1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 29 Part 4

On the same day the proclamation of I. B. Donalson was brought to the attention of the people of Lawrence. This proclamation had been sent to all the border towns several days before the Free-State people of Lawrence knew anything of its existence.



WHEREAS, Certain judicial arrests have been directed to me by the First District Court of the United States, etc., to be executed within the county of Douglas, and whereas an attempt to execute them by the United States Deputy Marshal was evidently resisted by a large number of the people of Lawrence, and as there is every reason to believe that any attempt to execute these writs will be resisted by a large body of armed men; now, therefore, the law-abiding citizens of the Territory are commanded to be and appear at Lecompton, as soon as practicable, and in numbers sufficient for the execution of the law.

Given under my hand this 11th day of May, 1856.

United States Marshal of the Territory of Kansas.

P. S. - No liability for expenses will be incurred by the United States until its consent is obtained.

The Law and Order party, in connection with the Border-Ruffians, were planning another attack on Lawrence. This proclamation was only a part of the well-laid plan. Missourians began to assemble along the Wakarusa two days before the date of the proclamation. They waylaid travelers, robbed teamsters, stole horses and cattle, and initiated a reign of lawlessness and terrorism. Anarchy existed in Kansas. The condition of the people of Lawrence was critical in the extreme. General Lane had gone East in March at the direction of the Free-State Legislature, and was then laying the cause of Kansas before the people of the North. Robinson was a prisoner. Other leaders were being sought by Salters and Fain. In this extremity the people determined to make one more appeal to Governor Shannon. A mass convention was called at Lawrence on the 13th which adopted a preamble and resolutions. Copies were immediately forwarded to Governor Shannon and Marshal Donalson.

This harsh and partisan letter from the Governor, under such circumstances, could not be regarded as anything short of a declaration of war.

As the citizens of Lawrence were anxious to avert troubles, if possible. a meeting was held and the following action taken:

WHEREAS, By a proclamation to the people of Kansas Territory, by J. B. Donaldson, United States Marshal for said Territory, issued on the 11th day of May, 1856, it is alleged that certain judicial writs of arrest have been directed to him by the First District Court of the United States, etc., to be executed within the county of Douglas, and that an attempt to execute them by the Deputy United States Marshal was violently resisted by a large number of the citizens of Lawrence, and that there is every reason to believe that an attempt to execute said writs will he resisted by a large body of armed men, therefore,

Resolved, By this public meeting of the citizens of Lawrence, held this 13th day of May, 1856, that the allegations and charges against us, contained in the aforesaid proclamation, are wholly untrue in fact, and in the conclusion which is drawn from them. The aforesaid Marshal was resisted in no manner whatever, nor by any person whatever, in the execution of said writs, except by him whose arrest the said Deputy Marshal was seeking to make. And that we now, as we have done heretofore, declare our willingness and determination, without resistance, to acquiesce in the service upon us, of any judicial writs against us, by the United States Marshal for Kansas Territory, and will furnish him with a posse for that purpose, if so requested; but that we are ready to resist, if need be, unto death, the ravages and desolation of an invading mob.

J. A. WAKEFIELD, President.

The Border-Ruffians continued to arrive in the vicinity of Lawrence. Atchison came with his Platte County Rifles and two pieces of artillery. Captain Dunn appeared with his Kickapoo Rangers, which had been augmented by recruits from Platte County, Missouri. The Stringfellow brothers, Robert Kelly and P. T. Able were in command of the Law and Order forces from Atchison and from Buchanan County, Missouri. Colonel Warner D. Wilkes, of South Carolina, and Colonel Titus, of Florida, were present in command of forces from their respective states. Four hundred men were at Franklin under the command of Colonel Boone of Westport, and Colonel Jefferson Buford. These were the emigrants who had come into the Territory early in the spring as the result of the efforts of Atchison, Buford, and others. Those having no arms were furnished guns by Governor Shannon from the United States Armory at Lecompton. These forces lived off the country, robbing the settlers of supplies of food and of live-stock.

On the 13th of May another meeting of the citizens of Lawrence was held. The resolutions passed were similar to those of the former meeting. These, together with a letter signed by three of the leading citizens, were sent to Marshal Donalson by a Pro-Slavery resident of Lawrence. The letter and Donalson's reply are here shown.

LAWRENCE, MAY 14, 1856.

I. B. Donalson, United States Marshal for Kansas Territory.

Dear Sir - We have seen a proclamation issued by yourself, dated 11th of May inst., and also have reliable information this morning that large bodies of armed men, in pursuance of your proclamation, have assembled in the vicinity of Lawrence.

That there be no misunderstanding, we beg leave to ask respectfully, that we may be reliably informed what are the demands against us. We desire to state most truthfully and earnestly, that no opposition will, now or at any future time, be offered to the execution of any legal process by yourself or any person acting for you. We also pledge ourselves to assist you, if called upon, in the execution of any legal process.

We declare ourselves to be order-loving and law-abiding citizens, and only await an opportunity to test our fidelity to the laws of the country, the Constitution and the Union.

We are informed, also, that these men collected about Lawrence, openly declare that their intention is to destroy the town, and drive off the citizens. of course, we do not believe that you would give any countenance to such threats; but, in view of the excited state of the public mind, we ask protection of the constituted authorities of the Government, declaring ourselves in readiness to co-operate with them for the maintenance of the peace, order and quiet of the community in which we live.

Very respectfully,




LECOMPTON, K. T., MAY 15, 1856.

Messrs. G. W. Deitzler and J. H. Green, Lawrence, Kansas Territory.

On yesterday, I received a communication addressed to me, signed by one of you as President, and the other as Secretary, purporting to have been adopted by a meeting of the citizens of Lawrence, held on yesterday morning. After speaking of a proclamation, issued by myself, you state, "That there may be no misunderstanding, we beg leave to ask respectfully, that we may be reliably informed what are the demands against us. We desire most truthfully and earnestly to declare that no opposition whatever, will now, or at any future time, be offered to the execution of any legal process, etc."

From your professed ignorance of the demands against you, I must conclude that you are strangers, and not citizens, of Lawrence, or of recent date, or been absent for some time, more particularly when an attempt was made by my deputy to execute the process of the First District Court of the United States for Kansas Territory, against ex-Gov. Reeder, when he made a speech in the room and in the presence of the Congressional Committee, and denied the power and authority of said court, and threatened the life of said deputy, if he attempted to execute said process, which speech and defiant threats were loudly applauded by some one or two hundred of the citizens of Lawrence, who had assembled at the room on learning the business of the Marshal, and made such hostile demonstrations that the deputy thought he and his small posse would endanger their lives in executing said process.

Your declaration that you will truthfully and earnestly offer now, or at any future time, no opposition to any legal process, etc., is indeed difficult to understand. May I ask, gentlemen, what has produced this wonderful change in the minds of the people of Lawrence? Have their eyes been suddenly opened so that they are now able to see that there are laws in Kansas Territory which should be obeyed? Or, is it that just now, those for whom I have writs, have sought refuge elsewhere? Or, it may possibly be that you now, as heretofore, expect to screen yourselves behind the word "legal," so significantly used by you. How am I to rely on your pledges, when I am well aware that the whole population of Lawrence is armed and drilled, and the town fortified - when, too, I recollect the meetings and resolutions adopted in Lawrence and elsewhere in the Territory - openly defying the laws and the officers thereof, and threatening to resist the same to a bloody issue, as recently verified in the attempted assassination of Sheriff Jones, while in the discharge of his official duties in Lawrence? Are you strangers to all these things? Surely you must be strangers in Lawrence. If no outrages have been committed by the citizens of Lawrence against the laws of the land, they need not fear any posse of mine. But I must take the liberty of executing all processes in my hands as United States Marshal, in my own time and manner. and shall only use such power as is authorized by law. You say you call upon the constituted authorities for protection. This indeed sounds strange, coming from a large body of men, armed with Sharpe's rifles, and other implements of war, bound together by oaths and pledges, to resist the Government they call on for protection. All persons in Kansas Territory without regard to location who honestly submit to the constituted authorities, will ever find me ready to aid in protecting them; and who seek to resist the laws of the land, and turn traitors to their country, will find me aiding in enforcing the laws, if not as an officer, as a citizen.

Respectfully yours,
I. B. DONALSON, U. S. Marshal Kansas Territory.

The condition in Lawrence on the 16th of May is well described by the Herald of Freedom:

Outrage follows outrage with frightful rapidity. The list is swelling. Every day some new crime is brought to light which equals in enormity its predecessors. The reign of terror has commenced. The bowie-knife and revolver, the hatchet and hempen rope are the instruments brought into requisition to awe, intimidate, and crush out the liberty-loving portion of our fellow-citizens. Stealthily assassins roam over the country, under cover of the night, dogging the footsteps of unsuspecting citizens, and watching the opportune moment to strike the cowardly blow. Men, known of men to be murderers, walk unabashed, unwhipped of justice, in the very presence of the shameless officers of misnamed law, boldly and boastingly proclaiming their complicity in crime. No man's life is safe from one day to another if he has declared, never so mildly, his opposition to the aggression of slavery. And if he has come out openly and manfully in the defence of his inalienable rights he is hunted down like a wild beast. He must flee the land. No place here is safe from the intrusion of the bloodhounds. He must run the gauntlet in Missouri before he can reach a place of safety on soil free from the curse and unsubdued by the blighting rule of oppression.

The hue and cry is now raised against Governor Robinson and Senator Reeder. "Kill them! Kill them!" is in the throats of every brawler who goes unhung in Kansas. Their movements are watched, their goings out and comings in carefully noted, and they are forced to seek a place of safety in the free States. Thus it is the people of Kansas are environed by bloodthirsty foes and hostile bands. As affairs are working now, no earthly power call prevent a bloody collision. If it must come, the sooner we have whipped out our enemies, the sooner will quiet be restored to the country. Human patience cannot long endure this system of terrorism and persecution. If we can secure quietude in no other way than by fighting for it, surely it were infinitely better that we pass through a sanguinary struggle than be made slaves.

The people of Lawrence made every effort to avoid the disaster hanging over them. The Congressional Committee, then in session at Leavenworth, being urged to take some action in their behalf, declined. Shannon had sent Colonel Sumner back to Leavenworth. He was requested by the people of Lawrence, to come to their rescue, but he had no authority to do so. On the 18th of May, S. W. and T. B. Eldridge, who had leased the Free-State hotel, went to the Border-Ruffian camp and proposed that if Governor Shannon would order Colonel Sumner to return to Lawrence and camp there, every gun in the city should be surrendered and held by the United States troops until all the writs had been served. They were arrested on their way to Lecompton by Ruffians under command of Stringfellow. When they were finally permitted to see the Governor, he told them that the South Carolinians would accept nothing but the surrender of all arms to himself or Marshal Donalson. He declined to order Colonel Sumner to Lawrence. In remonstrating with the Governor over the terms he proposed, the gentlemen expressed fears that the people would fight rather than submit to such humiliation. To this Shannon said, "War, then, by G__d," and left the room.

On the 19th the Marshal's posse murdered a Free-State boy named Jones. They met him near Blanton's bridge, as he was returning home. He was carrying a bag of meal for bread for his widowed mother and himself. Coming upon him one of the Marshal's force shot him. He exclaimed, "Oh, my God, I am shot," and fell dead. When this was told in Lawrence, two of his companions started out to find the boy. Two men from the Border-Ruffian camp at Franklin met them, insulted them, and finally fired upon them, killing one of them named Stewart, whose bloody corpse was carried into Lawrence. Indignation and excitement resulted. A company of boys was formed, which immediately left for Lawrence to attack the Border-Ruffians. So rash a movement was stopped by the Committee of Safety.

On the evening of the 20th, Deputy Marshal Fain made two arrests in Lawrence. He was not opposed. At that time the people would have aided him in making arrests of any persons for whom he had warrants regularly issued. But it was not the intention to let this matter be settled in so peaceful a manner. Lawrence was surrounded by about eight hundred Border-Ruffians. During the night of the 20th they assembled on Mount Oread. They were well informed as to the conditions existing in Lawrence, and were satisfied that no resistance would be offered by the town.

On Wednesday morning, the 21st of May, the people of Lawrence beheld, encamped on Mount Oread, the eight hundred men who had been gathering for weeks to destroy their city. The Committee of Safety, having been unable to come to any agreement with Governor Shannon or Marshal Donalson, had determined that no resistance should be made. The women and children were sent to the ravine at the mouth of which lay the Lane-Jenkins contested claim. It was expected that the Border-Ruffians would burn the town.

About 11 o'clock Fain rode down from Mount Oread with a guard of ten men. He summoned a small posse from the citizens. These obeyed the summons. He then arrested G. W. Deitzler, Gaius Jenkins and Geo. W. Smith. It was by that time noon. Fain and his guard dined at the Free-State Hotel, which was open to the public on that day for the first time. They did not pay for the dinner. Having no further business to transact in Lawrence, the Marshal returned to the camp of the Ruffians on the hill. He had been handed a letter written by the Committee of Safety, saying that the citizens would acknowledge the constituted authorities of the Government and make no resistance to the laws, National or Territorial.

LAWRENCE, K. T., MAY 21, 1856.

I. B. Donalson, United States Marshal Kansas Territory:

We, the Committee of Public Safety for the citizens of Lawrence make this statement and declaration to you, as Marshal of Kansas Territory:

That we represent the citizens of the United States and of Kansas who acknowledge the constituted authorities of the Government, that we make no resistance to the execution of the law National or Territorial - and claim it as law-abiding American citizens.

For the private property already taken by your posse, we ask indemnification, and what remains to us and our citizens we throw upon you for protection, trusting that under the flag of the Union, and within the folds of the Constitution, we may obtain safety.


[Copy by Willard
of Portrait in
Library of Kansas
State Historical Society]

When Marshal Fain returned to the headquarters of the Border-Ruffian force on Mount Oread with his prisoners, he dismissed his guard, saying: "Sheriff Jones has writs yet to be served, and you are at liberty to organize as his posse if any desire to do so." Sheriff Jones was not recovered from his wounds, but was able to ride his horse. He now came forward and was greeted with enthusiastic cheers. Selecting twenty armed men as a guard, he rode into Lawrence. He halted in front of the Free-State Hotel and called for some representative of the people to come forth. S. C. Pomeroy went out and was greeted by Jones in a friendly way. The two shook hands. Jones demanded that the citizens give up their arms, allowing five minutes for decision on that demand. Pomeroy said that the arms of the citizens could not be given up, as that was an individual matter, but that he would surrender the cannon under control of the Committee. The cannon had been concealed under Blood's Hardware Store. Pomeroy led Jones and his company to that building and tore out the foundation wall, when the cannon was revealed. He turned it over to Jones.

The main force of the Border Ruffians were a long time coming down from Mount Oread. They finally descended to the plain. It was about three o'clock. When they had all assembled at the-point where the Court House now stands, Atchison made them the following speech:

Boys, this day I am a Kickapoo Ranger, by God! This day we have entered Lawrence with "Southern Rights" inscribed upon our banner, and not one damned Abolitionist dared to fire a gun. Now, boys, this is the happiest day of my life. We have entered that damned town, and taught the damned Abolitionists a Southern lesson that they will remember until the day they die. And now, boys, we will go in again, with our highly honorable Jones, and test the strength of that damned Free-State Hotel, and teach the Emigrant Aid Company that Kansas shall be ours. Boys, ladies should, and I hope will, be respected by every gentleman. But when a woman takes upon herself the garb of a soldier by carrying a Sharp's rifle, then she is no longer worthy of respect. Trample her under your feet as you would a snake! Come on, boys! Now do your duty to yourselves and your Southern friends. Your duty I know you will do. If one man or woman dare stand before you, blow them to hell with a chunk of cold lead.

Jones had returned to the main force, which he now led north on Massachusetts street. The Ruffians had brought one fair sized cannon with them. Jones exhibited the writs authorizing him to destroy the printing presses of the Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State, as well as the Free-State Hotel. Short work was made of the printing presses. They were broken up. The type was carried to the river and thrown in. The stocks of paper were destroyed. All the tools and appliances at the offices were broken and cast into the street. The cannon was planted on the east side of Massachusetts street, opposite the Free-State Hotel. A Ruffian carried the South Carolina flag to the top of the hotel and fastened it in a chimney. In doing so, he removed a brick to make a notch to hold the flag-staff. This brick he dropped, or perhaps it was accidently brushed off the chimney, when it fell, striking a Ruffian on the head, killing him instantly, as some accounts say. By other accounts he died that night in the camp of the Westport company, on the Wakarusa. He seems to have been a resident Ruffian, from Hickory Point. Some say the Ruffians trained four cannon on the hotel.

[From Merrill's History
of Kansas,
Cincinnati, 1856]
The appearance of the South Carolina flag on the battlements of the Free-State Hotel, created great enthusiasm in the ranks of the Ruffians. Major Buford was galloping about giving orders. Colonel Titus was in charge of the cavalry - about two hundred men. These he paraded in the street north of the hotel. The Stringfellows were there. G. W. Clarke was in command of the Doniphan Tigers and the Kickapoo Rangers. These swarmed about the hotel, cheering, yelling in triumph. Atchison fired the first shot at the hotel, and missed the building. The Stringfellows then took charge of the artillery and fired more than fifty shots through the hotel. It was seen that the walls could not be broken down by solid shot. Major Buford called out: "Shoot the corners of the buildings out. Then the walls will fall." But the gunners were not expert enough to do that. Kegs of powder were then exploded in the building. These had little effect, the floors heaving up and settling back into their proper places. A barrel of pitch was rolled into the hotel and set on fire. Brands were carried from this burning pitch into all the rooms and applied to the beds. Furniture was piled in hallways and the large rooms and set on fire. In a short time the building was enveloped in flames. As they rose in the sky, so did the enthusiasm of the Border-Ruffians rise. The mightiest shout went up when the walls collapsed. Jones was the most exultant of all. He frequently affirmed, "This is the happiest moment of my life. I determined to make the fanatics bow before me in the dust and kiss the Territorial laws." When the walls fell in, he exclaimed, "I have done it, by __, I have done it." Turning to the soldiers he discharged them, saying, "You are dismissed, the writs have been executed." The Ruffians then dispersed. They broke into the principal stores under pretense that they were searching for arms. These stores were looted. The loss of the town from this cause alone must have been not less than $150,000. As they were leaving, the Ruffians burned Governor Robinson's house. It had already been plundered of every valuable thing. The Lecompton Union, a rabid Pro-Slavery paper, had this account of the sacking of Lawrence:

During this time appeals were made to Sheriff Jones to save the aid society's hotel. This news reached the company's ears and was received with one universal cry of "No, no; blow it up. blow it up!"

About this time a banner was seen fluttering in the breeze over the office of the Herald of Freedom. Its color was a blood red, with a lone star in the center, and South Carolina above. This banner was placed there by the Carolinians. The effect was prodigious. One tremendous and long-continued shout burst from the ranks. Thus floated in triumph the banner of South Carolina - that single white star, so emblematic of her course in the early history of our sectional disturbances. . .

Thus floated victoriously the first banner of southern rights over the abolition town of Lawrence, unfurled by the noble sons of Carolina, and every whip of its folds seemed a death-stroke to Beecher propagandism and the fanatics of the east. O that its red folds could have been seen by every southern eye!

Mr. Jones listened to many entreaties, and finally replied that it was beyond his power to do anything, and gave the occupants so long to remove all private property from it. He ordered two companies into each printing office to destroy the press. Both presses were broken up and thrown into the river, and all the material belonging to each office destroyed. After this was accomplished, and the private property removed from the hotel by the different companies, the cannons were brought in front of the house and directed their destructive blows upon the walls. The building caught on fire, and soon its walls came with a crash to the ground. Thus fell the abolition fortress, and we hope this will teach the aid society a good lesson for the future. . . . The "red shirts" raised the first flag upon the Free State Hotel. They have in possession the 12-pound howitzer taken from the enemy, and whenever necessary can use it effectually. Captain Donalson may feel proud of his "red shirts."

The correspondent of the Missouri Republican wrote to his paper:

At the expiration of two hours, the artillery was drawn up in front of the public entrance to the hotel, and a dozen or fifteen shots fired into it, completely riddling the inside and breaking holes in the wall; and after shaking the walls with two or three blasts, the structure was fired, and before the sun went down all that remained of the aid hotel was a solitary wall, holding itself up as a warning to the law-breakers, and seeming to say, "Look at me and beware!"


Not a life of the Abolitionists was lost; but two of the Pro-Slavery ranks lost theirs accidentally. A young man by the name of Kirget shot himself accidentally through the shoulder, and another from Hickory Point was hurt by the falling of a brick from a chimney, so that he died. This case was singular: The South Carolina company, whose flag was blood-red with a single star, had planted it on one of the small chimneys on top of the hotel; the breeze being brisk, the banner whipped of a brick, which fell on the poor young man's head, breaking the skull. He died that night in our camp.

The day, Wednesday, the 21st of May, was truly a May day; the sun scarcely ever shone more brilliantly, and all, save Lawrence, looked fresh with life and glory. But that ill-fated town appeared deserted, doomed. The women and children had been removed for safety and the men had run away for cowardice. I shall continue my notes on this subject when I can, but for the present must conclude, etc. I want to end this with a moral. Had not Ward Beecher better give his emigrants hickory shirts to protect their bodies with, in fact, than Sharpe's rifles to keep up a fuss with, and when the time to use them comes, run away to fight another day?

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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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