Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life by Sara Robinson



Dec. 3d. -- Last evening the governor's proclamation, though issued on the 29th, was received. It is one mass of falsehoods and misstatements, and an incendiary appeal to the bad passions of the border men to come in to assist him in our destruction. Jones goes to him with most malignant untruths of a rescue from his hands of the prisoner, by a band of forty men, etc. (It is now stated that Coleman was with the posse, and armed himself at Franklin with pistols and bowie-knives to act with Jones' posse.) The rescue was ten miles from Lawrence. Two men in the rescue are all who have ever been citizens of Lawrence. Gov. Shannon, without the discretion which a man possessing even a common share of sense would show, issued his bloody proclamation, which deserves no place in the archives of history, against the citizens of Lawrence.

While no effort has been made to make a single arrest, he says they are in a state of rebellion against the laws, and utters fierce cries of "revolution," and "civil war." We would that we had a governor less imbecile and senseless.

On Saturday the immortal Jones came into town. While he sat upon his horse, bolt upright, looking defiant, his eyes wandered restlessly here and there, as if expecting some unseen enemy, and his hands trembled. Some boys, whose fun was brimming over, asked him if he was cold.

His thin lips parted, and an abrupt "No" was uttered.

"Then have you the chills?" asked they in a sympathetic tone.

The same sound, and the same monosyllable, only a little more abrupt and stern, was issued.

He evidently did not like the Yankee sympathy when such weighty matters were resting on his shoulders. But, being asked what he wanted in Lawrence, he replied, "I will let you know when I get ready." Then, putting spurs to his horse, he wheeled around, amid the laugh of the three or four frolicksome youths, and the blue coat of the Missourian was last seen going over the hill on the way to Lecompton. He had made, in his estimation, no doubt, a fearful escape from the stronghold of the rebels.

Yesterday, the rumors of war being still rife, and so many citizens of the near settlements having come in, arrangements were made for the companies to go into barracks. The large dining-hall of the new hotel being fitted up with stoves, several of the companies will occupy it, while others have a "soldier's home" in the hall which has been used for school-room, church, etc. The quartermaster and commissary-general have been appointed. Beef and corn are brought in in large quantities, and preparations are being made for a siege.

The soldiers are drilling out on the prairie, and under the command of Col. Lane, who has seen actual service and hard fighting in Mexico. Their evolutions are well performed. As we look upon them, going through the drill soberly, without noise, and no rabble of boys following, we feel that, before yielding to the unjust exactions of a partisan government, they would meet death.

There is young manhood in the ranks, and some who have not yet counted their score of years; but the mantle of discretion and prudence has fallen upon them. The blood of '76 runs in their veins, and the fires of its unquenched love of liberty sparkle in their eyes.

We are yet in the hollow of His hand who "hates the oppressor," and "the crooked ways before us He will make straight."

A Mr. N., of Vermont, is just in. He called to see doctor a few moments since, and has now returned with him from the council-room, and will make our house his home. He brings news of our pleasant Scotch friend, who left us this morning on another tour of observation, in the enemy's camp. He met him at "Fish's", some two miles below the ford, on the Wakarusa, of which the enemy have taken possession, having escaped from their hands. They recognized him as some one from Lawrence, he having been so frequently in their camp. They disarmed him at first; but, on his threatening them with proceedings, they returned the pistol, and he is now on his way to report to Gov. Shannon the conduct of his militia. As they kept him a good while in camp, he learned much of their method of proceeding. Sentries are posted at all the fords on the Wakarusa, with strict orders to search and disarm every one attempting to pass. An old gentleman from Lawrence is a prisoner in their camp. They keep him bound.

Mr. P. attempted to persuade Mr. N. to go further up the river before attempting to cross, it being utter folly to try to get past them at that point; but, by a most skilful manoeuvre, he blinded the enemy in gallant style, and came through bearing important despatches.

He has a very military air about him, and, as he reined in his horse a moment, then dashing in among the rough outposts at the crossing, and, in a stern voice, said, "Why don't you demand the countersign?" they looked astonished, and he passed through. They evidently supposed him to be one of their officers. Coming, as they have, from several different counties, the majority of the men and officers are strangers to each other.

In the camp Mr. N. gave the military salute, and commenced an easy off-hand talk with the men. One of the unshaven apologies for manhood asked, "Did you see many of our boys coming?"

Mr. N. replied, "No, I saw more returning;" as he in fact met fifty, whose faces were set homewards, their patience being wearied out with waiting for the gathering together of their sheriff's posse.

The questioner, with downcast look, then said, "Then we may as well give it up; for the Lawrence boys will take us like mice."

When some of the men very blandly asked if they should take care of his horse, his reply, that "he thought he would look around a little first," satisfied them, and he pursued his journey.

He soon reached the village of Franklin, where fifty or more of these men were loitering, and attending most assiduously upon some half a dozen groceries. It seemed at first a matter of some doubt whether he could pass them; but, with the military salute, and gracefully bowing, he went on unmolested, and reached us in safety.

Another fact of some moment, learned to-day, is that as the invaders pass the Shawnee Mission, they are all enrolled by the governor.

One's indignation would exceed every other feeling were it not for the wonder that any man can be guilty of such consummate folly!

Spies from the enemy's camp are in Lawrence every day. They gain all the information they can, which, I judge from the merriment of the guard, in talking over the visit of a spy, is not always so reliable as it might be.

Dr. Wood has moved his family out of town. So, also, have other pro-slavery men. Dr. Wood is in the camp of the enemy. A young man, who claims to be free-state, has repeatedly warned a lady of his acquaintance -- a widow with small children -- of the approaching onset, and that no one in the town will be safe from indiscriminate slaughter. He begs of her to remove to a pro-slavery residence, a mile out, and there he will insure her safety.

She sends her children to the proposed place of security to sleep; but, like a true woman, remains at home, to perform those duties which the hour renders imperative.

This youth, who, notwithstanding his protestations of being a free-state man, has had a wondrous fellow-feeling for the pro-slavery party, -- opening his house for their storage of provisions at the time of the first invasion, -- now complains of illness, and neither comes into town, nor goes down to the enemy's camp. Another man, a Mr. Cox, who has been strong in his expressions of sympathy with the free-state cause, is now a spy among us. He has hoisted upon his store a sign telling who he is, and asking that his property may not be destroyed.

Our fair-weather friends are now obliged to show their true colors, and the certain knowledge of their treachery is worth much to a community situated as we are. Eighty men from Topeka have arrived.

4th.-- Early morning calls are all I see of the doctor now, as there is continually something in the council-room to demand attention, and last night they held a council of war to decide upon what further measures shall be taken for our defence.

Forts and entrenchments are to be thrown up, under the direction of Col. Lane. Reports have come in of three hundred men between here and Westport, three hundred at the Wakarusa, some two hundred now crossing the Delaware Reserve towards Lawrence, -- the Platte County Rifles being of the number, -- making in all a force eight hundred strong for the destruction, the annihilation of Lawrence.

Our guard are now fired upon nightly. Last night a bullet passed through the hat of one of the guard, instead of his head, for which it was doubtless intended.

The chilly breath of the last few days has given place to the warm, balmy airs of September. I watch the guard upon the hills, and stationed at different points in the prairies -- foot guard as well as mounted. Some are standing quietly, while the two hours of some others have expired, and they are going through a rapid change of position. There are horsemen, also wagons, passing up over the Lecompton road, to reinforce the company at Lecompton, and swift riders are going in and out of town, while the flag -- the sign of invasion -- floats over our house. This flag was run up days ago, and can be seen at a great distance.

In the midst of my reveries arising from all this strange scene, the uncouth face of a Missourian presented itself close by me, only the window between. That we looked at each other, I am sure, and from the looks of his physiognomy, and from a certainty as to the nature of my own feelings, I am equally sure neither of us were pleased. He, however, seemed strongly attracted towards the house, was only content after taking a general survey of three sides of it, and came a little nearer than any rules of propriety would allow. He passed on, at length, and seated himself in the tall grass on the top of the hill for half an hour. He was evidently a spy, not upon us only, but the whole town.

While we were at dinner, two other men, evidently in authority, rode out on the point of the hill, to take a survey of the town. They rode very slowly past the house, examining the whole premises, and looking backwards, until they reached the summit of the hill beyond. It looked like a silent threat, coming at the hour, too, when they supposed we would have company to dine, and the leaders of the defence.

Just before noon one of the "staff" (just appointed) came up, and, upon my opening the door, he said, "Good-morning, Mrs. R.; the doctor sent me after his horse;" and, as he vaulted into his saddle, with a ringing laugh he said, "Excuse me, Mrs. R., I meant the general."

So I suppose that the quiet doctor, who has always been remarked for the meekness of his bearing, is metamorphosed into a general. He was appointed last evening. To the never-failing question, "Is there anything new?" he tells me, "The men are anxious to form companies of riflemen, and go down to Franklin;" that "with one round the Missourians would fly like frightened hares." "The people are getting impatient, and nothing but giving up their position, of acting strictly upon the defensive, keeps them from driving them out of the borders."

Soldiers are on drill all the afternoon. A cavalry company is also formed. There are about four hundred armed men in Lawrence now, and if there is a fight there will be terrible slaughter among the Missourians. This they know, and they are still waiting for reinforcements. What an unheard of sheriff's posse this will be! The companies have been firing at a mark set on the hill near us, and the rifle-balls went far beyond.

5th. -- More than a week has passed since an attack was threatened, and not one blow has been struck yet. I was awakened early this morning -- about four o'clock -- by a loud knocking at the door. It was quickly opened. Mr. P. and our Scotch friend -- whose name has also the same initial letter -- have had narrow escapes from the enemy, and an escape less fearful from a grave in the Kansas. They were dripping wet, and so chilled with the water and the keen air, that the stove heat did little good, and they soon tried a warm bed, leaving me to dry their clothes, papers, and money, which were all thoroughly soaked.

After Mr. N., who arrived here on Monday, left "Fish's," the brave Scotchman started for the mission, to bring his grievances before the governor. He was not at the mission, and, hearing he was at Westport, he followed on, went to the hotels, but could find him nowhere. He learned there, however, that Gov. Shannon had received instructions from Washington, authorizing his proceedings, and that many more are going to his aid from Westport; large numbers having already congregated there from the border towns. He heard many of their plans thoroughly discussed, as he sat by, the substance of which seems to be that there shall be a war, that the rescuers shall be delivered up, that all arms shall be given up, the leaders lynched, and the others driven from the country. He heard men high in authority say, that "now was the time; the river was just about to close; no reinforcements could arrive for the free-state men; there were only some thirty-five hundred of them in the territory, and if they were not cut off now, they never could be; that slavery must and should go into Kansas; that they would have Kansas, though they have to wade to their knees in blood to get it; that they should fight, and let the Union go to the d--l!" Judge Johnson, and a young man who recently came with him, had been arrested, and the threats were not few that they would be lynched in a few days.

Learning that the governor had left Westport, our friend pursued his journey towards Kansas city; and, when about half way there, was again arrested by a band of armed men. They said, to his query, "By what authority am I a prisoner?" "By Gov. Shannon's orders." They seemed a little puzzled at his pertinent remark upon this information, "You forget, gentlemen, that we are in Missouri;" and, in the moment of wavering which followed, our friend hoped that the scales would turn in his favor, and he be allowed to go quietly on his way. But the fiat had gone forth. No one but a known pro-slavery man, or the territorial authorities, who are given over, with all their interests, to the furthering of the nefarious schemes of Atchison and Stringfellow, can travel safely in the territory, or in Missouri. Our friend was conducted to a house a little way from the road, and, as he stood before the fire, hearing their expressions of glee at the capture of some prominent free-state men, and their threats of soon lynching them, also ruminating upon his own chances of escape, he espied upon one of them a sign of membership of an odd-fellow's lodge. He made to him the sign of distress, and, by the rules of the order, he was bound to protect him. This man at once interested himself. He said to the others, the examination of the prisoner must be private, and he must make it. The rest of the ruffians agreed to it, and, in a room by themselves, he took the papers in his hand, which the prisoner gave him, then returned them, and said, "His life has been saved at his own peril."

This examination was made somewhat superficially, and with apologies. The next morning, through the interposition of this brother odd-fellow, the prisoner was released, the odd-fellow taking his hand at parting, and asking his pardon. He said, also, "Don't think hard of me, brother. I have done all I could. You were in danger, and I had two duties to perform. I am a member of another order, and am bound to act, and dare not refuse. Nor do I want to. I am a border ruffian, nor am I ashamed of it. We shall have Kansas -- we won't be cheated out of it. When they passed the Kansas bill, the pledge to us was that the South should have Kansas, and the North Nebraska; but the d--d emigrant aid societies, and other abolitionists, expect to cheat us out of it. But they can't. We are going to have Kansas, if we wade to the knees in blood to get it."

After reaching Kansas city, our friend, in company with Mr. P., left for Lawrence. As it was impossible to go by Westport, they crossed the river about a mile from Kansas city, and came up the north side, thus being obliged to cross again at Lawrence. As they went into the ferry-boat, two men, whom they had seen hanging about the hotel at Kansas, were sitting on the bank. On seeing them, they arose and hastily took the direction towards Kansas city. The evident plan was to go back to Westport, and there get a crowd to intercept them as they should pass through the Delaware Reserve. By taking the Indian trails, now one, and then another, they reached a friendly mission-house, where an Indian guide was furnished them. At about ten o'clock they left there for Lawrence, twenty-six miles lying between them and the end of their route. As noiselessly as possible they pursued their way through the woods and darkness. They moved on stealthily as men would whose lives were in hourly peril from the enemy seen and unseen. Our young friend, having already been twice in their hands, could have little to hope for on a third arrest. When within three miles of Lawrence, they came upon a camp-fire which had been recently left, but saw no one. The Indian overheard them talking of forcing their way through the guard, should they come upon one, in preference to being taken into their camp, and refused to go further. Every inducement offered was unavailing. So, without a guide, chilled with the keen night air, weary with the excitement and want of rest, they pressed on.

Before this, however, the question of the ford at Lawrence had been discussed. Mr. P. had "never been over, but he thought he knew where it was." The young traveller "had seen people cross, and perhaps he could find it." And now the ford was reached. The ferryman lived in Lawrence, the other side of the river. The enemy might be lurking behind any of these trees. It would not do to halloo for the boat, and the ford must be attempted on horseback.

Mr. P. said to the very slenderly-built young man, who was mounted on a little Indian pony, "You go in first." He replied to the other, who rode a strong horse, and is himself of aldermanic proportions, "I do not know the ford. I have only seen people cross."

But delays were dangerous, and the young man thought "it would not be right to urge such an old man to encounter the dangers first," and gently urged his little pony in. The channel was very deep, and the waters swift. He was carried into the current, and was being borne rapidly down. He was swept out of the saddle, and held on by the pommel. He struggled long in the water, and for a few moments he thought "the Tribune would require another Kansas correspondent." At last, by extraordinary effort, he was again on terra firma, having for several moments only been able to keep his head above water.

Mr. P., in the mean time, went in a little way, but, seeing the desperate condition of his friend, returned to the shore. The young Scotchman said, in his facetious way, "I was so thoroughly chilled and exhausted then, I had as lieve fall into the enemy's hands as die so, and we hallooed for the boat for half an hour."

Word came this morning from Franklin that teams, loaded with freight for our merchants here, had been overhauled at the camp on the Wakarusa. All powder and ammunition were taken from them, while the wagons, loaded wholly with apples, potatoes and flour, were stopped entirely, and not allowed to proceed. So they intend to starve us out, or make us surrender.

The hot blood of some of our men chafes at these indignities, and they can hardly be restrained from an attack upon the camp, leaving not one to tell the tale of the infamous invasion.

A despatch must be sent to Washington, and Mr. P. accepts the mission. He is to go through Iowa, and will leave this afternoon, but thinks he must go to Kansas city first. We attempt to dissuade him, knowing the dangers of the route, which thicken every hour.

Early in the afternoon he left for Kansas city, going through the Reserve, to go thence to Iowa.

Soon after he went, I called upon some new neighbors in the valley west of us. They are western people, and the lady especially has the western peculiarities of speech.

She was sweeping the door-way as I approached the little log cabin; and, never having seen her, I said, "Good-afternoon. Is it Mrs. ----- ?"

"Yes; come in," was the hearty reply.

There was wealth of good-nature and a whole-souled welcome in the very manner of the greeting. As I stepped in, I told her who I was; but, rather in doubt as to who I might be, she said, "Mrs. or Miss?"

Although I replied Mrs., she looked still doubtful, and said, "Do you live in the house on the hill?"

My reply being in the affirmative, and my identity being distinctly understood, we sat down and talked of the war. In the mean time I noticed with how little room one can make comfort and draw enjoyment. There were two beds, one double and the other single, looking so nicely with their white spreads and clean linen. There were table, stove and book-case, all in the same small room. There were white curtains at the one little window; and the room was really so small, that at meals they were obliged to sit down around the table before the leaves were spread, having everything placed on the middle of it.

They say they would rather live in Iowa, where they came from. They do not like to live where there is so much disturbance, and, when the husband and father is from home, they are continually fearful lest some evil has befallen him.

He soon came in. He is a tall, blue-eyed man, of most prepossessing appearance, a native of Georgia, and has come to add his influence in the early settlement of his country, hoping to plant all the institutions of freedom. He said "he had looked with indescribable interest upon all the means taken for our defence, and though as a minister he could not bear arms, he still has faith in Cromwell's motto, Trust in God, and keep your powder dry.'"

As we were talking of the war, Mrs. ------ said, with her clear, ringing voice, "What does your old man think of it?"

I answered as well as I could, and am amused at this appellation, purely western, she has given my husband.

The Missourians threaten to kill all our men, and save the women for a more bitter fate; and the black flag, now waving over their camp, is eminently suggestive of their piratical designs, -- plunder, blood and rapine.

The evening was cold and dark, and chilly gusts of wind swept around the house, flapping the flag wildly, while the staff strikes against the roof. The wind creeps in too through the half-inch siding, and the stove continually cries "more wood."

All this reminds us of chilly days coming, and of the cold winds, and snows, against which the unplastered houses are a poor defence; and we realize that this invasion, let it end as it may, is not only a source of suffering in the present, but in the future will be the occasion of distress, to this persecuted people. Now is the time when they ought, and would be, preparing for winter.

As we looked out into the chilly night, we saw the great fires blazing around the forts, and the men busily plying their shovels. Night and day, taking turns by fifties, with unabated ardor, the work goes on. There will be five strong forts commanding the river and all the entrances to the town.

The men, as they work the hard-frozen earth, think of home, wife and little ones. Some are here, but some are far away, not dreaming of the dire evils which threaten the loved one. They think of their country and their God, and courage and the consciousness of doing well fill the heart, and strength nerves the arm. A tyranny less outrageous than this was overthrown by their fathers, and shall they falter when more precious rights are in peril?

As the faithful time-piece says the night is fast waning towards its mid hour, there is a welcome knock at the door, and, opening it, I find our Scotch friend is standing close to the door, with a long rifle by his side. I had tried to persuade him not to go down town after so much excitement and weariness of the last two days and nights; but his enthusiasm in the cause will not let him rest, -- besides, he is one of the general's aids, and has been attending the council of war held this evening. He says, "It is decided to send a messenger to Gov. Shannon, to ask him what is the meaning of this armed body of men quartered near our town; why he allows them to commit robberies upon our people and harass travellers, disarming them and taking them prisoners; requesting him also to order their removal." To my inquiries, Mr. P. said, "There is danger in the undertaking, but L. and B. are going. They are acquainted with the governor, and they know the password." We hope they may get through without detention.

After making beds upon the floor, and putting extra blankets on the lounge for any who may drop in for a nap before morning, replenishing the fire, I leave for my own room. And before sleeping, I wonder if we do indeed live in America, -- the so-much-boasted land, -- or whether, in her prosperity, her love of power and aggrandizement has proved the grave of all honor, patriotism and love of freedom. The question will arise, also, whether Gov. Shannon's heart has become a stony heart, thus to bring a force against his own people. This has puzzled wiser brains than mine, and so I sleep, restlessly. I dream of a royal palace where there are men sitting. They are steeped in wine. There is revelry and confusion. They talk boldly of the evil deeds with which their lives are filled, and they swear they will fill up the measure of their wickedness. They ask aid of one who seems to be in authority; and with the brimming beaker he pledges them he will go with them heart and soul in their deeds of blood. What to him is his plighted honor to a great people, or what murdered innocence and the cries of heart-stricken widows and orphans, whose homes are made desolate by the strong arm of the oppressor? Naught to him are those; so he retains the seat in the royal palace which he has disgraced, and is the representative of the law he has rendered a sad mockery. But the wine-cup falls, his knees knock together, his glaring eyes are fixed, and on the wall are characters written in living colors, unseen by all save him; but the bony, bloodless hand -- death's hand -- writes, and the words burn his soul, "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin."

The dream is over, and with the waking comes a realization that the days of the tyrant will end, as surely as revolution is born of oppression; peace and quiet springing from the broken system of tyranny, as surely as morning cometh from the night, and strength is born of sorrow.

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