Kansas Territory ~ Sack of Lawrence

I sure do hope y’all aren’t getting tired of my Kansas posts. I know they seem to be going on forever and ever, but there was a lot going on in this territory in 1856, which eventually led up to the War between the States.

Public domain in U.S. published prior to 1923
Public domain in U.S. published prior to 1923

If you remember from my last post, Thomas Barber, an abolitionist, was killed on December 5, 1855. Three short days later winter hit this part of Kansas, and hit it hard. Many of the residents hadn’t quite finished building more permanent lodgings. Many were still living in what was known as hay tents, shanties and poorly built log cabins.

A letter written by Captain Sam Walker during this winter may be taken as illustrating the common condition:

“I failed to complete my log house before the winter of 1855-56 set in. The sides were up, roofed, and partly plastered when the Wakarusa war interrupted work. On my return home, on the conclusion of peace, the cold was so severe that nothing more could be done, and we had to shift the best we could till warmer weather. Our cabin had no floor, but we were as well off in this particular as most of our neighbors. Chinks and fissures abounded in roof and gable, as the green slabs with which they were covered warped badly. Seven of us made up the family, five children mostly small. At times when the winds were bleakest we actually went to bed as the only escape from freezing. More than once we woke in the morning to find six inches of snow in the cabin. To get up and make one’s toilet under such circumstances was not a very comfortable performance. The wolf was never very far from our door during that hard winter of 1855-56.”

History of Lawrence by Rev. Richard Cordley

Although the winter was harsh, and one of the most difficult in Kansas history as of the year 1895, the free-staters were able to live in peace for a short time. However, it was to be short lived. While many settlers shivered in their beds, Missourians and the Southerners were making their plan of attack.

All over Missouri and the south preparations were going on to push the controversy to a successful issue for slavery. The shrewdest men in the land were planning together for the summer campaign. The general idea was to make it so uncomfortable for the free-state men that they would flee the country, and so that others would not come.

History of Lawrence by Rev. Richard Cordley

Before we go onto the sacking of Lawrence, I guess I should tell you that in the fall of 1855 the free-staters held a constitutional convention and adopted the Topeka constitution. It was sent to Congress with the request of being admitted into the union. The House of Representatives passed the bill, the Senate rejected it. Now, there is a bunch of stuff that I don’t quite understand that went on during all this time, but from the sound of it the pro-slavery people had a judiciary ally. The Douglas County grand jury met in Lecompton, Kansas where Judge Samuel Lecompte (guess he was pretty powerful had a town named after him) set the line for treason, which specifically pointed fingers at free-staters.

“This territory was organized by an act of congress, and so far its authority is from the United States. It has a legislature elected in pursuance of that organic act. This legislature being an instrument of congress by which it governs the territory, has passed laws. Those laws, therefore, are of. United States authority and making, and all who resist those laws resist the power and authority of the United States, and are therefore guilty of high treason. Now, gentlemen, if you find that any persons have resisted these laws, then you must under your oath, find bills against them for high treason. If you find that no such resistance has been made, but that combinations have been formed for the purpose of resisting them, and individuals of notoriety have been aiding and abetting in such combinations, then must you find bills for constructive treason.”

History of Lawrence by Rev. Richard Cordley

After a few incidences, all of which seemed to be provoked by ‘Bogus’ Sheriff Jones, 800 men, led by Jones himself, rode into Lawrence, Ks, all bearing arms and cannons. Most of these men were Southerners and very few, if any, intended on staying in Kansas. They were there for one reason only, to strong arm Kansas into the Union as a slave state.

It’s said once they ‘sacked’ Lawrence, which included destroying two abolitionist newspapers and the Free State Hotel (which by the way took over fifty cannon shots and several kegs of powder with little damage) the Southerners hoisted a ‘blood red’ flag with the words ‘Southern Rights’ on it. It flew right beside the ‘stars and stripes’ flag. Homes, churches and schools were taken over. Many free-staters were taken prisoner and charged with high treason.

It wasn’t looking good for the free-staters.

This post was originally posted here at Christian Fiction Historical Society by me.



Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: