William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 40] [part 38] [Cutler's History]


On the evening of the 12th, the day of Hoyt's murder, a party of twenty-five horsemen and fifty-six footmen left Lawrence, for the purpose of attacking Franklin, recapturing the cannon, then in possession of the enemy at the place, and breaking up the marauding gang that had their headquarters there. Below are accounts of the affair, as given by credible witnesses, who were themselves present and participated in the battle.* Capt. Thomas Bickerton's account is as follows:

As I was saying, I was half-way home after selling my corn, when Grover rode out on the California road after me. My artillery company was in existence, but we had no cannon. Grover said there was a six-pounder up a Franklin, and we must have it to operate on Titus' house. Robert Barber and Thomas Parvin were with me; or rather, I was with them, as I had no team of my own, so I left them and came back on foot to Lawrence, with Grover. I met William Hutchinson when I came into town, who told me to come up stairs with him, and he would show me a man from the States named 'Cook.' I went up, and whom should I see but Lane. This was on the 11th of August. The Franklin affair was kept secret from the people. They thought when they saw us going, that we were going out by the church to drill by moonlight. When we got up near to Franklin who should come along but this 'Joe Cook,' on horseback, and make himself known to the boys. They were very much elated with seeing Lane, and seemed now to think that everything would go right.

+ We were there firing away, for several hours uselessly. Lane occasionally sent to know what we were doing, and told us to blaze away. Finally I got tired of lying there, especially as I had nothing but a pistol; so I went over to Cracklin, behind the stable, and told him something must be done, as it was useless to waste ammunition any longer. I proposed getting some hay and setting fire to them. So we went around to the end of the hotel, on the road, thinking there were no windows there, where they could see us. But, just as we got within reach of their guns, they began to fire on us; so we got a wagon from a neighbor's and filled it, and dragged it to the front of the postoffice, and set fire to it. We had to draw the wagon up instead of pushing it ahead of us. Pretty soon after the fire got agoing, we heard a great cry from within of "quarter, quarter!" I called out to our men to stop firing. I asked for someone to go with me, and stave in the door. Fuller told me to lead and he would follow. When we burst in the door, we found the soldiers had run through the hotel, and escaped, mostly. Mrs. Crane, whose husband kept the postoffice begged: "Oh, don't shoot my husband - don't shoot him!" One of our men exclaimed: "He deserves to die; he is a great villain!" She said: "I know it - that's just the reason I don't want him shot." We did not intend to do any violence to him, as that kind of work was always done by the other side.

Our men, I am ashamed to say, were so eager over the way in getting Crane's store, that I could hardly get any of them to help me in taking the cannon out of the block house, which was the first thing I espied. The postoffice was not disturbed. The postmaster opened it for me, and watched, by my request, to see that nothing was disturbed. I went in only to see if any arms or powder were there. Found no cartridges and only five balls. Got the gun onto its carriage and brought it to Lawrence. Placed it in a cellar in the face of the hill, at Mr. Rice's. Mrs. Rice, her husband, and two or three others, I made hold up their right hand, and swear not to divulge what they had seen that morning. I then went to work and made a pattern for a ball: as there was no lead in the place and we had no way of making them of iron, we had to take Brown's type of the Herald of Freedom.

Richard B. Foster, another participant, gave an account of the affair in a letter to his brother, Rev. Daniel Foster, of Lowell, Mass., under date of August 19. His account corroborates Capt. Bickerton's statement in all essential particulars. He makes no mention of the presence of Col. Lane (nor O Capt. Joe Cook), either on the road or at Franklin. He sums up the result as follows: "They left in our hands the cannon and upward of fifty muskets. We took our arms again, emptied upon the ground several barrels of whisky, and went on our way. The citizens of Franklin took no part in this attack." Capt. Joseph Cracklin, of Lawrence, ably supported by Capt. Bickerton, seems to have had the direction of the affair. The soldiers who had escaped fled to Fort Saunders.

On Wednesday and Thursday following, Capt. Bickerton was engaged in running balls out of Brown's type, for this recently acquired cannon, and otherwise getting his ordnance and company ready to lay siege to Fort Saunders and Titus. Meantime, the Free-State men gathered in large numbers (variously stated at from 400 to 500), at the head of a small creek some three miles from Fort Saunders, with a view to attacking that stronghold. There were there, besides the men who had stormed Franklin, Capt. Samuel Walker with quite a company, and detachments or squads from nearly every Free-State neighborhood up and down the Wakarusa Valley. The Chicago Company, thirty in number, had arrived in Topeka on the 13th, and , in response to a message sent them by Col. Lane who was in the camp, by a forced march reached the Free-State rendezvous at 2 o'clock in the morning of the 14th. During the day the main force remained in camp, waiting the arrival of Capt. Bickerton's artillery, which came into camp on Friday. How the interval was spent, and how the subsequent movement on Fort Saunders resulted, are told by N. W. Spicer,# one of the Chicago Company, as follows:

During The day a scouting party under Capt. Shombre started from camp to reconnoitre (sic) the ground of the enemy, and also find and bring in the murdered remains of Hoyt, who, we had been informed, had been assassinated by the gang in the fort the day before. They returned late in the afternoon, bringing in the mutilated remains of the murdered man. When the corps was exposed, the men were very indignant and swore revenge.

Next morning the men wished to be led to the fort, but Lane deemed it imprudent (or rather I should say, Capt. Cook, who had not yet undisguised, himself). He sent the same scouts out again, who returned about 11 o'clock. Cook wished: to postpone the attack until next morning, but the men becoming so enraged at the suggestion, he changed the programme that he had made, and arranged that the attack should be made that afternoon.

At 2 o'clock, the whole number of about five hundred, accordingly set out for the fort. Before they had got in sight, the enemy had fled, leaving forty guns, the horse of the murdered Hoyt, and much other plunder in our possession. We returned to our encampment, and after dispatching a hasty supper started for Lawrence. Before all had left the camp, intelligence reached us of new difficulties at Lecompton. We immediately changed our course, and steered for that place.

Richard B. Foster's account places the number of men at 400 and gives the result as follows: "We found their flag in the bushes, with the motto: 'Enforce the Laws.' Some arms, ammunition, and tents fell into our hands here. We reduced the forts to ashes."


Milwaukee Company, Wisconsin, Ross, Conductor; Fremont Independent Company, organized at Iowa City, Dean, Conductor; Illinois Company, organized at Iowa City, Hawkins, Conductor; Davenport company, Davenport, Maxhan, Conductor; Wisconsin Pioneer Company, Janesville, Wis., reinforced at Iowa City, Hildreth, Conductor; Bloomington Company, Bloomington, Ill., Weed, Conductor; Ohio Company, Eaton, Preble County, Ohio, Walker, Conductor; Fremont Company, organized at Iowa City (branch of Independent Company), Eberhart, Conductor; Richmond Company, Richmond, Ind., Shombre, Conductor; Massachusetts Company, Worcester, Mass., Stowell, Conductor; Moline Company, Moline, Ill., Bell, Conductor; - 271 individuals in all.

There were in addition the Massachusetts Company of Dr. Cutter, and the Chicago Company, not strictly of the before-named train, although within a day's march of them, together numbering 110, and a company of fifteen from Rockford, Ill. - 125 in all. Grand total, 396. There were thirty- eight women and children. The company had twenty-five tents, twenty-three covered wagons, twenty-five or thirty yoke of cattle, and a few horses and cows.

* Capt. Thomas Bickerton's account of this battle and the subsequent capture of Fort Titus, is among the Hyatt manscripts now in the collection of the Kansas Historical Society. See printed copy of entire account in biennial report of society, 1875-80, pp. 214-19. Rev. Richard B. Foster's statement of the same appears on pages 227-28, and that of N. W. Spicer on pp. 230-32, ib. They were all written soon after the events transpired: Bickerton's December 12 1856; Foster's August 19, 1856; Spicer's December 6, 1856.

+ The diagram below was annexed to Capt. Bickerton's statement. The enemy were ensconced in the block house, against which the firing was directed.

[Diagram showing positions of a) block house, b) post office, c) hotel, d) stable, e) wagon with hay, f) assailing party.]

# See experiences of N. W. Spicer in Kansas - printed in Kansas Historical Collection, 1875-80, pages 230-31, - Hyatt manscripts.


The Free-State forces, after the destroying of Fort Saunders, on their way to Lawrence, were informed that some of Titus' gang were raiding the country south and east of Lecompton, stealing horses and robbing the Free-State settlers. The force turned toward Lecompton. On the march, Titus and some of his men were encountered by the advance scouts in the vicinity of Judge Wakefield's house, some five miles southeast of Titus' fort. A sharp skirmish ensued, in which two of the raiders were wounded. Finding themselves hard pressed, they fled to the fort, leaving two horses, and one prisoner in the hands of their assailants, where Titus rallied his men for the expected siege. The Free-State army encamped for the night at a point about one mile in advance of where the skirmish occurred. Early the next morning (Saturday, August 16), Capt. Henry J. Shombre started for the fort in advance of the main body, with a company of cavalry, with the object of surprising the garrison and taking them prisoners. On reaching the fort they charged upon some tents near by, and the inmates ran for Titus' house. The assailants, in their attempt to cut them off, came within easy range of the fort, a volley from which wounded four of them - Capt. Shombre$ mortally. They then retired and waited for the main force to come up. On its arrival, the cannon was placed in position, some fifty rods from the house, and the infantry and cavalry disposed in military order to prevent the escape of prisoners. On the first shot being fired the Lawrence boys shouted that it was a new issue of the Herald of Freedom, and continued to indulge in like facetious sallies while the bombardment lasted. The cabin was not capable of sustaining a prolonged siege. Thirty-six pounds of Herald of Freedom type, as Capt. Bickerton set them, had the desired effect. At the firing of the sixth round, the white flag appeared, the fort surrendered. The inmates, seventeen in number, were prisoners. Titus was quite seriously wounded in the head and shoulder. One of his men was slightly wounded, and two of them killed. The casualties on the Free-State side were seven wounded, including Capt. Shombre.@ Some twenty-five stand of arms were taken and quite a quantity of provisions. Titus' house was burned, and the victorious army returned to Lawrence with their prisoners, not attempting to attack the village of Lecompton, guarded as it was by United States troops, which for political as well as prudential reasons it was not deemed wise to encounter. They were satisfied, having been permitted to clean out Titus' gang without interference, to consider the campaign finished, and await further developments. Cap. Samuel Walker and Joel Grover were the conspicuous and acknowledge leaders. The Chicago Company under Capt. J. S. Harvey, also Dr. Cutters Company, who had come through with them via Lanes northern route, were present. It was their first active participation in Kansas affairs.

The firing was distinctly heard at the camp of the United States troops then stationed near Lecompton, and under the command of Maj. John Sedgwick. He immediately sent a company into town with orders to report to Gov. Shannon. They found the inhabitants in a high state of trepidation in fear that the Free-State men would sack the town. The Territorial officials had already left the town or hidden from sight. Gov. Shannon was reported to have been found on the river bank in the act of embarking on a scow, to cross the river. The Captain reported to him, and asked his orders. He declined to give any commands, further than that he wished the town protected. They accordingly marched out and took position on the road between Lecompton and the Free-State forces, where they stood guard until they were fairly on the march for Lawrence.

$ Henry J. Shombre had been in the Territory less than three weeks at the time of his death, which occurred August 18, two days after receiving his wound. He was from Indiana, and had, in Wayne County, by his eloquence and example, raised a company of eighteen young men, who, with him, joined Lane's party at Iowa City, and had come into the Territory with them.

He arrived in Topeka August 13, started with others of the party for the scene of strife on the evening, and on the 16th received his death wound as has been recounted. He was young, brave chivalrons, and died thus early for the cause he came to Kansas to defend.

@ The following was given by a Lawrence correspondent (Patter) as a correct list of those wounded on the Free-State side at the battles of Franklin and Titus Camp:

G. W. Smith, formerly of Butler, Penn., slightly in head and leg.
Arthur Gunter, Boston, Mass., in breast and chin - dangerously.
A. W. White, formerly of Missouri, severely in arm and breast - arm amputated.
George Henry, formerly of Hartford, Conn., in breast - slightly.
James N. Velsor, formerly of New York City, shot severely through the arm.
John Brook, formerly of Mansfield, Ohio, in the head - severely.
--- Wells, in hand - slightly.
D. A. Clayton, formerly of Union, N. Y., in the ankle - severely.
George Leonard, Formerly of Massachusetts, in back - slightly.
Charles Jordon, formerly of Main, in back - slightly.
Samuel Shepherd, formerly of Ohio, in the thigh - flesh wound.
John Crocker, formerly of Massachusetts, in the head - slight.


On Sunday morning, the day following, Gov. Shannon, accompanied by Dr. Rodrigue, Postmaster at Lecompton, and Maj. Sedgwick, repaired to Lawrence for the indefinite purpose of coming to some understanding with the victors which might result in the liberation of Titus and his men. An account of the visit, the negotiation with the Free-State leaders and its results, appeared in the correspondence of the New York Times, dated Lawrence, Sunday, August 17, 1856. Its general accuracy is attested by Samuel Kimball, Esq., and Capt. Walker.* It read as follows:

Another Sunday morning treaty with Gov. Shannon: Gov. Shannon, Dr. A. Rodrigue Postmaster, and Maj. Sedgwick have just arrived from Lecompton. It is supposed they have come to demand the prisoners. They are now closeted with the officers of the Free-State forces. They cannot have the prisoners without giving the Free-State party and equivalent.

LATER: A treaty has been made, and Gov. Shannon, after some opposition, has been permitted to state what it is, and to make a short speech. He said he should leave us, and he wanted to leave the Territory with the people feeling better toward him, and in a quiet state to his successor. He glorified the Union and thought we had a glorious country, and then concluded, and then concluded.

The terms of the treaty are substantially as follows:

1. That they shall give up to the charge of Maj. Sedgwick, and in good condition, subject to the order of Capt. Walker, the howitzer, so valiantly surrendered to Sheriff Jones on the 21st of May.

2. That the prisoners then held in custody, at Lecompton - those arrested by Squire Crane for being connected with the battle of Franklin - should be released and brought safely to Lawrence.

3. That all arms taken from these and other prisoners should be delivered up.

4. That the Territorial authorities should use their power to break up these bands of plunderers, and drive them from the Territory.

In consideration of this, the Free-State party were to deliver up their prisoners. They never demanded the cannon taken at Franklin. Maj. Sedgwick had nothing to do with the negotiations, any further than to say to Shannon that it was his duty to make an unconditional demand for the prisoners. The Franklin prisoners held in Lecompton were arrested under legal process, ad they term it, yet they agreed to deliver them up. What right Gov. Shannon and Dr. Aristides Rodrigue, Postmaster, had to do this perhaps a Philadelphia lawyer can tell - we can't.

LATER,--+ The prisoners exchanged: Capt. Newby and his company of dragoons have just arrived in town with the Franklin prisoners, who this morning was examined before a Justice of Peace, and released according to contract. Capt. Newby brings a request from Maj. Sedgwick to Capt. Walker, asking him to come for the howitzer, which had been placed according to agreement, in his charge. The various military companies are under arms. The prisoners express themselves thankful for the kindness shown them, and make loud promises of the same treatment to Free-State men, should the fortune of war ever place them in their hands.

The prisoners are now in wagons and under escort of the dragoons, guarded also by the Free- State forces, on the move for Lecompton. Capt. Walker, with a detachment of men, has gone for the howitzer.

For months past the papers of the North have been mourning over a Kansas subjugated to Slavery. To-day, they may cheer for a Kansas conquered to Freedom. Next week we may need powder, ball, and men. The towns on the border are alive with excitement. Already the Missourians are coming in at Leavenworth. They may have to go out.

* Webb Scrap Books, Kansas Historical Collection. See printed volume of transactions 1875-80, pages 229-30: The letter is attributed to Col. Sam F. Tappan.
+ Monday, August 18.

The scene at the conclusion of the negotiations and Gov. Shannon's speech on the occasion, were described by a New York Tribune correspondent over the signature 'Potter,' as follows:

At length, about 6 o'clock in the evening, Col. Walker, one of the Free-State leaders, come out in front of the hotel, and stated that a peace agreement had been made, the terms of which will more properly appear in Gov. Shannon's speech.

After Col. Walker got through with his remarks, Gov. Shannon came out in front of the piazza and addressed the crowd. He looks very thin and apparently careworn, far more so than the last time I saw him, about a week after the sack of Lawrence; but he had been so often described, it would be out of place to say a word here, only that he was sober.


Fellow Citizens: I appear before you under very extraordinary circumstances, and I ask your attention for a few moments to a few remarks in relation to them. I came down here to-day for the purpose of adjusting these difficulties, if possible, and I regret as much as any man can - as much as any man within the sound of my voice, the existence of these difficulties. I wish, too, to set myself right before the people of Lawrence I have been traduced and misapprehended through the press, my motives - those which heretofore have actuated me - have either been misunderstood, or purposely aspersed, and things have been said of me which never happened. I desire now to say, while I remain in office, that I have never done a single act but what I believe would best subserve the interests of the whole people. God knows I have no ill-feelings against any man in this Territory.

I am sorry that blood has been shed here. In the war of the Revolution, our fathers from both the North and the South fought and bled together for the same common cause, the cause of liberty; and the result was a glorious triumph of arms, and the security to themselves and to posterity of their inalienable rights. So in the war of 1812; so it was in the war with Mexico; the North fought side by side with the South, and the stars and the stripes floated each time over a conquered nation. And shall we steep our hands in a brother's blood here? ( A voice - "Give us back Barber, and others that were murdered." - Cries of "Order," "Order," "Law and order." Another voice - Don't insult the Governor," "Go on.")

I came here for purposed of peace, to try and adjust a serious difficulty between the people now in this Territory. In a few days my successor will be among the people of this Territory, and I desire now to say that the few days which remain of my continuance in office will be devoted to further peace and harmony, and to the carrying out, as far as in me lies, the terms of agreement which will be the final settlement of all strife and difficulty, that these will be succeeded by peace and prosperity and happiness to all. Only let the people have these invaluable blessings, and the bones, and muscles and brains of contented citizens will develop the rich natural resources of the Territory - a Territory far surpassing in richness and beauty any other on God's broad earth. (A voice - "let us hear the terms of the agreement, I did not understand them thoroughly." Several voices - "What are the terms? Let us hear them.") Capt. Walker has stated the terms, and the few days I remain in office will be devoted, so help me heaven, in carrying out faithfully my part of them, and in preserving order. (Cries of "let us hear the terms," "order," "order," "law and order.") The terms are simply these: I agree to release the prisoners held at Lecompton, five in number, and to use the military force under the command of Maj. Sedgwick, to repel any armed body of men who shall be found in the Territory for any other than peaceful purposes. I also agree to deliver over to Maj. Sedgwick the cannon taken from Lawrence on the 21st day of May last, said cannon to be subject to the order of Capt. Walker. On the other hand you agree to deliver up the nineteen or twenty prisoners which you hold, and set them at liberty. (Here he was interrupted by a great many questions, explanations, etc. When order was restored he proceeded.) Fellow-citizens of Lawrence, before leaving you I desire to express my earnest desire for your health, happiness, and prosperity. Farewell.

The treaty made as above stated, was the last important official act of Gov. Shannon. In his speech to the citizens of Lawrence, he publicly stated hi intention of speedily relinquishing the authority which he had wielded with so uncertain and vacillating purpose as to have bereft him of any respectable following on either side. He had proved himself alike incapable as a ruler, and of too yielding and soft material to be a reliable tool. His better nature had, in every crisis, asserted itself too late to gain the approval or confidence of the Free-State party; yet soon enough to thwart the consummation of the best laid plans of the Pro-slavery party who needed and expected his unreserved and constant support. He said, after announcing his intended departure, "and the few days I remain in office shall be devoted, so help me heaven, to carrying out faithfully my part of the agreement, and in preserving order." He kept his last pledge. He immediately sent to Ft. Leavenworth, ordering out all the United States troops to preserve the peace of the Territory, and although importuned to call out the militia by his Pro-slavery advisers, persistently refused to invite another Missouri invasion by that means. On the following Thursday, August 21, he forwarded his formal and unconditional resignation, and on the same day received official notice of his removal and the appointment of Hon. John W. Geary as his successor. From that day, and until the arrival of the newly appointed Governor in the Territory, Secretary Woodson was again Acting Governor.


The last acts of Gov. Shannon so embittered the more violent Pro-slavery partisans against him as to render it unsafe for him to openly leave the Territory, and he was forced to run, on the border, the gantlet of his former friends, many of whom now openly threatened his life. He followed the example of Gov. Reeder, and as Gov. Robinson states, left the Territory, in fear of assassination. He remained in the States until the days of violence and danger to life were over. He subsequently returned to Kansas, lived for some years in Lecompton, then settled in Lawrence, where he spent the last years of his life. He died there in 1878. After his return to Kansas, although holding tenaciously to his Democratic faith, he was never actively identified with the political affairs of the Territory or State. He applied himself most assiduously to the duties of his profession, and took merited rank as one of the foremost lawyers of Kansas and the West. Old prejudices were softened as the years rolled on, and under the charm of his courtly mien, the amiability of his temper, his acknowledged ability and the nameless traits that made him the polished gentleman, the affectionate husband and father, and obliging neighbor he naturally was, his political sins, born more of weakness than malice, were blotted from many hearts, and, at the time of his death, he numbered among his host of friends, not a few of those who, in the days of his executive power, had been his bitterest foes. Gov. Charles Robinson, the head and front of the Free-State movement which Gov. Shannon abhorred, in summing up the closing years of his former antagonist, wrote thus kindly of him: "His unofficial life in Kansas endeared him to all with whom he came in contact. He was a most estimable citizen, and respected by all who knew him." With testimony of his worth form such a source, the reader will not find it hard to cover with the veil of oblivious charity his faults and short-comings, and with this thousands of friends all over Kansas, unite in cherishing in affectionate remembrance, the memory of Wilson Shannon.

[TOC] [part 40] [part 38] [Cutler's History]