1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 28 Part 3


After he had lost his prisoner to the rescuers at Abbott's house, Sheriff Jones went to the town of Franklin. Most of his posse lived in and about that town. When it was told abroad that the Free-State men had rescued Branson, there was considerable excitement among the Pro-Slavery settlers there. A Mr. Wallace was engaged in mercantile business in Franklin and had been one of the posse. While away from his store he had employed L. A. Prather to remain in charge. Prather went to the store the morning after the rescue. He found Mr. Wallace there. They went together to the hotel. To Prather, Wallace said that Jones intended to send to Missouri for aid. In the hotel lobby, or common room, which was crowded with men, they found Mr. Jones writing. Wallace remarked to Prather, "Mr. Jones is now writing a despatch to send to Colonel Boone." Boone lived at Westport. Prather inquired why the despatch was not sent to Governor Shannon. His question was in a voice loud enough to be heard by Jones, who gave it no attention. When Jones had completed his letter, he went to the door and gave it to either Coleman, Hargis or Buckley. Mr. Prather heard the messenger called by all these names, but not having any personal acquaintance with the gentlemen, he could not say which one carried the letter to Colonel Boone. As he started away with the despatch, Jones said, "That man is taking my despatch to Missouri, and by God, I will have revenge before I see Missouri." About an hour later, Jones sent another despatch, and Mr. Wallace informed Prather that it was directed to Governor Shannon, requesting him to raise the militia for aid. Mr. Wallace also said that the messenger to Governor Shannon was Josiah Hargis. The despatch to Governor Shannon was as follows:

Sheriff Jones to Governor Shannon

DOUGLAS COUNTY, K. T., NOV. 27, 1855.

Sir :

Last night I, with a posse of ten men, arrested one Jacob Bransom by virtue of a peace-warrant regularly issued, who, on our return was rescued by a party of forty armed men, who rushed upon us suddenly from behind a house upon the road-side, all armed to the teeth with Sharpe's rifles.

You may consider an open rebellion as having already commenced, and I call upon you for three thousand men to carry out the laws. Mr. Hargis (the bearer of the letter), will give you more particularly the circumstances.

Most Respectfully,
Sheriff of Douglas County.

To His Excellency,
Governor of Kansas Territory.

What Sheriff Jones intended to do was then known only to himself. The only expression of his intentions being found in his general remark - "That man is taking my despatch to Missouri, and by God, I will have revenge before I see Missouri." The fact that he had called for three thousand men with which to carry out the law, very clearly indicates that the rescue of Branson had been seized upon by him as a pretext to make indiscriminate war on the Free-State settlers of Kansas Territory. Governor Shannon made no investigation for himself as to the conditions prevailing at Lawrence, Hickory Point, or any other place in the Territory. In seeking to justify himself, later, he referred to the Platform and Resolutions of the Free-State party at the Big Springs Convention. In his statement he says:

I therefore deemed it incumbent upon me, as the chief executive of Kansas Territory, to enforce the laws and protect the sheriff, and his prisoner Coleman, from the violence and rescue which had been threatened and in part carried out by, this mob, for I firmly believed (being in possession of the facts), that the overt acts just committed by the Free State party were but the commencement of a settled plan and determination to resist and bid defiance to the Territorial laws, in accordance with the resolutions already quoted.

It will be noted that the Governor expressed the belief, "that the overt acts just committed by the Free-State party, were but the commencement of settled plan and determination to resist and bid defiance to the Territorial laws...." The Governor issued an order to Major General William P. Richardson, of Doniphan County, which he forwarded by special messenger, as follows:

Nov. 27, 1855


Sir: Reliable information has reached me that an armed military force is now in Lawrence, or in that vicinity, in open rebellion against the laws of this Territory; and that they have determined that no process in the hands of the sheriff of that county shall be executed. I have received a letter from S. J. Jones, the sheriff of Douglas County, informing me that he had arrested a man under a warrant placed in his hands; and while conveying him to Lecompton, he was met by an armed force of some forty men, who rescued the prisoner from his custody, and bid open defiance to the law. I am also duly informed that a band of armed men have burned a number of houses, destroyed personal property, and turned whole families out of doors. This has occurred in Douglas County; warrants will be issued against these men and placed in the hands of Mr. Jones, the sherift of that county, for execution; who has written to me, demanding three thousand men to aid him in preserving the peace and carrying out the process of the law.

You are hereby ordered to collect together as large a force as you can in your division, and to repair without delay to Lecompton, and report yourself to S. J. Jones, Sheriff of Douglas County. You will inform him of the number of men under your control, and render him all the assistance in your power, should he require your aid in the execution of any legal process in his hands.

The forces under your command are to be used for the sole purpose of aiding the sheriff in executing the law, and for none other.

I have the honor to be,
Your obt. servt.,

The Governor also issued the following order to General H. J. Strickler, of Tecumseh, Shawnee County:



Sir: I am this moment advised by letter from S. J. Jones, sheriff of Douglas County, that while conveying a prisoner to Lecompton, whom he had arrested by virtue of a peace-warrant, he was met by a band of armed men, who took said prisoner forcibly out of his possession, and bid open defiance to the execution of law in this Territory. He has demanded of me three thousand men to aid him in carrying out the legal process in his hands. As the Southern Division of the Militia of this Territory is not yet organized, I can only request you to collect together as large a force as you can, and at as early a day as practicable, and report yourself, with the men you may raise, to S. J. Jones, Sheriff of Douglas County, to whom you will give every assistance in your power towards the execution of the legal process in his hands. Whatever forces you may bring to his aid are to be used for the sole purpose of aiding the said sheriff in the execution of the law, and none other.

It is expected that every good citizen will aid and assist the lawful authorities in the execution of the laws of the Territory and the preservation of good order.

Your obt. servt.,

Governor Shannon later said that he presumed the forces of General Richardson and General Strickler would be drawn from the citizens of Kansas Territory subject to military duty, and that it had never for a moment occurred to him that the citizens of Missouri would cross into Kansas and volunteer their aid to carry out her laws.

The Missourians were quick to respond to the call of Sheriff Jones, and it is necessary to note that Sheriff Jones had ignored Governor Shannon in the beginning and made his appeal directly to the people of Missouri. The call on Governor Shannon was a secondary matter. It was the intention to proceed against the Free-State men whether that action was approved by Governor Shannon or not. In his statement, justifying the action of the Missourians, Governor Shannon said:

The men of Missouri heard that the Territorial laws were set at defiance; that the sheriff of the county - a Virginian, well known and highly esteemed, and, moreover, a strong Pro-Slavery man - was actually threatened with death by an armed Abolition mob; they heard too (for when did rumor ever lose strength as it flies?) that these outlaws were fortifying themselves, drilling day by day, were sending to distant States for men, were amply supplied with the most deadly weapons which modern skill has devised, and even provided with artillery. They knew, too, that this was no disturbance born of a transient excitement, and nurtured by the passions of an hour. On the contrary, it was understood to be a cold-blooded, long-foreseen, and carefully prepared-for thing. And what was the most natural result? The gathering in the camp at Wakarusa may best answer the question. Missouri sent, not only her young men, but her grey-headed citizens were there; the man of seventy winters stood shoulder to shoulder with the youth of sixteen. There were volunteers in that camp who brought with them not only their sons, but their grandsons, to join, if need be, in the expected fray. Every hour added to the excitement, and brought new fuel to the flame. What wonder, then, that my position was an embarrassing one! Those men came to the Wakarusa camp to fight; they did not ask peace: it was war - war to the knife. They would come; it was impossible to prevent them.

L. J. Eastin, at Leavenworth, wrote Governor Shannon the following letter:

LEAVENWORTH, K. T., Nov. 30th, 1855.


Information had been received here direct from Lawrence, which I consider reliable, that the outlaws of Douglas County are well fortified at Lawrence with cannon and Sharpe's rifles, and number at least one thousand men. It will, therefore, be difficult to dispossess them.

The militia in this portion of the State are entirely unorganized, and mostly without arms.

I suggest the propriety of calling upon the military at Fort Leavenworth. If you have the power to call out the Government troops, I think it would be best to do so at once. It might overawe these outlaws and prevent bloodshed.

(Signed) L. J. EASTIN,
Brig. General, Northern Brigade, K. M.

Governor Shannon, without making any further inquiry, proceeded to call upon the military forces of the United States. He despatched a message to Colonel Sumner, First Cavalry, U. S. A., at Fort Leavenworth, requesting him to hold himself in readiness to move promptly in case he should receive instructions to do 80 from Washington. To that message Colonel Sumner replied as follows:

DECEMBER 1st, 1855.


I have just received your letter of this day. I do not feel that it would be right in me to act in this important matter until orders are received from the government. I shall be ready to move instantly whenever I receive them. I would respectfully suggest that you make your application for aid to the government extensively known at once, and I would countermand any orders that may have been given for the movement of the militia until you receive the answer. I write this in haste.

With much respect, your obt. servt.,
(Signed) E. V. SUMNER,
Col. First Cavalry.

His excellency,

Upon receipt of the communication of Colonel Sumner, Governor Shannon wrote to both General Richardson and Sheriff Jones, the communication to Richardson being here set out.


My Dear Sir:

I have written a letter to Sheriff Jones, informing him of what I have done, and putting him in possession of the fact that I am in constant expectation of receiving authority from Washington to call out the regular troops at Fort Leavenworth. I have notified Colonel Sumner of this, and am in receipt of his reply, assuring me that he will be ready at any moment to move with the whole force at his command, so soon as the orders are received from the General Government. These orders are confidently expected in a day or two. I am desirous to employ the United States forces, as it would have a most salutary effect upon these lawless men hereafter; for when they find that the regular troops can be used to preserve the peace and execute the law in this Territory, they will not be so ready to place themselves in a hostile attitude. In the meanwhile you will remain with Sheriff Jones, and retain a sufficient force with you to protect that officer, and secure the safety of his prisoner; the remainder of your men will be kept at a distance, but be held in readiness to give their services whenever they may be required to act. You will be careful in preserving order, and in restraining your people from any illegal act. Let everything that is done, be for the preservation of law and order. Your duties are to protect the Sheriff, and enable him to serve the legal process in his hands; when these objects are accomplished, your command will retire.

I shall accompany Colonel Sumner with the United States forces, when they move.

Yours, with great respect,

The instructions from Governor Shannon to Sheriff Jones were more explicit, as is shown by the communication itself.



I am in receipt of Colonel Sumner's reply to my dispatch, in which he informs me that he will he ready at a moment's warning to move with his whole force, if desired, on the arrival of his orders from Washington. My telegraphic dispatch to the President must have reached its destination by this time, and an answer should soon come to hand. I have no doubt but that the authority which I have requested - to call upon the United States troops - will be granted. Under these circumstances, you will wait until I can obtain the desired orders before attempting to execute your writs. This will save any effusion of blood, and may have a moral influence hereafter, which would prevent any farther resistance to the law; for when these lawless men find that the forces of the United States can be used to preserve order, they will not be so ready to adopt an opposing course. And if necessary, steps will be taken to station an adequate force in the disturbed district to protect the people against mob violence, and to secure the fulfillment of the laws.

You will retain a sufficient force to protect yourself and guard your prisoner; anything beyond this had better remain at a distance, until it can be ascertained whether their aid will or will not be needed. The known deficiency in arms, and all the accoutrements of war which must necessarily characterize the law-abiding citizens, who have rushed to your assistance in the maintenance of order, will invite resistance from your opponents, who are well supplied with arms; it would be wrong, therefore, to place your men in a position where their lives would be endangered, when we shall in all probability have an ample force from Fort Leavenworth in a few days.

Show this letter to Major-General Richardson, and also to General Eastin, who, as I am advised, have gone to your aid. Their destination is Lecompton, but they will join you wherever you are. Their forces are but small, and may be required for your protection until advices are received from Washington.

I send you, with this, a communication to General Richardson, which you will please deliver to him at as early a day as practicable. As I refer him to this my letter to you, for my views, you will permit him to read it. Let me know what number of warrants you have, and the names of the defendants. I shall probably accompany Col. Sumner's command.

Yours, with great respect,


The attitude of the Governor was displeasing to Sheriff Jones. He immediately informed the Governor that prompt action was necessary. He feared the melting away of his Missouri forces. It was his desire to have the matter come to an issue while the Border-Ruffians were armed and in the Territory, so he wrote Governor Shannon the following letter:

CAMP, AT WAKARUSA, DEC. 4th, 1855.


Sir: In reply to your communication of yesterday I have to inform you that the volunteer forces, now at this place and at Lecompton, are getting weary of inaction. They will not, I presume, remain but a very short time longer, unless a demand for the prisoner is made. I think I shall have a sufficient force to protect me by to-morrow morning. The force at Lawrence is not half so strong as reported; I have this from a reliable source. If I am to wait for the Government troops, more than two-thirds of the men now here will go away, very much dissatisfied. They are leaving hourly as it is. I do not, by any means, wish to violate your orders, but I really believe that if I have a sufficient force, it would be better to make the demand.

It is reported that the people of Lawrence have run off those offenders from that town, and, indeed, it is said that they are now all out of the way. I have writs for sixteen persons, who were with the party that rescued my prisoner. S. N. Wood, P. R. Brooks, and Saml. Tappan are of Lawrence, the balance from the country round. Warrants will be placed in my hands to-day for the arrest of G. W. Brown, and probably others in Lecompton. They say that they are willing to obey the laws, but no confidence can be placed in any statements they may make.

No evidence sufficient to cause a warrant to issue has as yet been brought against those lawless men who fired the houses.

I would give you the names of the defendants, but the writs are in my office at Lecompton.

Most respectfully yours,
Sheriff of Douglas Co.

General Richardson also wrote to Governor Shannon giving him information as to what was taking place in the vicinity of Lawrence, as follows:

LECOMPTON, K. T., DEC. 3d, 1855, 12 O'CLOCK, P. M.


Dear Sir: I believe it to be essential to the peace and tranquillity of the Territory that the outlaws at Lawrence and elsewhere should be required to surrender their Sharpe's rifles. There can be no security for the future safety of the lives and property of law-abiding citizens unless these unprincipled men are (at least) deprived of the arms, which, as we all know, have been furnished them for the purpose of resisting the law - in fact, peaceable citizens will be obliged to leave the Territory, unless those who are now threatening them are compelled to surrender their rifles, and artillery, if they have any.

I do not, however, feel authorized from the instructions which you have given me, to make this demand. Should you concur with me in my opinion, please let me know by express at once.

A fresh rider had better be sent up in lieu of the bearer of this, he will be fatigued. I am diligently using every possible precaution to prevent the effusion of blood and preserve the peace of the Territory. As the Sharpe's rifles may be regarded as private property by some, I can give a receipt for them, stating that they will be returned to their owners at the discretion of the Governor.

Very respectfully your obt. servt.,
Major-General, commanding Kansas Territorial Militia.

On the 4th of December, Governor Shannon received a message from President Pierce stating that the Executive would use all the power at his command to preserve order in the Territory, and to enforce the execution of the laws as soon as the War Department could make out the proper orders and transmit them to Fort Leavenworth. Upon receipt of this despatch, Governor Shannon again urged Colonel Sumner to march with his men to the Delaware crossing of the Kansas River, about ten miles above its mouth, where Shannon would be found waiting for him. To this message Colonel Sumner made the following reply:



I have just received your letter of yesterday, with the telegraphic despatch from the President. I will march with my regiment in a few hours, and will meet you at the Delaware crossing of the Kansas this evening.

With high respect, your obedient servant,
(Signed) E. V. SUMNER,
Col. First Cavalry.

His Excellency,

Upon reflection Colonel Sumner concluded not to comply with the request of Governor Shannon until he had received instructions from the War Department. Thereupon he wrote the Governor as follows:



On more mature reflection I think it will not be proper for me to move before I receive the orders of the Government. I shall be all ready whenever I get them. This decision will not delay our reaching the scene of the difficulties, for I can move from this place to Lawrence as quickly (or nearly so) as I could from the Delaware crossing, and we could not, of course, go beyond that place without definite orders.

With high respect, your obedient servant,
Colonel First Cavalry.

His Excellency,

Seeing the assembling of the Border-Ruffians, the people of Lawrence became alarmed and assembled for their own protection. G. P. Lowry and C. W. Babcock worked their way through the hostile lines and reached the Shawnee Mission for a conference with Governor Shannon. Upon their representation of the state of affairs at the mouth of the Wakarusa, the Governor thought best to change his attitude. He went to Westport and enlisted the services of Colonel Boone to aid in controlling the Border-Ruffians. Governor Shannon having secured the service of Colonel Boone, the two set out on the 5th of December for the Border-Ruffian camp,- arriving at Wakarusa shortly after midnight. Early in the morning of the 6th, Governor Shannon issued orders to have the commanders of the various bodies of Ruffians beleaguering Lawrence meet him for consultation. At this conference, Governor Shannon found but one person who was willing to have the matter settled peaceably. All the others wished to attack the Free-State men. Many of them wished to destroy Lawrence; some would be satisfied if the Free-State men would surrender their arms and agree to obey the law. The meeting continued until midnight. The Governor had expressed an intention of visiting Lawrence himself on the following day. He was in despair of being able to prevent an assault on the town before he could visit it. In this panic he wrote the following letter to Colonel Sumner, which was to be forwarded by an express rider at day-break:


COL. SUMNER, 1st Cavalry, U. S. A.

Sir: I send you this special dispatch to ask you to come to Lawrence as soon as you possibly can. My object is to secure the citizens of that place, as well as all others, from a warfare which, if once commenced, there is no telling where it will end. I doubt not that you have received orders from Washington, but if you have not, the absolute pressure of this crisis is such as to justify you with the President, and the world, in moving with your force to the scene of difficulties.

It is hard to restrain the men here (they are beyond my power, or at least soon will be), from making an attack upon Lawrence, which, if once made, there is no telling where it may terminate. The presence of a portion of the United States troops at Lawrence would prevent an attack - save bloodshed - and enable us to get matters arranged in a satisfactory way, and at the same time secure the execution of the laws. It is peace, not war, that we want, and you have the power to secure peace. Time is precious - fear not but that you will be sustained.

With great respect,

N. B. - Be pleased to send me a dispatch.

Colonel Sumner had not yet received any instructions from Washington and declined to move without them, replying to Governor Shannon's letter to the following effect:

DEC. 7th, 1855.


I have received your two letters of the 5th and 6th inst. I regret extremely to disappoint you, but the more I reflect on it the more I am convinced that I ought not to interpose my command between the two hostile parties in this territory until I receive orders from the Government. We know that the whole matter is now in the hands of the Executive, and it is an affair of too much importance for any one to anticipate the action of the Government. I am momentarily expecting to receive orders, and whenever they come I shall move instantly, by night or by day. If you find those people bent on attacking the town, I would respectfully suggest that they might be induced to pause for a time on being told that the orders of the General Government were expected every moment, and that there was no doubt but that these orders, framed from an enlarged view of the whole difficulty, would give general satisfaction, and settle the matter honorably for both parties.

I am Governor, with much respect, your obedient servant,

Colonel 1st Cavalry, Commanding.

Governor of Kansas.

General Strickler, at 2 P. M. reported to Governor Shannon, that the Border-Ruffians, upon being appraised of the plan to have the military at Fort Leavenworth act as a force to protect Lawrence and hold back the Missourians, had determined to intercept his messenger to Colonel Sumner at Kaw River crossing. The messenger was started immediately and directed to cross the Kansas River at a different ford. As showing the feeling in the Border-Ruffian camps at that time, the following letter of J. C. Anderson to William P. Richardson is given:


Sir: I have reason to believe from rumors in camp that before tomorrow morning the black flag will be hoisted, when nine out of ten will rally round it, and march without orders upon Lawrence. The forces at the Lecompton camp fully understand the plot, and will fight under the same banner.

If Governor Shannon will pledge himself not to allow any United States officer to interfere with the arms belonging to the United States now in their possession, and, in case there is no battle, order the United States forces off at once, and retain the militia, provided any force is retained - all will be well, and all will obey to the end, and commit no depredation upon private property in Lawrence.

I fear a collision between the United States soldiers, and the volunteers, which would he dreadful.

Speedy measures should be taken. Let the men know at once - to-night - and I fear that it will even then be too late to stay the rashness of our people.

Respectfully your obedt. servt.,

The largest body of the Missouri invaders were stationed in the timber along the Wakarusa, southeast of Franklin. This body threw out pickets as far up the stream as Blanton's bridge. A considerable force held the Blue-Jacket crossing. The encampment of this contingent was known as Camp Wakarusa. The men there came principally from Jackson, Cass, and Lafayette counties, Missouri. They had come over the Westport Road - really the old Oregon Trail. Their local commanders were Shaw, Lucas, Bledsoe, Woodson, and others. Colonel Boone had roused the people of those counties by starting rumors which grew with each recitation of the messengers bearing them. To arouse the Missourians, what was afterwards said to have been a forged letter signed by Daniel Woodson, was circulated. Copies of this letter were found among the Border-Ruffians in Camp Wakarusa, and it was doubtless in evidence at other places.

DEAR GENERAL - The Governor having called out the militia, this is to inform you to order out your division and proceed forthwith to Lecompton. The Governor not having the power, you can call out the Platte County Rifle Company, as our neighbors are always ready to help us. Do not implicate the Governor, whatever you do.


The Ruffians came into Kansas with wagons loaded with supplies. Many were mounted, but some were on foot. There were good citizens among them - plenty of them - but they were in favor of forcing slavery on Kansas. On all other matters they were honorable men - kind husbands, good neighbors, liberal, men of property. There were among them many irresponsible, drunken, low-down, mean men. They robbed dwellings, stole horses and cattle, burned houses, laid waste fields. In Kansas they were subject to the Territorial Militia officers in all general movements, and to Sheriff Jones. The only Kansas troops with this body of Missourians, except a company of Franklin Militia commanded by one Leek, a roving gambler, were of those of Brigadier-General L. J. Eastin, from Leavenworth. Quite a number of the Wyandot Indians, as well as some Shawnees and Delawares, had responded to the call. One Ruffian gave an Indian a handful of bullets, saying he wanted a Yankee scalp for each bullet. He then took the Indian's bottle and had it filled with whiskey. It seems that this Indian contingent was not to be relied upon. After the Indian had secured his whiskey, he said to Mr. Prather, "Me no kill Yankee; me want get whisk."

D. R. Atchison led his Platte County Rifles, numbering more than one hundred, into Kansas. He stationed his men on the present site of North Lawrence. Other Border-Ruffians joined his command, and he was at the head of one of the most violent and lawless bands of invaders in the Territory.

Another body of the Ruffians, from the Missouri counties north and east of the Missouri River, numbering seven hundred at its maximum, was stationed at Lecompton. Some of these went later to the town of Douglas, lower down the river. All these were under command of Richardson and Strickler.

But all this horde - more than fifteen hundred men, Missourians, non-residents - were subject to the orders of Sheriff Samuel J. Jones.

1918 Kansas and Kansans Previous Section Next Section

A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.

[TOC] [Biog. Index] [1918 Index] [KSGenWeb] [Archives]
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Columbus, KS


Background and KSGenWeb logo were designed and are copyrighted by
Tom & Carolyn Ward
for the limited use of the KSGenWeb Project.
Permission is granted for use only on an official KSGenWeb page.
The USGenWeb Logo was designed by Linda Cole.

Last updated 1998

Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project