Governor Wilson Shannon.--Consequences of the arrest and rescue of Branson.--Meeting at Lawrence.--Military organization for defence.--Sheriff Jones requires three thousand men.--The governor orders out the militia.--A general call to arms.--The governor issues a proclamation.--War excitement in Missouri.--The invading army.--Governor Shannon's excuse.
WILSON SHANNON, at the time of the occurrences narrated in the last part of the preceding chapter, was Governor of Kansas, having arrived in the territory and assumed the executive functions on the 1st of September, 1855. The objects of his appointment at that peculiar period, to such an important trust, though inexplicable to all who knew his qualifications, was doubtless well understood by the administration. He had previously held several responsible public positions, in neither of which he did any great credit to himself or to the appointing power. He was decidedly a pro-slavery man, though hailing from a free state, and in a speech he made at Westport, before entering the territory, proclaimed his determination to exert to the utmost of his abilities, in his official capacity, all his influence and power to promote the interests of the pro-slavery cause. But he lacked the moral courage to accomplish the work he had promised and was expected to perform. The leaders of the free-state party soon understood the weak points of his character, and by appealing successfully to his grosser passions, caused him so to vacillate as to render him a subject of their own ridicule and the contempt of those whom he desired to serve. He soon lost the confidence of all classes. The free-state people were content to have him retained in office, as they considered less dangerous to their interests than one entertaining the same sentiments but greater force of character; but those of the opposite side required a man who would stand firmly by them in every critical emergency. Hence they not only sought his removal, and left no means untried to annoy and embarrass him, but actually at last, succeeded in terrifying him to such an extent, that he fled alone from the territory with the apprehension that his life was really in danger from their hands.
The arrest and rescue of Branson led to many serious difficulties. It was, in fact, the beginning of the war which was subsequently waged with such frightful consequences. Soon after he reached Lawrence, a meeting of the citizens was held, at which S. N. Wood, the leader of the rescuing party presided, and at which, because of the fierce threats of Sheriff Jones, it was resolved to form a military organization, and to prepare to defend the town against an expected assault. Dr. Charles Robinson was chosen commander-in-chief of the volunteer forces, and Col. James H. Lane to be the second in command. A large fortification was thrown up on Mount Oread, a prominence commanding the main entrances to the city, in various parts of which earthen breastworks, or redoubts, were constructed.
Sheriff Jones hastened from the scene of his discomfiture to the town of Franklin, where he raved like one bereft of his reason, and swore terrifically that he would have revenge before he returned to Missouri. He forthwith sent a messenger to Col. A. G. Boone, of Westport, and another to Governor Shannon, with the following dispatch:--
This requisition for three thousand men might excite ridicule were it not known that Jones had already laid his plans to obtain them from Missouri; and of such a class as he knew would be willing to do his bidding. At this time the governor had no Kansas militia to furnish the sheriff, no organization having ever been effected, and the entire, territorial military force consisted of a few generals and other commissioned officers. The governor, however, desirous of gratifying the sheriff to the full extent of his means, issued the following dispatch to William P. Richardson, a citizen of Missouri, but a member of the Kansas Council and major general of the territorial militia. The governor dates, in true military style, from Head Quarters:--
A similar order was addressed on the same day to Adjutant General Hiram J. Strickler. The brigadier general of the second division, residing at Leavenworth City, also a member of the Council and editor of the Leavenworth Herald, had received a dispatch by a special messenger, from Head Quarters, and on the 28th issued the following order:--
"Information has been received by me that a state of open rebellion is now in existence in Douglas county, Kansas Territory. This is, therefore, to command the militia of my brigade of the Northern Division to meet at Leavenworth City, on Saturday, 1st day of December, 1855, at 11 o'clock, A. M., armed and equipped according to law, and to hold themselves in readiness, subject to the order of Major-General W. P. Richardson.
"Bring your arms and ammunition along.
The following hand-bill was posted in various prominent places:--
"It is expected that every lover of law and order will rally at Leavenworth on Saturday, December 1st, 1855, prepared to march at once to the scene of rebellion, to put down the outlaws of Douglas county, who are committing depredations upon persons and property, burning down houses, and declaring open hostility and resistance to the laws, and have forcibly rescued a prisoner from the sheriff. Come one, come all! The laws must be executed. The outlaws, it is said, are armed to the teeth, and number one thousand men. Every man should bring his rifle, ammunition, and it would be well to bring two or three days' provisions. Let the call be promptly obeyed. Every man to his post, and to his duty.
A proclamation was issued by the governor on the 29th, setting forth that the sheriff had been molested in the discharge of his official duties, a prisoner rescued from his hands, and his life endangered, and calling upon all good citizens to come forward to assist in reclaiming the said prisoner, and to disperse a "numerous association of lawless men, armed with deadly weapons, and supplied with all the implements of war, combined and confederated together for the avowed purpose of opposing, by force and violence, the execution of the laws of this territory."
Col. Boone, having received the dispatch of Sheriff Jones, immediately called upon sundry prominent men of Independence, Mo., for help, and upon receiving a letter asking further information, replied as follows:--
"Your favor was received. I thought I was too well known in the community to be thought capable of practising a hoax. The marshal has a requisition from the governor to arrest forty-two men in Lawrence, and they refuse to give them up, and he calls for volunteers, and if the citizens refuse to aid him, I cannot help it. They also say publicly that they will take Coleman and Jones, and hang them both.
"They are drilling in the open prairie every day, and have five fine pieces of artillery, and openly bid defiance to the laws.
"A large number of them were seen crossing from Delaware and Leavenworth yesterday, going to Lawrence.
"A member of the Legislature was from there yesterday morning for guns. We can only send twenty. Jones also sends for a wagonload of ammunition and cannon.
"Now act, or not, as you please. If you will send the cannon here, I will take it there myself. In haste.
Upon the receipt of this, the following circular was published and widely circulated.--
The Col. Woodson here named, is a member of Congress from Missouri, but has on several occasions taken an active part among the Missouri invaders of Kansas. On the next day, another circular, still more inflammatory, and numerously signed by respectable citizens, was published at Independence, of which the following is a copy:--
From Kansas City, the following dispatch was sent to Platte county, to encourage the people of that neighborhood, and it was there circulated, accompanied with appeals for men, arms, money and provisions:--
Many Documents of this description were widely spread all along the western border of Missouri. The result was that about fifteen hundred men were gathered in that state, who entered Kansas, and encamped on the Wakarusa, a few miles from the town of Lawrence. Concerning this invading army, Gov. Shannon uses the following apologetic language, which more than his acts, exhibits his weakness and incompetency to govern under the trying circumstances in which he suffered himself to become involved, by heeding the counsels and yielding to the mandates of a rash, passionate, and arbitrary subordinate.
"These men," he says, "came to the Wakarusa camp to fight; they did not ask peace; it was war--war to the knife. They would come; it was impossible to prevent them. What, then, was my policy? Certainly this; to mitigate an evil, which it was impossible to suppress, by bringing under military control these irregular and excited forces. This was only to be accomplished by permitting the continuance of the course which had already been adopted, without my knowledge, by Generals Richardson and Strickler; that is, to have the volunteers incorporated, as they came in, into the already organized command. A portion of these men, who were mostly from Jackson county, Mo., reported themselves to Sheriff Jones, by giving in a list of their names, as willing to serve in his posse; and he, after taking legal advice upon the question, determined to receive them. They were accordingly enrolled."