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


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Before the return of the detachment sent out to Hickory Point, messengers came from Lawrence bringing the intelligence that large force of Missourians were encamped on the Wakarusa, and that an attack on the town was hourly expected. They were the Territorial militia called into action by the proclamation of Acting Gov. Woodson, and their plan, apparently known to both Secretary Woodson and Adjutant General Strickler, was to destroy Lawrence at all hazards, before receiving counter-manding instructions from the Governor. Woodson and Strickler were peremptorily ordered by Geary to repair at once to the camp of the invading army and disband them, in accordance with his proclamation and with the specific order given Strickler two days before. Under the circumstances, those emissaries were not deemed entirely trustworthy to carry out promptly and in good faith the delicate work entrusted to them. Theodore Adams, a confidential agent of the Governor, accordingly accompanied them to report truthfully and without delay the result of their mission. The party set out from Lecompton in the afternoon (Sunday, September 14), and reached the camp of the Missourians early in the evening. Their arrival seemed to have no immediate effect further than to excite the soldiers and impel many of them to make an immediate night assault on the hated town. Their disappointment and rage knew no bounds. Copies of the Governor's proclamation were distributed, but the officers would not hear it read nor assemble to hear the order to disband. The more rabid leaders - Clarke, Maclean, Stringfellow and Jones, denounced Geary without measure, and the camp resounded with the threats of the infuriated soldiery against his life should he persist in his interference. Adams left the camp, and at midnight sent the following dispatch to the Governor:

LAWRENCE, 12 o'clock, Midnight, September 14, 1856.

Sir - I went, as directed, to the camp of the militia, and found it at the town of Franklin, three miles from this place, encamped, with four pieces of artillery. One mile to the right, on the Wakarusa, I found a large encampment of three hundred tents and guns. They claim to have two thousand five hundred men; and from the appearance of the camp I have no doubt they have that number. Gen. Reid is in command. I saw and was introduced to Gen. Atchison, Col. Titus, Sheriff Jones, Gen. Richardson, etc. The proclamations were distributed.

Secretary Woodson and Gen. Strickler had not, up to the time I left, delivered their orders, but were about doing so, as soon as they could get the officers together. The outposts of both parties were fighting about an hour before sunset. One man killed of the militia and one house burned at Franklin.

There were but few people at Lawrence, most of them having gone to their homes after your visit here. I reported these facts to the officer in command here, and your prompt action has undoubtedly been the means of preventing the loss of blood and saving valuable property.

Secretary Woodson thought you had better come to the camp of the militia as soon as you can. I think a prompt visit would have a good effect. I will see you as you come this way, and communicate more fully.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
September, 1856

The messenger bearing this dispatch did not reach Lecompton until several hours after Geary, accompanied by Col. Cooke and his entire command, had left for the scene of danger. Soon after the departure of Woodson and his party for the Missouri camp, they had set out, and, late in the evening of the 14th, unknown to the inhabitants, had encamped a short distance outside the town, in a position favorable for defense in case of an attack. The Governor then entered the city alone, which he found prepared for desperate defense. The defenders numbered scarcely three hundred all told, and, unaware of the succor that was at hand, were sleeplessly watching and defiantly waiting the expected assault of the morrow. Had it come, it would have marked the bloodiest day in the annals of the Territory. Happily for the defenders, thrice happily for the invaders, the threatened conflict was averted.

In Lawrence, the day had been passed in untold anxiety by the inhabitants. Early in the morning, an excited messenger came riding furiously into the town, bearing the news that the Missourians were advancing in overwhelming force, and were then within a few miles of Lawrence. Scouts continued to arrive, each confirming the dreadful news, and giving fresh details of the approach of the enemy to the excited listeners. A messenger was immediately sent to Lecompton, to carry the news to the Governor, and call on the United States troops for assistance and protection. The advance was unexpected, and found the citizens in a comparatively defenseless condition. The force in and about the town, which could have effectually defended it a week before, numbered then at least a thousand men, well organized, officered, armed and equipped. During the week it had become seriously depleted and disorganized. Lane, the acknowledged leader, had disappeared, and, at his call, Harvey with a force of good fighting men, and Bickerton with his artillery company, were away. The Topeka company had gone home, and, after the recent visit of Gov. Geary, many others, believing the danger passed, had departed. Only a few remained, except the actual residents of the place.* Such forces as were available were hastily mustered, under the command of Col. J. B. Abbott, who, besides being the ranking officer of the recent Free- State militia (in the absence of Lane and Harvey), was, from his known coolness and bravery, by common consent the acknowledged leader of the defensive forces. Capt. Cracklin, with about forty of the Stubbs, reported for duty. The remaining force was distributed in small detachments at the various fortifications and other defensive points, and as pickets outside the town in the direction from which the attack was expected, and had no acknowledged commanders, except as the most experienced or coolest naturally took the leadership and advised the squad or party of which he was a member.

Old John Brown was among the defenders. He held no command, but did all in his power, advising, and, by his words of counsel, inspiring the little squads he visited at their various posts, with something of his own iron determination and contempt of danger.

The anxiety increased as the days wore on. There were no tidings yet from Gov. Geary, nor signs of the anxiously expected relief from that quarter. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the enemy had crossed the Wakarusa, and were within two miles of the town. The exact number of

* It is stated that the news of the defenseless condition of the town was conveyed to the Missouri camp, on Mission Creek, by Pro-slavery spies, as soon as possible after Harvey left Lawrence; and that it was then determined to march immediately upon the town, and destroy it before any orders for their disbandment could reach them. This, if true, would account for their sudden and unexpected forward movement, and is consistent with the letter of the 12th to Governor Geary, asking his orders, which may have been written before the defenseless condition of Lawrence was known to Gen. Heiskell.

F. G. Adams, Esq., now Secretary of the Kansas Historical Society, was at that time in Lawrence, and one of the volunteers for defense. He states that he, with others, was on that Sunday afternoon, stationed in a redoubt, as he remembers it, quite well out on Massachusetts street, probably as far as Henry street. Old John Brown came among them, and in an earnest conversational tone, gave the boys his counsel and advice. He began by saying he had no command, but if they would listen to him he would advise them. He told them something of his own experience in fighting, and impressed them quite strongly with the fact that the Missourians were cowards and would not stand up before equal numbers, or a brave and determined foe. He urged them to show a determined and aggressive front, and advised such of them as had long range rifles, and were mounted, to go out immediately onto the elevation toward Franklin and commence fire upon the enemy, then in sight, and within long range. He cautioned them to fire low and take good aim. In accordance with his advice, and inspired with renewed courage by his words, such as were properly armed immediately rode out, as he had directed, and were the first to take part in the skirmish with the advancing enemy which ensued. Mr. Brown, according to the recollection of Mr. Adams, did not, at that time, go out with the party, having no arms. Mr. Adams himself remained in the redoubt, being armed only with a shotgun of short range.

the approaching enemy was not known, but skirmishers were sent out to check their advance and save time, until Cooke should arrive, or in case (as many began to fear) they had been abandoned to their fate, to fight alone, in defense of their homes, so long as a single man remained. It is not believed that a single man or woman in the city, at that time, harbored the thought of surrender. Either the enemy were to be repulsed, or the defenders perish with the doomed city. The terrible alternative seemed all that was left them. It detracts nothing from the courage of this little band, that help, unknown to them, was near at hand, as they nerved themselves for the desperate and unequal encounter. The parties sent out to check the advance of the enemy, consisted of the "Stubbs," numbering some forty, under Capt. Cracklin, and another party sent out by John Brown; their leader, if they had any, as-well as their exact number, being unknown. These men took a position upon an elevated ridge of land, which commanded the road from Franklin, and, as the enemy came within range, opened fire upon them. A running fire was continued for a short time, when the Missourians, who proved to be a force of three hundred, sent forward to feel the enemy, finding that their further advance would e hotly contested, retired to Franklin for the night. The repulsing party lay on their arms, watching against surprise, at the time of Gov. Geary's arrival. The gray light of the morning showed to the anxious watchers the Stars and Stripes flaunting from Mount Oread; cannon were frowning upon its heights, and the white tents of Cooke's squadrons dotted its summit. The danger was over. Lawrence was saved!

Early on the morning of the 15th, Gov. Geary set out from Lawrence for the Missouri camp. Before reaching Franklin, he was met by an advance guard already on the march to renew the conflict which had been begun on the evening before. To his inquiry as to who they were and what were their objects, they answered that they were "the Territorial militia, called into service by the Governor of Kansas, and that they were marching to wipe out Lawrence and every d----d Abolitionist in the country." Geary replied that he was the Governor of the Territory, and their Commander-in-chief, and ordered the officer in command to escort him to the main line and conduct him to the center, that being his proper position. The order was reluctantly obeyed. He found the whole army in line of battle three miles from Lawrence, and apparently prepared for an immediate advance on Lawrence, although his proclamation had been delivered and his instructions to disband had been known to them hours before. Among the leaders who received him were Gen. John W. Reid, Ex Senator David R. Atchison, Gen. B. F. Stringfellow, Gen. L. A. Maclean, Gen. J. W. Whitfield, Gen. George W. Clark, Gen. William A. Heiskell, Gen. William H. Richardson, I. A. Marshall, Col. H. T. Titus, Capt. Frederick Emery and Sheriff Jones. The officers were assembled and addressed at length by Gov. Geary. In the course of his speech he severely reprimanded Atchison, who, "from his high estate as Vice President of the United States, had fallen so low as to be the leader of an army of men with uncontrollable passions, determined upon wholesale slaughter and destruction." At the close of his speech, his proclamation, together with his order for the immediate disbanding of the army was read. The more judicious and all the principal leaders obeyed the command with apparent cheerfulness. A few, though offering no resistance to the Governor's mandate, found relief to their chagrin and disappointment in words. Notable among the grumblers were Gens. Clark and Maclean, who were ready to pitch into the United States troops if they stood between them and the Abolitionists, whom they were bound to whip. The piping voice of Sheriff Jones was still for war. They found themselves unsupported by any considerable following, and at length subsided into a state of sullen acquiescence in the inevitable. The troops thus disbanded, took up their march immediately for their various homes. The Missourians, who comprised the larger part, returned to Westport, while those enlisted about Leavenworth, Atchison and Kickapoo, started on their return by way of Lecompton, crossing the river at that point. As this was the last organized military invasion from Missouri, and, with the dispersion of this army, ended the Pro-slavery attempts to rule Kansas by martial law, it seems but just to the gallant but discomfited band, that an account written from their own unprejudiced standpoint, should stand in history with other accounts written by those not altogether friendly either to their modes or methods of conducting the affairs of the Territory. The following account of this last inglorious Kansas campaign was written by a soldier of the Missouri Legion, its truthfulness being vouched for by the Platte Argus, in which it appeared under the following headlines:


Ninety of Lane's men prisoners by Gov. Geary. Lane retreating. Conference between Gov. Geary, Col. Cooke, and the Officers of the Militia, etc.

The troops under Gen. Heiskell's command, consisting of one regiment of foot and two of mounted men, numbering in all between twenty-four and twenty-five hundred, with four pieces of artillery, moved from their camp near Westport, on the 13th inst. On that and the following day they marched between thirty-five and forty miles, and reached the town of Franklin, three miles from Lawrence. When about four miles from Franklin, an express came back at full speed and told the General that the enemy had engaged his advanced guard, and that they were then fighting. The column was put in rapid motion, the footmen, already very much fatigued and their feet blistered, going at a half trot. They kept up this pace, except a few minutes at the Wakarusa for water, until they got nearly to Franklin, where, as it turned out, a large picket guard of the Yankees had killed one of our men and pushed off to Lawrence. By the time the main body of the troops reached Franklin, it was 5 o'clock, and they were eager to go on immediately to Lawrence: but considering the lateness of the hour, the exhausted condition of the footmen, and the total ignorance of Lane's strength, and the position of his fortifications, it was decided to be better to rest the men and make the attack at day-light in the morning. They accordingly encamped for the night near Franklin.

About midnight an express arrived, giving information that Col. Cooke, with the United State troops under his command, had taken a position in front of Lawrence for its protection, and early in the morning Col. Cooke sent a note to Gen. Heiskell to that effect. Great disappointment was felt on all hands at the lost opportunity to engage and crush the hired thieves and murderers under Lane ; and universal regret was expressed that the movement was not continued into Lawrence the evening before. It turned out that as soon as the approach of Gen. Heiskell was learned in Lawrence, couriers were dispatched to Lecompton imploring Gov. Geary for protection by the United States troops; and he, as must be admitted in the plain discharge of his duty, ordered Col. Cooke's command immediately to Lawrence, where they arrived about 11 o'clock at night.

About 10 o'clock in the morning, Gov. Geary and Col. Cooke arrived at Franklin, where the troops were assembled, and a conference was arranged and held between them and the field officers and captains of companies of Gen. Heiskell's command. The conference was opened by Gov. Geary, who addressed the meeting at some length. He expressed his great pleasure at meeting with the gentlemen present.

He told them that he hoped and believed that their interposition for the vindication of the laws, and protection of the suffering citizens against the cruelties and inhuman outrages committed against them by the organized banditti roving through the Territory was no longer necessary. He said that his mission was to bring peace to its borders;; that he was armed with power sufficient for that purpose, and he was determined to accomplish it. He was glad to inform them that, having arrived in the Territory only three days ago, he had already conquered and captured a large body, having taken between 90 and 100 prisoners. {The Governor, very properly, refrained from telling (what was true)* that in the conflict between the United States troops and the party above referred to, one of the United States dragoons, was killed, and fourteen of the party under Harvey.} He said that if he had not had to come here to meet them, he would now have been at the head of Col. Cooke's command, in pursuit of the rest of the banditti. He impressed upon them the importance and solemnity of the occasion; referred to the consequences that might result of the conference now held in this humble place, and closed by appealing to them to dissolve their present organization and co-operate with him, under the laws and instructions governing him, for the restoration of peace and the due execution of the laws of the Territory.

* It was not true.--Ed.

Gen. Atchison, Gen. Reid, Col. Cooke and others addressed the meeting, responding fully and cordially to views and feelings expressed by the Governor, and urged a compliance with his wishes. Col. Titus also addressed the meeting, urging with much feeling the outrages and infamies that he had suffered at the hands of the marauders. He told the Governor of the cannonading of his house, of its burning, of the $5,000 to $10,000 of which they had robbed him, and held up his mutilated arm as proof of their desperate efforts to destroy him. He said that his heart beat tumultuously for revenge; but he was willing to await the result of the efforts about to be made to bring the outlaws to justice.

The conference closed by the Governor's retiring, and requesting the continuance of the meeting, with full consultation among themselves, and that they would give him the result of their deliberations.

The meeting was then organized by calling Gen. D. R. Atchison to the chair, who on taking it said:

"As was well known to all present, the gentlemen composing this meeting had just been in conference with Gov. Geary, who in the strongest language had deprecated the inhuman outrages perpetrated by those whom he characterized as bandits, now roving through the Territory, and pledged himself, in the most solemn manner, to employ actively all the forces at his command; in executing the laws of the Territory, and giving protection to its bleeding citizens, and who had also appealed to us to dissolve our present organization and stand by and co-operate with him in holding up the hands of his power against all evil-doers, and who had also retired from the meeting with the request that it would consult and determine what course should be taken. Now the object of the meeting was thus to consult and determine what should be done." Gen. Atchison further, as Gov. Geary had also done, impressed the meeting with the solemnity and importance of the occasion, and that it was a time for men to exercise their reason and not yield to their passions, and also to keep on the side of the law, which alone constitutes our strength and protection. A committee was appointed to prepare resolutions, expressive of the sense of the meeting; which, after retiring for a short time, reported the following preamble and resolutions, that were unanimously adopted:

WHEREAS, under the proclamation of Acting Gov. Woodson, we have reached the town of Franklin, three miles from Lawrence, on our way to the latter place, in search of an organized band of murderers and robbers, said to be under the command of Lane, who have plundered and butchered large numbers of our fellow-citizens, with the intention of overpowering and driving that band from the Territory; and, whereas, we have here met and conferred with Gov. Geary, who has arrived in the Territory; and, whereas, we have here met and conferred with Gov. Geary, who has arrived in the Territory since we were here called, and who has given us satisfactory evidence of his intention and power to execute the laws of the Territory, and called on us to dissolve our present organization, and to leave the preservation of the peace of the Territory to his hands; and, whereas, Gov. Geary has assured us of his intention to muster into service a portion of the militia of the Territory, for the purpose of giving the strongest assurance of protection to its citizens; therefore,

Resolved, 1. That relying upon the assurance of Gov. Geary to give protection to our peace, in the spirit of order-loving and law-abiding citizens, we cordially conform to his wishes by dissolving our organization, and will disperse to our homes as speedily as the circumstances under which we are placed will admit of.

2d. That the Governor be requested to organize and place in the field immediately, one battalion (part mounted and part footmen) of Kansas militia, and distribute them over the Territory in such a manner as will best protect the settlers in their homes, persons and property.

3d. That in view of the condition of things in Southern Kansas, we respectfully recommend to the Governor that he station a company of one hundred mounted men at Pottawatomie Creek, in Franklin, Anderson and Lykins Counties, to give protection to the law-abiding citizens of that section of country.

4th. That we respectfully recommend Col. H. Titus (Colonel of the Douglas County Militia), as Commander of the Territorial militia, now to be mustered into the service.

and others, Committee.
D. R. ATCHISON, Chairman.

The disbanded soldiers returned home, but did not, on the way, evince (sic) that cheerful acquiescence in the Governor's policy which was professed in the foregoing report. They burned the saw mill near Franklin, and on their march to Westport stole and drove away what horses and cattle came in their way. A detachment, known as the Kickapoo Rangers, belonging in Atchison and vicinity, returned via Lecompton. On the march, within six miles of that place, a squad, leaving the main party for purposes of plunder, came upon a lame man, David C. Buffum, plowing in the field. They robbed him of his horse, and in answer to his protests, shot him in the abdomen, from which wound he died shortly afterward. With his horse and a pony, also stolen, they rejoined the main party and continued on their journey. This occurred on the afternoon of the 15th. Gov. Geary, in company with Judge Cato, passing that way on the road to Lecompton soon after, saw the dying man lying where he was shot, and listened to his story of the outrage, told in short, sharp utterance with all the emphasis of writhing agony. The Governor had the testimony of the murdered man in extremis, properly attested and sworn to in due form of law before Judge Cato, and on reaching Lecompton, immediately had a warrant placed in the hands of the United Marshal for the arrest of the murderer. The Governor, in alluding to the outrage, said: "I never witnessed a scene that filled my mind with so much horror. There was a peculiar significance in the looks and words of that poor, dying man, that I can never forget; for they seemed to tell me that I could have no rest until I brought his murderer to justice; and I resolved that no means in my power should be spared to discover, arrest, and punish the author of that most villainous butchery." The outcome of the Governor's attempts to bring the murderer to justice will appear in its proper connection.

On the 16th, Gov. Geary sent to Gen. Marcy, Secretary of War, a full report of events as they had transpired, closing as follows:

The occurrences, thus related, are already exerting a beneficent influence; and, although the work is not yet accomplished, I do not despair of success in my efforts to satisfy the Government that I am worthy of the high trust which has been reposed in me. As soon as circumstances will permit, I shall visit, in person, every section of the Territory, where I feel assured that my presence will tend to give confidence and security to the people.

In closing, I have merely to add that unless I am more fully sustained hereafter by the civil authorities, and serious difficulties and disturbances continue to agitate the Territory, my only recourse will be to martial law, which I must needs proclaim and enforce.

(Signed) JOHN W. GEARY, Governor of Kansas Territory.

The salutary effects of Gov. Geary's policy were already apparent. With the disbanding of the Missouri forces, open war between, the contending factions ceased. Military escorts were granted to travelers and teamsters desiring safe escort to and from the eastern border towns, and, so soon as safety to life and security of property in transit to interior points was established, and goods and supplies became more plentiful, the great incentive to general plunder was gone, midnight raids and robberies became infrequent, and the sleep of security brought grateful rest to the long-harassed settlers. The range of lawless depredations became restricted to those who, naturally vicious, live in constant antagonism with all laws.

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