Arrival of free-state immigrants, and their treatment and discharge.
DURING the last week of September information was received at the executive office from various sources supposed to be reliable, that Colonel Lane, with a force of at least a thousand men, and several pieces of artillery, was about to invade the territory with hostile intentions, by way of Nebraska; and hence a detachment of United States troops, accompanied by Deputy Marshal Preston, was sent to watch and guard the northern frontier, with orders to arrest any illegally armed body that might be found within the limits of Kansas. The troops had scarcely reached their destination when Captain James Redpath entered the territory with one hundred and thirty men, who were armed, equipped, and organized, as was supposed, in violation of the governor's proclamation. They were consequently arrested and escorted to the vicinity of Lecompton, when the governor, in an interview with Redpath, being assured that the prisoners were a company of peaceable immigrants, they were at once permitted to go their way without further molestation.
Immediately after this, reports, apparently well authenticated, reached both Governor Geary and General Smith that Redpath's party was but an advance guard of the forces of Lane, who had contracted with the ferry-men at Nebraska City for the transit of about seven hundred men, all well armed, and having three pieces of cannon; and Colonels Cook and Johnson were forthwith dispatched, with three hundred dragoons, to intercept their passage through the territory.
On the 1st of October a deputation consisting of Major Morrow, Col. Winchel, Wm. Hutchinson, and Col. J. Jenkins, called upon the governor, stating that they had been sent by General Pomeroy and Colonels Eldridge and Perry, who were escorting three hundred emigrants into the territory by way of Nebraska; that they did not come for warlike purposes nor as disturbers of the public peace, but as bona fide settlers, with agricultural implements, and some guns to protect themselves and shoot game; but that in the present disturbed state of affairs they did not wish to enter the territory under any circumstances of suspicion without first notifying the governor. Upon being asked if the party in question were in anywise connected with Lane's so-called "army of the north," a decided negative reply was given.
The governor then informed his visitors that he was determined that no armed bodies of men with cannon and munitions of war, and with hostile attitude, should enter the territory to the terror of peaceful citizens; that there was no further occasion for such demonstrations, and they would not be permitted. On the other hand, he added, he would welcome with his whole heart all immigrants who should come for peaceful and lawful purposes; that to all such the highways should not only be opened, but he would furnish them a safe escort and guarantee them his protection. He then gave the deputation a letter directing all military commanders to give to Colonel Eldridge's party a safe escort should they be, as represented, a party of immigrants coming into the territory to prosecute peaceful and lawful occupations.
On the 12th of the same month Deputy Marshal Preston reached Lecompton, bearing the following dispatch from Col. Cook:--
The reports of Colonels Preston, Cooke, Major Sibley, and others, in respect to the arrest of this party, are too lengthy, and at this date, of too little importance, to copy. The substance of them, however, is given in the following extracts of a letter from Governor Geary to Secretary Marcy, under date of October 15th. He says:--
"Col. Wm. S. Preston, a Deputy U. S. Marshal, who had accompanied Col. P. St. G. Cook and his command to the northern frontier to look after a large party of professed 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 very few women and children, comprising some seven families.
"This party was regularly formed in military order, and were under the command of General Pomeroy, Colonels Eldridge and Perry, and others. They had with them twenty wagons, in which was a supply of new arms, mostly muskets and sabres, and a lot of saddles, &c., sufficient to equip a battalion, consisting one-fourth of cavalry and the remainder of infantry. Besides these arms, the immigrants were provided with shot-guns, rifles, pistols, knives, &c., sufficient for the ordinary uses of persons travelling in Kansas, or any other of the western territories. From the reports of the officers, I learn 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. Cook'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 September. After consultation with Col. Cook and other officers of the army, who agreed with him in regard to the character of the immigrants, he directed a search to be made, which resulted in the discovery of the arms already mentioned.
"An escort was 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 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 availed themselves of this privilege.
"But little delay, and less annoyance, was occasioned them by these proceedings. Every thing 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 Major H. H. Sibley. A day's rations were dealt out to them, and they were allowed, to pursue the route 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 on the morning of the 14th inst.
"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 good, was calculated, if not intended, to spread anew distrust and consternation through 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 an evident disregard of my proclamation, was, that they had made arrangements to emigrate to Kansas 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 for self-protection were employed.
"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 Major Sibley, their thankfulness for his kind treatment to them while under arrest, was acknowledged by giving him three hearty and enthusiastic cheers."
Soon after the letter, from which the foregoing is extracted, was forwarded to Washington, the following statement from the leaders of the party in question, was received by Governor Geary:--