1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 28 Part 4


It was clear that the Border-Ruffians intended to make the rescue of Branson a pretext for an attack on Lawrence. The country was alarmed by messengers sent in all directions to notify the Free-State men of the danger at Lawrence. The Committee of Safety, which had been appointed the morning after the rescue of Branson, was in charge of affairs.

On the 30th it was learned that Border-Ruffians were arriving at Franklin, and that Eastin's Brigade from Leavenworth had arrived there. That there might be no reason for an attack on Lawrence, the committee caused Wood, Branson, Smith and Tappan to leave the town. Their disappearance left no person whatever in Lawrence against whom there was any complaint from Jones.

The forces of the town numbered about two hundred and fifty. The Committee of Safety appointed officers for this militia. Charles Robinson was appointed Commander-in-Chief. Colonel James II. Lane was made second in command. When it became known to the Free-State settlers of the Territory that Missourians were invading Kansas and besieging Lawrence many of them started immediately for that town. Those who had arms carried them. The larger settlements sent companies. Many a Free-State settler shouldered his gun and marched alone to Lawrence. It is of record that companies came from Palmyra, Topeka, Osawatomie, Wakarusa, Bloomington and the settlements along Ottawa Creek.

Lawrence was fortified by the construction of redoubts commanding the approaches to the town. That which was called the citadel was at the intersection of Massachusetts and Pinckney streets. It was of hewn logs deeply banked with earth, and surrounded with deep trenches. Judge J. C. Smith, with the rank of Colonel, was in command of this fortification.

The second redoubt was on Massachusetts Street near Henry Street. It was designed for artillery and was commanded by J. A. Wakefield with the rank of Colonel.

A circular redoubt on an elevation north of Henry Street, between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets, was commanded by Morris Hunt.

Colonel C. K. Holliday, of Topeka, erected a fortification south of that commanded by Colonel Wakefield. It commanded the approach of the city from the south and southwest.

The Free-State men were drilled constantly and instructed in military tactics. Those who had no arms were detailed to work on the fortifications. In addition to the two hundred Sharps' rifles which had been secured by Abbott and Deitzler, many of the Free-State men were well armed. At the period of greatest strength, Lawrence had a force of at least eight hundred men. The force increased every day. The hesitancy of Jones in attacking Lawrence gave the Free-State men encouragement. They surmised that Jones was not being sustained by the Executive, and they determined to get into communication with Shannon. A letter was written to the Governor and signed by the committee as follows:

To His Excellency, Wilson Shannon, Governor of Kansas Territory:

Sir - As citizens of Kansas Territory, we desire to call your attention to the fact that a large force of armed men from a foreign State have assembled in the vicinity of Lawrence, are now committing depredations upon our citizens, stopping wagons, opening and appropriating their loading, arresting, detaining and threatening travelers upon the public road, and that they claim to do this by your authority. We desire to know if they do appear by your authority, and if you will secure the peace and quiet of the community by ordering their instant removal, or compel us to resort to some other means and to higher authority.


G. P. Lowry and C. W. Babcock were appointed to get this letter through the lines and delivered to Governor Shannon at Shawnee Mission. At one o'clock Thursday morning these envoys left Lawrence to work their way through the enemy lines. They experienced difficulty in passing the Border-Ruffians, but they arrived at the Shawnee Mission about seven o'clock. What occurred at the interview with the Governor is best told by Lowry in his statement to the Investigating Committee:

Governor Shannon said he would answer the letter, and we went out while he was doing so. When we returned, we had a long conversation concerning these affairs. He said there had been sixteen houses burned here by Free-State men, and women and children driven out of doors. We told him we were sorry that he had not taken pains to inquire into the truth of the matter before he had brought this large force into the country, which, perhaps, he could not get out again; and that his information was wholly and entirely false, as nothing of the kind had happened. We told him of what we knew, of our personal knowledge, of free men from Missouri being there; and he was not inclined to admit, at first, that there was anybody from Missouri there. He made a general argument against the Free-State men, and quoted their resolutions, passed at different meetings, in regard to the Territorial laws. We explained to him that the Territorial laws had nothing to do with this case; that we were getting ready at Lawrence to fight for our lives, and the only question was, whether he would be particeps criminis to our murder, or the murder of somebody else, should we be all slaughtered. We explained to him, that the rescue upon which he based his proclamation took place a number of miles from Lawrence; that there were but three persons living in Lawrence who were alleged to have had anything to do with it, and that they had left the town, and were not there at all; that from what we could judge of the intentions of the force at Wakarusa, at Lecompton, and in the country about, from their own declarations, they intended to destroy the town for a thing in which they had had no part or parcel.

We took our individual cases as instances that we had not been present at the rescue; that we did not undertake to have any sympathy with it, or talk about it at all; but that if we were to submit to the force which he had called in, all our throats would be cut together - the innocent and guilty, it there were any guilty. He then denied that these Missourians were here by his authority; that he had anything to do with them, or was responsible for them. He said he had communication with Colonel Sumner, of Fort Leavenworth, and had sent an express for him to meet him that night at Delaware ferry, and go with him to the camp on the Wakarusa. He said he should go to Lawrence and insist upon the people agreeing to obey the laws, and delivering up their Sharpe's rifles. We denied his right, or the right of anybody else, to make such a condition of a community, or make any such demand of them until it had been shown that they had resisted the laws, which they had not done; that there had been as yet no proceedings in Lawrence under the Territorial laws, and he had no right to presume there would be any resistance to them when they were instituted. He gave up that point after some argument. I asked him, then, why he insisted upon the giving up of Sharpe's rifles, and if he meant to demand, too, western rifles, shot-guns, and other arms. He said he did not intend to demand other than Sharpe's rifles, but should demand them because they were unlawful weapons. After some time, he then said they were dangerous weapons; to which I agreed. I then told him, if he had any such idea in his head as that, he had better stay away and let the fight go on, as I thought the thing was not feasible, as he would do no good by coming here, if those were his terms. I told him he might as well demand of me my pocket-book or my watch, and I would resent the one no more than the other. I told him I did not consider myself safe, or that General Robinson or Colonel Lane would be safe, in going before our men with any such proposition. He then gave us the letter he had written, and we started for Kansas City to change horses.

On the 7th of December, Governor Shannon visited Lawrence pursuant to the invitation extended him to do so. Below Franklin he was met by a committee of ten Free-State men sent to escort him to the town. He says he was given a courteous reception. He was taken to one of the two finished rooms in the Free-State hotel, where he, Lane, and Robinson, long discussed the conditions by which they were surrounded. The fury of the Missourians caused the Governor to be apprehensive of his ability to disperse them. He had summoned Colonel Sumner to help him control them. They would have to see some results of their foray before they would return to their homes. Then, Jones and others did not want peace. The task of the Governor was not an easy one. He contended that there must be some assurance that the bogus laws would be accepted and obeyed. He also desired the arms of the Free-State men to be surrendered. Upon this point he insisted strongly.

No agreement was reached, and the Governor returned to Camp Wakarusa at about ten o'clock, P. M. The report he brought concerning the contentions of the Free-State men was not satisfactory to the Border-Ruffian captains. At one, A. M., on the 7th, he learned that some of the Missourians were preparing to raise a black flag and march on Lawrence. He was compelled to use all his power to prevent this, issuing this order:



Sir: You will repress all movements of a disorderly character, and take no steps except by order from me. If any unauthorized demonstration should be made upon Lawrence, you will immediately use your whole force to check it, as in the present state of negotiations an attack upon Lawrence would be wholly unjustifiable.

Your obdt. servant,



Sir: You will repress any movements of a disorderly character. No attack must be permitted upon the town of Lawrence in the present state of things, as with the concessions they have made, and are willing to make to the supremacy of the law, such an attack would be wholly unjustifiable.

Your obdt. servant,

The Border-Ruffians were in a bad humor on the morning of the 8th of December. They frankly told the Governor that unless the Free-State men surrendered their arms, Lawrence would be attacked, at the same time advising him to keep out of danger. He sought the captains. One of them finally suggested that a committee of thirteen go with him to Lawrence to try to reach an agreement. This the Governor approved. The committee met him at Franklin. We urged them to wait there until he could go to Lawrence and secure a deputation. At Lawrence he found a stipulation awaiting him. It was not satisfactory. It was re-written, and at four, P. M., signed. Thereupon Lane and Robinson went with him to Franklin to meet the captains. There, the matters in controversy were discussed for three hours. It was clear that a settlement would be reached, and the conclusion of the treaty announced. This was finally accomplished. The treaty is given:

WHEREAS, there is a misunderstanding between the people of Kansas, or a portion of them, and the Governor thereof, arising out of the rescue at Hickory Point of a citizen under arrest, and other matters. And whereas, a strong apprehension exists that said misunderstanding may lead to civil strife and bloodshed; and whereas, as it is desired by both Governor Shannon and the citizens of Lawrence and its vicinity, to avoid a calamity so disastrous to the interests of the Territory and the Union; and to place all parties in a correct position before the world. Now, therefore it is agreed by the said Governor Shannon and the undersigned citizens of the said Territory, in Lawrence now assembled, that the matter is settled as follows, to wit:

We, the said citizens of said Territory, protest that the said rescue was made without our knowledge or consent, but that if any of our citizens in said Territory were engaged in said rescue, we pledge ourselves to aid in the execution of any legal process against them; that we have no knowledge of the previous, present, or prospective existence of any organization in the said Territory, for the resistance of the laws; and we have not designed and do not design to resist the execution of any legal service of any criminal process therein, but pledge ourselves to aid in the execution of the laws, when called upon by the proper authority, in the town and vicinity of Lawrence, and that we will use our influence in preserving order therein, and declare that we are now, as we have ever been, ready to aid the Governor in securing a posse for the execution of such process; provided, that any person thus arrested in Lawrence or its vicinity, while a foreign foe shall remain in the Territory, shall be only examined before a United States District Judge of said Territory, in said town, and admitted to bail, and provided further, that all citizens arrested without legal process, shall be set at liberty; and provided further, that Governor Shannon agrees to use his influence to secure to the citizens of Kansas Territory remuneration for any damage suffered in any unlawful depredations, if any such have been committed by the Sheriff's posse in Douglas County. And further Governor Shannon states, that he has not called upon persons, residents of any other States to aid in the execution of the laws; that such as are here are here of their own choice, and that he does not consider that he had any authority to do so, and that he will not call upon any citizens of any other State who may be here.

We wish it understood, that we do not herein express any opinion as to the validity of the enactments of the Territorial Legislature.



Done in Lawrence, K. T., December 8th, 1855

The Governor had drawn up the orders for the Missourians to return home. These he withheld until Sunday morning, the 9th, when they were given out:

CAMP WAKARUSA, DEC. 8th, 1855.


Being fully satisfied that there will be no further resistance to the execution of the laws of this Territory, or to the service of any legal process in the county of Douglas, you are hereby ordered to cross the Kansas River to the north side as near Lecompton as you may find it practicable with your command, and disband the same at such time and place, and in such numbers as you may deem most convenient.

Yours, with great respect,





Being fully satisfied that there will be no further resistance to the execution of the laws of this Territory, or to the service of any legal process in the county of Douglas, you are hereby ordered to disband your command at such time and place as you may deem most convenient.

Yours, with great respect,



Having made satisfactory arrangements by which all legal process in your hands, either now or hereafter, may be served without the aid of your present posse, you are hereby required to disband the same.

Yours, with great respect,

S. J. JONES, Sheriff of Douglas County.

Governor Shannon remained at Camp Wakarusa until about 10 o'clock Sunday morning, when he went in company with Brigadier-General Strickler, to Lawrence. Sheriff Jones and other leading Pro-Slavery men accompanied him. In the evening he was entertained by the ladies and gentlemen of the town at the Free-State Hotel. During the evening rumors came in that the Border-Ruffians had refused to return to Missouri and that they were threatening to march on Lawrence. It was believed necessary for the Free-State men to take active measures to repel the attack. In view of the recent treaty, it was decided that the leaders should be authorized by Governor Shannon to take defensive measures. They prepared a paper vesting this authority, and presented it to the Governor for his signature, which he attached after an examination of the document. The document is here recorded:

To C. Robinson and J. H. Lane, Commanders of the Enrolled Citizens of Lawrence:

You are hereby authorized and directed to take such measures and use the enrolled forces under your command in such manner, for the preservation of the peace and the property of the people in Lawrence and its vicinity, as in your judgment shall best secure that end.


Some controversy arose as to the exact meaning of this paper and as to whether it authorized the Free-State men to act in the future. The Border-Ruffians were keen in their criticism of the Governor for signing this paper. In justification Governor Shannon wrote a long explanation of his actions to Brewerton, the correspondent of the New York Herald. The Border-Ruffians were much disgusted with Governor Shannon and the terms of the peace he had negotiated. They were reluctant to abandon so good an opportunity to destroy the town of Lawrence. They were loud in their condemnation. The Governor's course in this matter brought him into disrepute with the Pro-Slavery element. Stringfellow, of Atchison, in addressing his company, said that Shannon had sold them out, saving. "Shannon has sold himself and disgraced himself and the whole Pro-Slavery party." Atchison said to his followers: "Boys, we cannot fight now. The position the Lawrence people have taken is such that it would not do to make an attack upon it. It would ruin the Democratic cause, too. But, boys, we will fight some time, by ___!" Jones kept his tongue in his head, but said later that if Shannon had not been a d__d fool, he would have wiped out Lawrence. The Missouri Republican contained this dispatch: "The Missouri Volunteers have disbanded and returned home in disgust, because Governor Shannon would not allow them to burn the town of Lawrence."

The Border-Ruffian camp at Lecompton contained more than four hundred men. They were much dissatisfied with the settlement and could not be disbanded until Monday night. They had come through Atchison, Doniphan, Kickapoo and Leavenworth, and they took up the march to those places. They made about ten miles a day, and at twelve o'clock on Tuesday were opposite Lawrence. There was some talk of their crossing the river and attacking the town, but this they did not do. The Lecompton correspondent of the Missouri Republican wrote, "It is true that the avenging sword of an outraged people is hard to be restrained. The objects of our ire were more the objects of pity and contempt than of our wrath. They were driven to their holes. Their country firesides and homes were left to our mercy. They stood trembling like sheep before the knife of the butcher, conceding everything, invoking the Governor to prevent the shock." It was necessary for such misrepresentations as that to be spread broadcast over the State of Missouri.

On the evening of the 10th of December (Monday), the ladies of Lawrence gave a party at the Free-State Hotel, at which there were a number of invited Pro-Slavery guests, among them, Sheriff Jones. The leaders of the Free-State party were present. Many speeches were made. Lane, Robinson, S. C. Smith, and others, addressed the assembly. On Tuesday the soldiers passed in review before the leaders and were discharged. They were addressed by Lane and Robinson in exultant speeches, which may yet be read in the papers of that day. A number of prisoners had been taken by each party. S. C. Pomeroy had started on the 6th of December to Boston to secure aid. He was captured and held at Camp Wakarusa until the negotiations were concluded. George F. Warren and Dr. G. A. Cutler were arrested at Atchison and brought to Lecompton, where Cutler suffered from illness and indignities.

It was perhaps to be expected that at least one Free-State man should be murdered before the hostilities were finally concluded. Thomas W. Barber lived on the northwest quarter of section thirteen (13), township thirteen (13), range eighteen (18), seven miles up the Wakarusa from Blanton's bridge. He volunteered for the defense of Lawrence, and was in the town until the 6th of December. In the afternoon of that day he secured leave to visit his wife, who had been left alone on the claim. Barber was unarmed, but his brother Robert, and his brother-in-law, Thomas N. Pearson, were armed. Three miles west of Lawrence they saw a body of horsemen approaching from the direction of Lecompton. It was a body of Border-Ruffians going from Lecompton to Camp Wakarusa. Two of the party, George W. Clarke and James N. Burns, left the Ruffian band and approached Barber and his companions. After some controversy, shots were fired and the parties separated. After riding a little way, Thomas Barber said he had been hit, and he had to be supported in his saddle. In a few minutes he slipped from his horse and died in the road. The shot which killed Barber was fired by Clarke. The body of Barber was brought to the Free-State hotel and his wife notified of the murder. He thus became the Kansas Martyr, almost entirely supplanting Dow.

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