KanColl Books


by Adolph Roenigk

Pioneer History of Kansas



A Stormy Period; The Missouri Compromise; John Brown;
Defeat of Slavery; Kansas in the Civil War.

     From the official organization of the Territory of Kansas, May 30, 1854, to its final admission as a state, January 30, 1861, her course was a stormy one. The Latin inscription, “Ad Astra per Aspera,” meaning “to the stars through difficulties,” expressed in terse and fitting words the strife that beset the progress of the Territory toward statehood. As though the manifold dangers of Indians, desperadoes and freebooters were not enough to embarass the settlement of a new land, the sable cloud of slavery must push its dark shadow over the sunny plains of Kansas. No romance or deep laid plot engaging the facile pen of the novelist possessed such elements of interest as did this memorable struggle. Some of the noblest, and certainly, many of the most evil qualities of man were brought out in the contest for freedom or liberty of the black, which may be said to have begun with the agitation resulting in the Missouri Compromise and ending only with the last shot of the Civil War. The famous, or infamouss, Missouri Compromise was not a settlement of the momentous question, but a pacificatory measure, temporarily allaying strife; its effects, in the end, were to bring on a contest of the most disgusting and savage character, fixing upon the new territory the undesired name of “Bleeding Kansas.” Quoting from H. Von Holst, the German Historian, we find this comment on the final passage of the Compromise Bill: “Up to this time the division of the Union into two sections had been only a fact: henceforth it was fixed by law.... Each of the two groups inevitable constantly consolidated more and more; and the more they consolidated the more the Missouri line lost its imaginary character. For the first time there was, in the full sense of the term, a free North and a slave-holding south. “Political Prudence” might lead one to oppose this with the strength of despair; but all political artifices were put to shame by the power of facts. Even the last resource, the erasure of the black line from the map by another law and by judicial decisions, remained without effect: the line was etched too deeply into the real ground. Only one thing could erase it, and this one thing was the destruction of


the gloomy power that had drawn it. From the night of March 21, 1820, party history is made up, without interruption or break, of the development of geographical parties.
     This is what was really reached when men breathed free, as if saved from a heavy nightmare. The little and cowardly souls congratulated themselves that the slavery question had been buried forever; and yet men never shook themselves free from the Missouri question. Von Holst has a very clear and correct conception of what the Missouri Compromise was--simply a temporary putting away of the real issue in a vain hope that it would settle itself--and we all know how it was finally settled. We are at present reading, concerned only as far as effects our own state, which may be epitomized as follows:

     The organization of Emigrant Aid Societies and Squatters Associations by which both sides of the controversy hoped to populate the new country, and thus secure a settlement having their own trend of mind to assist in out-voting the other, went merrily on; but any measures as tame as these could not long endure. Such a natural and peaceable solution of the difficulty was not to be; the issue was one not to be settled by any friendly rivalry; and first, unfair, then lateraly violence, took the place of pacific acts and the long cruel struggle was on.

     Andrew H. Reeder, first Territorial Governor, was a northern man; his sympathies were with the Free State people. The first Territorial election was taken charge of by the Pro-slavery party by force of arms; fraudulent votes to the number of 5,000 were cast by the advocates of Slavery. The election was set aside by the Governor: he was impeached by the Pro-slavery interests, and then followed a reign of cross-purpose acts, mixed with mob violence. 1855 and 1856 were years filled with violence, treacherous acts, and inhuman atrocities. Neither life or property was safe. John Brown took up his long barreled rifle in defense of free Kansas, and his “spirit went marching on.” Large volumes have been filled with the incidents of the struggle between the Free State and Pro-slavery parties until formal opening of the war gave them license to throw aside all pretense of a possibility of a compromise and fly at each others throats in deadly combat. The massacre on the Marias Des Cygnes was fittingly commemorated by the stirring lines of the Quaker poet, John G. Whittier, and the prophecy of these verses was speedily fulfilled. The Marias Des Cygnes massacre took place in Linn County in May, 1859. A band of 25 Missourians


came over the line and, capturing eleven free state men, stood them up in line and shot them down. Five fell dead. The other, though wounded, survived.
     It might be said with truth that during all the years of Kansas Territorial existence, there was no certainty of any thing; Legislatures deposed Governors dis-avowed the acts of Legislatures: Elections were held to declare other elections illegal. The state of the people made it impossible to come to a pacific or harmonious conclusion upon anything. The internal forces were unable to preserve order and the Federal Government feared to lay upon the warring factions the firm hand needed, for in Kansas, poor, “Bleeding Kansas” the leaven was already working that should set the whole nation into a boiling, seething ferment.
     With the opening guns of the war came the first clear and unmistakable notes of defiance to the minions of slavery, and out of the conflict that ensued our noble state came forth, baptized in fire and blood, but forever purified from the unholy thing that sought to warm itself in her bosom. We would gladly have passed by this dark period in our early history, but it came to pass; it was a part of the destiny of the state, and as such, cannot be ignored. The part taken by Kansas in the memorable struggle was in every way worthy of her courageaus people, and fully in keeping with the vital interest she had in the results. It is an historical fact that the first blood shed west of the Mississippi in defense of the Union, was by Kansas soldiers. To be plunged into war was only a continuation, on a larger scale, of the long drawn out Border Warfare. The readiness with which the men of Kansas sprang to arms and the skill with which they wielded them is unsurpassed by any other state. Kansas furnished more than 3,500 men in excess of her quota; her losses in battle were greater in proportion to enlistment than any other state. The colored troops organized in Kansas did the most effective work of any enlistment of negroes taking part in the war. Col. Samuel J. Crawford, afterward Governor of Kansas, commanding the 83d colored regiment, was in the thick of the fight, and the record established by those upon soldiers made all the race rejoice. In addition to this effective organization, there was the first and second Colored Infantry, and the independent Colored Battery. As soldiers they quietly returned to the arts of peace when their country and their downtrodden race had been avenged.


     The regiments organized in Kansas for the Civil War, not counting the colored organizations, were the 1st, 2nd, 8th, 10th, 12th, 13th, and 17th Infantry; the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 14th, 15th, and 16th Cavalry and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Batteries. Some of these regiments were never recruited to their full strength, but the amount of men totaled 20,097. That the force was kept busy goes without saying; their peculiar and unusual environments making their duties especially arduous. In Prentis’s History of Kansas we find this graphic picture of the situation:

     “Kansas was open to attack on the east and south, while on the west, the Indians served as a perpetual menace. The soldiers of Kansas were called alternately to repel invasion, and to penetrate the fastness of the enemy. The war was waged in a wide and almost wilderness country; a country of mountains, defiles and tangled woods and canebrakes, traversed by countless and tangled streams, raped, and roaring, or deep, winding and sluggish; but, for the most part, without bridges or ferries. In the thousands of miles of marching the Kansas soldiers often saw not a rod of smooth and settled highway, they moved by trails, by traces, over the hills and far away across the prairies, guided by the sun, the distant and random gun, the smoke of combator vengeful burning. They were far from the region of great and decisive battles, of strategic combinations and forseen results. The columns came and went, making forced marches for days and nights together; fighting a battle and winning a dear bought victory, to return whence they came. They fought and marched and camped in a region that was neither North nor South, and so possessed a climate with the evil features of both. They met the blinding sleet and snow; were drenched with tropical rainstorms, and braved alike the blazing fury of the sun, and the bitter malice of the frost.

     “Far from their base of supplies; food and powder must be brought a long and toilsome, dangerous way, guarded at every step, fought for at every ford and pass. It was hard and desperate warfare. For Kansas, the Civil War was but the continuation of the border troubles. The embers of that struggle had not been covered with the ashes of forgetfulness when they blazed again into the dearest conflagration. Along the border the war assumed the character of a vendetta; a war of revenge, and over all the wide field, a war of combats of ambuscades; of swift advances and hurried retreats; of spies


and scouts; of stealth, darkness and murder. All along the way men riding solitary were shot down; little companies killed by their camp fires; men fighting on both sides neither asking, giving, nor expecting mercy.”

     At this place we present an interesting account of the Quantrell Raid ably written by one who was an eyewitness of this altogether barbaric affair.

     The writer, Mr. W. K. Cone, is since deceased, as are also the most of the active participants in the sketches given in this volume.

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