1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 28 Part 5

OLD JOHN BROWN

On Friday there appeared at Lawrence a lumbering wagon containing five men. The leader was gray-haired, close shaven, spare and tall. He had gray eyes. His lips were thin and compressed. He bore the aspect of grim determination. In his belt were two revolving pistols, and he carried a rifle. The others were his sons, armed as was their father. In the wagon were their supplies and more weapons, and at the front stood a staff from which floated an American Flag. The father was the commander of the party. He was OLD JOHN BROWN. He had been in the Territory since October. He had come to fight slavery. The notice of the arrival of John Brown is taken from the Herald of Freedom:

About noon (December 7), Mr. John Brown, an aged gentleman from Essex County, N. Y., who has been a resident of the Territory for several months, arrived with four of his sons - leaving several others at home sick - bringing a quantity of arms with him which were placed in his hands by Eastern friends for the defense of the cause of freedom. Having more than he could use to advantage, a portion of them were placed in the hands of those more destitute. A company was organized and the command given to Mr. Brown for the zeal he had exhibited in the cause of freedom both before and since his arrival in the Territory.

The Muster roll of the Company of Brown organized at Lawrence on the 7th of December is as follows:

Muster roll of Capt. John Brown's company in the Fifth Regiment of the First Brigade of Kansas Volunteers, commanded by Col. George W. Smith, called into the service of the people of Kansas to defend the city of Lawrence, in the Territory of Kansas, from threatened demolition by foreign invaders, enrolled at Osawatomie K. T., called into service from the 27th day of November. A. D. 1855. when mustered to the 12th day of December, when discharged. Service sixteen days.

Name and Rank.Age.
John Brown, Sen., Captain........................55
Wm. W. Updegraff, 1st Lieutenant.................34
Henry H. Williams, 2d Lieutenant.................27
James.J. Holbrook. 3d Lieutenant.................23
Ephraim Reynolds, 1st Sergeant...................25
R. N. Wood, 2d Sergeant..........................20
Frederick Brown, 3d Sergeant.....................25
John Yetton, 4th Sergeant........................26
Henry Alderman, 1st Corporal.....................55
H. Harrison Updegraff, 2d Corporal...............23
Daniel W. Collis, 3d Corporal....................27
William Partridge, 4th Corporal..................32
Amos D. Alderman ................................20
Owen Brown ......................................31
Salmon Brown ....................................19
John Brown, Jr...................................34
Francis Brennen .................................29
William W. Caine ................................19
Benjamin L. Cochran .............................34
Jeremiah Harrison ...............................22
(Endorsed.)

Muster roll of Capt. John Brown's company, Kansas Volunteers:

I certify on honor, that this Muster Roll exhibits the true state of Capt. John Brown's Company of the Fifth Regiment of Kansas Volunteers for the period herein mentioned; that each man answers to his own proper name in person; that the remarks set opposite each man's name, officer and soldier, are accurate and just.

GEORGE W. SMITH,
Colonel commanding the Fifth Regiment Kansas Volunteers.

December 12, A. D. 1855, Lawrence, K. T.

Old John Brown was displeased when the Free-State men were dismissed. He mounted an improvised platform and began to address the crowd when he was pulled down and not permitted to finish his speech. He wanted to fight. He was not deceived. He knew that conditions were such at that time that slavery would have to be shot to death. While he was suppressed and sent back home with his message undelivered, he bided his time. We shall hear of him later.

On the 16th of December, Brown wrote his family a letter in which he described the conditions in the Territory, and how he came to go to Lawrence. This letter is set down here:

OSAWATOMIE, K. T., 16th DECEMBER, 1855, SABBATH EVENING

DEAR WIFE AND CHILDREN, EVERY ONE:

I improve the first moment since my return from the camp of volunteers who lately turned out for the defense of the town of Lawrence, in this Territory, and notwithstanding, I suppose you have learned the result before this (possibly), will give a brief account of the invasion in my own way.

About three or four weeks ago, news came that a Free-state man by the name of Dow had been murdered by a Pro-slavery man named Coleman, who had gone and given himself up for trial to a Pro-slavery Gov. Shannon. This was soon followed by further news that a Free-state man who was the only reliable witness against the murderer had been seized by a Missourian, appointed Sheriff by the bogus Legislature of Kansas, upon false pretenses, examined, and held to bail under such heavy bonds to answer the false charges, as he could not give, and that, while on his way to jail, in charge of the bogus Sheriff, he was rescued by some men belonging to a company near Lawrence; and that, in consequence of the rescue, Gov. Shannon had ordered out all the Pro-slavery force he could muster in the Territory, and called on Missouri for further help; that about two thousand had collected, demanding a surrender of the rescued witness and the rescuers, the destruction of several buildings and printing presses, and a giving up of the Sharpe's rifles by the Free-state men, threatening to destroy the town with cannon with which they were provided, etc.; that about an equal number of Free-state men had turned out to resist them, and that a battle was hourly expected, or supposed to have been already fought.

These reports seemed to be well authenticated, but we could get no further account of matters, and I left this for the place where the boys were settled at evening, intending to go to Lawrence to learn the facts the next day. John was, however, started on horseback, but before he had gone many rods word came that our help was immediately wanted.

On getting this news, it was at once agreed to break up at John's camp, and take Wealthy and Johnny to Jason's camp (some two miles off), and that all the men but Henry, Jason and Oliver should at once set off for Lawrence under arms, those three being wholly unfit for duty. We then set about providing a little corn bread and meat, blankets, cooking utensils, running bullets, loading all our guns, pistols, etc. The five set off in the afternoon, and after a short rest in the night (which was quite dark) continued our march until after daylight next morning, when we got our breakfast, started again, and reached Lawrence in the forenoon, all of us more or less lamed by our tramp. On reaching the place, we found that negotiations had commenced between Gov. Shannon (having a force of some fifteen or sixteen hundred men) and the principal leaders of the Free-state men, they having a force of some five hundred men at that time. These were busy night and day fortifying the town with embankments and circular earthworks up to the time of the treaty with the Governor, as an attack was constantly looked for, notwithstanding the negotiations then pending. This state of things continued from Friday until Sunday evening. On the evening we left, a company of the invaders of from fifteen to twenty-five attacked some three or four Free-state men, mostly unarmed, killing a Mr. Barber, from Ohio, wholly unarmed. His body was afterward brought in and lay for some days in the room afterward occupied by the company to which I belonged (it being organized after we reached Lawrence).

The building was a large, unfinished stone hotel, in which a great part of the volunteers were quartered, and who witnessed the scene of bringing in the wife and friends of the murdered man. I will only say of this scene that it was heart-rending, and calculated to exasperate the men exceedingly, and one of the sure results of civil war.

After frequently calling on the leaders of the Free-state men to come and have an interview with him, by Gov. Shannon; as often getting for an answer that if he had any business to transact with any one in Lawrence to come and attend to it, he signified his wish to come into the town, and an escort was sent to the invaders' camp to conduct him in.

When there, the leading Free-state men, finding out his weakness, frailty and consciousness of the awkward circumstances into which he had really got himself, took advantage of his cowardice and folly, and by means of that and the free use of whisky and some trickery succeeded in getting a written arrangement with him much to their own liking. He stipulated with them to order the Pro-slavery men of Kansas home, and to proclaim to the Missouri invaders that they must quit the Territory without delay, and also give up Gen. Pomeroy, a prisoner in their camp, which was all done; he also reeognized the volunteers as the militia of Kansas, and empowered their officers to call them out whenever, in their discretion, the safety of Lawrence or other portions of the Territory might require it to be clone.

He, Gov. Shannon, gave up all pretension of further attempt to enforce the enactments of the bogus Legislature and retired, subject to the derision and scoffs of the Free-state men (into whose hands he had committed the welfare and protection of Kansas), and to the pity of some and the curses of others of the invading force.

So, ended this last Kansas invasion, the Missourians returning with flying colors after incurring heavy expenses, suffering great exposure, hardships and privations, not having fought any battles, burned or destroyed any infant towns or Abolition presses, leaving the Free-state men organized and armed, and in full possession of the Territory, not having fulfilled any of all their dreadful threatenings, except to murder one unarmed man, and to commit some robberies and waste of property upon defenseless families unfortunately in their power.

We learn by their papers that they boast of a great victory over the Abolitionists, and well they may. Free-State men have only to here-after retain the footing they have gained, and KANSAS IS FREE. Yesterday the people passed upon the Free-State Gonstitution. The result, though not yet known, no one doubts.

One little circumstance connected with our own number showing the true character of the invader: On our way, about three miles from Lawrence, we had to pass a bridge (with our arms and ammunition), of which the invaders held possession; but as the five had each a gun, with two large revolvers in a belt (exposed to view) with a third in his pocket, and as we moved directly on the bridge without making any halt, they, for some reason, suffered us to pass without interruption, notwithstanding there were some fifteen to twenty-five (variously reported) stationed in a log house at one end of the bridge. We could not count them. A boy, on our approach, ran and gave them notice. Five others of our company, well armed, who followed us some miled behind, met with equally civil treatment the same day. After we left to go to Lawrence until we returned when disbanded, I did not see the least sign of cowardice or want of self-possession exhibited, by any volunteer of the eleven companies who constituted the Free-state force, and I never expect again to see an equal number of such well behaved, cool, determined men, fully as I believe, sustaining the high character of the Revolutionary Fathers. But enough of this, as we intend to send you a paper giving a fuller account of the alTair. We have cause for gratitude that we all returned safe and well, with the exception of hard colds, and found those left behind rather improving. We have received $50 from father, and learn from him that he has sent you the same amount, for which we ought to be grateful, as we are much relieved, both as respects ourselves and you. The mails have been kept back during the invasion, but we hope to hear from you again soon. Mr. Adair's folks are well, or nearly so. Weather most pleasant, but sometimes most severe. No snow of any account as yet; can think of but little more to write.

Monday morning - 17th. The ground for the first time is fairly whitened with snow and it is quite cold, but we have had before a good deal of cold weather with heavy rains. Henry and Oliver, and I may say, Jason, were disappointed in not being able to go to the war. The disposition of both our camps to turn out was uniform.

May God abundantly bless you all and make you faithful.

Your affectionate husband and father,
JOHN BROWN.

The Wakarusa War gave James H. Lane the ascendency over Robinson with the Free-State men. After that war, Lane was supreme in Kansas political affairs. He had met most of the strong men of the Territory in the ranks of the defenders of Lawrence. They were Western men, like himself. His views were their views. His language was their language. They understood him. There was a common feeling between Lane and these strong men assembled to fight for freedom. Lane was in personal command of the troops and superintended the construction of the defences of the town. His services in the Mexican War eminently fitted him for this work. The excitement of the times kept his magnificent personality on the keenest tension. The men under arms relied implicitly on his judgment. The bonds cemented there between Lane and the Free-State men of Kansas ended only with death. While he was in the trenches day and night, Robinson was in his office and out of sight. He conducted the negotiations. The men wanted to fight the Border-Ruffians, but Robinson did not want to fight. The men were displeased with the temporizing of Robinson. They knew as well as did Atchison that the treaty of peace was no settlement of the differences between the parties. This treaty was the beginning of the decadence of Robinson's influence. It was also the proof that the Emigrant Aid Company would accomplish nothing for Kansas. From that day it was dead beyond any possible revival. The Free-State men realized its true status and intentions. They never relied on it again for anything. They saw it was speculative, and for the sole use and benefit of its officers.

Salmon Brown was in Lawrence with his father. In his communication to this author, dated May 28, 1913, he had this to say of the closing scenes of the Wakarusa War:

Father took his horse and wagon loaded with guns, with all of his sons that were able to go, I among the rest, and started for Lawrence in the evening. We reached Wakarusa bridge early the next morning. The bridge was guarded by the ruffians but they let us pass as we were all armed to the teeth. We got into Lawrence that forenoon.

We were greeted by Lane and Capt. Abbott with much joy on our arrival and given quarters in the Free State Hotel. The town was well fortified with earthworks under the direction of Lane. There were then about six hundred recruits in town to defend the place. We had plenty to eat of bread and meat and slept on the floor of the hotel.

Lane was in charge of the men. I think the next day after we arrived a man by the name of Barber was killed one mile south of Lawrence by a gang of men under the direction of Sheriff Jones. Barber had been out to his home that day to see if his family was all right. Coming back to Lawrence he was killed by Jones posse and left there for the flies to blow. Some of our people heard the shooting and went out and brought his body in and put it in a room of the hotel.

A squad of our men went after Mrs. Barber and brought her in. The scene that followed was heart rending in the extreme. I never heard such screams of anguish come from any human being. The whole town was wild with excitement.

Gov. Robinson had arranged to meet Shannon that evening at the Free State Hotel to see if they couldn't fix up a treaty and stop the war. Shannon came up from his horde of Missouri militia escorted by a Free State committee and was taken to an upper room in the Free State Hotel to fix up the treaty of peace with Gov. Robinson's faction. He was well supplied with liquor which the committee furnished knowing his weakness and his fall from the high positions through drink.

He was one of the finest looking men I ever saw, with a gigantic brain and physique, six and one half feet tall and straight as a Liberty pole; he possessed a fluent tongue and impressive manners.

While Robinson's clique were manipulating Shannon there was a rumor that Sheriff Jones was to be admitted to the upper counsel in the hotel. The men were about equally divided between Lane men and Robinson men, - both sides ready to fight for their man, with guns in their hands flourishing them in a frantic and hostile manner. I looked on amazed at the scene.

James H. Lane at this critical moment, jumped on a big work bench and said "If Sheriff Jones comes in here with the dead body of Barber in the house, we will carry him out with a couple of chips."

My brother John placed me at the door to watch my father for fear he would shoot Sheriff Jones if he came in as had been arranged by the Robinson clique. The crowd all cooled off somewhat, Lane among the rest, and Sheriff Jones was admitted to the upper room and doped with Old Rye. Very little sleep came to any one of those six hundred men that night.

The next morning Shannon, very much sobered up and realized how he had been beaten by his own weakness, and tricked by the Robinson crowd, went out to the planks that led into the hotel and in a very dignified speech and manner explained to all of us that a compromise had been completed and no blood would be shed, and the validity of the territorial laws would be upheld. Of course he meant the Lecompton laws. In fact the Robinson crowd got all the concessions that they asked for but let Shannon clear himself before Pierce's administration who were behind the Lecompton laws. One of their laws made it punishable with death to speak, write, or circulate anything against slavery.

My father, who wanted to make a night attack on the ruffians who had come there to burn the town and kill the bona fide settlers in order to establish slavery, was so put out by the compromise that when Shannon finished his speech he got up on the same planks and said, "We have been betrayed by this compromise." Robinson's men caught hold of him and pulled him down off the planks.

The little episode between Lane and Robinson about admitting Sheriff Jones to the council after he had come fresh from the killing of Barber was settled the next day, when we were all drawn up in line by Lane to be discharged, by Robinson coming out in front of Lane's command and apologizing in a humble manner for asking Jones into the council. He said he had made a great mistake. Lane, standing in front of his command of six hundred brave boys, said in a voice that could be heard the whole length of the line, that if Robinson had been his own brother he would have protested in the same manner. Then we were discharged and went home to go through a very cold winter and deep snows.

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

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