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


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During the last week of September, rumors again became rife of the movement of a large army through Nebraska toward Kansas, and it came to be currently believed by the Pro-slavery settlers that Lane was returning, at the head of an army estimated to number not less than a thousand men, well armed and equipped, and having with them several pieces of artillery. So specific were the reports as to numbers and equipments that Gov. Geary, determined to prevent the entrance of any armed force into the Territory, dispatched Deputy Marshal Preston, accompanied by a detachment of United States troops, to the Northern frontier, with orders to arrest any illegally armed body found within the boundaries of Kansas. They had scarcely reached the border when they met a party of 130 men, well armed and equipped, and to outward appearance more prepared for war than to engage in peaceful avocations. They were under the leadership of James Redpath. The whole party was arrested, and conducted to the vicinity of Lecompton, north of Kansas River, where the Governor met them and held an interview with Redpath as to their objects in entering the Territory thus armed and in violation of his proclamation. Redpath pleaded ignorance of the improved change of affairs in the Territory, and gave his solemn pledge that his party was a peaceable party of emigrants, having no hostile intentions, and only seeking homes in the Territory. On these assurances, the party was released from arrest and permitted to go their way.

Scarcely had the release been effected when more alarming reports came. Redpath's party was but the advance of Lane's main army, which, only a few days behind, was now rapidly nearing the Territory. Desirous of taking all necessary precautions, Gov. Geary at once ordered Marshal Preston to return to the frontier. He was accompanied by 300 dragoons under the command of Cols. Cooke and Johnson, who were ordered to intercept the march of any hostile force they might meet.

On October 1, Maj. Morrow, Col. Winchell, William Hutchinson and Col. J. Jenkins, called upon the Governor. They came as a deputation from a large train of emigrants now about to enter the Territory from Nebraska, under the leadership of Col. Eldridge, Gen. Pomeroy, Col. Perry and others. They represented them as a party of emigrants seeking homes and a peaceful settlement in the Territory, and that they were coming for no other purpose : that the party had arms to protect themselves and for hunting game on the route ; that they had no desire to enter the Territory under suspicious circumstances ; and that they had been sent forward to acquaint the Governor as to the designs of the party before their arrival. On their positive denial of any connection with Law or his army, the Governor informed them of his intention to prevent by all means at his command, the entrance of any armed force into the Territory, but at the same time welcomed the party as peaceful citizens. "He then gave the deputation a letter directing all military commanders to give Col. Eldridge's party a safe escort should it prove as represented, a party of emigrants coming into the Territory to prosecute peaceful and lawful occupations." With this letter the deputation departed. What subsequently occurred is given as stated in a letter of Gov. Geary to Secretary Marcy, under date of October 15, as follows:

Col. William J. Preston, a Deputy United States Marshal, who had accompanied Col. P. St. George Cooke and his command to the Northern frontier, to look after a large party of proposed immigrants, who were reported to be about invading the Territory in that quarter, in warlike array and for hostile purposes, returned to Lecompton on the 12th instant. He informed me that he had caused to be arrested an organized band, consisting of about two hundred and forty persons, among whom were a few women and children, comprising some seven families.

This party was regularly formed in military order, and was under the command of Gen. Pomeroy, Cols. Eldridge, Perry, and others. They had with them twenty wagons, in which were a supply of new arms - mostly muskets, with bayonets and sabers - and a lot of saddles, etc. sufficient to equip a battalion, consisting of one- fourth cavalry and the remainder infantry. Besides these arms, which were evidently intended for military purposes and none other, which were in the wagons, a search of which was strongly objected to, the immigrants were provided with shotguns, rifles, pistols, knives, etc., sufficient for the ordinary uses of persons traveling in Kansas, as in any other of the Western Territories. From the reports of the officers, I learn that they had with them neither oxen, household furniture, mechanics' tools, agricultural implements, nor any of the necessary appurtenances of peaceful settlers.

These persons entered the Territory on the morning of the 10th instant, and met Col. Cooke's command a few miles south of the Territorial line. Here the Deputy Marshal questioned them as to their intentions, the contents of their wagons, and such other matters as he considered necessary in the exercise of his official duties. Not satisfied with their answers, and being refused the privilege of searching their effects, he felt justified in considering them a party organized and armed in opposition to my proclamation of the 11th of September. After consultation with Col. Cooke and other officers of the army, who agreed with him in regard to the character of the emigrants, he directed the search to be made, which resulted in the discovery of the arms already mentioned.

An escort was then offered them to Lecompton, in order that I might examine them in person and decide as to their intentions, which they refused to accept. Their superfluous arms were then taken in charge of by the troops, and the entire party put under arrest, the families, and all others individually, being permitted to retire from the organization, if so disposed. Few, however, availed themselves of this privilege. But little delay, and less annoyance, were occasioned them by these proceedings. Everything that circumstances required or permitted was done for the comfort and convenience of the prisoners. Their journey was facilitated, rather than retarded. They were accompanied by a squadron of United States dragoons, in command of Maj. H. H. Sibley. One day's rations were dealt out to them, and they were allowed to pursue the route they themselves had chosen.

Being apprised of the time at which they would probably arrive at Topeka, I forwarded orders for their detention on the northern side of the river, near that place, where, as I promised, I met them upon the morning of the 14th instant. I found them precisely as they had been represented to me in official reports; and while I felt disposed and anxious to extend to them all the leniency I could, consistent with propriety, duty and justice. I determined at the same time to enforce in their case, as well as that of every similar organization, the spirit and intent of my proclamation of the 11th ultimo - which commands "all bodies of men, combined armed and equipped with munitions of war, without the authority of the Government, instantly to disband or quit the Territory, as they will answer the contrary at their peril." This I had done but a short time previous with a smaller body, who entered Kansas as this had done, from an entirely different quarter, and who, upon learning my purpose, not only submitted willingly to be searched, but by my order, without a murmur and even with cheerfulness, disbanded and dispersed.

I addressed these people, in their encampment, in regard to the present condition of the Territory, the suspicious position they occupied, and the reprehensible attitude they had assumed. I reminded them that there was no possible necessity or excuse for the existence of large armed organizations at present in the Territory. Everything was quiet and peaceful, and the very appearance of such an unauthorized and injudicious array as they presented, while it could do no possible good, was calculated, if not intended, to spread a new distrust and consternation throughout the Territory, and rekindle the fires of discord and strife that had swept over the land, ravaging and desolating everything that lay in their destructive path. Their apology for this evident and undeniable disregard of my proclamation, though somewhat plausible, was far from being satisfactory. They had made their arrangements, they said, to emigrate to Kansas at a time when the Territory was not only disturbed by antagonistic political parties, armed for each other's destruction, but when numerous bands of marauders - whose business was plunder and assassination - infested all the highways, rendering travel extremely hazardous, even though every possible means of self-protection were employed.

This excuse loses all its pertinency when it is understood that, before the party crossed the Territorial line they were apprised, through a deputation that had visited me, that the condition of things above described had ceased to exist, and that such was the true state of affairs that any person could travel the route they proposed taking without molestation or the slightest cause for apprehension. I informed them, through their messengers, that I heartily welcomed all immigrants, from every section of the Union, who came with peaceful attitude and apparently good intentions; and that to all such I would afford ample protection. While, on the other hand, I assured them that I would, positively enforce my proclamation, and suffer no party of men, no matter whence they came or what their political bias, to enter and travel through the Territory with hostile and warlike appearance, to the terror of peaceable citizens, and the dangers of renewing the disgraceful and alarming scenes through which we had so recently passed. It was quite evident that this party did thus enter the Territory in defiance, not only of my proclamation, but my own verbal cautions; and I, therefore, fully approve of the action taken by Col. Cooke, Maj. Sibley and Deputy Marshal Preston, as well as all the officers of the army who assisted in their detention, search and guard.

After showing the necessity of so doing, I insisted upon the immediate disbandment of this combination, which was agreed to with great alacrity. The majority of the men were evidently gratified to learn that they had been deceived in relation to Kansas affairs, and that peace and quiet, instead of strife and contention, were reigning here. My remarks were received with frequent demonstrations of approbation, and at their close the organization was broken up, its members dispersing in various directions. After they had been dismissed from custody, and the fact was announced to them by Maj. Sibley, their thankfulness for his kind treatment toward them, during the time he held them under arrest, was expressed by three hearty and enthusiastic cheers.

In concluding this hastily written letter, I must express my sincere regrets that societies exist. In some of the States, whose object is to fit out such parties as the one herein described, and send them to this Territory, to their own injury and the destruction of the general welfare of the country. Very many persons are induced to come out here under flattering promises, which are never fulfilled; and having neither money to purchase food and clothing, nor trades or occupations at which to earn an honest livelihood; are driven to the necessity of becoming either paupers or thieves. And such are the unfortunate men who have aided materially in filling up the measure of crimes that have so seriously affected the prosperity of Kansas. It is high time that this fact should be clearly and generally understood. This Territory, at the present season of the year, and especially under existing circumstances, offers no inducement for the immigration of the poor tradesman or laborer. The country is overrun with hundreds who are unable to obtain employment, who live upon charity, and who are exposed to all the evils of privation, destitution and want. * * *

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

W. L. MARCY, Secretary of State.

The following protest from leading members of the party received by Gov. Geary after the dispatch of the letter from which the foregoing quotations are made, seems more supplementary than contradictory of the preceding account.



Dear Sir - We, the undersigned, conductors of an emigrant train, who entered the Territory on the 10th instant, beg leave to make the following statement of facts, which, if required, we will attest upon our oaths.

1. Our party numbered from two hundred to three hundred persons; the rear company, which has not yet arrived, being principally composed of families with children, who left Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, three days after this train which has arrived to-day.

2. We are all actual bona fide settlers, intending, so far as we know, to become permanent inhabitants.

3. The blockading of the Missouri River to Free-State emigrants, and the reports which reached us in the early part of September, to the effect that armed men were infesting and marauding the northern portions of Kansas, were the sole reasons why we came in a company and were armed..

4. We were stopped near the northern line of the Territory by the United States troops, acting, as we understood, under the orders of one Preston, Deputy United States Marshal, and after stating to the officers who we were and what we had, they commenced searching our wagons (in some instances breaking open trunks, and throwing bedding and wearing apparel upon the ground n the rain), taking arms from the wagons, wrestling some private arms from the hands of men, carrying away a lot of sabers belonging to a gentleman in the Territory, as also one and a half kegs of powder, percussion caps, and some cartridges; in consequence of which we were detained about two-thirds of a day, taken prisoners, and are now presented to you.

All we have to say is that our mission to this Territory is entirely peaceful. We have no organization, save a police organization for our own regulation and defense on the way. And coming in that spirit to this Territory we claim the rights of American citizens to bear arms, and to be exempt from unlawful search and seizure.

Trusting to your integrity and impartiality, we have confidence to believe that our property will be restored to us, and that all that has been wrong will be righted.

We here subscribe ourselves, cordially and truly, your friends and fellow-citizens.

S. W. ELDRIDGE, Conductor.

This was the last interference by civil authority or otherwise, with free entrance into the Territory, and hindrances to free immigration, by any chosen route, thereafter ceased.


The Territorial election for choosing a Delegate to Congress and members of the Legislature, and also to vote on the question of calling a convention to form a State Constitution, was held October 6. As is known, the Free-State party had already formed a State Constitution which had been presented in Congress, and the adoption of which was now pending. Furthermore, it was the established policy of that party to recognize in no manner, where consistent with their allegiance to the General Government, the validity or binding force of any of the laws or proceedings of the first Legislature. As this election was held in accordance with the election would be a quasi recognition of its authority, the Free-State men took no part in the election. It was an entirely one-sided affair. Although the illegal voting by Missourians at accessible points was as scandalously and openly carried on as at previous elections, there was little disorder, there being no attempted opposition on the part of the Free-State men to the proceedings. The result is shown below:

NAME OF            For Congress            Convention 
COUNTY      J.H.Whitfield A.H. Reeder     For  Against
Atchison              520                 545
Arapahoe                7                          7
Bourbon               188
Brown                  16                  15
Doniphan              323                 367
Douglas               461                        380
Davis                 123
Calhoun                52                  19
Franklin               13
Jefferson             222                  21      7
Johnson               132                 131
Leavenworth          1480                1243     47
Linn                  142
Lykins                133                  99      2
Madison                13           40
Marshal               183                 180
Nemaha                  5
Riley                  11
Totals              4,024           40  2,624    443 

A full Pro-slavery delegation to the Territorial Legislature was chosen by a vote aggregating in the counties nearly the same as for the Congressional Delegate. No protest was offered to the returns of the votes polled for Whitfield. Gov. Geary granted him a certificate of election. On his arrival in Washington in February, A. H. Reeder again unsuccessfully contested his seat.


The Free-State prisoners taken near Hickory Point and at Topeka, who had endured severe hardships and uncalled-for cruelty from their keeper, Col. H. T. Titus and their guards, were tried at the October term of court. The majority were acquitted or their trial postponed. Several were convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to terms of confinement, and chain. Among the convicts were Frank Swift, from Maine, afterward a Captain in First Kansas Calvary; Alfred Payne, from Ohio; Samuel Stewart, from Michigan; L. Soley, from Massachusetts; --- Crawford and Jeremiah Jordan, from Pennsylvania; and John Laurie, from Indiana.

Sheriff Jones made prompt application to the Governor for balls and chains, volunteering the information that they could be obtained from Fort Leavenworth. To the application Gov. Geary returned the following answer:



Sir - In reply to yours of the 17th instant, received by me while at Fort Leavenworth, I have to remark that the master of convicts - a just and humane man - with the aid of such guard as he may require, will dispose of the prisoners, who are, or may be, placed under his charge, in such manner as may be deemed most advisable for the public interest.

Gen. Smith has no balls and chains for the purpose indicated in your request, nor is it deemed advisable to procure any while the trial of the remainder of the Hickory Point prisoners remains unfinished.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN W. GEARY, Governor of Kansas.

On the following day, he took the prisoners out of the charge of Sheriff Jones, and thereby proved himself, as well as the "keeper of convicts," a just and humane man. The following letter shows how Jones lost his hold on the prisoners:



Sir - I have been requested by Sheriff Jones to procure balls and chains, in accordance with 2d Section, 22d Chapter, Kansas Statutes, for the safety of the prisoners recently convicted of manslaughter for participating in the Hickory Point fight.

Reposing especial trust in your integrity, humanity and discretion, I have, in pursuance of the statutes, appointed you Master of Convicts, and placed them under your supervision.

By the organic act, I am authorized to grant pardons and reprieves for "all offenses against the laws of the Territory;" and esteeming the punishment, as described in the said section, as cruel and unusual, and especially inappropriate to the prisoners alluded to, I hereby remit that portion of their sentence requiring the use of "balls and chains," and desire you to treat the prisoners with every humanity consistent with their safe keeping.

Your obedient servant,

JOHN W. GEARY, Governor of Kansas Territory.

The prisoners, while under the charge of Keeper Hampton, were treated as humanely as the necessary restraint would admit. He soon allowed them to go about within prescribed limits, on their parole, and during the last months of their confinement they were quite frequent attendants on the sessions of the Territorial Legislature, as one of them facetiously remarked, "to protect Gov. Geary against violence from the members." Under this mild surveillance, they remained until March 2, 1857, at which time those who had not already escaped, seventeen in number, were pardoned by Geary, in compliance with numerous petitions received from citizens.* The lenity (sic) shown by the keeper and Governor, was deemed by

* In Wilder's Annals, p. 118, it is stated that Geary, on leaving the Territory March 10, forgot to pardon the prisoners. Gihon, in "Geary and Kansas," p. 147, states positively that they were pardoned March 2.

Lecompte, Cato, the members of the Legislature and all their Pro-slavery followers, proof positive that Geary had treacherously gone over to the enemy, and served not a little to embitter them toward him and his policy and to irreparably widen the breach between them.

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