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13 January, 2012
Kansas: The Prelude to the War for the Union|
Chapter XIII: During the War for the Union.
by Spring, Leverett Wilson
|The border storm blew down the loosely-rooted prosperities of the territory with sufficient havoc. For the most part the early immigrants were poor. A laudable ambition to mend their worldly fortunes blended with ethical and political convictions in their westward venture. Though the cause of liberty prospered, and slavery was driven from the debatable ground, yet, at the close of the struggle, the rudenesses, discomforts, and limitations of the frontier remained with faintly mitigated severity. Strength and enterprise that might have built comfortable homes, improved farms, and established public institutions, had been diverted to politics. The domestic experiences of the Kansas pioneers during the territorial days, subordinated in this volume to their political concerns, are full of interest. Under the most favorable circumstances, frontier life has plenty of disagreeable, slowly bettering elements. "Sleeping on the ground," wrote a pioneer in 1856, "is not confined to camping out, but is extensively practiced in all our cabins. Floors are a luxury rarely seen here [in Wabaunsee]. In our own dwelling, part of the inmates rest on the earth, while others sleep on sacking stretched between the timbers over our heads, access to which is only to be had by climbing up on the logs constituting the sides of the cabin. I noticed yesterday a member of our family making up his bed with a hoe!" Everything was on a primitive basis. Land had been preempted in larger or smaller amounts and a rudimentary agriculture attempted. Horses, cattle, pigs, fowls -- an easy, inviting prey for raiders of every sort -- gradually increased. Food was always plain, sometimes scanty, and occasionally unique. "We have a pie on the table, the first of any kind I have seen since our arrival, made of sorrel and sweetened with molasses." Unconventional frontier habits of dress were in vogue. Among the nearly five hundred persons who presented claims for damages before the auditing commission of 1859, very few included items of clothing. One unpractical mortal brought to the territory a large assortment of dress coats, white velvet and satin vests, trousers, calf-skin boots, and gloves. The wardrobe disappeared when the Missourians sacked Lawrence in 1856, and some of the finery which attracted Mr. Gladstone's attention on their return to Kansas City doubtless came from it. "I frequently spoke to Southmayd," said a witness before the claims commission, "about having so much good clothing in this country!" Socially there was an utter democracy -- no highest, no lowest. Everybody stood on the same plane. For amusements the settlers were left entirely to their own resources. Lecturers, concert troupes, and shows never ventured so far into the wilderness. Yet there was much broad, rollicking, noisy merry-making, but it must be confessed that rum and whiskey -- lighter liquors like wine and beer could not be obtained -- had a good deal to do with it. In the larger towns "sprees" were by no means uncommon. Room No. 7 in the Eldridge House obtained a reputation throughout the territory as a favorite place for carousels, where the uproar frequently continued all night, as one party of roisterers succeeded another. Outside of the villages inconveniences and hardships were specially oppressive. A woman died in a country neighborhood. "The difficulty after her death was to provide a coffin. There were men who could make it, but no boards could be found. At last one person offered to give a part of the bottom of his wagon, another furnished the rest, and a box was put together." A constant back-fiowing stream of disgusted settlers set eastward during the whole territorial period. Some of them gave a doleful account of the country -- reported Kansas not likely to "become a free or a slave state until all the rest of the world is over-peopled, for nobody that has strength to walk, or money to pay for conveyance, will stay there long. The earth ... is actually parched and burnt to the solidity of brick by the long droughts so that it cannot be plowed, and no vegetation appears." Schools, churches, and the various appliances of older civilization got under way and made some growth, but they were still in a primitive, inchoate condition when Kansas took her place in the Union.
The mischiefs which accompanied the strife of hostile civilizations within the territory were prolonged and aggravated by a new woe. In 1860 a great drought began. For more than a year little or no rain fell, and crops failed everywhere. Probably fifteen or twenty thousand people were thrown upon public charity. Again Kansas put out signals of distress, to which the public made a quick and generous response. Provisions, clothing, and money poured into the famished commonwealth -- a magnificent largess that measurably relieved its calamities, though it did not prevent serious depopulation.
Governor Robinson took the oath of office February, 9th, 1861. He found himself at a post beset by an extraordinary complication of difficulties. April 15th President Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand volunteers to put down the Southern rebellion. Kansas was in a condition the most inopportune and unpromising for a fitting response. With the subsidence of domestic troubles military organizations generally went to pieces. The exchequer of a community whose six years of territorial broil concluded with a famine could hardly be on a war footing. Yet Governor Robinson, in his message to the legislature, which met March 26th, said: "Kansas, though last and least of the states in the Union, will ever be ready to answer the call of her country." That promise was nobly kept. Governor Carney, the successor of Governor Robinson, writing President Lincoln May 13th, 1864, could say: "Kansas has furnished more men according to her population to crush this rebellion than any other state in the Union." In all the great western campaigns Kansas soldiers made an honorable record. That record belongs to national rather than state history, and no effort will be made here to disentangle and isolate it for purposes of valuation.
Governor Robinson was probably the first state executive to foreshadow the policy which the federal authorities ultimately adopted in reference to slavery "A demand is made by certain states," he said in his message, "that new concessions and guaranties be given to slavery, or the Union must be destroyed.... If it is true that the continued existence of slavery requires the destruction of the Union, it is time to ask if the existence of the Union does not require the destruction of slavery. If such an issue be forced on the nation it must be met, and met promptly."
The inevitable and legitimate difficulties which confronted Governor Robinson -- embarrassments of poverty and of chaos -- might well have staggered any man of ordinary nerve, but they were not the most formidable evils. After an exciting contest the legislature elected J. H. Lane and S. C. Pomeroy to the United States Senate. Lane celebrated his departure for Washington by laying aside the calf-skin vest and seal-skin coat, which had done service during the whole territorial era, and donning a respectable suit. On the realization of his long-cherished dream a crazy passion for power seized him -- an ambition to absorb the entire civil and military functions of the state. Robinson stood squarely, if not defiantly, across his path. In the territorial struggle the natural antagonisms of these two men -- antagonisms of temperament, method, and purpose -- were circumscribed and held in abeyance by the compulsions of the situation --
"As the wave breaks to foam on shelves,
Then runs into a wave again."
But now disguises and restrictions were flung off. Lane, inflamed by old grudges and new provocations, by long-nursed hatreds and obstructions that crossed his plans, broke out into violent hostilities against Governor Robinson and his successor. By his overshadowing prestige at Washington he was able to wrest from them no small part of their legitimate gubernatorial functions. Lane's singular influence over Mr. Lincoln and the secretary of war, Mr. Stanton, is one of the most inexplicable and disastrous facts that concern Kansas in 1861-65. It was the source of the heaviest calamities that visited the commonwealth during this period, because it put him in a position to gratify mischievous ambitions, to pursue personal feuds, to assume duties and offices that belonged to others, to popularize the corruptest political methods, and to organize semi-predatory military expeditions. His conduct not only embarrassed the state executive and threw state affairs into confusion, but provoked sanguinary reprisals from Missouri. In 1864 Mr. Lincoln, remarking upon Lane's extraordinary career in Washington to Governor Carney, offered no better explanation of it than this: "He knocks at my door every morning. You know he is a very persistent fellow and hard to put off. I don't see you very often, and have to pay attention to him."
Lane's intrigues in Washington against the state administration prospered. Though recruiting was energetically pushed by the local authorities and three regiments were already in the field -- the first and second obtaining honorable recognition for gallant conduct at the battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri -- yet in August Lane, technically a civilian, appeared in Kansas clothed with vague, but usurping military powers. He reached Leavenworth on the 15th, and announced in a public address the extinction of all his personal and political enmities -- a costly sacrifice laid on the altar of his country. Two days afterwards he set out for Fort Scott, where the Kansas brigade, comprising the Third and Fourth infantry together with the Fifth and Sixth cavalry regiments, was concentrating to repel attacks upon the Southeast. He began his brief military career in this region by constructing several useless fortifications, among which the most considerable affair was Fort Lincoln, on the Little Osage River, twelve miles north of Fort Scott. September 2d there was a skirmish at Dry Wood Creek, Missouri, between a reconnoitring party and a force under the Confederate General Rains, which was not wholly favorable to the Kansans, and caused a panic at Fort Scott. Leaving a body of cavalry with orders to defend the town as long as possible, and then fire it, Lane retired to his earth-works on the Little Osage. "I am compelled to make a stand here," he reported September 2d, after getting inside Fort Lincoln, "or give up Kansas to disgrace and destruction. If you do not hear from me again, you can understand that I am surrounded by a superior force." The Confederates did not follow up their advantage, but retreated leisurely toward Independence, Missouri. Encouraged by their withdrawal, Lane took the field on the 10th "with a smart little army of about fifteen hundred men" -- reached Westport, Missouri, four days later, where he reported -- "Yesterday I cleaned out Butler and Parkville with my cavalry." September 22d he sacked and burned Osceola, Missouri -- an enterprise in which large amounts of property and a score of inhabitants were sacrificed. He broke camp on the 27th, and in two days reached Kansas City. The brigade converted the Missouri border through which the march lay into a wilderness, and reached its destination heavily encumbered with plunder. "everything disloyal," said Lane, ".... must be cleaned out," and never were orders more literally or cheerfully obeyed. Even the chaplain succumbed to the rampant spirit of thievery, and plundered Confederate altars in the interest of his unfinished church at home. Among the spoils that fell to Lane personally there was a fine carriage, which he brought to Lawrence for the use of his household.
From the first the local authorities, civil and military, had regarded the brigade with apprehension. "We are in no danger of invasion," Governor Robinson wrote General Fremont, commander of the Western Department, September 1st, "provided the government stores at Fort Scott are sent back to Leavenworth, and the Lane brigade is removed from the border. It is true small parties of secessionists are to be found in Missouri, but we have good reason to know that they do not intend to molest Kansas ... until Jackson shall be reinstated as governor of Missouri. Indeed, a short time since, when a guerrilla party came over and stole some property from our citizens, the officers in command of the Confederates compelled a return of the property, and offered to give up the leader of the gang to our people for punishment. But what we have to fear, and do fear, is, that Lane's brigade will get up a war by going over the line, committing depredations, and then returning into our state. This course will force the secessionists to [retaliation] ... and in this they will be joined by nearly all the Union men of Missouri. If you will remove the supplies at Fort Scott to the interior, and relieve us of the Lane brigade, I will guaranty Kansas from invasion ... until Jackson shall drive you out of St. Louis."
Captain Prince, in command at Fort Leavenworth, wrote Lane September 9th: "I hope you will adopt active and early measures to crush out this marauding which is being enacted in Captain Jennison's name, as also [in] yours, by a band of men representing themselves as belonging to your command." When General Hunter took charge of the department in November the brigade, according to the report of Assistant Adjutant-General C. G. Halpine, was "a ragged, half-armed, diseased, mutinous rabble, taking votes whether any troublesome or distasteful order should be obeyed or defied.... To remedy these things mustering officers were sent to remuster the regiments of Lane's brigade.... Had the department, as previously, been without troops from other states, there is every probability that a general mutiny ... would have taken place instead of the partial mutinies which have been suppressed." The thieving, foot-pad, devastating expedition of Lane's brigade did much to incite animosities and reprisals, whose ghastly work sent a thrill of horror through the country.
Lane made a furious harangue at Leavenworth October 8th in defense of his campaign. He wrote President Lincoln the next day: "I ... succeeded in raising and marching against the enemy as gallant and effective an army, in proportion to its numbers, as ever entered the field. Its operations are a part of the history of the country.... Governor Charles Robinson ... has constantly, in season and out of season, vilified myself and abused the men under my command as marauders and thieves." He suggested the formation of a new military department out of Kansas, the Indian Territory, and portions of Arkansas, with himself as commander, and not less than ten thousand troops at his disposal. He would resign his seat in Congress and accept the military appointment. In case the department should not be created, he saw only calamities ahead. "I will ... be compelled to leave my command," he continued, "quit the field, and most reluctantly become an idle spectator of the great struggle, and witness, I have no doubt, the devastation of my adopted state and the destruction of its people."
In November Lane returned to Washington and at once entered upon fresh military schemes. He projected an expedition, which he would lead in person from Fort Leavenworth into Arkansas and the Indian Territory -- representing the movement as the result of conferences between himself and General Hunter. With this understanding, he obtained for it the approbation of President Lincoln and the War Department. Friends in Kansas sent on to Washington resolutions applauding his military genius' and urging that the most ought to be made of it. Lane, said the "Leavenworth Conservative" "has every quality of mind and character which belonged to the historical commanders.... There are no obstacles in his path, and to him a difficulty is simply a thing to be overcome." Refugee Indians at Fort Leavenworth, driven from the territory by disloyal tribes, concurred in these sentiments. "General Lane is our friend," said two chiefs with sesquipedalian names in a communication to "Our Great Father the President of the United States." "His heart is big for the Indian. He will do more for us than any one else. The hearts of our people will be sad if he does not come. They will follow him wherever he directs. They will sweep the rebels before them like a terrible fire on the dry prairie." Lane unfolded his plans, shaped evidently by the recent experiences of his brigade, to General McClellan. He proposed to extirpate disloyalty in Missouri and Arkansas. If conciliatory methods should not be successful, he would employ the most violent. "Sir, if I can't do better I will kill the white rebels, and give their lands to the loyal blacks!"
General Hunter received communications from the War Department in January, 1862, announcing that a Southern expedition, consisting of eight or ten thousand Kansas troops and four thousand Indians had been decided upon, and implying the existence of a definite, mutual understanding that Lane should have the chief command. These communications took Hunter by surprise, and in his perplexity he wrote General Halleck, who had succeeded General Fremont in command of the Western Department, for information: --
"It seems ... that Senator J. H. Lane has been trading at Washington on a capital partly made up of his own senatorial position, and partly of such scraps of influence as I may have possessed in the confidence or esteem of the president, said scraps having been 'jayhawked' by the Kansas senator without due consent of the proper owner.... I find that 'Lane's great Southern expedition' was entertained by the president under misrepresentations; ... that said 'expedition' was the joint design of Senator Lane and myself.... Never to this hour has he consulted me on the subject, directly or indirectly, while the authorities at Washington have preserved a similar indiscreet reticence.... Thus I am left in ignorance, but ... I think it more than probable that the veil of mystery has been lifted in your particular case."
Some weeks before receiving Hunter's letter, which was written February 8th, 1862, rumors reached Halleck that Lane would be commissioned brigadier-general, and he immediately forwarded a remonstrance to headquarters. "I cannot conceive a more injudicious appointment," he wrote General McClellan. "It will take twenty thousand men to counteract its effect in this state, and, moreover, is offering a premium for rascality and robbery." President Lincoln indorsed upon Halleck's communication, which was of considerable length, and touched various topics -- "an excellent letter; though I am sorry General Halleck is so unfavorably impressed with General Lane." Concerning the "expedition" Halleck had no information aside from current rumors. Yet this unofficial hearsay sufficed to rouse his indignation. "I protested ..." he wrote Hunter February 13th, "against any of his [Lane's] jayhawkers coming into this department, and said positively that I would arrest and disarm every one I could catch." Lane reached Leavenworth January 26th in high spirits. But on the next day he met a sudden and stinging rebuff. Without waiting for interview or explanation, without intimating to Lane what was impending, Hunter issued an order announcing his purpose to command the "expedition" in person. The unexpected turn of affairs nonplused Lane. He sent a telegram to Representative John Covode: "See the president, secretary of war, and General McClellan, and answer what I shall do." There was nothing to do except to retire or take a subordinate position. He succeeded, however, in breaking up the expedition. "I have been with the man you name," Covode telegraphed. "Hunter will not get the men or money he requires. His command cannot go forward. Hold on. Don't resign your seat." Lane followed Covode's advice and returned to Washington after addressing a public letter to the legislature, which had passed complimentary resolutions: "I have been thwarted in the cherished hope of my life. The sad yet simple duty only remains to announce to you and through you my purpose to return to my seat in the United States Senate."
Lane's military intrigues reached their final stage in his appointment July 22d, 1862, as "Commissioner for Recruiting in the Department of Kansas." He proceeded to organize regiments, completely ignoring the state authorities in whose hands the laws and the constitution placed the whole business. At this time he began to enlist colored men -- probably the pioneer movement in that direction -- protesting that "a nigger can stop a bullet as well as a white man." But Lane's scheme did not altogether succeed. Governor Robinson, who proposed to stand upon his constitutional rights, declined to commission the officers whom Lane had appointed. The secretary of war telegraphed that if the state executive did not issue the commissions the War Department would. 'c You have the power to override the constitution and the laws," was the unconciliatory response; "but you have not the power to make the present governor of Kansas dishonor his own state."
Another feature in the singular tangle was a formidable effort to crush Governor Robinson, whom the Lane politicians found intractable and difficult to manage. In the autumn of 1861 these gentry made an abortive effort to displace him on the ground that, by the provisions of the constitution, the term of state officers expired January 1st, 1862. There was an election, but the courts pronounced it illegal.
The failure of this first personal assault lent additional violence and venom to the second. January 20th a resolution of inquiry concerning the sale of certain state bonds was offered in the legislature. The bonds in question had no quotable market value, and a sale was effected only through negotiations -- evidently not ruled by the severest business maxims -- with the Interior Department, which held, in trust, Indian funds for investment. It appeared that bonds to the amount of ninety-five thousand six hundred dollars were delivered, upon which the sum of fifty-five thousand dollars was paid; that while the sale was effected at eighty- five per cent., only sixty per cent. reached the state treasury, notwithstanding the law declared that nothing less than seventy per cent. should be accepted. Here was a palpable violation of the law, and the official upon whom it could be fastened, especially if he happened to be the - governor, would fare badly. It is now well understood that the whole movement, which proceeded from Lane, was aimed at Robinson. The prosecution had no wish to harm the auditor and secretary of state who went down in the fight.
Though the committee of investigation appointed by the House of Representatives discovered no evidence connecting the governor with the negotiation, they resolved to include him among the inculpated officials. They ventured their case on chances that the progress of the trial might bring out criminating facts.
An intensity of excitement, unsurpassed even in the stormiest territorial days, convulsed the legislature when, on the 13th of February, the committee of investigation reported resolutions impeaching the auditor, the secretary of state, and the governor. On the next day a vote was reached, the resolutions passed unanimously, and there followed cheers long and loud. Why these law-makers applauded it would be difficult to say. They had not read the voluminous report upon which the resolutions were alleged to be based. If it were true that the executive had brought disgrace upon the state and ought to be driven from office, that would be poor cause for any outbreak of jubilation. When at a later stage specific articles of impeachment against the governor came before the House the unanimity gave way, and seven representatives are on record as voting against them. So far as Robinson was concerned the prosecution broke down, and he was almost unanimously acquitted, though a majority of the Senate belonged to the Lane faction.
That a rank growth of general freebooting should have sprung up in Kansas during the war was no more than might have been expected. The border naturally attracts men adapted to shine in this calling, and the territorial period afforded admirable training for the wider field of spoliation opened by the war for the Union. Early in the struggle an organization appeared known as "Red-legs," from the fact that its members affected red morocco leggings. It was a loose-jointed association, with members shifting between twenty-five and fifty, dedicated originally to the vocation of horse-stealing, but flexible enough to include rascalities of every description.
At intervals the gang would dash into Missouri, seize horses and cattle -- not omitting other and worse outrages on occasion -- then repair with their booty to Lawrence, where it was defiantly sold at auction. "Red-legs were accustomed to brag in Lawrence," says one who was familiar with their movements, "that nobody dared to interfere with them. They did not hesitate to shoot inquisitive and troublesome people. At Lawrence the livery stables were full of their stolen horses. One day I saw three or four Red-legs attack a Missourian who was in town searching for lost property. They gathered about him with drawn revolvers and drove him off very unceremoniously. I once saw Hoyt, the leader, without a word of explanation or warning, open fire upon a stranger quietly riding down Massachusetts Street. He was a Missourian whom Hoyt had recently robbed." The gang contained men of the most desperate and hardened character, and a full recital of their deeds would sound like the biography of devils. Either the people of Lawrence could not drive out the freebooters, or they thought it mattered little what might happen to Missouri disloyalists. Governor Robinson made a determined, but unsuccessful effort to break up the organization. The Red-legs repaid the interference by plots for his assassination, which barely miscarried.
In the destruction of Lawrence August 21st, 1863, the irregular, predatory hostilities of the border reached a shocking climax. The causes which brought about that event were various, and have been in the main already indicated -- the campaign of Lane's brigade, the depredations of Red-legs, enmities and exasperations dating back to the settlement of Lawrence in 1854, as well as ordinary bushranging motives of plunder. "Jennison has laid waste our homes," was the declaration of more than one Missourian on the day of the massacre, "and the Red-legs have perpetrated unheard-of crimes. Houses have been plundered and burned, defenseless men shot down, and women outraged. We are here for revenge -- and we have got it!"
Quantrill, who led the raid, once lived in Lawrence -- a dullish, sullen, uninteresting knave, giving no promise of unusual bushranging genius. Just before the war opened he was driven from town in consequence of some misbehavior, and cast his lot among Missouri guerrillas. The stimulus of the great conflict developed in him unexpected capacities for marauding. He was eager to cross swords with Lane. "I should like to meet him," he said. "But then there would be no honor in whipping him. He is a coward. I believe I would cowhide him."
In 1862 and the earlier months of 1863 several of the smaller Kansas towns along the Missouri line -- Aubrey, Shawnee, and Olathe -- were sacked by ruffians under Quantrill's lead. Governor Thomas Carney, who succeeded Governor Robinson January 1st, 1863, was uneasy, and vainly importuned the War Department for more troops. In May he visited the Southern border, where he found everything in confusion, and the whole region defenseless. There was no money in the state treasury. April 6th, 1862, Lane and eight of his friends addressed a communication to the secretary of war and the secretary of the treasury, protesting "against the payment of the money due to the State of Kansas for expenses in organizing volunteer troops for the service of the United States," and were able to stop it. In the emergency Governor Carney raised one hundred and fifty mounted men for police duty, and paid expenses out of his own pocket.
That Quantrill meditated striking a blow at Lawrence some time was well known. There were alarms, citizens organized for defense, and kept a sharp lookout for the ruffian, but the bushrangers did not appear when they were expected, vigilance relaxed, and a fatal sense of security followed panic.
Quantrill's preliminary movements were not wholly enveloped in mystery. Intelligence that great activity prevailed among his forces, and that he was planning a dash into Kansas, reached federal headquarters at Kansas City, Mo., but no at. tension was paid to it. Had scouts been dispatched to exposed towns and warned them of danger the raid would have failed.
[Note - Capt. El. E. Palmer at Weston, Mo., with 130 men, received notice of Quantrill's movements at 11 o'clock P. M., started for Lawrence, but was ordererd to proceed to Little Santa Fe. -- Kansas Historical Collections, vol. vi. p. 313. ]
Late on the afternoon of August 20th Quantrill, with perhaps one hundred and seventy-five mounted men, crossed the Missouri line into Kansas. In Aubrey, five miles distant, there was a federal force of one hundred dragoons commanded by Captain J. A. Pike. It was not until half-past seven in the evening that the tardy scouts brought in news of the guerrillas' whereabouts. Captain Pike dispatched couriers to Kansas City, thirty-five miles distant, who arrived at half-past eleven o'clock. Couriers might have reached Lawrence, a ride of forty miles, about midnight, and in that case the bushrangers would have encountered a warm reception. Or had Captain Pike instantly started in pursuit, hanging upon their rear, dogging their movements with menace if not attack, Lawrence would have been saved.
It was nearly sunrise when Quantrill halted on a little swell of the plain about a mile eastward from the doomed town. Not a whisper of his approach had reached it. Yet though the surprise promised to be complete, the cowardly raiders hesitated -- declined to go farther. A discussion ensued, which was ended by Quantrill's avowal that he should go into Lawrence whatever his men might do. This declaration revived their fainting courage.
The bushrangers advanced within half a mile of the town, halted again, and called the roll. Two horsemen, dispatched on a reconnaissance, rode through the principal street, and returned with the report that the village was asleep. A strange fatality of success attended the movements of the guerrillas. They rode "leisurely from their hiding- place in Missouri through the federal lines, and almost within shooting distance of a federal camp in the day-time," says H. E. Lowman in his "Lawrence Raid"; "then just as leisurely made their way over forty miles of traveled road through Kansas settlements in the night, and halted -- called the roll in the early dawn within pistol-shot of the houses of residents of Lawrence, and yet no warning voice ... rang through her quiet streets -- 'Quantrill is coming.'"
There was a wild charge upon the village. The flying column of one hundred and seventy-five men riding with perfect horsemanship, yelling like demons, emitted one continuous, death-dealing volley as it dashed along. "I can still see the raiders," said an eye-witness of the scene years after the fatal morning, "as they stormed into town with their broad-brimmed hats -- much like those which cowboys wear on the plains -- with their unshaven beards and long hair, their dirty, greasy flannel shirts -- coatless, and carrying no weapons except side-arms."
While skirmishers instantly and completely enveloped the village, the main body pushed on to seize the Eldridge House, a substantial brick building four stories high, which could have been successfully defended by a dozen armed and resolute men against the attacks of horsemen whose heaviest ordnance was revolvers. But weapons for the citizens there were. none. A fussy, overconfident mayor had locked them up safely and inaccessibly in the arsenal. At the hotel resistance was apparently anticipated. The bushrangers drew up in front of it -- surveyed it curiously, doubtfully. Presently a window was flung up, a white sheet displayed, and Quantrill summoned. Surrender speedily followed upon condition that the inmates of the hotel, who were mostly strangers, should be protected. A gong was sounded through the halls to collect them for convoy to the Whitney House, where Quantrill had established his headquarters. Mistaking the clangor for a signal of attack the ruffians hastily fell back. But finding their fears without foundation, and all likelihood of concerted resistance at an end, they broke up into small companies, scoured the town in literal and hearty obedience to the order -- "Kill every man and burn every house."
Then began a scene that cannot be matched on the border, crimsoned as it is with blood -- a scene far surpassing Dutch Henry's Crossing and Marais des Cygnes in scope of death-dealing passion -- a scene which, like the massacre of Enniscorthy, "swallowed up all distinct or separate features in its frantic confluence of horrors." Then began a terrible exhibition of what is best and worst in human nature -- rapacious cupidities of successful pillage; cowering, palsied panic; courage that defied and cursed the villains to their faces; flight, aimless and headlong or watchful and stealthy; pitiless revenge stung by memory of wrongs still fresh and rankling; affection that freely and gladly braved death; pistol-shots , tho clatter of horsemen riding furiously; the groans of the dying, and the roar of conflagration. With few exceptions the bushrangers seemed to be dehumanized and transformed into the image of devils. The divine nature of love and mercy, if it ever existed, passed away, and the fiendish nature took its place. Stores, banks, hotels, and dwellings they rifled and then set them on fire. Citizens of the town were hunted like wild beasts and shot down indiscriminately. They pursued Red-legs with particular earnestness, and showed them no mercy when captured. Nor did they neglect to search attentively though vainly for Lane and the thrifty chaplain of his brigade. But the wrath of the raiders burned without nice distinction or qualification against all the male inhabitants of Lawrence, of whom one hundred and eighty-three fell victims in the butchery.
The heroism and fertility of resources shown by women of Lawrence on this day of blood are worthy of mention. At no other crisis of Kansas history does their service come into such bold and brilliant relief -- of which only an instance or two can be set down here. Four wretches, crazed with drink, rode to the Whitney House, swearing they would shoot some one -- it didn't matter much whom. A young woman offered herself, remarking, "They might as well kill me" -- an act of daring that temporarily arrested their murderous designs. Another woman fairly magnetized a brace of ruffians, and saved her husband's life by charm of manner and tact of conversation. A third, whose husband was particularly obnoxious to the bushrangers, and whom they were anxious to catch, gave him opportunity to escape by noticing that the leader of the gang detailed to shoot him and burn his house wore a flower in his hat. "Good morning," she said cheerfully; "you have come to see my flowers" -- the front yard was full of them. "They are fine," he said, looking about with evident admiration. "They are too d -- d pretty to be burnt. I 'll shoot the man that touches them. March on!"
When the work of butchery and destruction was finished Quantrill took a lunch at the Whitney House, and ordered the bushrangers to retire. "Ladies," said he, politely lifting his hat and bowing, "I now bid you good morning. I hope when we meet again it will be under more favorable circumstances!" .
It was a sickening scene from which the guerrilla chief galloped away -- the town in flames, the principal street lined with corpses, many of them so charred and blackened that they were at first mistaken for negroes. "In handling the dead bodies," said one of the survivors, "pieces of roasted flesh would remain in our hands. Soon our strength failed us in this terrible and sickening work. Many could not help crying like children."
Early in the forenoon the bushrangers were retreating toward Missouri, freshly mounted on stolen horses, and heavily accoutred with spoils. Between nine and ten o'clock citizens who survived the butchery began to rally, and a small company under the lead of Lane, who happened to be in town, gave chase. The pursuers, whose numbers were slenderly recruited as they advanced, overtook Quantrill about noon near Brooklyn, halted, got into line, were counted, and found to number thirty-five men. They were mounted on beasts of every sort -- mules, half-trained colts, and slow- paced draft-horses, as well as animals of higher grade. Nor were their weapons less various than their steeds. Lane put Lieutenant J. K. Rankin in command, who attempted to execute a Bank movement by way of Prairie City and cut off Quantrill's retreat into Missouri. The little company was only fairly in motion when a courier rode up with the message -- "Major Plumb is yonder with two hundred and fifty men and sent me to notify you." "Tell the major that Quantrill is just beyond us on the prairie, and that we shall attack him at once."
The enemy were less than a mile away, and Lieutenant Rankin ordered a charge upon the rear- guard. Possibly half of the intervening space had been traversed, when the lieutenant found himself almost alone. As each trooper had a gait and speed of his own, the company was scattered at irregular intervals along the line of advance, and from a military point of view did not present a very formidable appearance.
Major Plumb's force divided, one company moving upon Quantrill's rear, and the other upon his flank. Lieutenant Rankin, seeing that little could be expected from his thirty-five stragglers, joined the former company, which had ridden within striking distance of the bushrangers, and ordered a charge, but the valiant troopers declined to make it. Soon Lane came up and repeated the command, -- with no better result. Major Plumb shortly arrived with his division, and there was still opportunity to ride down the marauders. The federal commander hesitated and missed his opportunity. Pursuit continued into Missouri, reprisals were made, and three or four border count ties, in obedience to General Thomas Ewing Jr.'s famous order No. 11, largely depopulated -- but the desperadoes escaped.!
When the full extent of the massacre dawned upon the survivors, there rose a frantic reaction toward revenge. Woe to the man within reach upon whom suspicion of confederacy with the marauders might fall. Had the troops who brought them to bay on the prairies fully appreciated the enormity of their crimes, possibly the hideous knowledge might have strung their courage up to the fighting point. However that may have been, the spectacle of sons, brothers, fathers, neighbors, slaughtered with every aggravation of cowardly brutality -- of a town completely wrecked and given over to the torch -- kindled the dead coals of desperation and revenge. There was a luckless wight -- Jake Callew by name -- against whom lay suspicions of playing the spy in the interest of Quantrill -- suspicions vague, indirect, unevidenced, but sufficient to rouse a mob that would listen to no appeals deprecating violence, or pleading for delay.
"The sea enraged is not half so deaf."
The mob seized Callew and arraigned him before an extemporized court. A verdict was rendered that the evidence did not prove his guilt. "You have heard the verdict," said the judge, addressing the frenzied rout. "Now, gentlemen, what will you do with the prisoner?" "Hang him," was the quick response. Preparations for the gibe bet went on apace. It occurred to somebody that the doomed man might need the consolations of religion. Among the spectators a clergyman was discovered. "You had better make your peace with God for you don't stand much chance with this crowd," said the clergyman. "You need n't trouble yourself about my soul," the unappreciative sinner replied. "How do you like that, old fellow," broke in the hangman as he gave a tug at the rope and swung the poor wretch into eternity!
The destruction of Lawrence did not allay the feuds among Kansas officials. Lane's relations with Governor Carney ran through the entire gamut of variation from friendship to hostility, from hostility to confidential intimacy. He still struggled for absolute control of the military patronage of the state, and generally carried his point. Carney determined to make an end of this discreditable business -- a senator of Kansas usurping the functions of the governor of Kansas. "No governor with a proper self-respect," he wrote President Lincoln ... could or would tolerate such interference. What other loyal state has been thus humiliated? ... Kansas stands alone. I claim for her that she shall be the equal of the proudest of them.... I ask the revocation of the power conferred on J. H. Lane as recruiting commissioner." This letter Governor Carney followed up by an interview with President Lincoln, at the conclusion of which he addressed the following note to Secretary Stanton, dated Washington, May 28th, 1864: "Please see and hear the governor of Kansas with Judge Williams and Mr. Vaughn. Will we not, at last, be compelled to treat the governor of Kansas as we do other governors about raising and commissioning troops? I think it will have to be so." Governor Carney delivered this note in person to Secretary Stanton who read it, tore it in two, and said angrily -- "Tell the president that I am secretary of war." Carney turned on his heel. "Wait," said Stanton, in a milder tone. "What do you want?" An understanding was reached, and henceforth the governor of Kansas was to be treated like other governors.
After the Lawrence raid Kansas experienced no general upheaval until the attempted invasion of General Sterling Price, who led a daring expedition, in the autumn of 1864, from Arkansas across the State of Missouri, living upon the country through which he passed, remounting his cavalry with fresh horses, threatening St. Louis, then deflecting toward Jefferson City, and pushing on to the Kansas line before his advance was successfully arrested. Great alarm prevailed. October 8th Governor Carney called out the entire militia. Ten thousand six hundred men responded, and were mostly concentrated in the neighborhood of Kansas City -- a gallant, but undisciplined force. The battles at Lexington, along the Little Blue and the Big Blue, demonstrated their inability to cope with Price. The arrival of General Pleasanton on the 22d with seven thousand cavalry and eight pieces of artillery put a new face upon the campaign. On the next day the battle of Westport was fought, and the bold raiders turned southward in confusion. Their retreat scurried along the border, bending into Linn County, zigzagging toward Fort Scott, then turning eastward and southward until it crossed the Arkansas.
The expedition of Price was the last Confederate foray into Kansas. A long series of Missouri invasions closed with his retreat across the Arkansas. Bushrangers, jayhawkers, Red-legs, who played so prominent and so protracted a part on the stage of local history, now make a leisurely exit.
The first five years of Kansas history after admission to the Union were years of intrigue, confusion, alarm, and guerrillaism. With the wounds of the territorial struggle unhealed, with a heavy percentage of the population under arms, with the streams of immigration almost completely dried up, it was not possible that Kansas should make material or social progress while the war for the Union continued. The forces of repair and development were unequal to the waste.
The man who figured so largely in Kansas affairs during the rebellion did not long survive its close. When the Republican party broke with President Johnson, Lane declined to join in the attack upon him. This step gave offense to former friends. "So far as I am concerned," he said in the Senate April 6th, 1866, "I propose to-day and hereafter to take my position alongside the president." His course disposed Republican senators to investigate discreditable rumors about him that filled the air. Charges of corruption in connection with Indian contracts had been made vaguely in the public prints against some unnamed senator. "I propose to fill up the hiatus," wrote the Washington correspondent of the Boston "Commonwealth," "and let the public know . that the charge refers to Senator James H. Lane." Governor Carney, whose relations with Lane were now on a confidential footing, happened to be at his lodgings when the mail arrived containing a copy of the "Commonwealth" -- which he read and then handed to Carney. "Oh, that 's nothing," said Carney, cheerfully. "You have been charged with about everything on the face of the earth. That doesn't amount to much." "Does n't amount to much!" Lane repeated in a very excited and tragic manner. The next morning Carney returned and found Lane in a pitiable plight -- half-clad, his hair erect and bristling, his small, sunken, snaky eyes burning like live coals, his "sinister face, plain to ugliness," figured over with desperation, and raving that two sunshine friends whom he suspected of treachery must be sent for at once, the one to receive a challenge, the other a cowhiding. The gentlemen present -- Perry Fuller, the Indian trader in whose government contracts Lane was accused of having pecuniary interest, Major Heath, and Governor Carney -- bestirred themselves to refute the newspaper charges. Major Heath wrote an elaborate oath denying that Lane ever had financial transactions with Fuller of greater magnitude than house-renting, and Fuller signed it. Then something must be done about the Senate. Lane felt that he could not take his seat again without a personal explanation. As he was incapable of doing the work himself in his distraught condition, Carney and Heath, who did not then know all the facts, wrote out a short speech, pronouncing the "imputation conveyed by innuendo and indirection in the Boston 'Commonwealth' ... a baseless calumny." On the following day -- May 29th -- Lane read this speech from manuscript in the Senate, and shortly afterward returned to his lodgings. "The speech," he said, "was just the thing. It was one of the happiest little efforts of my life."
June 11th Lane obtained leave of absence for ten days, subsequently prolonged until the close of the session, to visit Kansas, where such was the hostility which grew out of his alliance with President Johnson, he met a cold and hostile reception. Old acquaintances passed him on the street without recognition, and political conventions denounced him. It was a reception far different from what had awaited him in other days. "When Lane," said the "Leavenworth Daily Conservative" January 28th, 1862, "touches this soil, which his own courage, his own strategy, his own unconquerable perseverance saved for freedom, a glorious halo surrounds his head, a sub lime inspiration fills his eye, a splendid glow lights up his countenance!"
After Lane's personal explanation in the Senate Carney made a visit of some days to New York. Upon his return to Washington he met Senator Trumbull, chairman of the Senate committee on Indian affairs, who showed him the copartnership papers of the Indian traders, Fuller & Co., in which Lane's name appeared, and a canceled check on E. H. Gruber & Co., of Leavenworth, which proved that he had received twenty thousand dollars from the concern. Spending a few unhappy days in Kansas -- doubly unhappy in the case of one so eager for the applause of men, so ambitious
" To live on their tongues and be their talk," --
Lane set out for Washington. He reached St. Louis on the 19th of June. There he met Governor Carney, and the whole situation was discussed -- the fatal papers in Senator Trumbull's possession, and the exasperation of Republican congressmen. "Do you think," he asked, "that I had better resign? Do you suppose Johnson would give me a foreign mission? Could I be confirmed?" No light of hope appeared, "freaking gloom with glow." Lane returned to Leavenworth, where on the 1st of July he placed a pistol in his mouth and discharged it. Though the bullet passed through the brain, such was his vitality, he survived ten days.
No more unscrupulous soldier of fortune ever posed before the public than James H. Lane. He possessed in large measure the qualities that find a congenial and successful field in border turmoils. Of a slight and wiry figure, he had remarkable physical endurance. When removed from leadership of the overland "Northern army" in 1856, he set off immediately from Nebraska for Lawrence. Riding night and day, he arrived at his destination alone, and without apparent fatigue. His half-dozen companions, including Captain Samuel Walker and Old John Brown, all gave out by the way.
Lane was a confusion of passions grossly but not wholly ignoble. "Nobody can study his face," says Mrs. Ropes in her vivacious "Six Months in Kansas," "without a sensation very much like that with which one stands at the edge of a slimy, sedgy, uncertain morass." Conscienceless and with little confidence in the truth; selfish, grasping to the last degree, though at times and by spasms alive with seeming generosity and public spirit; watching the vanes of popular sentiment and veering with them, though occasionally showing unexpected boldness and obstinacy of opinion; attracting men and managing them con. summately; able to pay heaviest obligations in the cheap coin of promises; indomitably persistent; cowardly and courageous by turn; a merciless enemy, but faithful to friends where personal interest did not require their sacrifice, Lane belonged to the basest, most mischievous class of politicians.
As a stump speaker he had no equal on the border. "I heard him at Nebraska City in 1856, before a hostile audience," says T. W. Higginson, "and if eloquence consists in moving and swaying men at pleasure I never saw a more striking exhibition of it." Lane's oratory faithfully reflected the character of the man, in which elements of chaos and lunacy were bound up with extraordinary astuteness and knowledge of human nature. It owed little to elocutionary grace. His manner was strained, angular, and dramatic, while his voice vibrated between shouts and blood-curdling whispers. Neither weight of thought, nor subtlety of logic, nor elevation of sentiment, nor exceptional range of vocabulary, appeared in his oratory. Lane was an unlettered man. In his hands rules of grammar fared badly. His knowledge came from observation rather than from books. Types can do only scant justice to oratory that is essentially personal, and hence his speeches lose in print. Skillful adaptation to time and place; sure tact in humoring the prejudices and firing the passions of an audience; unmeasured invective; an intensity of utterance that sometimes reached the verge of frenzy; grotesque, extravagant, ringing turns of phrase, and what, in the absence of a better word, is called magnetism, seem to be the capital elements of Lane's singularly effective speech.
That the harm which such a man does to a commonwealth must largely exceed the service is only too evident. Lane's energy, enthusiasm, and eloquence were conspicuous in the territorial struggle, but even then these admirable qualities had a serious offset in his restless jealousy, intrigue, and rashness. The free-state cause would not have been safe in his hands an hour at any critical juncture. But if the evil was checked and mitigated at first by the necessities of the situation, when Lane reached the United States Senate and gained the ear of the administration, then his wretched policies and ambitions had ample sea-room -- policies and ambitions that debauched the political morals of the commonwealth and drew upon it a grievous train of calamities.