Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life by Sara Robinson



THE end is not yet. While these outrages were being committed, and fiend-like, with hideous yells, these officials rushed from spot to spot, to make the ruin complete, the people of Lawrence looked on in silence. They could hardly believe that men could be so transformed into demons of darkness, or that these acts were committed at the instigation of United States appointees. But cheerful, for the most part, was the silence. It is ever better that the foe one contends with should be clothed in his own panoply. If that panoply be sin, darkness, degradation, let them form the external covering. So, now, the slave power, blood-thirsty, and still crying more victims, had sent its own tools, -- ragged, ignorant, debauched, semi-savages, the very offshoot and growth of its peculiar institution, -- to destroy a quiet town, to steal, destroy, and outrage its inhabitants. The work has been accomplished. The first time in the history of the American people has an American town been besieged and its inhabitants robbed, by forces acting under the instructions of U. S. officers. Every outrage committed was in direct violation of that act in the constitution, which provides for the rights of the people in their persons, houses, papers and effects; but it was done by the administration, acting as the servile tool of the slave power. Can any freeman decide what other provision of the constitution cannot as easily be set aside, when it stands in the way of the slave power's subduing intentions? Was it ever heard in this country, or in England, before the times of Judge Lecompte, that a judge had legal authority to order the destruction of a press, which the grand jury, under his instructions, might find a nuisance? Are one and all the presses in this country exposed to momentary irruptions upon them? We boast of the freedom of the American press. But let the bold assertion that freedom of speech, of action, and the press, is the birthright of an American citizen, no longer be heard.

Louis Napoleon gave three distinct and formal warnings, in the last French revolution, before dealing the fatal blow. But it was reserved for the administration, in the year 1856, in the year of our independence the eightieth, to summarily demolish a free press, as a nuisance, and to bombard a little town on the western frontier. "O, shame! where is thy blush?"

If the American people desire the discontinuance of such unprecedented horrors, let them wake to the designs of the slave interest. Let them shake off the shackles which are continually growing more galling. The power which has struck this blow in Kansas meditates no less designs on any other part of the free North, when the opportune moment arrives.

Lieut. Warren D. Wilkes, of the South Carolina banditti, one of the self-constituted regulators in the territory, wrote the following to the Charleston Mercury:

"The importance of securing Kansas for the South may be briefly set forth in a positive and negative form:
"1. By consent of parties, the present contest in Kansas is made the turning point in the destinies of slavery and abolitionism. If the South triumphs, abolitionism will be defeated and shorn of its power for all time. If she is defeated, abolitionism will grow more insolent and aggressive, until the utter ruin of the South is consummated."
"2. If the South secures Kansas, she will extend slavery into all territory south of the fortieth parallel of north latitude, to the Rio Grande, and this of course will secure for her pent-up institutions of slavery an ample outlet, and restore her power in Congress. If the North secures Kansas, the power of the South in Congress will be gradually diminished; the states of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas, together with the adjacent territories, will gradually become abolitionized, and the slave population confined to the states east of the Mississippi, will become valueless. All depends upon the action of the present."

On the 22d of May, the Platte County Rifle Company -- one hundred armed horsemen, under the lead of Gen. D. R. Atchison -- passed through Lawrence, over the ferry, on their way back to Missouri. They clenched their guns nervously, but no one offered them any molestation. In safety they passed through the town they had helped to devastate.

The threats of the men were bitter against the hotel at Kansas city. Murder and robbery were the order of the day. The horses and other property of free-state men were continually pillaged by the "chivalry," and travelling in the territory was unsafe. When the "militia" left Lawrence on the 21st of May, it was with the design of attacking Topeka. But a messenger having been dispatched to Gov. Shannon, at Lecompton, with a report that "Topeka was on the march to destroy Tecumseh," Gov. Shannon sent to Col. Sumner for troops to be stationed at Topeka, to preserve order. An appeal had previously been sent to him from the citizens of Topeka, but they had no expectation of the granting of their request.

After Lawrence was destroyed, Gov. Shannon ordered troops there also to preserve the peace. A part of the "militia," after leaving the sack of Lawrence, proceeded to Fish's, the Shawnee Indian's. Having put him under guard, they robbed his house and store, took everything which could be eaten from his house, tore up the fences, and took his horses from the wagons. The reason was, his sympathies were with the free-state men.

A party of the southern youth encamped between Kansas city and Westport, and robbed all teams which passed, even stopping the mail, and examining the way-bill, on the 20th, 22d and 23d of May. Capt. H. C. Pate was the leader of the gang. He examined papers, trunks, valises and carpet-sacks. He obliged some of the passengers to take off their boots, that he might look into them. One passenger, upon whom he found a letter, he detained. When the driver grew impatient, and would have gone along, a man passed around in front of the horses, and presented a pistol at him. Coleman, the murderer, also threatened the mail carrier so repeatedly that he spoke to Col. Boone, p.m. at Westport, of the matter, and he advised him to leave the line, and get some one else to drive in his place, as "Coleman was a desperate man."

While such outrages were being committed between Kansas city and Lawrence, the reign of terror was complete at Leavenworth. On the morning of the 28th an exciting extra, issued at the office of the Westport News, headed "War! War!" was received at Leavenworth. The ruffians immediately held a secret session and appointed themselves a vigilance committee. All persons, who could not answer "All right on the goose," according to their definition of right, were searched, kept under guard, and threatened with death by the rope or rifle. A company, under the lead of Warren D. Wilkes, of South Carolina, armed with United States muskets and bayonets, were paraded through the different streets of the town. They surrounded the house where a portion of the investigating committee boarded, while two or three entered and took prisoner Judge M. F. Conway, who was acting for the committee in the capacity of clerk. Forming a hollow square, and placing him in the centre, they marched through several streets. As they passed the office of Miles Moore, the Attorney General under the free-state constitution, they arrested him, also M. J. Parrott, a law partner of Moore. Mr. Sherman, one of the investigating committee, was conversing with them at the time, and Mr. Sherman inquired of Wilkes "if he had arrested one of the clerks of the committee upon any legal process." He replied, "he had not, but, at all hazards, he should arrest those whose names he had on his list."

Attacks were nightly threatened upon the houses of those free-state men who had stood firmly by their principles, and the committee were in hourly danger of violence. A threatening message was sent them with the significant signature of "Capt. Hemp." Violence had been contemplated both against the committee and my husband. It was rather too bold a step to attack the United States officials.

The exact state of things at this time may be better realized by statements of prisoners in the camp of the invaders. Dr. Root and Mr. Mitchell had been taken prisoners shout the 15th May being fired upon by a part of the marshal's posse. The balls whizzed about them fearfully, and finally they reined in their mules and asked the reason of such a murderous fire. Their answer was substantially that, in firing before ordering a halt, they had acted in obedience to the marshal's orders. The prisoners were taken by the ruffians one mile and a half to the encampment, and their pistols and valuable papers were taken from them by Capt. John Donaldson, the auditor. They were then put under guard. The reason of their detention was not given, but a promise was made that they should be told in the morning. Letters which Dr. Mitchell was carrying from the mail at Lawrence, to a friend, and supposed to contain several hundred dollars, were taken from him.

The next forenoon they were ordered to appear in the august presence of Dr. Stringfellow, who, however, gave no reason for the detention, but stated that he was acting wholly under the command of the United States Marshal. Sometimes they had two meals a day, and sometimes were deprived of food for twenty-four hours. The consolation, that "prisoners often fared worse, and they deserved to be hung," was freely given. On the fifth day of their imprisonment, having fasted twenty-four hours, the ruffians ordered Mr. Mitchell to cook something for himself and Dr. Root. On his declining to do so, never having been educated in the culinary department, he was commanded to appear immediately at Dr. Stringfellow's tent. There he was pressed upon by officers and men, crying, "Kill the d--d rascal!" "Hang him, hang him!" At the same time a rope was thrown over his head, the men springing for the other end. Mr. Mitchell, being of agile motions, avoided this new test of the mercy of the ruffians. Seven prisoners were in camp at this time, whom Dr. Stringfellow insulted by asking the most disgusting questions, such as "Would you steal a nigger?" "Would you sleep with a nigger?" etc. The principal theme of conversation, in the camp was the proposed destruction of Lawrence.

The night before the bombarding, the prisoners were marched about six miles, and within two miles of Lawrence, being guarded on all sides by United States muskets in the hands of Southerners and Missourians. The ground was wet with heavy dew, and, as they reached the tent about nine o'clock, without any blanket under or over them, they were obliged to take what rest such accommodations and such surroundings might afford. After the marshal's posse had finished breakfast, they were drawn up into a hollow square, and into this Marshal Donaldson and Gen. D. R. Atchison were introduced. The red flag, with the lone white star, and "Southern Rights" and "South Carolina," floated over them. The marshal gave his orders for the day, and loud hurrahs rent the air. Then "Old Dave" was greeted with yells terrific. The green prairies almost trembled with the hideous sound. The tall form of him who had been vice-president of the United States was seated on his beautiful horse, now waving this hand, and now that, as he pointed first to their southern homes, and then to the doomed city. Surrounded by the restless mass of brutal men, he urged them on to deeds of violence, "not to leave it or the territory until they have quenched out every vestige of free-state principles."

A little time more elapsed, when the cavalry under the command of Col. Titus, Major Clarke, etc., came up from Lawrence, where they had been to learn of their defences. They reported there were no signs of defence; and there was exceeding joy manifested; this kind of fighting suited them. Before noon all the posse had left the camp, save about twenty-five in charge of the prisoners. At about three o'clock, United States Marshal Donaldson came and asked for the prisoners of the sergeant, who fired upon them at the time of the arrest, and others standing by. He asked the reason of their detention with all the dignity his office imposed upon him. No one was able to make any charge against them. His orders alone were the occasion of the detention. When arrested, the following receipt was given for articles taken: "Dr. J. P. Root, one mule, bridle, saddle, two Whitney's revolvers, brass spurs, blanket, lariettes."

The following general order was given: "Capt. Donaldson and other captains will release all the within named prisoners immediately after the reception of this order, and all their property to be restored to them without delay."

There was also this order:

"Let Dr. J. P. Root pass unmolested. He is entitled to receive his mule, saddle, bridle, spurs, blanket, lariettes, and two Whitney's revolvers.
            "J. B. DONALDSON,
            "U. S. Marshal."
"May 21, 1856.
"Addressed to Captain J. Donelson, Present."

The release was effected as the firing upon the hotel commenced; and against the advice of the U. S. Marshal, who saw danger in the attempt to go to Lawrence, they made their way thither. When half way there they met the sergeant who arrested them at first. With an appearance of sincerity, he advised them not to enter into the besieged town, as "he knew the men better than they did, and it was not safe for them to go further." In the conversation with the U. S. Marshal, something in regard to the fare they had received was said by the guard, when a native of fair Erin, who was an officer of the day, stepped forward, and, in a low, rich brogue, with hand uplifted, and in a truly dramatic style, said, "This abuse these men have received is registered in heaven."

On the 22d, Dr. Root, accompanied by Mr. Mitchell, visited Marshal Donaldson at Lecompton, to recover their property. The marshal had acknowledged, by his orders, his responsibility in the arrest and robbery, but he refused to give up the goods. While there Dr. Root saw a bill of sundries charged to the U. S. Marshal's posse. The whole bill amounted to $370.85, which comprised whiskey at $1.00 per gallon, and French brandy at $8.00 per gallon. The bill was accepted, and no fault found except for a charge of five gallons of whiskey, which at first was claimed not to have been received. While they sat in the office of the marshal, Col. Titus and a man by the name of Elliot came in. Titus, with oaths, was talking about Capt. Walker, a brave free-state man, a native of Ohio. He said "he would have his head, on or off his shoulders, and for it he would give any man five hundred dollars." In this his faithful ally, Elliot, joined, and the marshal, as usual, ready to do the vile work of killing honorable men, said, "If you wish it I will send a posse immediately for him." It is such men as these who receive from the government daily wages in the glorious employment of hunting, robbing and killing innocent men, on this western soil.

The principal officers in the camp were D. R. Atchison, Col. Buford, Col. Abel (law partner of Gen. Stringfellow), Dr. Stringfellow, Col. Titus, and other men of similar stamp. Such are the men, residents of Missouri, and Georgians, and Floridians, just arrived in the territory, upon whom Marshal Donaldson called to assist him in "enforcing the laws."

Information being reliably received by Capt. Walker that his house was to be burned by the "law-and-order" party, a few neighbors gathered to protect it. About midnight a party of twelve men came down the Lecompton road, and halted in front of the house. As they were fastening their horses to the paling, the party in the house fired upon them, killing a horse in the gateway, and severely wounding one man. In the scattering of the "law-and-order" party which followed, two or three hats, several bowie knives, and two Sharpe's rifles, taken at the sack of Lawrence, were left as relics. Also a part of a coat-skirt, with a bottle of whiskey in the pocket, was left hanging to the paling, which gave the impression of the owner's having made a desperate leap for life. Gov. Shannon's son was of the party.

The next day, Gov. Shannon made himself busy drinking whiskey, and outraging peaceable citizens in their own houses. He and his party, Col. Titus and confreres, were met upon the California road by several ladies, and Gov. Shannon was so drunk he reeled backward and forward on his horse, scarcely keeping his seat. Upon reaching home, he staggered around, holding upon the furniture to keep himself from falling. He was busy feeling mattresses, peeping into closets, emptying trunks, looking under beds, and used language which shocked those obliged to listen.

At the house of a Mr. Hazeltyne, which he visited in this drunken condition, he inquired of Mrs. Hazeltyne for her husband; upon her replying that she did not know where he was, the Governor of Kansas Territory replied, "I'll cut his d--d black heart out of him, and yours too, madam, if you don't take care." Gov. Shannon called the same day at the house of Capt. Thomes, and the following conversation passed between Gov. Shannon and the wife and little daughter of Capt. Thomes. As Gov. Shannon rode up to the house with his men, he asked for water, and then said:

"Who lives here?"

Daughter. -- "Capt. Thomes."

Gov. S. -- "What is he captain of, -- Walker's company?"

"No, sir, he is a sea-captain."

"Where is he?"

"Gone to Lawrence."

"What has he gone to Lawrence for? To get up a company, eh?"

"No, sir, gone to get lumber to fence his claim with."

"Fence his claim with lumber? Eh? Well, my girl, I am Gov. Shannon."

At this time Mrs. Thomes came to the door from the garden, where she had been at work. Her daughter gave her an introduction to the governor, but she declined taking his extended hand, on the plea of her soiled hands.

Gov. Shannon replied, "Never mind, madam, give me your hand." A similar conversation to the above passed, when the governor said, "I am around to see who is who, who to have killed, and who not."

Mrs. Thomes said, "Gov. Shannon, I hope you won't kill me nor mine."

"No, no, madam, you are peaceable citizens, an't ye, eh?"

"Yes, sir, we try to be."

The governor, wheeling his horse, called to Col. Titus to come forward. "Colonel, I want you to take particular notice of these premises, and not have this family harmed. Do you hear, eh?"

"Who did you say live here?"

"Capt. Thomes."

Col. Titus promised protection. Then Gov. Shannon addressed Mrs. Thomes again. "Madam, tell your husband to come to Lecompton and see me; he may rest assured that he will find a warm-hearted friend in me." He added further, "I am out to put a stop to these G--d d--d guerilla parties."

On the last day of May, an attack was made by some Georgians on the house of Mr. Storrs, who lived nine miles from Lawrence. Since the sacking of Lawrence, they had been encamped in that region. They came early in the morning, driving before them a man who lived with Mr. Storrs, and had been out to hunt the cattle, firing upon him three times. They demanded that a very valuable horse standing near should be given up. Mrs. Storrs asked, "By what authority?" The captain of the robbers replied, "By the authority of Gov. Shannon, and if she said a word, he would shoot her; he would kill every d--d abolitionist in the territory." They took the horse. The family for safety moved to Lawrence. Horses were continually being pressed into the governor's service, taken from teams on the highway, and in the furrow.

At one place, when the presence of some young ladies seemed to have some effect upon the chivalry, they declaring "they should return to Alabama in the fall, and would like to take some wives with them," the horses were left. They said, however, "they didn't know what the old man (meaning Gov. Shannon) would say, if he knew they did so."

Arrests are in no instance made of the men who commit such outrages; none of the Georgians attacking and destroying private dwellings, none of the Lecompton gentry who make midnight sallies upon quiet settlers, ever being arrested; but, per contra, warrants were issued for all who were known to be concerned in defending Capt. Walker's house.

Such is "law and order" in Kansas, whose governor, drunken and debauched, insults women in their own dwellings, with language too profane for insertion here, and heads gangs for searching settlers' homes.

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