Governor Geary's instructions.---The United States troops.--Enrolment, mustering and discharge of the militia.--The troops withheld from the service of the governor.
SOON after his appointment, and before his departure for the west, Governor Geary received the following instructions:--
In order that the governor might have ample means to carry out these instructions, and "to maintain order and quiet in the territory of Kansas, and if disturbances occurred therein, to bring to punishment the offenders," he was not only given discretionary powers as to the expenditure of money, but was directed, if he found the United States forces inadequate, not only to muster into the service the militia of the territory, but to avail himself of requisitions made upon the governors of other states. A letter received from the secretary of state was as follows:--
"Governor of the Territory of Kansas. Lecompton."
A dispatch was also forwarded to General Smith, by the secretary of war. From the instructions this contains, as well as from the tenor of other documents that will be found in this chapter, it is quite palpable that the administration at Washington had been utterly deceived in regard to the true condition of things in Kansas, and was laboring under the strange hallucination that all the difficulties existing there were attributable to free-state settlers and invaders. These were the only persons who were supposed to be violating "the peace and quiet" of the territory; these were the only offenders whom Governor Geary was expected to "bring to punishment;" these were the parties against whom the troops were to be employed; and hence it is not difficult to account for the fact that the countenance of the administration was withheld and the troops withdrawn from him, as soon as it was ascertained that he had so far misunderstood his instructions and the wishes of his employers, as to cause the arrest of a pro-slavery murderer. All went well so long as he continued to cram the filthy jail with free-state prisoners; but his fate was sealed when he exhibited a disposition to punish their political opposers. This was no part of the programme, and the powers at Washington were astonished that Geary did not understand, or, understanding, did not lend his aid to further their policy. The following is a copy of the dispatch from the secretary of war:--
The following, sent by telegraph to the governor, establishes the fact beyond a doubt, that the government regarded all the offences as coming from one party, the free-state; because, while it points out, with exaggeration, outrages alleged to have been committed by that party, it makes no mention of, nor reference to, the still greater enormities perpetrated by the pro-slavery agitators and invaders:--
It is true that the honorable secretary of state here directs the governor to "bring to punishment all acts of violence or disorder, by whomever perpetrated, and on whatever pretext;" but, at the same time, while he distinctly points to every offence that could be charged against the free-state men, even to a hostile attack upon the house of Clarke, which house had never been molested, he seems to have been entirely oblivious of the fact that General Reid and Captain Pate and General Whitfield, at the head of armed bands of Missourians, had invaded the territory, sacked towns, robbed post-offices, burned houses, ravished and branded women, stolen horses and cattle, destroyed crops, and committed other enormities too horrible to imagine or describe. He seemed insensible of the fact, that a band of marauders, under the command of this very man Clarke, whose house is falsely alleged to have been assailed, had pillaged stores and dwellings, and after having murdered a man in the most brutal manner, buried him a few inches below the ground, leaving his hands sticking out for tomb-stones; and at the time the secretary was writing his dispatch, an immense army was congregating in Missouri, carrying black flags as the indices of their murderous intentions, for the purpose of invading Kansas, under the authority of the governor, to destroy free-state towns and massacre their inhabitants. These were not the men whom Governor Geary was expected to "bring to punishment;" for he no sooner dared to lay his hand upon the worst assassin of them all, than he was clearly given to understand that his services were no longer needed.
Immediately after the dismissal of the volunteers called into service by Secretary Woodson, as related in another chapter, Governor Geary gave the requisite instructions for the enrolment of all the actual citizens of the territory, with a view to the proper organization of the militia, to be mustered into the service of the government whenever exigencies should seem to require. It was soon apparent that several companies would be needed to assist the civil authorities to execute warrants, to guard the prisoners of the territory, and to aid in the maintenance of the peace in various localities. General Smith being made aware of this fact, he made requisition, as follows, upon the governor, for three companies, one of cavalry and two of infantry, to be mustered into the regular service of the United States:--
On the 28th, a similar requisition was made "for one company of cavalry, to consist of one captain, one first-lieutenant, one second-lieutenant, four sergeants, four corporals, two buglers, one farrier and blacksmith, and seventy-four privates."
These companies were forthwith organized and duly mustered into the service for the period of three months, by United States officers detailed for that purpose. One of these infantry companies was raised at Lawrence, and was composed entirely of free-state men, under the command of Captain Samuel Walker. The others were enrolled and stationed at Lecompton, and were all of the pro-slavery party, the mounted company commanded by Captain John Wallis, and the infantry by Captain John Donaldson. In all they numbered nearly two hundred and fifty men. Colonel H. T. Titus having been commissioned by the governor, as his aid-de-camp, had special direction of these troops.
Peace being thoroughly established in every part of the territory, and the militia wearying of their inactivity, became desirous of returning to the pursuits of civil life, and on the 19th of November the free-state company at Lawrence addressed a communication to the governor, signed by the captain and all his men, as follows:--
"The undersigned, members of the Kansas militia, mustered into the service of the United States, at Lawrence, K. T., in obedience to your call, would respectfully submit, that when our services were required, the territory was distracted with internal feuds and threatened with invasion by those from abroad who had no residence in the country, then, since, or prospectively.
"We were ready to give assistance in staying the hand of violence, which had laid this country waste, to some extent depopulated it, and made life insecure. We trusted you were sincere in your professions to act justly towards the settlers, and we cheerfully left our ordinary occupations to aid, so far as we could, in restoring peace and quiet to this unfortunate territory.
"We have watched your course since your arrival amongst us as our executive, with much anxiety, and although we have wished to see you do what you have not done, still we are sensible, and bear it in grateful remembrance, that, by your activity and energy, you have done much towards the restoration of that feeling of protection that all who live under organized governments have a right to expect. We thank you for it, and trust confidently that you may not forget that we are part and parcel of this great republic, although we may differ from our neighboring state on some political subjects.
"We now feel that you have the power and will to protect the citizens of the country, and that, therefore, our services are not required. If you think such is the case, we request to be permitted to return to our several occupations, with the assurance that should you require our assistance in the future, you may be sure that right and justice to all will always be the object of our best efforts, and should you call for them, they will be given to you with unreserved zeal and fidelity."
Upon the receipt of this petition, the governor addressed a letter to General Smith, informing him of the continuation of the general peace, and that the services of the militia could be dispensed with, and suggested "the propriety of mustering them out of the service, in order that they might retire to their homes, and gratify their desires in the pursuits of peace."
A few days afterwards, on the 25th, a similar request to that of Captain Walker, was received from Captain Donaldson and his company. This had seventy-eight signatures, and read as follows:--
"We, the undersigned, officers and members of Company A, 2d Regt. Inft. Kansas Militia, believing that the policy adopted by your excellency, which has been so rigidly carried out, has produced such happy results that we can no longer serve you to advantage; whilst, therefore, acknowledging our appreciation and admiration of that peace and quiet which has been restored once more by your noble efforts, we respectfully ask to be discharged honorably from the service."
On the same day, the following communication, signed by Captain Wallis and all his men, was also received:--
"The general peace pervading the territory, indicating that the object for which we were called into service has been accomplished, should it meet your approbation, we are now desirous of quitting the tented field, and returning to our homes, our families and friends, where we hope, under your effective administration, to be permitted peaceably and safely to attend our varied avocations. These hopes are inspired by what we have seen of your success in quelling the disturbances by which our territory has been so sadly distressed. Confiding in your integrity and ability, you have our most devout wishes that peace may attend your administration, and that the reward of patriotism may be yours."
These communications were respectively answered by the governor, their compliments to his integrity and efficiency acknowledged, and the means immediately adopted to comply with the request of the petitioners. A correspondence having been opened on the subject with General Smith, he appointed the 1st day of December, by especial desire of the governor, to muster the two pro-slavery companies out of service at Fort Leavenworth, and the other at Lawrence. It then appeared that the paymaster had no appropriation for the payment of these troops; hence the governor, in a letter to General Smith, says:--
"I send by Major S. Woods a warrant of my own private funds, payable to your order, for fifteen hundred dollars, to be handed over to the paymaster for the purpose of paying the privates and non-commissioned officers. * * * It appears to me that if application be made to the department, payment would be ordered to the volunteers, and I would be immediately reimbursed."
In reply to this the governor was informed by communication from head-quarters, that no instructions could be given for the payment of the militia "until an appropriation for that purpose is made by Congress," and hence it would be necessary for the governor "to make arrangements with some individual to disburse" the fifteen hundred dollars he had forwarded "to the men to be discharged." Secretary Woodson was accordingly chosen for that purpose, and the militia were dismissed from the service, having been paid with the governor's private funds, although mustered by direction of the president, and on requisition of the commander of the military department of the west.
Peace continuing to prevail, the governor had in the mean time announced the fact to General Smith, and suggested that, for the comfort of the regular troops, their services not being immediately required, they should be withdrawn to Fort Leavenworth for winter-quarters, which was accordingly done, one small company of infantry, under Captain Flint, being left to guard the prisoners at Tecumseh, and a company of twenty-three dragoons, under Captain Newby, being quartered on the Grasshopper Creek near Lecompton.
Such was the gratifying aspect of affairs through the entire fall and winter, until the peace was again threatened by the almost daily outrages of Sherrard and his friends, the predictions of the Lecompton Union, and at last, the personal insult offered to the governor on the 9th of February, and the open endorsement of that act by a large portion of the members of the legislature. Before this latter occurrence, a number of peaceful citizens had called upon the governor, urging the necessity for the presence at Lecompton of a small force of United States troops to protect them against the threatened disturbances. Finding, from his own experience, that this alarm was not altogether groundless, as he had before supposed, he dispatched a messenger with the following requisition to General Smith:--
"Commanding Department of the West.
"Dear Sir: There are certain persons present in Lecompton, who are determined, if within the bounds of possibility, to bring about a breach of the peace. During the last few days a number of persons have been grossly insulted; and to-day an insult has been offered to myself. A person named Sherrard, who some days ago had been appointed Sheriff of Douglas county, which appointment was strongly protested against by a respectable number of the citizens of the county, and I had deferred commissioning him. This, it appears, gave mortal offence to Sherrard, and he has made up his mind to assassinate me. This may lead to trouble. It must be prevented, and that by immediate action. I require, therefore, two additional companies of dragoons, to report to me with the least possible delay. I think this is absolutely necessary, and I trust you will immediately comply with my request. I write in great haste, as the messenger is about leaving.
"I wish you would keep an eye upon Leavenworth City, as I hear of troublesome indications there. I am confident that there is a conspiracy on foot to disturb the peace, and various pretexts will be, and have been used to accomplish this fell purpose.
"I am perfectly cool, and intend to keep so; but I am also more vigilant than ever.
It soon became known through the town that the governor had sent a messenger to Fort Leavenworth for troops, and the fact afforded ground for merriment to the crowds of ruffians who hung about the groggeries, ready to commit any atrocity by direction of certain prominent men; they having received later intelligence from the seat of government than his excellency, and been satisfactorily assured that the United States forces were no longer under his control. Information to this effect was conveyed to Governor Geary, who treated it with the scorn he supposed it merited. What, then, was his astonishment, when the messenger returned from General Smith with the following answer:--
This was the first official information he had received of the fact that the government, which had sent him to Kansas, to suppress insurrection, preserve the peace, and punish offenders, with the largest promises of support and assistance, had secretly taken from him even the means to protect his own life against assassins, who being apprised of the action at Washington, and encouraged by it, were plotting his destruction. When he took possession of the government of Kansas, he was to have control, not only of all the regular forces in the territory, to be used at his discretion, when he considered exigencies required their employment, but he was empowered to enrol all the militia of the territory, and muster them into the service, and to call upon the governors of Kentucky and Illinois for two additional regiments. Now, having conquered a peace by his indomitable energy, and saved the country from an impending civil war, and finding the peace again threatened and his own life in danger, in order to obey his instructions to "preserve the peace" he had established, and be governed by "the exigencies of affairs as they should be presented to HIM on the spot," he calls upon General Smith for a few soldiers, who, in reply, tells him that the troops are no longer under his control; "the contingency under which they were acting I consider to have ceased;" "besides, all the forces here have just been designated by the secretary of war, and are under orders, for other service more distant, and even the companies near you will have to be recalled!"
Never was a grosser insult ever offered to an official. And why? Governor Geary had accomplished the ostensible object of his mission to Kansas. He had put an end to a destructive civil war, and from chaos, confusion, and wretchedness, brought peace, prosperity and happiness. True; but he had done more than that. He had arrested a pro-slavery murderer, and when a partial chief justice had set him at liberty, he persisted in bringing him to justice and punishment, agreeably to the letter of his instructions. Other pro-slavery murderers, and the companions of such, made their complaints at Washington; Calhoun and Clarke declared that Geary should be removed for that act; they had sufficient influence to accomplish their threats, and succeeded to perfection.
Whilst things were in this condition, and the indignation meeting of honest citizens was about to be held at Lecompton on the 18th of February, Judge Cato, as has been related, called upon the governor, requesting him to interpose his authority to disperse the meeting. The judge knew that the governor had no authority to interpose--he knew that he had been stripped of all military power, and that to appear at the meeting in person, would simply have been to present a mark for the bullet of the assassin, which, of all things, was then the most desired. At that time Captain Newby's small company of dragoons was on the north side of the Kansas River, which was impassable, in consequence of the ice having just broken up, and might just as well, for all the use they could have rendered the governor, have been in the Fejee Islands; and Captain Flint's company of infantry were ten miles off at Tecumseh. Besides, both these companies were ordered to report themselves at Fort Leavenworth, as soon as the weather would permit them to travel, which they did, Captain Flint's company stopping at Lecompton, and taking with it the only soldier the governor had left to guard an iron safe containing the public documents, and moneys belonging to himself and others.
Shortly after the receipt of the foregoing letter of General Smith, the governor returned the following reply, which did not reach the general at Fort Leavenworth, he having departed for Washington:--
In view of the facts so clearly established by the foregoing documents--that General Smith had declined furnishing Governor Geary with troops at the time he supposed their services were needed; that the general declared the secretary of war had ordered all the forces to other and more distant service; and that even the few soldiers still near the governor had been ordered to report themselves at Fort Leavenworth, as soon as the weather would sufficiently moderate to enable them to travel,--it is somewhat remarkable that General Smith, after the resignation of Governor Geary, should have addressed the following communication to Secretary Davis:--
In the general's letter to the governor he says: "All the forces here have just been designated by the secretary of war, and are under orders for other service more distant." In the letter to General Davis he says: "I declined sending them, evidently without your interference in the matter, for you were in Washington." What General Smith means by saying that the simple contradiction of Secretary Davis will be sufficient to disprove the fact that the troops had been withdrawn from Governor Geary's service, it would be extremely difficult to comprehend. It is certain that the troops were withdrawn, and from the following communication to the Adjutant-General of the United States, it would seem at the suggestion of General Smith himself:--
Now, from all this, it very clearly appears that, although the president had placed at the disposal of Governor Geary the United States forces in Kansas, to preserve the peace and bring offenders to punishment, and to be employed by him as he supposed existing circumstances should require, those forces, at the suggestion of General Smith (who had been confined, by indisposition, to his quarters during the entire term of Governor Geary's administration, and, therefore, had very limited opportunities for ascertaining the true condition of the territory, and the exigencies that might demand the use of troops), and without consulting Governor Geary on the subject, were taken from the support of the governor and ordered to other service, and that at a time when the peace of the territory and the life of the executive were alike threatened and in danger.