1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 31 Part 1
Kansas State House, Topeka

CHAPTER XXXI

LANE'S ARMY OF THE NORTH

The testimony of Eli Thayer and others before the Congressional Investigating Committee put the Emigrant Aid Company in its proper light. The people of Kansas had known from the first that the Company has assumed a position of duplicity, but it took the published words of Thayer under oath to undeceive the whole people of the North.

By the month of June, 1856, the people generally had come to know that the New England Emigrant Aid Company was accomplishing nothing in the crises of Kansas affairs. They saw plainly that the dependence first placed on that company had been entirely misplaced. It was doing nothing to forward the Free-State cause, but was engaged in securing lots in the towns being laid out in the Territory. It was apparent that help would have to be sought in another quarter. It was also seen that the Free-State men were insufficiently armed, and that the aid to be rendered must include guns and ammunition. There was no lack of men and none whatever of spirit and determination.

Early in the year of 1856, the Missourians considered a blockade on the Missouri River. Cannon were placed at various points to command steamboats bringing emigrants to Kansas. Many boats were stopped and searched. By July the Border-Ruffians were turning back companies of Free-State men. An Illinois company was forced aboard the boat at Leavenworth and compelled to return, as we shall see.

By direction of the Free-State Legislature and Constitutional Convention, James H. Lane had gone to Washington in March to present the Topeka Constitution to Congress, and endeavor to have Kansas admitted as a State. He was also instructed to make a tour of the North in the interest of Kansas. We have seen that his presentation of the Constitution led to no definite results. His appeal to the North had a far different effect. He addressed monster meetings in many Northern states. He kindled in all of them an enthusiasm for a, free Kansas. The outrages of the Border-Ruffians furnished him new incidents every day. The sacking of Lawrence was told as only Lane could tell it. Wherever he spoke, the people organized to send substantial aid to Kansas. Other Kansans were touring the North, and they rendered the country valuable service, but Lane was supreme, unapproachable in this campaign. His oratory reached its greatest height when Bleeding Kansas was his theme. His hearers were led up and up to frenzy. They threw their money into the coffers of committees which were organized to battle for freedom on the Kansas plains. The movement which followed Lane's efforts became a resistless tide, sweeping men and arms into the Territory to rescue Liberty and hurl back the hordes of slavery.

The meeting at Chicago was perhaps the greatest ever held in the interest of Kansas. It was on Saturday evening, May 31, 1856. Lawrence had been sacked ten days before. There was an immense crowd in the square about the Court House. Hon. Norman Judd was Chairman of the meeting. His speech on taking the chair was able and eloquent. He was followed by Francis A. Hoffman. Then J. C. Vaughan reviewed the conditions in Kansas and offered these resolutions:

Resolved, That the people of Illinois will aid the Freedom of Kansas.

Resolved, That they will send a colony of 500 actual settlers to that Territory, and provision them for one year.

Resolved, That these settlers will invade no man's rights, but will maintain their own.

Resolved, That we recommend the adoption of a similar policy to the people of all the States of the Union, ready and willing to aid; and also, a thorough concert and co-operation among them, through committees of correspondence, on this subject.

Resolved, That an Executive Committee of seven, viz., J. C. Vaughan, Mark Skinner, George W. Dole, I. N. Arnold, N. B. Judd and E. I. Tinkham, be appointed with full powers to carry into execution these resolutions.

Resolved, That Tuthill King, R. M. Hough, C. B. Waite, J. H. Dunham, Dr. Gibbs, J. T. Ryerson and W. B. Egan, be a finance committee to raise and distribute material aid.

They were adopted with great enthusiasm and long continued applause. Hon. W. B. Eagan addressed the meeting. He appealed to his Irish fellow-citizens to stand for Kansas. At the conclusion of his remarks the audience was in a state of excitement. The Chairman then introduced Gen. James H. Lane, of Kansas. It is to be regretted that his speech has not been preserved entire. It was one of his greatest efforts, equaled only by that which made sure the second nomination of Abraham Lincoln. The account compiled for the Andreas History of Kansas is the best which has been prepared of this meeting, and is here given:

The President then introduced Col. James H. Lane, of Kansas. As he rose up and came forward, he was greeted with an outburst of applause from the crowd that continued for some minutes, during which time he stood statuelike, with mouth firm set, gazing with those wondrous eyes down into the very heart of the excited throng. Before the applause had subsided sufficiently for his voice to be heard, the fascinating spell of his presence had already seized upon the whole vast audience, and for the next hour, he controlled its every emotion - moving to tears, to anger, to laughter, to scorn, to the wildest enthusiasm, at his will. No man of his time possessed such magnetic power over a vast miscellaneous assembly of men as he. With two possible exceptions (Patrick Henry and S. S. Prentiss), no American orator ever equaled him in effective stump speaking, or in the irresistible power by which he held his audiences in absolute control. On that night he was at his best. It was doubtless the ablest and most effective oratorical effort of his life. No full report of it was given at the time. One of the hundreds of young men made Kansas-crazy by the speech, and who forthwith left all and followed him to Kansas, thus wrote of it twenty years after:

"He was fresh from the scenes of dispute in the belligerent Territory. He made a characteristic speech, teeming with invective, extravagance, impetuosity, denunciation and eloquence. The grass on the prairie is swayed no more easily by the winds than was this vast assemblage by the utterances of this speaker. They saw the contending factions in the Territory through his glasses. The Pro-slavery party appeared like demons and assassins; the Free-state party like heroes and martyrs. He infused them with his warlike spirit and enthusiastic ardor for the practical champions of freedom. Their response to his appeals for succor for the struggling freemen was immediate and decisive."

It is doubtful if the writer of the above, or any other of the ten thousand hearers of that night, can recall a single sentence of his speech. The emotions aroused were so overwhelming as to entirely obliterate from memory the spoken words. A few broken extracts are preserved below. He began:

"I have been sent by the people of Kansas to plead their cause before the people of the North. Most persons have a very erroneous idea of the people of Kansas. They think they are mostly from Massachusetts. They are really more than nine-tenths from the Northwestern States. There are more men from Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, than from all New England and New York combined."

Speaking of the President, he said:

"Of Franklin Pierce I have a right to talk as I please, having made more than one hundred speeches advocating his election, and having also, as one of the electors of Indiana, cast the electoral vote of that State for him. Frank was, in part, the creature of my own hands; and a pretty job they made of it. The one pre-eminent wish of mine now is that Frank may be hurled from the White House; and that the nine memorials, sent him from the outraged citizens of Kansas detailing their wrongs, may be dragged out of his iron box."

Of the climate of Kansas, he said:

"Kansas is the Italy of America. The corn and the vine grow there so gloriously that they seem to be glad and to thank the farmers for planting them. It is a climate like that of Illinois, but milder. Invalids instead of going to Italy, when the country became known, would go to Kansas, to gather new life beneath its fair sky and from its balmy airs. The wild grapes of Kansas are as large and luscious as those that grow in the vineyards of Southern France."

He alluded to Col. W. H. Bissell, then the Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois, as follows:

"It is true I was side by side with your gallant and noble Bissell at Buena Vista and in Congress. I wish I could describe to you the scene on the morning preceding that glorious battle. On a ridge stood Clay, Bissell, McKee, Hardin and myself. Before us were twenty thousand armed enemies. It was a beautiful morning, and the sun shone bright upon the polished lances and muskets of the enemy, and their banners waved proudly in the breeze. In our rear the lofty mountains reached skyward, and their bases swarmed with enemies ready to rob the dead and murder the wounded when the battle was over. Around us stood five ragged regiments of volunteers, two from Illinois, two from Indiana, and one from Kentucky; they were bone of your bone blood of your blood, and it was only when you were near enough to look into their eyes that you could see the d_l was in them. It did not then occur to me that I should be indicted for treason because I loved liberty better than slavery.

He then gave a warm and glowing tribute to Col. Bissell, his brother-in-arms.

Then followed a most vivid and awful narrative of the outrages perpetrated upon the Free States' men by the Missouri ruffians; so vivid that the Osawatomie murders seemed but unmerited retaliation, and most sweet revenge to his excited hearers.

"The Missourians, [said he], poured over the border in thousands, with bowie knives in their boots, their belts bristling with revolvers, their guns upon their shoulders, and three gallons of whisky per vote in their wagons. When asked where they came from, their reply was, 'From Missouri;' when asked, 'What are you here for?' their reply was, 'Come to vote.' If any one should go there and attempt to deny these things, or apologize for them, the Missourians would spit upon him. They claim to own Kansas, to have a right to vote there and to make its laws, and to say what its institutions shall be."

Colonel Lane held up the volume of the Statutes of Kansas, then proceeded to read from it, commenting as he read:

"The Legislature first passed acts virtually repealing the larger portion of the Constitution of the United States, and then repealed, as coolly as one would take a chew of tobacco, provisions of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Of this bill I have a right to speak - God forgive me for so enormous and dreadful a political sin - I voted for the bill. I thought the people were to have the right to form their own institutions, and went to Kansas to organize the Democratic party there, and make the State Democratic, but the Missouri invaders poured in - the ballot boxes were desecrated - the bogus Legislature was elected by armed mobs - you know the rest.

"The Pro-slavery fragment of the Democratic party talk much about Know-nothingism. It is their song day and night. Well, these Kansas law-makers have gone to work and repealed at once the clause in the Nebraska Bill, that gave the right to vote to foreigners in Kansas on declaring their intention to become citizens, and made it requisite for them to have lived in the Territory five years, and to take the final oath; and at the same time, they made all Indians who adopted the habits of white men, voters at once. And what was the distinguishing habit of white men? Why, it was understood to be drinking whisky. All that was necessary to naturalize a Kansas Indian was to get him drunk. What Know-nothing lodge ever went so far in their nativism as this? - made foreigners in the Territory wait five years to become citizens, and enfranchising the drunken, thieving Indians at once, one and all!

"The Pro-slavery fragment of the Democratic party also delights in the term 'nigger worshiper,' to designate Free-state men. I will show you that these Pro-slavery men are of all nigger worshipers the most abject. According to the Kansas code (Col. Lane read from the book, giving page and section), if a person kidnaped a white child, the utmost penalty is six months in jail - if a nigger baby, the penalty is death. Who worships niggers, and slave nigger babies at that? To kidnap a white child into slavery - six months in jail - to kidnap a nigger into freedom - Death!"

He concluded his scathing review of the infamous code as follows:

"Is there an Illinoisan who says enforce these monstrous iniquities called laws? - show me the man. The people of Kansas never will obey them. They are being butchered, and one and all will die first! As for myself, I am going back to Kansas, where there is an indictment pending against me for high treason. Were the rope about my neck, I would say that as to the Kansas code it shall not be enforced - never! - NEVER!"

Following, he argued, elaborately and conclusively, the right of Kansas to come into the Union as a Free State "now." He closed his speech with a detailed account of the murders and outrages perpetrated upon the Free-state settlers, given with a masterly power of tragic delineation which brought each particular horror, blood-red and distinct, before the eyes of the excited throng. He knew of fourteen cases of tar and feathering - "the most awful and humiliating outrage ever inflicted on man." He told of Dow, shot dead while holding up his hands as a sign of his defenselessness; lying, like a dead dog, in the road all the long day, until in the evening his friends found his body, dabbled in his life blood, and bore it away; Barber, unarmed, shot on the highway, brought dead to Lawrence, where his frantic wife, a childless widow, 'mid shrieks of anguish, kissed the pallid lips that to her were silent evermore - Brown, stabbed, pounded, hacked with a hatchet, bleeding and dying, kicked into the presence of his wife, where in agony he breathed out his life - she, now a maniac, - a voice from the crowd called: "Who was Brown?" Lane continued:

"Brown was as gallant a spirit as ever went to his God! And a Democrat at that - not one of the Pro-slavery fragment, though. For the blood of free men shed on the soil of Kansas - for the blood now flowing in the streets of Lawrence - for every drop which has been shed since the people asked to be admitted as a State, the Administration is responsible. Before God and this people I arraign Frank Pierce as a murderer.

"In conclusion I have only this to say: The people of Kansas have undying faith in the justice of their cause - in the eternal life of the truths maintained - and they ask the people of Illinois to do for them that which seems to them just."

The Chicago Tribune, in its report of the meeting, June 2, says:

"We regret we can only give a meager outline of the eloquent and telling effort of Col. Lane. He was listened to with the deepest interest and attention by the vast throng, and as he detailed the series of infamous outrages inflicted upon the freemen of Kansas, the people were breathless with mortification and anger, or wild with enthusiasm to avenge those wrongs. During Col. Lane's address, he was often interrupted by the wildest applause, or by deep groans for Pierce, Douglas, Atchison, and the dough-faces and ruffians who had oppressed Kansas, and by cheers for Sumner, Robinson, and other noble men who have dared and suffered for liberty.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Language is inadequate to give the reader a conception of the effect of the recital of that tale of woe which men from Kansas had to tell; the flashing eyes, the rigid muscles, and the frowning brows told a story to the looker on that types cannot repeat. From the fact that the immense crowd kept their feet from 8 till 12 o'clock, that even then they were unwilling the speakers should cease, or that the contributions should stop; from the fact that working men, who have only the wages of the day for the purchase of the day's bread, emptied the contents of their pockets into the general fund; that sailors threw in their earnings; that widows sent up their savings; that boys contributed their pence; that those who had no money gave what they had to spare; that those who had nothing to give offered to go as settlers and do their duty to Freedom on that now consecrated soil; that every bold declaration for liberty, every allusion to the revolution of '76, and to the possibility that the battles of that period were to be fought over again in Kansas were received as those things most to be desired - something of the tone and temper of the meeting may be imagined.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"The effect of the meeting will be felt in deeds. Be the consequences what they may, the men of Illinois are resolved to act.

"Take it with its attending circumstances - the shortness of the notice, the character of the assembled multitude, and the work which was accomplished - it was the most remarkable meeting ever held in the State. We believe it will inaugurate a new era in Illinois. We believe it is the precursor of the liberation of Kansas from the hand of the oppressor, and of an all-pervading political revolution at home.

"About half past 12, Sunday having come, the meeting unwillingly adjourned, and the crowd reluctantly went home. At a later hour, the Star Spangled Banner and the Marseillaise, sung by bands of men whose hearts were full of the spirit of these magnificent hymns, were the only evidences of the event that we have endeavored to describe."

The subscriptions in money, given by upward of two hundred different persons and firms, in sums ranging in amount from $500 down to 10 cents - the latter sum being given by a boy, all he had - amounted to over $15,000. In addition were given the following utensils and supplies, for the use and comfort of the emigrants. The names of the donors and explanatory notes are given as reported:

F. R. Gardiner, six rifles, three with double barrels, sure at each pop.
Major Van Horn, one sixteen-shooter.
C. W. Davenport, one six-shooter, and ten pounds of balls.
An editor and a lawyer, four Sharpe's rifles and themselves.
D. G. Park, one can of dry powder.
C. H. Whitney, one revolver.
J. M. Isaacks, one Sharpe's rifle.
G. M. Jerome, Iowa City, one rifle.
A. S. Clarke, one Sharpe's rifle.
J. A. Barney, one rifle.
H. A. Blakesley, one rifle.
W. H. Clark, one double-barreled rifle and $10.
J. A. Graves, one Sharpe's rifle.
Frank Hanson, one double-barreled gun and $25.
A. German, one pair of pistols.
J. H. Hughes, one Colt's revolver.
F. M. Chapman, one horse.
Urhlaub & Sattler, three revolvers.

This meeting, although not the first of a like character held in the Northwest during that spring, was remarkable as being the first great outburst of enthusiasm, which, breaking local bounds, spread to every town and hamlet from the Mississippi to the Atlantic coast. It was the "little cloud no larger than a man's hand" which forthwith spread over the whole heavens, and out of it came money, and arms, and ammunition, and a ceaseless tide, of emigrants and troops of armed men - all setting Kansasward. Out of it came "Lane's Army of the North," in the imagination of the frightened Pro-slavery Kansans and Missourians, "a mighty host terrible with banners," coming, in uncertain but irresistible force, by a route indefinitely defined as from the north, to sweep, as with the besom of destruction, the Territory clean of the Territorial laws and every man who had advocated their enforcement. The army proved neither so numerous in numbers nor go terrible in its vengeful visitations on the Pro-Slavery settlers, as to justify their fearful apprehensions; nevertheless, its heralded approach inspired the Free-State settlers with renewed courage, opened a new path of immigration into the Territory, and proved one of the many great moral forces which brought victory and peace at last.

The tide of emigration, moving by the inspiration of the spirit born at the Chicago meeting from all parts of the North, was met and temporarily stayed on the Missouri River. A part, turning to the route of the "Army of the North," entered the Territory through Iowa and Nebraska, while many, the numbers increasing from month to month, waited at different points near the eastern border until the obstructions had disappeared, and then poured into the Territory in such overwhelming numbers as to assure the State to freedom evermore.


A committee was appointed by this meeting to arm and outfit a company to go at once to Kansas. Some time before a party from McLean County, Illinois, had been turned back by the Missourians. W. F. M. Arny was the leader of this company. He sought the co-operation of the Chicago Committee. What work he had done was utilized by the larger committee, and the two organizations became one. The work was extended over the State of Illinois, and adjoining states, but the Executive Committee had its office in Chicago. Organizations were formed all over the North to help Kansas in the struggle with the slave power. On the 10th of July, there was a meeting at Buffalo, New York, to consolidate all these local bodies into a National organization, to be directed by one head. Governor Reeder presided at this meeting. It was determined to open a road through Iowa and Nebraska to enable emigrants to come to Kansas without being obliged to pass through Missouri. This step was most necessary, as the blockade of the Missouri River was at that time complete. Some of the committees had urged the forcing of the river, and in that manner raise the blockade. It was believed, however, that such a course would prove impracticable. Lane had advocated the route through Iowa even before it was known that the Missouri River would be blockaded by the Missourians, saying that Free-State emigrants to Kansas ought not to be compelled to pass through hostile territory where they were insulted, maltreated and sometimes mobbed. The route through Iowa was recommended by this meeting. The National Kansas Committee was organized, composed of the following members: George R. Russell, Boston; W. H. Russell, New Haven; Thaddeus Hyatt, New York, N. B. Craige, Pittsburgh; John W. Wright, Logansport; Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, E. B. Ward, Detroit; J. H. Tweedy, Milwaukee; W. H. Hoppin, Providence; W. H. Stanley, Cleveland; F. A. Hunt, St. Louis; S. W. Eldridge, Lawrence; G. W. Dole, J. D. Webster, H. B. Hurd, J. Y. Scammon, and I. N. Arnold, Chicago.

An Executive Committee was selected consisting of J. D. Webster, Chairman; George W. Dole, Treasurer; and H. B. Hurd, Secretary. The object of the committee was explained in this sentence, - "To receive, forward, and distribute the contributions of the people, whether provisions, arms or clothing, to the needy in Kansas." This committee did a great work. In fact it was one of the principal factors in the immediate triumph of the Free-State men in Kansas. It was in existence six months. During that time it distributed about $120,000 in money. In addition to this it forwarded to Kansas large quantities of arms and ammunition. It also sent food and clothing. It took charge of the contributions of other societies in the North and forwarded them to the particular localities in Kansas for which they were designed. Of the $120,000 disbursed by the Executive Committee, $10,000 went for the purchase of arms and ammunition. It is estimated that the value of the total shipments of the Executive Committee into Kansas amounted to more than $200,000. Some portion of these consignments fell into the hands of the Border-Ruffians and did not reach the intended destination.

Massachusetts did not co-operate with the National Kansas Committee, but formed a separate committee. George L. Stearns was Chairman of the Massachusetts Committee. He was an untiring worker for Kansas, and visited the State. He collected and disbursed money and other property to the amount of $80,000. Most of this was sent to Kansas in the fall of 1856. He sent arms and ammunition in liberal quantities. In some manner a shipment of two hundred Sharps' rifles was detained at Tabor, Iowa. These were afterwards given to John Brown, who used them at Harper's Ferry.

It was not to be expected that the organization of the National Kansas Committee would pass unnoticed in Missouri. The Border-Ruffians stationed guards at the ferries between Kansas and Missouri early in June. These guards halted steamboats and searched the emigrants found aboard. On the 10th of June, the blockade was so completely organized that no boat could reach Kansas without permission of these guards. If arms were found in possession of the passengers, they were seized and the emigrants sent back. Later it was the custom of the Border-Ruffians to seize all property carried by emigrants for Kansas, and all shipments consigned to the people of Kansas.

The party organized at Chicago as the result of Lane's meeting on the 31st of May, took passage at Alton, on the boat, Star of the West. The boat reached Lexington, Missouri, on the 20th of June. There it was boarded by an armed mob. Only a portion of the armed Ruffians could enter the boat. The remainder stood on the shore and encouraged those on the boat by shouts and by denunciation of the emigrants. The arms of the company had been stored in one of the state-rooms. Colonel Joe O. Shelby, who had been many times in Kansas as a leader of the Ruffians, addressed the Chicago party. He demanded that they turn over their arms at once, saying that if they did so they would be permitted to proceed, and that they would be turned back if the arms were not delivered. It was impossible for the emigrants to offer any effective resistance, and the arms were turned over to the Ruffians. The boat proceeded, and at Kansas City it was again boarded. The leaders of the mob at Kansas City were D. R. Atchison and B. F. Stringfellow. Major Buford also came aboard the boat with a part of his company. The boat was permitted to proceed up the Missouri, but had not gone any great distance until Stringfellow informed the emigrants that they were prisoners, and that they would be compelled to return to Alton, Illinois. If they would agree to this course, they would not be further molested. If they persisted in the attempt to go into Kansas Territory, they were assured that every one of them should be hanged. When the boat arrived at Leavenworth, other Ruffians crowded aboard. These proceeded to rob the emigrants of what little had been left them. The boat was detained at Weston two days. The emigrants were forced to remain in the cabin of the boat as prisoners. At the end of this two days confinement at Weston the boat departed for the Mississippi. The emigrants were landed opposite the mouth of the Missouri, and forced to go ashore in a drenching rain. The Squatter Sovereign of Atchison, in the issue of July 1st, heralded this exploit as a great victory, having these headlines:

MORE ARMS CAPTURED!
THE FLOWER OF THE ABOLITION ARMY TAKEN!
A BLOODLESS VICTORY!

After which it contained this account of the valor of the Ruffians:

The steamer, Star of the West, having on board seventy-eight Chicago Abolitionists, said to be a picked company from the army of 800 men congregated there, was overhauled at Lexington, Mo., and the company disarmed. A large number of rifles and pistols were taken at Lexington, and a guard sent up on the boat to prevent them from landing in the Territory. After leaving Lexington, it was ascertained that they had not given up all their weapons, but still held possession of a great number of pistols and bowie knives, which were probably secreted while the search for arms was going on at Lexington. At Leavenworth City, Capt. Clarkson, with twenty-five men, went on board of the boat and demanded the surrender of all the arms in possession of the Abolitionists. Like whipped dogs they sneaked up to Clarkson, and laid down their weapons to him. We learn that about two bushels of revolvers, pistols and bowie knives were captured at Leavenworth. On the way up the river they were boasting of what they would do, should any one attempt to molest them, and even went so far as to load their guns, just before coming in sight of Lexington. When they arrived at the Political Quarantine the whole party of seventy-eight, all of them "armed to the teeth," surrendered to a company of twenty "border ruffians." Here is bravery displayed on the part of the Abolitionists unparalleled in the annals of history! The flower of Lane's army are now prisoners of war, and will be shipped back home disgraced and cowed! If this is the material we have to encounter in Kansas, we have but little fear of the result. Fifty thousand of such "cattle" could not subdue the Spartan band now in possession of Kansas.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 2000.

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