Buford Expedition.Immediately after the passage of the Kansas Nebraska bill in 1854, which provided that the people of Kansas might form a constitution establishing or prohibiting slavery, as they saw fit, a struggle was at once commenced between the slave power and the free-soilers for possession of the new territory. (See Slavery.) The adjoining slave state of Missouri took up the fight at once, and by sending voters into the territory succeeded in electing the members of the first legislature. But by the latter part of 1855 it became evident that Missouri alone could not force slavery into Kansas, and an appeal was sent to the other slave states for help. This appeal contained the following statement: "The great struggle will come off at the next election in Oct., 1856, and unless at that time the South can maintain her ground all will be lost. The time has come for actionbold, determined action. Words will no longer do any good; we must have men in Kansas and that by the tens of thousands. A few will not answer."
The people of the South generally conceded that Kansas would be admitted as a free state, yet there were some who were willing to make sacrifices to continue the fight. Among these was Jefferson Buford, a lawyer of Eufaula, Ala., who had won the rank of major in the Indian war of 1836. On Nov. 11, 1855, he issued a call for emigrants to be ready by Feb. 20, 1856. To every one who would agree to go to Kansas he guaranteed free transportation, means of support for one year, and a homestead of 40 acres of first rate land. He pledged $20,000 of his own money and asked for contributions, agreeing to put one bona fide settler in Kansas for every $50 thus donated. On Jan. 7, 1856, Buford sold 40 of his slaves for $28,000 and put most of the proceeds into the enterprise. He then made a canvass of the principal towns of the state, asking and receiving donations. In this work he was aided by some of the pro-slavery leaders.
His arrangements were completed by April 4, and on that date 400 men assembled at Montgomery, ready for the start. Of these men 100 were from South Carolina, 50 were from Georgia, 1 was from Illinois, 1 from Massachusetts, and the rest were Alabamians. On the 5th they embarked on the steamboat Messenger, bound for St. Louis via Mobile. As they marched to the landing they carried two banners, one of which bore the legend: "The Supremacy of the White Race," and on the reverse the words, "Kansas the Outpost." On the other banner was inscribed: "Alabama for KansasNorth of 36° 30'," and on the reverse, "Biblesnot Rifles." The last was inspired by the fact that on the day before their departure from Montgomery a religious congregation had presented every man with a Bible.
The expedition arrived in Kansas on May 2, and the men immediately began looking for suitable land upon which to locate. But just at that juncture the governor called on the citizens to turn out "in sufficient force to execute the laws." Buford collected his men, some at Lecompton, some at Lawrence, and they were enrolled and armed as part of the territorial militia. About 11 a. m. on the 21st they joined the pro-slavery forces near Lawrence, but after the destruction of that town Col. Buford "disclaimed having come to Kansas to destroy property, and condemned the course which had been taken."
In June Buford went South and to Washington, D. C., to solicit aid. At Washington, he succeeded in securing the coöperation of the leading pro-slavery men in Congress. Upon his return to Kansas, late in the year 1856, he found that Gov. Geary had disbanded the militia; some of his men had returned to their homes in the South; some had enlisted in the United States troops in Kansas; others had joined the opposition and became free-state partisans, and a few had become peaceable settlers. Broken in spirit, Buford went back to Alabama, having suffered a net loss of over $10,000 by his undertaking. He died at Clayton, Ala., Aug. 28, 1861, of heart disease.Pages 251-252 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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