave, carrying their dead and wounded with them. They did not attempt to cross the river, nor to search for us, and have not since returned to look over their work. I give this in great haste, in the midst of constant interruptions. My second son was with me in the fight and escaped unharmed. This I mention for the benefit of his friends.

Old preacher White, I hear, boast of having killed my son. Of course he is a liar.

JOHN BROWN,
LAWRENCE, KAN., September 7, 1856.

Reid, with his command, having destroyed the village, returned with his plunder to the encampment on Bull Creek. News reached Lawrence and Topeka of the burning of Osawatomie on Saturday evening, and a force of nearly 300 men was rallied, and on the following morning set out in pursuit of the enemy. Col. Lane, still known as Joe Cook, controlled by his advice the movements of the force, although having no open command. The march was during one of the hottest of Kansas' hottest days. The boys had made no preparations for sustenance during the hastily planned campaign. In spite of terrible suffering from hunger, thirst and heat, they made the forced march (the Topeka Company, over forty miles), and appeared in sight of the enemy, still encamped at Bull Creek, before sunset on the evening of the 31st. The cavalry came in sight of the camp while the infantry were some miles in the rear. While waiting for them to come up, they, in reconnoitering, exchanged a few shots with the pickets of the enemy. The boys, in spite of fatigue, were ready and eager to fight it out without rest. Before the infantry had come up sufficiently near to co-operate with the cavalry in an attack on the enemy, Col. Lane (Cook) advised a halt and subsequently had them retire some miles and go into camp, or rather take what rest they could in the open air, with the intention, as was supposed, of attacking the enemy on the following morning. During the night the enemy broke camp and retreated to the Missouri border, and on the following day the footsore and hungry company, disappointed of a fight, and in no amiable mood, commenced the return march, slowly and with laggard steps, until met by rumors of fresh danger and renewed outrages at home.

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* A more detailed account of the battle appears in the history of Miami County.
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On its becoming known at Lecompton that a force had set out to meet the invaders, or intercept them in their retreat to Missouri, it was determined by Woodson and his advisers to make a diversion in favor of their friends, by subjecting the Free-State settlers to fresh outrages in the absence of the Free-State forces who had held them thus far under restraint. Col. P. St. George Cooke was ordered by Woodson "to proceed at the earliest moment to invest Topeka, disarm the insurrectionists, or aggressive invaders against the organized government of the Territory, to be found at or near that point, leveling to the ground their breastworks, forts and fortifications, keep the head men or leaders in close confinement, and all persons found in arms against the Government as prisoners, subject to the orders of the Marshal." He was also informed that it was very desirable to intercept the invaders on the road known as "Lane's Trail,"* leading from Nebraska to Topeka. In the opinion of Col. Cook, Woodson had transcended his instructions in the orders he had given. He did not believe it a part of his military duty to take the field for the purposes indicated in the Governor's letter, nor to further his well- known design to bring on a collision between the Free-State forces and the Government troops; nor did he propose to do the totally illegal and disgraceful work of making indiscriminate and wholesale arrests of a class of persons not individually charged with crime, and holding them subject to charges not yet preferred, and to writs not yet in existence. He was too much of a man and too high-minded a soldier to thus prostitute his high calling. He declined to obey such orders, except they came to him direct from the War Department.

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* The route designated as "Lane's Trail," had been traveled by him as well as by his first party who had reached Topeka on August 13, The trail was not laid out by him but by the "conductors" of the train, To them, in a greater measure than to any others, is due the credit of establishing and locating the northern road over the route Lane's men were forced to take when turned back on the Missouri River, The following, published two days after the arrival of the first party in Topeka, explains itself:

A CARD.
TOPEKA, KANSAS, August 15, 1856.

We, the undersigned, conductors of a company of emigrants, into Kansas, would hereby inform the public that we have succeeded in achieving a safe and peaceful passage through Iowa and Nebraska, and on a new road which we and our company have opened, have arrived and are now encamped in Topeka, the seat of Government of Kansas.

Along the road we have established colonies and towns for greater convenience to emigration, viz.,: Plymouth, situated three miles from the line between Kansas and Nebraska, which will be important to immigrants in crossing the frontier, as a post for supplies; Lexington, about twelve miles from Plymouth, and at a convenient distance therefrom for protective purposes and the remission of supplies for immigrants; and Holton, on Elk Creek, three miles from Skinnersville.

The roads between Nebraska City and Topeka are generally excellent, and where not so, a small expense now in process of incurrence, will render them safe and easy; and we would hereby invite all emigrants to Kansas to adopt it in the transmission hither of their families and effects.

M. C. DICKEY,
CALVIN CUTTER, }Conductors of emigrants train

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At the same time, Marshal Donaldson and his Deputies, Newsem and Cramer, armed with writs for the arrest of the leading Free-State men, and accompanied by bands of the Territorial militia, were scouring the country with the ostensible purpose of securing their arrest. Some prisoners were taken, but in most cases the persons sought were not found at their homes, whereupon the deserted houses were burned. The business of arson and pillage was thus carried on through Sunday and Monday in all the country within retreating distance of Lecompton, until the return of the men of the Bull Creek expedition made it unsafe to continue field operations. Seven houses were burned, among them those of Judge Wakefield and Capt. Sam Walker, large quantities of provisions seized, and several arrests made. With the booty and prisoners, the raiders had sought covert at Lecompton when the companies arrived at Lawrence. It was immediately decided to make an armed demonstration on Lecompton, and demand the liberation of the prisoners, among whom where Hutchinson and Sutherland, of Lawrence, who were held as spies, as has been before recounted.

The forces were to march in two divisions. One, under Col. Harvey, was to proceed up the north bank of the Kansas to a point north of the town; the other, under the direction of Gen. Lane,+ to march on the south bank and occupy the heights which overlooked the village. On the afternoon of September 4, Col. Harvey with 150 men moved up the north bank, and in the evening arrived at the place appointed, which cut off completely all chances of escape from Lecompton across the river. Lane's forces did not, as had been planned, appear on his arrival. He remained in wait all through the cold and rainy night which followed when, hearing nothing from the other division, he concluded that for some reason to him unknown, the attack had been given up, and accordingly himself abandoned the post where he had waited through the stormy night, and returned with his command, to Lawrence, where he arrived in the evening to learn that Lane's division had, after unexpected delay, marched as agreed, and were then at Lecompton.

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+ Authorities differ as to the exact time when Gen. Lane threw off all disguise and ceased to known as Capt. Cook. If not at this time, certainly two days later, Joe Cook, alias James H. Lane, Disappears from the war annals of Kansas.
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The expedition of Harvey, though unsatisfactory to both him and his command, was not barren of good results. Their presence the night before on the opposite side of the river, where they could successfully cut off retreat from the town in case of an attack, became know soon after their arrival, and threw the Territorial militia encamped there into panic and confusion. Moreover disagreements had arisen among the leaders themselves, a part rebelling against the work of burning and pillaging which Woodson had assigned them to do. A respectable minority absolutely refused to further pursue that mode of warfare. On the appearance of Harvey's troops, and in anticipation of the coming of another force from the other side, several officers having already left the camp and returned home in disgust, Gen. Richardson, having no confidence in his disordered and inharmonious command, decided to resign, which he did on the morning of the 5th. During the day, Woodson dismissed the forces, as of no further use to him either for offensive or defensive purposes, and also arranged to return the prisoners to Lawrence. All this was unknown to Lane's force, then on its way from Lawrence, and had been brought about by the appearance of Harvey's troops and the dissensions within.

About 4 o'clock P. M., the force from Lawrence took possession of the hill overlooking the town and commanding the foundations of the capitol then in process of construction, which had been utilized by the Territorial troops as a fortress. The disbanded militia made no sign of defense, but messengers were sent by Gov. Woodson in hit haste, to the camp of Col. Cooke, calling on him to protect the town against the threatening enemy, who were reported "one thousand strong," and about to bombard and destroy the town.

Mr. Branscomb and Capt. Cline were sent into the town under a flag of truce, and on demanding of Gen. Marshall, the only officer who would acknowledge that he had any command, the unconditional surrender of the Free-State prisoners, were, after a short parley, informed that all the prisoners demanded had been released that morning,that provisions had been made for their escort to Lawrence on the following day by a company of dragoons, concluding by making a counter demand on Gen. Lane for all prisoners in hands of the Free-State men. The messengers returned to the Free-State camp, which they reached just as Col. Cooke arrived. He (Cooke), addressing Lane and other officers, said: Gentlemen, you hav sicmade a great mistake in coming here to-day. The Territorial militia was dismissed this morning; some of them have left, some are leaving now, and the rest will leave and go to their homes as soon as they can." Hon. Marcus J. Parrott, who had been driven from Leavenworth, had come to Lawrence for safety, and was with the party of besiegers, replied: "Col. Cooke, when we send a man, or two men, or a dozen men, to speak with the Territorial authorities, they are arrested and held like felons. How, then, are we to know what is going on in Lecompton? Why, we have to come here with an army to find out what is going on. How else could we know?" To this Col. Cooke made no reply. The prisoners* came over to the camp of their friends, and returned with them to Lawrence the following day. There was on Saturday a slight lull in the excitement at Lawrence, and a feeling of satisfaction pervaded the town in contemplation of a good week's work done. During the day, Gen. Richardson passed through Lawrence, when he was courteously received by Gen. Lane, who escorted him a short distance on his way to Franklin. Richardson professed to be on his way to Missouri to disband the border forces.

There were at this time many refugees from Leavenworth and vicinity in the city, who had fled from the fresh outburst of murder and rapine which had as usual burst upon the heads of the Free-State settlers of that part of the Territory, in retaliation for the victories of their better organized brothers south of the Kaw.

Marcus J. Parrott, H. Miles Moore, F. G. Adams, and scores besides, had come to Lawrence, no less for personal safety than to raise a force sufficiently strong to turn the tide against their relentless foes, and to reinstate them in their homes, from which they had fled for their lives, many of them leaving defenseless families behind. A momentary peace having been conquered south of the Kaw, they appealed to the boys still in arms, to march at once upon Leavenworth. They detailed, as only living witnesses could, the horrors from which they had fled -- the murders on the road, the shooting of Phillips in his own house, the driving of defenseless women and children, by scores and hundreds, like sheep aboard the steamers, and out of Leavenworth City, by Emery and his Missouri gang, the expulsion from the county of every man who was suspected of "Abolitionism," the defenseless condition of the women and children, who, unable to flee, remained subject to all the outrages which their defenseless condition might invite -- all these were told in a way to make the appeal irresistible.

On Sunday a council of war was held, at which Lane, Harvey and all the other officers, and many of the soldiers, discussed the situation, and it was then decided to "carry the way into Africa," or what was the same thing, to cross the river and disperse the bands then prowling through Jefferson and Leavenworth Counties, and march on Leavenworth City. While the consultation was going on, old John Brown, who had not been seen or heard from since the morning when he retreated into the woods after his defense of Osawatomie, rode into Lawrence. His arrival was hailed with shouts by the knot of soldiers and others that gathered around him.+ A majority of the boys chose Brown as their commander in the proposed march on Leavenworth. He declined the proffered honor, on the ground that to supersede Col. Harvey, who was, under the existing military organization, entitled to the position, would be in ill taste, and might lead to dissatisfaction. So the plans for the campaign were perfected with Capt. Brown left out.

During the following week, under the command of Col. Harvey, with Capts. Hull, of Jefferson County, and Wright, of Leavenworth County, offensive Free-State operations north of the Kansas were begun. The first encounter was at Slough Creek, near the site of the present town of Oskaloosa, Jefferson County, on September 11. It was a complete surprise to the enemy there encamped, and resulted in the capture of nearly the entire force, arms, equipments and baggage.# Two days before this occurrence, not known at that time to Harvey and his men, Gov. Geary had arrived at Fort Leavenworth, and Woodson's administration was at an end. A message from Lane was received by Harvey after the Slough Creek affair was over, which, as recalled by a reliable witness@ present when it came, was essentially as follows: "Geary has come in -- I advise you to return." He returned accordingly, reaching Lawrence at noon of the 12th.

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* The prisoners here alluded to were those who had been taken for participation in the Franklin affair, and such others as had been, under various pretexts, taken by Woodson's militia and the Marshals, and should not be confounded with the Free-State prisoners -- Robinson, Jenkins and others -- who were all this time in the custody of the United States troops near Lecompton, waiting their trial for high treason.

+ The account of Brown's appearance in Lawrence at that date was obtained from Hon. F. G. Adams, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, who at that time was in the city, a refugee from Leavenworth, and witnessed his arrival.

# See history of Jefferson County.

@ F. G. Adams.
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The close of Woodson's short rule left the whole Territory in a state of absolute anarchy. There was not a place outside Lawrence, Topeka, and the region roundabout, where life or property was safe, and even there, where the Free-State men had forced Woodson to terms, it is the truth of history to state that the Pro-Slavery settlers were subject nightly to unfriendly visits from irresponsible parties of Free-State guerrillas, who rendered their tenure to personal property, especially horses and store supplies, quite uncertain, and their lives a horrid, nightmare of fearful anticipations. North of the river, forces on both sides were in a state of open war in Jefferson County, while further to the east, in Leavenworth, there was no law except that of indiscriminate murder, robbery, or proscription of all Free-State residents. Beyond the border, was encamped the army of Atchison, which had retreated from Bull Creek, receiving re-enforcements from all the Western Missouri counties, preparatory to a fresh and more formidable invasion of the Territory. Thus, in the few days of his rule, did Woodson so manage affairs as, by comparison, to throw a tinge of decency and respectability over the administration of his predecessor, that had otherwise been wanting.

LIBERATION OF FREE-STATE PRISONERS.

The last notable occurrence before the arrival of Gov. Geary was the examination and release on bail of Gov. Robinson and his companions, who had been held on indictment for treason for the past four months. The counsel for the government was C. H. Grover; for the prisoners, Charles H. Branscomb and Marcus J. Parrott. The day set down for trial was September 8, but on that day neither judge, jury, clerk nor marshal appeared, although the prisoners were ready for trial. On the next day they appeared, and the prisoners were arraigned. Strenuous efforts were made by the counsel for the prisoners for an immediate trial, which were opposed by motions and arguments for postponement on the part of the prosecuting counsel, based first upon the grounds that, owing to the Territory's being in insurrection, a jury could not be obtained, and that important witnesses were absent. The arguments, pro and con, lasted during the day, and resulted in a denial of all motions for postponement, and on the morning of the 10th Charles Robinson was arraigned for trial, separately, on the charge of usurpation of office. Judge Lecompte, at this stage of the proceedings, decided to continue the case, not on any grounds before urged by Mr. Grover, but upon the ground that "the great excitement prevailing in the country was such as to prevent a fair trial of the prisoners." The prisoner was thereupon admitted to bail in the sum of $500. He was again arraigned with the other prisoners for treason, the case being "United States against Charles Robinson and others." The prisoners under this indictment were admitted to bail in the sum of $5,000 each, and the cases continued. John Brown, Jr., and H. H. Williams, who had been held prisoners for some months, though not under indictment, were released on bail of $1,000 each.

Judge Lecompte, apparently anxious to get the prisoners off his hands and out of confinement before the arrival of Gov. Geary, accepted the bail offered without hesitancy, and the last of the political prisoners were thus released September 10. They left the tents where they had been held in confinement for four months, and in company with friends and under military escort departed for Lawrence that afternoon. They were met and welcomed one mile out of town by the "Lawrence Stubbs," Gen. Lane and staff, and many of their friends, and escorted to Massachusetts street, where crowds of their fellow-townsmen were assembled to greet them. Speeches of congratulation on the happy issue were made by Gov. Robinson and others. The rejoicing was continued in the evening, increased by the arrival of Mr. Nute and other citizens, who had been captured by the Leavenworth brigands under Emery's men, and who had been released the day previous. The treason cases were subsequently nolle prossed. Gov. Robinson was tried on the charge of usurpation of office, before Judge Cato, in August, 1857. The Judge charged strongly against the prisoner, but the jury, believing, as ably argued by his counsel, that there could be no usurpation of an office which did not exist, gave a verdict of acquittal August 20, and the farce thus ended.

[TOC] [part 42] [part 40] [Cutler's History]