The Missouri army.--Orders to the adjutant and inspector-generals of the territory.--Dispatch to Secretary Marcy.--Dispatches from General Heiskell.--Message from the governor's special agent.--Requisition for troops.--Visit of the governor to Lawrence, and return to Lecompton.
IT was the fixed purpose of Secretary Woodson to keep Governor Geary in ignorance of the extensive preparations that were being made to attack and destroy the free-state settlements. As yet, the governor had not seen Woodson's proclamation, and he regarded the demonstrations on the Missouri River more in the light of a farce than a dangerous reality. When, upon entering the steamer, at Jefferson City, he was accosted by an armed ruffian, who assured him that if, upon his arrival in Kansas, he attempted to interfere with the arrangements of the pro-slavery party, he would be assassinated, he treated the warning with contempt, as he did others of a similar character, made at different stages of his journey. But at Lecompton everything assumed so quiet an aspect, and the secretary appeared so composed and placid, that the governor had no reason to suspect that a conspiracy was then being consummated on a grand and terrible scale, to thwart the objects of his mission and deluge the country in blood.
Without, therefore, perceiving the heavy cloud that was rapidly increasing in magnitude and darkness, and about to break with frightful fury over the territory, the governor was proceeding deliberately to institute the policy made known in his inaugural address, and to disband the militia of the territory, in common with other armed bodies, in accordance with his proclamation. To this end he verbally instructed Secretary Woodson, and issued the following orders to the proper military officers:--
"Dear Sir:--You will proceed without a moment's delay to disarm and disband the present organized militia of the territory, in accordance with the instructions of the President, and the proclamations which I have issued, copies of which you will find enclosed. You will also take care to have the arms belonging to the territory deposited in a place of safety and under proper accountability.
"Sir:--You will take charge of the arms of the Territory of Kansas, now in the hands of the militia about to be disbanded and mustered out of the service by the adjutant-general. You will also carefully preserve the same agreeably to the 15th section of the act of assembly, to organize, discipline, and govern the militia of the territory.
Notwithstanding the positive character of these orders, they were utterly disregarded by the parties to whom they were addressed, who lingered about Lecompton with an air of self-satisfaction which could only be regarded as disrespectful and insulting to the governor, who not only administered to them a severe rebuke, but, suspecting that treachery was somewhere at work, he forthwith dispatched confidential messengers on the road toward Westport, to ascertain, if possible, what operations were going forward in that vicinity.
He likewise, on the same day, forwarded the following letter to the secretary of state:--
"Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
"My dear Sir:--I arrived here late on the night of the 19th inst., having crossed from Fort Leavenworth with an escort furnished me by General Smith. On the road, I witnessed numerous evidences of the atrocities that are being committed by the bands of marauders that infest the country. In this place everything is quiet; which is attributable to the presence of a large force of United States troops. The trial of the United States prisoners was to have taken place on the day of my arrival; but in consequence of the absence of the district-attorney, and the non-appearance of witnesses, it was deferred until the next regular term of the court, Judge Lecompte admitting the prisoners to bail in the sum of five thousand dollars each. They departed on the same day for Lawrence, where Lane still continues in force.
"Accompanying this you will find printed copies of my inaugural address and my first proclamations, which will exhibit the policy I have thus far thought proper to pursue.
"I have determined to dismiss the present organized militia, after consultation with and by the advice of General Smith; and for the reasons that they were not enrolled in accordance with the laws; that many of them were not citizens of the territory; that some of them were committing outrages under the pretence of serving the public; and that they were unquestionably perpertuating, rather than diminishing, the troubles with which the territory agitated.
"I have also, as you will see, taken the proper steps to enroll the militia of the territory, agreeably to the act of assembly, and to your instructions of September 2d. I trust that the militia, thus organized, may be rendered serviceable to the government. It is probable also that these proclamations may have the tendency to disband the free-state organizations at Lawrence.
"Nothing of material importance has occurred, or come under my notice, since I last addressed you. I shall continue to keep you apprised of all matters that I may deem of sufficient interest to communicate.
"As there is no telegraphic communication nearer than Boonville, I am compelled to trust my dispatches to the mails, which are now in this region somewhat uncertain.
At the time of writing the above, the strength, movements and designs of the Missouri army were unknown to Governor Geary; but soon afterwards their plans and operations began to be developed. Shortly after midnight, on the morning of September 13th, the governor received a messenger bearing the following remarkable dispatch:--
Not more than an hour after the receipt of the foregoing, a second messenger arrived, himself almost exhausted with a long and fast ride and his horse nearly broken down, and presented the following:--
Without a moment's hesitation, the governor determined at once to disband these troops and send them back to their homes; and he accordingly answered the dispatches of General Heiskell, as follows:--
Whilst the foregoing was being written, a message was received from a special agent of the governor, dated at Lawrence, in which he says:--
"I arrived here a few moments ago, and distributed the address and proclamations, and found the people prepared to repel a contemplated attack from the forces coming from Missouri. Reports are well authenticated, in the opinion of the best men here, that there are within six miles of this place a large number of men--three hundred have been seen. * * At this moment one of the scouts came in, and reports the forces marching against them at Franklin, three miles off; and all have flown to their arms to meet them.''
This message was enclosed with the following dispatch, and sent immediately to Colonel Cook, commanding United States forces near Lecompton:--
About one hour after this dispatch was sent to the camp of Colonel Cook, say at half-past two o'clock, on the, morning of September 13th, that officer, with three hundred mounted soldiers and four pieces of artillery, and accompanied by Governor Geary, left for Lawrence, which town they reached at early sunrise. Here they learned that the danger was not so imminent as had been apprehended. The city was fortified at every point, and the inhabitants generally under arms. There were not over three hundred men in the city. These were assembled together, and addressed at great length by the governor, who cautioned them against the commission of any unlawful acts, and promised them ample protection in case they should be attacked.
He was received with much cordiality, listened to with marked attention and respect, and heartily cheered at the conclusion of his speech. Finding no immediate necessity for his presence, and receiving intelligence that he was needed at Lecompton, in consequence of serious difficulties that had sprung up in the neighborhood, the governor made all proper arrangements for any emergency that might arise at Lawrence, and with Colonel Cook, and his command, returned to Lecompton in the afternoon of the same day.