JOHN BROWN is a parenthesis in the history of Kansas. The immense vibration of his career upon the nation had its source in the Virginia campaign and its ill-fated but heroic sequel, rather than in contributions to the territorial struggle. His course there -- at war with the policy which finally defeated the slave power and saved Kansas from its clutch, pitched to the strain of revolution, tending to inaugurate a conflict of arms on the border -- would never have given wing to his renown.
Born in Torrington, Connecticut, May 9th, 1800, and descended from substantial Puritan ancestors, John Brown had a youth and boyhood full of hardships and privations. He pursued different vocations -- was successively tanner, wool-merchant, and farmer -- but won no great success in any of these callings. Other interests absorbed him.
That fire was a consuming sentiment of anti-slavery passion.
John Brown reached Kansas in the autumn of 1855. He came in response to appeals for arms from his sons, five of whom preceded him to the territory and settled at Osawatomie. He found them in circumstances sufficiently uncomfortable: "no houses to shelter one of them; no hay or corn-fodder of any account secured; shivering over their little fires, all exposed to the dreadfully cutting winds morning and evening and stormy days."
It was not the purpose to make a home for himself in Kansas, nor to aid his sons in their wilderness-struggle, that brought John Brown to the territory, but the conviction that opportunity, long deferred, had at last offered for a blow at the slave system.
Such were the inspirations that dictated an immediate and personal response to the western signal of distress. Whatever else may be laid to his charge -- whatever rashness, unwisdom, equivocation, bloodiness -- no faintest trace of self-seeking stains his Kansas life. In behalf of the cause which fascinated and ruled him he was prepared to sacrifice its enemies, and if the offering proved
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inadequate to sacrifice himself. He belonged to that Hebraic, Old Testament, iron type of humanity in which the sentiment of justice -- narrowed to warfare upon a single evil, pursuing it with concentrated and infinite hostility as if it epitomized all the sinning of the universe -- assumed an exaggerated importance. It was a type of humanity to which the lives of individual men, weighed against the interests of the inexorable cause, seem light and trivial as the dust of a butterfly's wing. John Brown would have been at home among the armies of Israel that gave the guilty cities of Canaan to the sword, or among the veterans of Cromwell who ravaged Ireland in the name of the Lord. When the "Souldier's Pocket Bible" -- a collection of texts which lent inspiration to Cromwell's veterans, and shows the "qualifications of his inner man that is a fit Souldier to fight in the Lord's Battels both before he fight, in the fight, and after the fight" -- was once put into his hands he sat down and read it, apparently with the most intense and absorbing interest. There he read, "Scriptures ... fitly applied to the Souldiers several occasions" -- read that the soldier must be valiant for God's cause, must put his confidence in God's wisdom and strength, must pray before he goes to fight, must love his enemies as they are his enemies, and hate them as they are God's enemies, and must consider that God hath ever been accustomed to give the victory to a few!
That such a man, an astray and out-of-season Puritan, persuaded that God had called him, as prophets and priests were called in ancient times, to the work of fighting slavery, his policy one seamless garment of force -- that such a man should stand almost alone in Kansas, should fail to rally any large following, should touch the general councils and activities spasmodically, incidentally, was inevitable. The policy of free-state leaders, in general harmony with the advice of outside friends, shunned violence of every sort. It especially avoided collision with the federal authorities. This wise policy experienced comparatively few lapses, though at times the temptation to abandon it was very strong. John Brown distrusted peaceful methods. He was quite as ready to fight as "the adventurous young men from South Carolina." In his opinion all marauding rascals from Missouri and elsewhere should be asked to show their passports. For the disorders of the territory (mere local eruptions of a chronic, deadly national malady, the cure of which rather than the salvation of Kansas haunted him) he had one sovereign remedy -- violence. Gerrit Smith, in a speech before the Kansas Convention at Buffalo, July 9th and 10th, 1856, gave expression to sentiments of which John Brown was a strenuous, uncompromising exponent on the border. "You are here," he said, "looking to ballots when you should be looking to bayonets;
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counting up voters when you should be mustering armed, and none but armed, emigrants.... They [members of the convention] are here to save Kansas.... But I am here to promote the killing of American slavery."
News of the attack upon Lawrence May 21st reached Osawatomie by courier during the day. Two rifle companies, recently organized for the defense of the neighborhood, and numbering fifty or sixty men, hastily mustered under command of John Brown, Jr., and began a forced night march toward Lawrence. John Brown accompanied the expedition. On the morning of the 22d they halted and went into camp near Palmyra, where they were joined by Captain S. T. Shore with a number of armed men, who informed them of the destruction of Lawrence. Here they remained until the 23d, when they moved on to Palmyra. Two days later Lieutenant J. R. Church with thirteen men reached their camp.
"I came upon a body of men from Osawatomie and the surrounding country," the lieutenant reported, "who, as well as I could judge, numbered some seventy or eighty, although they pretended to have about a hundred and thirty. This body was commanded by a Captain Brown.... They had been at Palmyra two days, and had frightened off a number of pro-slavery settlers, and forced off, as far as I could learn, two families. I immediately stated to Captain Brown that the assembly of large parties of armed men, on either side, was illegal,
and called upon him to disperse. After considerable talk he consented to disband his party and return home."
Two days before this interview with Lieutenant Church, disquieting rumors reached camp from Dutch Henry's Crossing. H. H. Williams arrived from this neighborhood and reported that pro-slavery men, in the absence of the rifle companies, were attempting a line of policy which Captain John Brown, Jr., prosecuted successfully at Palmyra -- the expulsion of obnoxious people. Border-ruffian notifications to leave the country breezed with particular violence about a timid, nervous old shop-keeper, by the name of Morse, who supplied the riflemen with ammunition.
Though a company of Buford's men had pitched camp not far away, to which John Brown once paid a visit of espial in the mask of a federal surveyor; though the Rev. Martin White, a devout, biblical, rabid, shot-gun pro-slavery divine, resided in the neighborhood, yet no serious disturbances had hitherto broken out in the vicinity of Osawatomie, or Dutch Henry's Crossing -- nothing worse than gusty, sulphurous, foulmouthed talk, in which both parties were remarkably proficient.
Williams's narrative caused the sudden organization of a secret foray into the troubled district. Williams represents John Brown, who had joined the group of listeners gathered about him, as saying at the close of his story, "It is time to stop
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that sort of thing. It has gone on long enough. I'll attend to those fellows." An hour or two later Williams visited a shed near the camp, under which stood a grindstone. A squad of men were there sharpening their cutlasses. "What 's up?" asked Williams."We are going down upon the Pottawatomie to take care of the ruffians who are making trouble there," somebody replied. "We are going down," added John Brown, who was watching operations with interest, "to make an example. Won't you go?" Williams declined.
The expedition was a meagre affair numerically. Seven or eight men comprised the entire muster- roll. They were all members of John Brown's household with two exceptions -- James Townsley and Theodore Weiner. Early in the afternoon of May 23d the raiders -- bestowed in Townsley's farm-wagon, except Weiner, who rode a pony -- left camp, amid a round of cheers, for Dutch Henry's Crossing. Toward sundown, and not far from his destination, Brown met James Blood, of Lawrence, with whom he became acquainted during the Wakarusa war. Brown talked for a few minutes. His habitual reserve relented into a nervous impetuosity of speech. The sack of Lawrence and denunciation of the peace-policy as cowardly, ignoble, ruinous were chief matters in his discourse. "We are on a secret mission -- don't speak of meeting us," said the old man as the little company moved on.
At night-fall Brown encamped in a gulched, wooded, ledgy tract about a mile north of Pottawatomie Creek, his point of destination. Townsley states, in his confessions, that it was not until the party had reached this lair that Brown fully disclosed to him the mission of the expedition. Up to this time he had enveloped it in vague and general phrases which might mean much or little. Now he threw aside disguise, and announced his purpose to sweep off all pro-slavery men up and down the Pottawatomie. In this work of death Townsley, familiar with the region and its population, should act as guide. Townsley demurred. This was an unexpected hitch which gave twenty-four hours more of life to five unsuspecting pro-slavery squatters on the Pottawatomie. During the interval of delay, according to Townsley's report, Brown's tongue was again loosed, and he talked at large. He said they must fall upon the enemy with such remorseless and destructive surprise as would overwhelm them with terror. Border ruffians in the service of slavery were worthy of no more consideration than wolves that prey upon the farmer's sheepfold. Finally, he took refuge in the stronghold of predestination: "I have no choice. It has been decreed by Almighty God, ordained from eternity, that I should make an example of these men." Townsley, whose theological education had evidently been neglected, interrupted the discourse at one point: "If God
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is such a powerful man as you say, why does n't he attend to the business himself?" Saturday night, May 24th, the blow was struck, the example made. Brown and his men stole out of ambush and executed pro-slavery squatters whose names were pricked. A compromise was effected by abridging the death list. This concession appears to have allayed Townsley's scruples. At the first cabin where the raiders halted and knocked there was no response. "It seemed to be empty," said Townsley, "though I thought I heard somebody cock a rifle inside." Three other cabins were visited, out of which five men were dragged to sudden death in the name of "the Northern army" -- James P. Doyle and his sons William and Drury, Allan Wilkinson, and William Sherman. They were all mortally hacked and slashed with cutlasses, except the elder Doyle. Through his forehead, burned and blackened by the proximity of the pistol, there was a bullet-hole.
It is to be regretted that Howard and Sherman, Republican members of the congressional investigating committee. should have declined to look into this ghastly affair, which has given rise to so much controversy. That refusal enabled the pro-slavery leaders to charge them with fear of facing the record of anti-slavery men in the territory. "It [the Pottawatomie massacre] revealed on the part of their friends such a picture of savage ferocity
that the committee for once blushed and stultified themselves rather than receive the testimony as competent "the testimony of Wilkinson's widow -- "lately tendered at Westport." There was however, an ex parte investigation conducted by Mr. Oliver. When the widows, children, and neighbors of the slaughtered men testified, he said in a speech in the House of Representatives -- witnesses "who gave the greatest assurance that the words spoken came truthfully from the heart, because chastened by the hand of affliction and sorrow" -- "my blood ran cold at the recital."
Besides this ex parte inquiry -- the local courts seem to have accomplished nothing of importance -- there was another which has been strangely overlooked. When news of the massacre reached Lecompton, Governor Shannon directed Captain Samuel Walker -- one of the most judicious and dependable free-state men in the territory and a personal friend of old John Brown withal -- to proceed to the Pottawatomie and to find out the facts. Walker undertook the commission, spent some days in the neighborhood of Dutch Henry's Crossing, and as the result of his investigations, reported to Governor Shannon that the killing was "unwarranted."2
In appraising the motives which underlay the slaughter at Dutch Henry's Crossing, we are shut up more or less completely to conjecture. John Brown's statements were sufficiently evasive to
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deceive members of his own family and personal friends, who long denied that he led the foray, or that he was implicated in it otherwise than by shouldering responsibility after the event. Measured upon the scale of the times, the five squatters, upon whom he laid a tiger's paw, were not exceptionally bad men. Doyle and Wilkinson were of Northern extraction, and do not appear to have reached any evil eminence that shot above ordinary altitudes of border partisanship. William Sherman may have been more noisy and less respectable, but the evidence fails to show that he had done anything worthy of assassination. That intelligence of alarming pro-slavery outbreaks on the Pottawatomie could not have been brought to camp by Williams, nor by anybody else, is made clear by the fact that the rifle companies, organized and equipped for the defense of that particular locality, so far from speeding homeward lingered at Palmyra for two days after John Brown's departure -- lingered until they were dispersed by Lieutenant Church. Another circumstance is of the same import. May 27th squatters upon Pottawatomie Creek, "without distinction of party," held an indignation meeting and denounced the killing as "an outrage of the darkest and foulest nature," perpetrated by "midnight assassins unknown, who have taken five of our citizens at the hour of midnight from their homes and families, and murdered and mangled them in the most awful
manner." They pledged themselves "to aid and assist in bringing these desperadoes to justice." Members of the rifle companies who saw Townsley drive away from camp on Middle Creek with his farm-wagon full of armed men, escorted by Weiner, and who, doubtless, joined in the parting round of cheers, had a hand in this meeting for public and indignant protest. As an index of sentiment in the community, which the massacre purported to shield, it is decisive. If perils had brooded over it which invited and vindicated extreme measures of defensive violence' a unanimous repudiating mass-meeting would have been impossible. "It will take a great deal to justify night attacks and shooting men after drum-head courts-martial," said Thomas Hughes in a lecture at the Working Men's College, London, on "The Struggle for Kansas."
Unquestionably rumors from the Pottawatomie wrought upon Brown, but yet more potent were the disheartening tidings from Lawrence. He thought the cause of freedom had been piloted through bad seamanship of peace-policies into dangerous shallows. That was the burden of his talk in the accidental interview with James Blood, where motives of family or local defense appeared faintly, if at all. Habitually verging toward infatuation on the subject of slavery, belonging to the class of men who talk on great themes -- themes which move them like the sound of a trumpet --
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"in a tone perfectly level and without emphasis and without any exhibition of feeling,' he was presumably pushed by the exigencies of the crisis into a condition of actual mania. The occasion called, in his overwrought judgment, for an unforgetable example, at once a protest against popular theories of non-resistance and a bloody lesson to enemies. Should the outrage lead to civil war, should it embroil the country in a conflict of arms, that would only hasten the day of proclaiming liberty to the captive.
The impersonal, missionary motive -- remembering those in bonds as bound with them -- flames like sunshine on spear-points where everything else is hideous and ghastly. To the long list of violences committed under worthy but misguided inspirations must be added the massacre at Dutch Henry's Crossing. Every great cause has effected complete conquest of impressible and unbalanced disciples, thrown over them spells of victorious fascination, harnessed them to its service with absolute capitulation of self, blinded them hopelessly to interests and methods other than their own, and reduced to a minimum in their estimate the sanctities and rights of those who ran counter to their fanaticism.
Naturally the killing made a commotion among pro-slavery squatters and territorial officials in the
vicinity of Dutch Henry's Crossing. "All is excitement here," was the burden of letter-writers who sent off appeals to Governor Shannon from Paola, a neighboring town, on the morning of the 26th; "court cannot go on.... Families are leaving for Missouri.... We can perhaps muster to-day, including the Alabamians, who are now encamped on Bull Creek, about one hundred and fifty men." "These murders, it is supposed," wrote General W. A. Heiskell, of the territorial militia, "were committed by abolitionists of Osawatomie and Pottawatomie creeks on their return from Lawrence. How long shall these things continue? How long shall our citizens, unarmed and defenseless, be exposed to worse than savage cruelty?... We have here but few men, and they wholly unarmed. We shall gather together for our own defense as many men as we can; we hope you will send us as many arms as possible; and if, under the circumstances, you can do so, send as many men as you think may be necessary. General Barber is here. He has sent to Fort Scott for aid. We must organize such force as we can, but for God's sake send arms.... We hope to be able to identify some of the murderers, as Mr. [James] Harris, who was in their hands, was released, and will probably know some of them." Harris happened to be at the house of William Sherman on the night of May 24th, when, as he stated, October 23d, 1857, in his
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deposition before the Strickler Commission, which was appointed by the territorial legislature to audit claims for losses during the troubles, "an armed body of men, in command of the notorious Captain John Brown,... by force and arms and with threats and menaces of violence and bodily harm, took and carried away from your petitioner one horse, saddle, bridle, and gun; ... your petitioner further showeth that, being repeatedly threatened by said Captain Brown and followers, and living in great fear of my life, I was forced by their menaces and threats to abandon the territory." Minerva Selby was also at Sherman's on the fatal evening. She testified that she saw Harris there with his horse, but went away before the arrival of Brown's party. "Harris with his family came to my house. He said that he had been robbed at Sherman's the preceding night by Brown's men;... that Sherman had been murdered the same night by Brown and his men;... that ... he was threatened frequently, and was obliged to leave his home the safety of himself and family required it." The Rev. Martin White testified in a similar strain: "I am acquainted with ... Mr. Harris. Saw him a short time after William Sherman had been murdered. Know that the petitioner was greatly alarmed; seemed to apprehend danger from the murderers of Sherman, as the petitioner was at the premises of Sherman when the act was
committed. The petitioner expressed his fears of being killed to prevent his divulging the murder. Believe he was in danger of being murdered. The safety of himself and family required him to leave his home." Judge Cato wrote from Paola May 27th: "I shall do everything in my power to have the matter investigated, and there seems to be a disposition on the part of the free-state men in Franklin [county] to aid in having the laws enforced. As soon as proper evidence can be procured, warrants will be issued for the arrest of the parties suspected.... These murders were most foully committed in the night-time, by a gang of some twelve or fifteen persons, calling on and dragging from their houses defenseless and unsuspecting citizens, and murdering, and, after murdering, mutilating their bodies in a very shocking manner." Governor Shannon promptly dispatched a military force to the Pottawatomie. "The respectability of the parties and the cruelties attending these murders," he wrote President Pierce May 31st, "have produced an extraordinary state of excitement in that portion of the territory which has heretofore remained comparatively quiet"
Extra-judicial agencies for redressing the Pottawatomie outrages began to move at once. Newspaper extras, with sensational details of the affair, set a Leavenworth mob upon Governor Robinson. Captain H. C. Pate, Kansas correspondent of "The Missouri Republican," who led "the
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Westport Sharpshooters "a company recruited largely among the rowdies of Westport, Missouri, to assist in abating nuisances at Lawrence May 21st -- was still in the neighborhood of Franklin when the Pottawatomie massacre occurred. On receiving intelligence of it, he hastily broke camp for Osawatomie, to wreak vengeance upon the perpetrators. He scoured the country in no gentle fashion, but missed the main object of his mission. Saturday, May 31st, Pate went into camp at Black Jack, three quarters of a mile west of the village, on the edge of the prairie. A line of wagons drawn up in front of the bivouac formed a straggling, intermittent breastwork, while the rear was protected by a wooded, water-rutted ravine.
There was no lack of predatory energy in the border-ruffian camp. A squad of Pate's men looted Palmyra, a settlement of four or five families, Saturday evening. They' returned with some plunder and two prisoners.
The easy success at Palmyra stimulated further depredations. Sunday, six of the band at Black Jack rode over to Prairie City, -- a neighboring hamlet -- in search of fun and booty. They anticipated nothing more serious than a profitable frolic. But some circuit preacher had an appointment at Prairie City for that Lord's Day. To this service came people of the vicinity in considerable numbers. Apprehensive that the order of service might
suddenly change from spiritual to carnal, they brought along their guns. In the midst of worship there was an alarm -- "The Missourians are coming!" Never did religious exercises conclude more abruptly. Six: horsemen, charging into town with rifles across their saddles, instantly absorbed the attention of the congregation. The troopers, surprised at the number of people in the miniature village, halted before they reached the cabin which served for a church. Two raiders, desperate characters if the recollection of their captors may be credited -- one of them with blackened face and sporting chicken's feathers in his hat -- were bagged. The remainder, though exposed to a random musketry, escaped.
These marauding operations stimulated the local campaign against Pate. Old John Brown, hearing of his anxiety to meet him, started after the Missourian with twenty-eight men; ten belonging to his own company, and the remainder to Captain S. T. Shore's. "We did not meet them on that day" (Sunday), said John Brown in an account of the battle of Black Jack first printed in Sanborn's "Life and Letters." ... "We were out all night, but could find nothing of them until about six o'clock, when we prepared to attack them at once.... We got to within about a mile of their camp before being discovered by their scouts, and then moved at a brisk pace; Captain Shore and men forming our left, and my company the right.
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When within about sixty rods of the enemy, Captain Shore's men halted by mistake in a very exposed situation and continued the fire, both his men and the enemy being armed with Sharps rifles.. My company had no long shooters. We (my company) did not fire a gun until we gained the rear of a bank, about fifteen or twenty rods to the right of the enemy, where we commenced and soon compelled them to hide in a ravine."
There was a desultory fire for two or three hours, during which Pate's situation grew more and more critical. Half of his men had skulked away, and the assailants were slowly but surely closing in upon the remainder. Free-state reinforcements might appear at any moment. Pate finally sent out a flag of truce. Brown declined to negotiate with subordinates, and the commander of "the Westport Sharpshooters" appeared forthwith. "I approached," he said, "and made known the fact that I was acting under the order of the United States marshal, and was only in search of persons for whom writs of arrest had been issued." But talk of that sort had no more effect upon Brown than the iris above a cataract on the waters plunging below it. He would hear of nothing except unconditional surrender. Trivialities like flags of truce and writs of territorial marshals he unceremoniously brushed aside. Fifteen minutes were modestly asked to consider the proposition for capitulation. "Brown refused," said Pate in "The
Missouri Republican," "and I was taken prisoner under a flag of truce.... I had no alternative but to submit or to run and be shot.... I went to take Old Brown, and Old Brown took me."
Brown captured twenty-three men -- some of them residents of the neighborhood -- and commissary supplies of considerable amount, all of which were conveyed to his camp on Ottawa Creek. He narrowly escaped failure in the expedition, as only a single round of ammunition remained when the flag of truce appeared. Just after the fight had closed free-state reinforcements arrived from neighboring towns.
The capture of Pate was not the only exploit of Brown's company in the vicinity of Black Jack. At St. Bernard, five miles from camp, a successful pro-slavery trader had a miscellaneous store filled with dry goods, clothing, groceries, drugs, firearms, hardware, boots and shoes. A necessitous company of guerrillas could scarcely be expected to neglect so favorable an opportunity to supply their wants at the expense of a Southerner. Certainly the company encamped on Middle Creek did nothing of the kind. About nightfall June 3d -- such is the drift of testimony before the Strickler Commission --" part of a company commanded by one John Brown," "armed with Sharps rifles, pistols, bowie-knives, and other deadly weapons, came upon the premises and
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attacked and rushed into the said store" -- a sudden condition of affairs so warlike that the employees "were deterred, threatened, and overpowered by the desperadoes,... who demanded a surrender of the goods and chattels,... threatening immediate death and destruction should the slightest resistance be offered." Finding the prize richer than had been anticipated and their appliances of transportation inadequate, the gang returned in the morning and resumed operations. They evidently left nothing to be desired in point of thoroughness. A young woman, into whose private apartments the rascals forcibly intruded, and at whom they "presented several guns," though perhaps unfavorably circumstanced for dispassionate criticism, gave her impressions concerning their personal appearance. "They were desperate and vicious looking men," she said, . "more like barbarians than civilized beings."
But other and more alarming consequences swiftly followed the Pottawatomie massacre. The Missouri border rushed to arms. Whitfield, territorial delegate to Congress, put himself in the lead. Westport, Lexington, and Independence raised companies for the army of invasion, which gathered with celerity, was well equipped, and on the 3d of June reached Bull Creek, twelve miles east of Palmyra. It was planned that a junction should be formed with Pate, and then the consolidated force would scourge every abolitionist from
the country. This pretty campaign the disaster at Black Jack somewhat disconcerted.
Free-state men also were astir. Their military companies, snuffing mischief in the air, concentrated near Palmyra -- detachments of Captain Samuel Walker's "Bloomington Rifles," of Captain Joseph Cracklin's "Lawrence Stubby," of Captain J. B. Abbott's "Blue Bound Infantry," of Captain McWhinney's "Wakarusa Boys," and of Captain S. T. Shore's "Prairie City Company" amounting altogether to about one hundred and fifteen men. Brown lurked in the woods of Ottawa Creek, fully occupied with the care of his prisoners. June 6th Kansans and Missourians were facing each other with arms in their hands, and apparently on the eve of collision.
Governor Shannon became alarmed, and roused himself into a vigorous activity. He published a proclamation June 4th commanding all armed and illegal organizations to disperse. Citizens "without regard to party names or distinctions" were assured of protection, and invaders warned to retire. The proclamation, though a little tardy, had the right ring. Colonel Sumner thought that if it "had been issued six months earlier and rigidly maintained these difficulties would have been avoided."
Fifty federal dragoons, with Colonel Sumner at their head, hurriedly left Lecompton June 5th to part the belligerents concentrating near Palmyra
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"Any delay ... will lead to fearful consequences," the governor urged. Deputy Marshal Fain, supplied, it was supposed, with a liberal assortment of warrants, accompanied the expedition. The colonel found a larger disturbance brewing at Palmyra than his imperfect knowledge had led him to suspect. The tone of his official report indicates that in his view the main business of the expedition was "to disperse a band of free-soilers, who were encamped near Prairie City; this band had had a fight with the pro-slavery party, and had taken twenty-six prisoners." During the day Sumner reached the vicinity of Old John Brown's lair, from which his approach could be distinctly seen across the prairie. Unmistakably he intended to visit the camp, and after a hurried consultation it was thought prudent to send out a messenger with proposals for an interview. "What 's going on down there?" Sumner asked, pointing toward the free-soil bivouac. "Captain John Brown has Pate and his men prisoners. He sent me to meet you and to inquire where an interview can be held." "Tell him he can see me right here." The messenger returned and made his report. "We must see Colonel Sumner apart from his men," suggested Captain Shore. Brown concurred, and the runner, though with some reluctance, set out again. "Well, what is it now?" the colonel asked with evident impatience. The request of Brown and Shore was stated. "Tell
them," he growled, "I make no terms with lawless men -- tell them that. Dragoons, form a company -- march." The runner flew back to camp at a break-neck pace, and the horsemen followed on behind. Brown and Shore sallied forth to meet the not very welcome visitors. After some parleying Brown led the dragoons into camp. Colonel Sumner stated that his orders were to release Pate, and to aid the officers in serving writs. Marshal Fain fumbled among his papers, but finally said he could find none for the apprehension of anybody in the camp. It is reported that Sumner afterwards took Brown aside and told him that a warrant for his arrest had been issued, but that the marshal had inadvertently mislaid it.
A good deal of stir and bustle ensued in setting the prisoners at liberty, and in restoring to them as far as possible their effects. The mere humdrum formality of regaining his freedom -- the bare, unadorned act of escaping from Old Brown's lair with a whole skin -- did not quite fill out Pate's idea of what belonged to the proprieties of the occasion. One thing was yet lacking -- a speech from himself, extenuating any infelicities, and illuminating any obscurities that might vex his recent record. Mounting upon a log he began a speech, upon which, before it had fairly got under way, came sudden extinction --
"As when a lamp is blown out by a gust of wind in a casement."
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"I don't want to hear a word from you, sir," thundered Sumner -- "not a word, sir. You have no business here. The governor told me so!"
While breaking up Brown's camp Sumner learned, with evident astonishment, "that two or three hundred of the pro-slavery party from Missouri and elsewhere were approaching," to whom he gave attention. "I found them halted," he reports, "at two miles distance (about two hundred and fifty strong), and to my great surprise I found Colonel Whitfield, the member of Congress, and General Coffee, of the militia, at their head.... I then requested General Coffee to assemble his people, and I read to them the president's dispatch and the governor's proclamation." Whitfield and Coffee made fair promises, and "moved off," though Sumner did not feel assured they were not bent on mischief-making somewhere. He remained in the disquieted district until the 22d of June, when he considered the work of pacification accomplished. Only a few freebooters kept the field. "These fellows," he reported, "belong to both parties, and are taking advantage of the present political excitement to commit their own rascally acts."
The Missourians retired sullenly across the border. Their leisurely and circuitous path was marked by the customary excesses, including the dead bodies of two or three free-soilers. For a portion, at all events, of Whitfield's expedition the
line of return dipped southward through the odious village of Osawatomie. So far the victims of Dutch Henry's Crossing had been feebly and imperfectly avenged. To smite the town with which John Brown was most intimately associated, in default of larger reprisals, would yield a qualified and secondary satisfaction. "The abolition hole" -- containing some thirty buildings and a population of two hundred souls -- was surprised and pillaged. The raiders expected to fire the town, but as federal troops were near, and free-state rangers might be in close pursuit, nothing worse than plundering happened. A final reckoning with Osawatomie was deferred. The lamentable consequences of the night raid upon the Pottawatomie had not yet spent their fury.
2. Page 146. Proceedings of The Massachusetts Historical Society, Second Series, vol. xiv. pp. 4-5 Hinton's "John Brown and His Men," p. 85. Return.