Monday, August 30, 2010

Help Save 10 Acres at Second Manassas

Today marks the 148th anniversary of the last day of the battle of Second Manassas (August 28-30, 1862). The battle was one of the Army of Northern Virginia's greatest victories, but for whatever reason it has not received the scholarly attention that numerous other eastern theater battles (including First Manassas) have received. Maybe the reason for its neglect is because it was fought on much of the same ground that the earlier and more well known battle occurred, or maybe it's because the bloodiest day in American history, Antietam, came a little more than two weeks later.

Second Manassas was certainly one of the most hard fought battles of the war. The fighting grew so desperate on one part of the field that Confederates, low on ammunition, stated throwing rocks at the Union soldiers only yards away.
Recently the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) announced the opportunity to purchase ten acres of this hallowed ground. Nine of the available acres are where Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter's troops broke through a treeline and marched toward Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson's men who held a strong position in an unfinished railroad bed called the "Deep Cut."
CWPT's goal is to raise $57,000. They need it quickly to match other sources and purchase the property before it slips away. This is a rare opportunity for you to help save this precious ground.
To learn more about Second Manssass, view some great maps, and make an online donation, please visit CWPT's Second Manassas web page at:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Distinguished Civil War Scholar Set to Retire

Information from article in Collegiate Times-

The end of an era is coming. It has recently been announced that renowned Civil War professor, Dr. James "Bud" Robertson, Jr., will retire at the end of the academic year. Robertson, who is widely recognized as one of the foremost experts on the Civil War, has taught at Virginia Tech for 42 years and was the executive director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission in the 1960s.

Dr. Robertson has written more than 20 books on the Civil War including excellent biographies on Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson and A.P. Hill. Robertson's classes at Virginia Tech are some of the most popular on campus and attract more than 300 students for each session. His classes have produced many life-long students of history. Dr. Robertson is a native of Danville, Virginia. He earned his undergraduate degree at Randolph-Macon College before completing his master's and doctorate degrees at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Congratulations Dr. Robertson, enjoy your has been well earned.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some Kentucky Reports on Bleeding Kansas

As promised in the previous post I thought I'd share some of the Kentucky newspaper reports on Bleeding Kansas that I have recently come across. Admittedly my search has been limited and most of what I have found are merely reprints from Missouri newspapers. But, that in itself says a great deal. By purposely choosing pro-slavery reports over free-state or more balanced accounts shows, not surprisingly, a bias.

On the front page of the April 1, 1856 edition of the Frankfort Commonwealth, a lead-in to the re-published article clearly shows this bias. It reads:

"The following circular, over the signature of many of the most reputable gentlemen in Lexington, Mo., will disabuse the public mind of erroneous impressions sought to be made by the Free-soil presses of the country, and we cheerfully republish it as an act of justice to the people of Western Missouri."

One paragraph of the re-printed Missouri article was especially interesting:

"It will not, we hope, be considered improper for us in this connection to say, as near neighbors deeply concerned, we are not indifferent spectators of the strife in Kansas. Many of us have brothers and sons legitimate settlers in the Territory-our prayers for life, health and prosperity went with them to their new homes. We have seen pouring through our own State, from the East, a corrupt horde, concentrating for plunder and destruction around our kindred, and we have heard 'The cry of our strong swimmers in their agony' breasting the waves of aggressive fanaticism, yet we as a people, have moved not. True, some of our impetuous youths, visiting their brethren with hospitality they have enjoyed, have shared the dangers of the day; but Missouri, always mindful of the Constitution, though vitally interested, has hopefully awaited the interposition of the Executive arm for the protection of her energetic emigrating children. She asks for the enforcement of constitutional law and the observance of legislative enactments. An arbitrament by the SWORD is her last wish; she has no hope of tranquility which looks beyond the existence of this glorious Union; yet if shorn of her constitutional rights, like the blind giant of old, she will gather to its fall the pillars of the temple." (Italics in original)

In the March 25, 1856 issue the Frankfort Commonwealth ran a story under the headline: "Arms for Kansas Arrested---Hostilities Commenced." This story was a reprint from the Lexington (Missouri) Express and explained that on a westbound steamboat was found a box that contained "one hundred Sharpe's rifles and two cannons!" It went on to say that "The proceedings were orderly, and although the determination to arrest the arms was decided, no one talked of violence to the poor tool that could heartlessly lend himself to such unnatural work. The arms were boxed up and marked 'Carpenters' Tools'...The passengers and officers were highly incensed at the disclosures, but no indignity was offered to the miserable disorganizer." The arms were found on the boat due to the carelessness of passenger who was conveying them, as apparently he dropped two letters to his mother back in Massachusetts describing his trip and how he was successfully slipping by the Missourians. The article closed by stating that, "The 'Carpenters' Tools' are now safely stored in this city...We suggest that a committee be appointed by our citizens, at a meeting to be held a the Court House to-morrow, (Monday) morning, at ten o'clock, whose duty it shall be to examine for, and intercept, all similar shipments." For some reason I have a hard time believing that "no indignity was offered to the miserable disorganizer."
An another article under the headline "Kansas Outrage," reprinted by a St. Louis newspaper, it explained that, "As Mr. Cosgrove and Dr. Brannon, were going from Lecompton to Franklin, they were hailed by a party of Free State men, who enquired who they were, and where they were going. On being answered, the commander of the party turned to his men and asked their motto. They replied, Sharp's rifles, and immediately fired on Cosgrove and Brannon. Brannon was wounded, but Cosgrove sent a ball through the leader. The balance fled."

Again, as previously mentioned, these are limited examples, but apparently, and not surprisingly, the pro-slavery press of Kentucky specifically chose to print articles from pro-slavery Missouri papers that expressed positive sentiments with their political stance. When I find the time I hope to look up more Kentucky examples from the 1854-1860 Bleeding Kansas period to see if this trend continued.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kentucky Editor Gives Thoughts on Henry Ward Beecher

I thought it might be interesting to see how Kentucky newspapers covered events in "Bleeding Kansas," so I went back to the microfilm machine and found some interesting things that I will share in the couple of posts, but before that...

As so often happens when I do research with microfilmed newspapers I get "sidetracked" when something catches my eye. It could be an advertisement, or more often than not, an article that might not be directly related to what I am researching, but somewhat related. I guess that's what makes it catch my eye.

While scanning through the June 11, 1856 edition of The Lebanon (Kentucky) Post I saw a headline that said, "Rev. Henry Ward Beecher," and that they had reprinted from the Louisville Times. Beecher, of course, was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and was the very well known minister of Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn, New York. In the mid-1850s he was probably just as well known for his pulpit-pounding vehement condemnation of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and his assistance in raising funds to purchase weapons for free-state Kansas settlers. Naturally he was not a popular personality in the slave states.

The article in its full read:
"We observe that this Rev. gentleman has been making himself exceedingly busy in all the [Charles] Sumner indignation meetings [in the] North. He talks as though it would take a steamboat cable to hold him, he is so anxious to fight a border ruffian or [Preston] Brooks. He has been for years, prostituting the name of religion, and defiling the ministry. He now enters the ring, with his coat off, and his arm a-kimbo, swaggering for a fisty cuff with Mr. Brooks, of South Carolina, when the white-livered coward would run from any cook who happened to assail him with a kitchen fork, or broth ladle. He is very ready to advise people to buy Sharpe's Rifles, and take them to Kansas, but as for using himself or getting within the range of one, why that is altogether another matter. This fellow is a swaggering blackguard, and vulgar coward. He is a traitor to his country, a hypocrite in religion, a scandal to society and, a disgrace to human nature, and it is such as he that are backing the abolitionist Sumner in his outrages in the Senate."

Don't you just love mid-nineteenth century rhetoric?

Monday, August 23, 2010

National Park Service Awards $1 Million to Battlefield Preservation

From the National Coalition for History -

The National Park Service (NPS) recently awarded close to $1 million in grants from the agency's Land and Water Conservation Fund for easements in land acquisition at three endangered Civil War battlefields: Richmond Battlefield, KY (pictured above),; Franklin Battlefield, TN,; and Bentonville Battlefield, NC.
  • Madison County, Kentucky received $29,500 to buy the Moody Tract of the Richmond Battlefield. Confederate forces won the Battle of Richmond, KY fought on August 29 and 30, 1862.
  • The city of Franklin, Tennessee received a grant of $492,000 to acquire land at the Franklin Battlefield.
  • The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources received grants to acquire two segments of the Bentonville Battlefield: $306,000 for the Nell Howell Tract and $150,000 for the Joyce Britt-Halliwell Tract.

State and local governments received a total of $977,500 from the NPS. Priority was given to battlefields listed on the NPS's Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields. Funds are awarded based on the significance of the land to be acquired and the availability of required non-federal matching funds.

Congress appropriated $9 million in fiscal year 2010 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help non-federal entities acquire and preserve Civil War battlefields. State and local governments, or qualified non-profit historic preservation organizations acting through an agency of state or local government, can submit proposals, which are accepted year-round and reviewed monthly or quarterly, depending on the degree of priority of the battlefield in question.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Personality Spotlight: Samuel Jones

Yet another of the pro-slavery Kansans was Sheriff Samuel Jones. Unfortunately there are not a lot details known about Jones's early life. He was born in Virginia about 1820 and moved to Westport, Missouri in 1854 with his wife and children. Jones was named sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas in August of 1855 by acting governor Daniel Woodson, who was also a pro-slavery Virginia native.

One reason Jones had been named sheriff of Douglas County was partly due to his proven pro-slavery stance. In March of 1855 he had led a contingent of Missourians that had destroyed the ballot box at Bloomington, Kansas. Jones took to his role as sheriff seriously and used his position to suppress free state actions. One contemporary described Jones as, "tall, muscular, athletic...clad in the Border Ruffian costume-blue military overcoat, large boots, skull cap and cigar in mouth."

Jones's tough-handed measures were partly to blame for the enmity that developed between free state and pro-slavery forces that developed into the bloodless "Wakarusa War" in 1855. In late 1855 a free state man was murdered by a pro-slavery settler. Shortly thereafter a friend of the slain man was arrested for attending a free state meeting, but was rescued by his friends. Free state men started organizing, arming, and fortifying Lawrence, the center of free state activity, to prevent future arrests. Soon, Lawrence was besieged for about a week by pro-slavery men intent on suppressing free state sentiment. Fortunately a peace was brokered by free state leaders James H. Lane and Charles Robinson and the Southern-sympathizing territorial governor Wilson Shannon.

On April 23, 1856 Jones was shot in the back by unknown gunman while attempting to arrest free state men in Lawrence. Although the injury did not prove fatal it would have severe repercussions. Only a month later Jones would help lead a party of about 800 pro-slavery men in raid on Lawrence that saw the destruction of the free state newspaper the Herald of Freedom and the burning of the Free State Hotel. The raiders carried with them that day a red flag that had single white star and the words "Southern Rights" embroidered on it. After witnessing the destruction of the Free State Hotel, Jones was heard to say, "This is the happiest day of my life, I assure you." Only one person was killed in the raid on Lawrence; a pro-slavery man that was hit on the head by a piece of fallen masonry from the Free State Hotel.

Jones would not hold the position of Douglas County sheriff much longer. In January of 1857 he resigned over a spat with then territorial governor John W. Geary (a future Union Civil War general) about using balls and chains on imprisoned free state men held at Lecompton. Shortly after his resignation he left Kansas and moved to New Mexico Territory where he served as collector of customs at Paso del Norte. There he also started a ranch where he farmed until he died around 1880.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Personality Spotlight: Henry Theodore Titus

Henry Theodore Titus was born in Trenton, New Jersey on February 13, 1823. His family moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in the 1830s, where he later joined the state militia. In 1845 he served as a postal inspector in Philadelphia and then wound up involved in a failed attempted invasion of Cuba in 1849. In 1850 he participated with a Kentucky regiment in another failed Narcisco Lopez filibuster attempt on Cuba.

Titus returned to the United States and in 1852 met and married Mary Evelina Hopkins, whose father owned a 1200-acre cotton plantation in Jacksonville, Florida. After learning about the opening of the Kansas Territory Titus joined fellow emigrant Jefferson Buford (see previous post) in the effort to make it a slave state. Along with Buford he arrived in Kansas in May 1856. He settled on a claim near Lecompton, built a fortified log cabin that he called Fort Titus, and immediately began to make a name for himself as a pro-slavery ruffian of the worst sort. The New York Tribune described him as "a two-legged specimen of savage tigerhood."

Titus was a leader of the party of men that sacked Lawrence, Kansas on May 21, 1856. During the raid he ordered the printing presses of the local newspaper, the Herald of Freedom, destroyed and captured a free-state artillery piece, which he took back to Fort Titus.

A dispute with free-state neighbor Samuel Walker led Titus to label Walker a "robber, incendiary and horse thief," and offered $500 for Walker's head "on or off his shoulders." The hatred the Titus held for Walker was returned in full when on August 16, 1856, he and band of about 50 Lawrence men attacked Titus and about 30 defenders at Fort Titus. In a brief but sharp fight that was watched by U.S. Army forces under future Civil War Union general John Sedgwick, Titus and his men finally surrendered. The fight left two pro-slavery defenders dead and one free-state man mortally wounded. When Titus, who had been hit in the hand and shoulder during the fight, emerged from the cabin the free-state men leveled their rifles at him.

Walker later wrote that Titus, "was all covered with blood, having received severe wounds...he shook like a leaf. Seeing me on my horse he cried, 'For God's sake, Walker save my life! You have a wife and children; so have I. Think of them and save me.' He was a pitiable object and his appeal touched me...I took Titus into the stable. The men were intent on his life, and I had to knock one fellow down to keep him from shooting the poor wretch on the spot." Titus's slaves were freed and sent to Topeka. One was remembered as saying, "Massa Titus wanted six abolitionists for breakfast! Yah! Yah! Glory massa! guess he get his belly full dis mornin."

Titus and his men were kept incarcerated in Lawrence until the territorial leaders on both sides negotiated a prisoner exchange. The picture above shows Titus on the far left while a prisoner of the free state men. By the end of 1856 Titus was convinced that the free state forces would eventually prevail in Kansas and sought out other fields of adventure. When he learned of William Walker's filibuster effort in Nicaragua he quickly left Kansas with 100 men to join in that affair.
After the unsuccessful Nicaragua invasion Titus went to Arizona and joined in a failed mining venture with his brother. Finally, before the Civil War, he relocated to Florida. During the war he served as a quartermaster to the Florida militia. After the Civil War he moved his family briefly to New York and then back to Florida in 1867. After becoming a successful business owner and town leader he changed the name of the town from Sand Point to Titusville. After rheumatic gout kept him confined to a wheelchair a number of years, he died on August 7, 1881.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Personality Spotlight: Jefferson Buford

The free-state New England Emigrant Aid Company was not the only organized effort to settle Kansas. The pro-slavery element sent contingents of homesteaders too. One of the largest pro-slavery efforts was organized by Major Jefferson Buford of Eufala, Alabama. Buford, who was born in 1807 in Chester County, South Carolina was a lawyer and veteran of the Second Creek War. In the fall of 1855 he placed advertisements in Southern newspapers recruiting men to join him on his mission to Kansas.

Many men, both North and South, saw Kansas as high stakes in 1854 and 1855. The free-state men believed that if slavery was allowed in Kansas, it could spread anywhere. Pro-slavery men thought that if slavery was not established in Kansas then the possibility of gaining new slave states seemed limited. Something had to give.

One of the advertisements that Buford placed said:
"Who will go to Kansas? I wish to raise three hundred industrious, sober, discreet, reliable men capable of bearing arms, not prone to use them wickedly or unnecessarily, but willing to protect their sections in every real emergency. I desire to start with them for Kansas by the 20th of February next. To such I will guaranty the donation of a homestead of forty acres of first rate land, a free passage to Kansas and the means of support for one year. To ministers of the gospel, mechanics, and those with good military or agricultural outfits, I will offer greater inducements. Besides devoting twenty thousand dollars of my own means to the enterprise I expect all those who know and have confidence in me and who feel and interest in the cause, to contribute as much as they are able. I will give to each contributor my obligation that for every fifty dollars contributed I will within six months thereafter place in Kansas one bona fide settler, able and willing to vote and fight if need be for our section, or in default of doing so, that I will on demand refund the donation with interest from the day of its receipt...Here is your cheapest and surest chance to do something for Kansas, - something toward holding against the free-soil hordes that great Thermopylae of Southern institutions. In this their great day of darkness, nay, of extreme peril, there ought to be, there needs must be great individual self-sacrifice, or they cannot be maintained. If we cannot find many who are willing to incur great individual loss in the common cause, if we cannot find some crazy enough to peril even life in the deadly breach, then it is not because individuals have grown more prudent and wise, but because pubic virtue has decayed and we have thereby already become unequal to the successful defense of our rights."

Buford would come to know something about self-sacrifice for "the cause" of slavery. To fund this mission he would sell 40 of his slaves at an average price of $700 each. That was $28,000! Quite a chunk of change in 1855-56.

Finally, in April 1856 Buford and his party of 400 men, not only from Alabama, but also from Georgia and South Carolina, set off for Kansas. From Montgomery they took a steamboat to Mobile, and from Mobile to New Orleans. In New Orleans they picked up a few more emigrants and steamed up the Mississippi River toward St. Louis. They took the steamboat Keystone up the Missouri River from St. Louis to Kansas City, and while in route Buford had $5000 stolen from this personal trunk. On May 2 they landed at Westport, Kansas Territory and started to spread out into the countryside to stake claims.

The desperate fighting that broke out in the spring of 1856 made settling and farming difficult. It was in May that pro-slavery forces burned part of Lawrence and a couple of days later that John Brown and his men killed five pro-slavery settlers near Pottawatomie Creek. Then on June 2 Battle of Black Jack occurred. Some of Buford's men joined the pro-slavery territorial militia while others tried to make their homestead, and others took to stealing and marauding.
In late June Buford sent appeals to Southern states for more men and arms to drive the free-state settlers from Kansas. A week later he left to go to Washington D.C. and several Southern cities to rally support from Southern politicians and the Southern people. In late 1856 Buford returned to Kansas, but found things in disarray. Many of his original party had become discouraged and returned to Alabama, while others joined the U.S. Army and yet others had switched to the free-state side for fear of their lives.

In December, Buford made plans to leave Kansas. His accounting figured that he lost some $10,600 of his own money, not counting the $5000 theft. In 1857 Buford left Kansas never to return. Upon returning to Alabama, Buford moved to Clayton where he died of heart disease on August 26, 1861.
In the next few postings I hope to examine a couple more of these pro-slavery settler-leaders.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Charles Sumner Visited Kentucky

Who knew! So, I'm reading Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Herbert Donald and I come across a section that explained that in the summer of 1855 Sumner visited Kentucky. Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. He was after all a known traveler, having made a trip Europe in the late 1830s and again in 1858 while he was recovering from his caning by South Carolinian Preston Brooks two years before. But it is interesting that as vehement as he was against the institution of slavery, he would visit a western slave state. Actually he not only stopped in Kentucky, he also visited Tennessee and Missouri. Of course, Sumner probably had some minor experiences with slavery before, what with working in Washington D.C. (where slavery was legal) as a Massachusetts senator since 1851.

Apparently after visiting his friend Salmon Chase (who would later become Secretary of the Treasury under in the Lincoln administration) in Cincinnati, he crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky and made his first significant contact slavery. He was guided by native Kentuckian and emancipationist Cassius Clay while in the Commonwealth and was impressed by the agriculture and livestock of the state. At one point he inspected a slave quarters and found that it was well-kept and quite comfortable.

Not all of Sumner's impressions of Kentucky slavery proved so favorable though. At his stop in Lexington he witnessed a slave auction at the courthouse where he saw a slave being inspected by showing his teeth. At another time his coach was delayed several minutes while a driver helped punish a slave. And, while dining at at a hotel he saw "the revolting spectacle of a poor slave, yet a child, almost felled to the floor by a blow on the head from a clenched fist." Sumner carefully observed but didn't intrude in any of these instances. After visiting the Bluegrass region of the state, where the slave population was heaviest, he traveled on to Mammoth Cave and then to Nashville, Tennessee and eventually to St. Louis.

Looking at the endnotes from this passage the author recovered this information about Sumner's Kentucky visit from a letter to a William Schouler (at this time a Cincinnati newspaper editor and then Attorney General of Ohio). The footnote has an interesting addition that says, " During the 1855 campaign the Boston Post charged that Sumner, while in Kentucky, had been so impressed by the 'perfect happiness and contentment' of the Negroes that 'he could but confess that his previous belief concerning slavery had been...wholly incorrect.' Sumner promptly issued 'a point blank contradiction.'" Yet again it seems that the mid-nineteenth century press was as artful in their news "spinning" as any cable news network television show today...OK, maybe not that bad.

Monday, August 9, 2010

John Doy and the "Immortal Ten"

Learning about little known incidents of history is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this field of study, and one reason I can't seem to ever read enough books or visit enough historic sites. While out in Kansas I learned about the fascinating story of Doctor John Doy and the "Immortal Ten." I had never heard of Doy before, but as soon as I saw the historic image of him and his rescuers I knew there had to be a great story behind this amazing photograph. Before going into the story I think that the image deserves a closer look. There were actually several different shots of these men taken in their home town of Lawrence, Kansas ("that abolitionist hole" to the Missourians).

The hats were thing that caught my eye when I first saw the image. What a great collection of lids! The next thing was the boots, and finally the weapons. There is an assortment of choices in protection displayed on these men; the most fearsome probably being the artillery foot sword carried by the fourth man from the left. It appears that this man has purposely turned and pulled back his coat to display the fearsome weapon. This particular sword is the type that John Brown and associates used on the five pro-slavery settlers that were hacked to death at Pottawatomie Creek in May of 1856.

Doy, a homeopathic physician, had emigrated to the United States from England and settled in Rochester, New York in the early 1850s. In 1854 he was one of the first wave of settlers with the New England Emigrant Aid Society to make their way to the newly opened Kansas territory where he helped found the town of Lawrence, Kansas.

Doy had a number of run-ins with pro-slavery Kansans and Missouri Border Ruffians in the years between 1854 and 1858, including participation in the Battle of Osawottomie with John Brown in August of 1856. He was known by the Border Ruffians to be abolitionist of the worst sort. In January of 1859 Doy and his twenty-five year old son Charles and another Lawrence man named Clough volunteered to take (according to Doy) thirteen free African Americans to Iowa due to a number of kidnappings that had taken free blacks out of Kansas to be sold in Missouri. Some accounts claim the blacks were slaves, but Doy in his narrative of the incident, published in 1860, claimed that all but two had their free papers and the two who didn't had worked in Kansas for a significant amount of time.

While traveling north Doy and the party was stopped by a group of Border Ruffians, taken to Weston, Missouri and placed in jail. The Doys were charged and moved to Platte City where the blacks were sold. Clough was released and allowed to return to Lawrence but the Doys were held for trial for "slave stealing." They asked for a change of venue and were granted a move to St. Joseph, Missouri. At the March St. Joseph trial the jury could not come to a conclusion and the younger Doy was released. In June, John Doy was convicted and appealed but lost. He was to serve five year at hard labor.

On July 22, 1859 ten men - including Doy's formerly incarcerated son Charles - arrived in St. Joseph claiming to be miners, cattlemen, business men and travelers. Their plan was to break John Doy out of jail before he was transferred to the state penitentiary in Jefferson City. The following day rescuer Silas Soule brought a note to Doy claiming to be sent from Doy's wife. It explained they would break him out at midnight. Later that night two of the rescuers brought another to the jail claiming they had caught a horse thief. When the jailer let them in they informed the keeper that they were there to get Doy out. They made their getaway through a crowd letting out of the theater and were back in Lawrence by July 25 where they posed for several photographs taken by A.G. DeLee. Apparently the Missouri authorities did not pursue the case.

Although the Doy rescue occurred after most of the violence had subsided in Kansas, it was yet another incident that received publicity in the newspapers back east that fueled the fires of sectional strife between the North and the South and brought them closer to secession and civil war.

I also saw the above runaway advertisement while in Kansas. I found it interesting that the advertiser, from Missouri, made it a point to say that the slaves were "doubtless aiming for K.T. [Kansas Territory]. It is also interesting that he offered $100 each if caught outside of Missouri and only $50 if caught in the state.

Primary sources such as the Doy and Immortal Ten photograph and the runaway slave ad vividly demonstrate the grip that the possible expansion of slavery held on America in the 1850s. Kansas was truly Act One of the America's Civil War.

If interested, you can read John Doy's account (The Narrative of John Doy, of Lawrence, Kansas) at Google Books.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Random Shots from "Bleeding Kansas"

Its difficult to believe that it has been a week since I returned from the "Sunflower State." Other than not finding the time to stop at the Steamboat Arabia Museum and the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, I felt I did quite well in achieving my sightseeing goals for the trip. On the day before the National Underground Railroad conference started I got out and experienced a good deal of the Kansas countryside. Most of the sites I wanted to see are in what are still very rural areas and it took quite a bit of driving to get to them. I had always heard that Kansas was flat and treeless, but I found the geography of east Kansas to be quite varied, and there were certainly many more trees than I expected. The constant heat and humidity reminded me of Kentucky.

After visiting the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka, my first stop was to Lecompton, which is just northeast of Topeka and not too far off of I-70. Lecompton was one the four capitals during the territorial period. I drove up to the building which was originally supposed to be the territorial capital, but it had not been finished when the capital moved. The building was finally finished in the 1880s and was used to house what became Lane University, which is no longer in existence. The building now holds the Territorial Capital Museum. The gentleman that greeted me (unfortunately I forgot his name) was very friendly and a fount of knowledge about the history of Lecompton.

After looking around the museum a while this kind gentleman offered to drive me over to the Constitution Hall State Historic Site (pictured above). This building was erected in 1856 and in the fall of 1857 held the the Kansas constitutional convention where a pro-slavery constitution was drafted and submitted. Although it was accepted by President Buchanan it was defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives. The building has been restored to its mid-nineteenth century appearance and has a number of great panel exhibits and artifacts on display.
To say that Kansas had political troubles during this era is an understatement. From 1854 to 1861 Kansas voted on four separate constitutions. They voted on one constitution three times. The territorial capital moved to five towns, and at one time there were two separate legislatures, one pro-slavery and one free state. It finally took five years to ratify a constitution and two more years before Congress to accept it.

While in Lecompton I also visited the first Kansas Democratic Headquarters. This small stone building, which used to also have a log cabin attached to the side of it served as meeting place of the democratic party in Kansas. Since Lecompton was the center of Democratic Kansas, this little building served an important purpose in the "Bleeding Kansas" years as a place to plan political strategy, hash out issues, and make important decisions. The building was originally built in the early 1850s and possibly served as the residence of the Simmons family who operated a ferry on the Kaw, now Kansas, River, which is just down the hill. It is great to see a community such as Lecompton preserving so much of its rich and interesting history for future generations.

After leaving Lecompton I drove south around Lawrence and then east to Baldwin City, where with the help of roadside markers, I found the Black Jack Battlefield. It was here on June 2, 1856 that John Brown and a handful of men fought and defeated the pro-slavery forces under Henry Clay Pate in what came to be known as the Battle of Black Jack. It was called Black Jack because of a grove of Black Jack oak trees that grew near a spring and creek that ran nearby. Although there were some casualties in the three hours or so of fighting, no one was killed. The battle, really more a skirmish, came shortly after the pro-slavery forces had sacked Lawrence on May 21 and then John Brown and company retaliated by killing five pro-slavery settlers on Pottawatomie Creek on May 24-25. Pate and his men camped at Black Jack Springs where Brown found him on June 2. While out in Kansas I heard several people claim that this was truly the first battle of the Civil War, and I think they have as good a claim to it as any.

A Kansas highway historical marker on the main road that describes the "battle."

Black Jack Springs was on the Santa Fe Trail, and I was told, only about three miles from where the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails spit. The spring and creek, which I was also told, never went dry, even in the worst of droughts, was an important place to water beasts of burden heading out on the trails. The stories that these few acres must hold!

Part of the Black Jack battlefield is pictured above. Wagon wheel ruts from a historic road can be seen in the middle of the picture leading to the Black Jack creek. The Black Jack battlefield was saved in 2003 from possible development by a grassroots community effort, the Black Jack Battlefield Trust.

Next on the agenda was a trip to Osawatomie. A little pre-trip scouting told me that the John Brown cabin (really the Adair cabin) was there in John Brown Memorial Park, where Brown's outnumbered forces were soundly defeated on August 30, 1856. The pro-slavery forces intent on destroying free state and abolitionist influence in Kansas attacked the town of Osawatomie after meeting and then killing Brown's son Frederick on his way to Lawrence. Brown's half-sister Flora and her husband Rev. Samuel Adair, both graduates of Oberlin College, owned a cabin near Osawatomie that was a station on the Underground Railroad, where Brown often slept and made plans. The pro-slavery forces burned the town of Osawatomie, but the Adair Cabin fortunately survived.

A sign at the entrance of the park.

The stone building in the background was built around the Adair cabin in effort to to protect it.
Curiously, the cabin survived the burring of Osawatomie in 1856, but was damaged a few years ago when an arsonist tried to burn it in the stone building. The cabin today is a museum that contains a number of interesting Brown artifacts and great information about the territorial war years.

I was able to learn so much about "Bleeding Kansas" and its role in America's history by going to these important historic sites. Thankfully the people of the state of Kansas have a great appreciation for their history and have worked hard to preserve its story.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Random Shots from the Kansas History Museum

My recent trip out to Kansas for the National Underground Railroad Conference included a stop at the Kansas Museum of History, which as one might expect houses a wealth of treasures from the "Bleeding Kansas" era.

From the entrance of the museum - where the above picture was taken - John Brown's image is a presence. The Brown shown here is one that the average American might not recognize. Absent, of course, is the long white beard of Harpers Ferry legend. This was the John Brown of the Kansas years.

Over the last couple of months I have become fascinated with the territorial battles in Kansas, and although there were some real interesting items displayed at the museum, probably the most captivating to me was the above banner. In 1855, a recently arrived settler from Illinois, Reverend Pardee Butler, was captured by pro-slavery men and put on a quickly fashioned raft and set afloat down the Missouri River. It was assumed by the pro-slavery men that either Butler would drown or he would land somewhere in the state of Missouri and not receive a warm welcome. To insure that the Missourians who found Butler knew he was a free-state abolitionist, they attached this banner to the raft. On it is written "Eastern Aid Express" a reference to the New England Emigrant Aid Company that sent easterners to settle Kansas as a free state. It also says, "Rev. Mr. Butler agent for the underground Railroad." The picture shows a man with an African American slave woman behind him riding a horse. The caption says, "Greely to the rescue - I have a nigger." Greeley, of course, was Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune and well known antislavery man. Butler was able to guide the raft to the Kansas side of the river and kept the flag. In 1856, Butler was spotted in Atchison, Kansas. He was mobbed. Pro-slavery men whipped him and then tarred him, but not having feathers, they used cotton.
The banner was donated to the museum by Butler's son in 1927.

In Kansas they weren't just fighting with Bowie knives, Colt revolvers and Sharp's rifles; they had artillery too. I think this howitzer was captured at the Battle of Fort Titus, near Lecompton, Kansas on August 16, 1856. Don't get the wrong idea, Fort Titus was not a real fort, but rather an armed log cabin belonging to Colonel Henry Titus, a pro-slavery settler who was seriously injured in the short fight. He surrendered his men and weapons, as well as his sword, which is also in the museum. Titus's slaves were set free and told to go to Topeka. Titus soon gave up the pro-slavery cause in Kansas and joined a filibuster expedition to Nicaragua. When he returned to the United States he established to town of Titusville, Florida.

In the museum are a number of John Brown's surveying tools including this compass.

I thought this interactive exhibit was a neat way to think about John Brown and whether he was a hero or a terrorist; a topic that is still controversial to this day.

These flags are actually from Northern states that made reference to the free-state Kansas efforts during the 1856 presidential election. One of the Republican party's slogans was "Free Soil, Free Men, and Fremont;" referring to John C. Fremont, the party's candidate in 1856.

This is the flag of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment. The First Kansas Colored was the first African American regiment recruited in the Northern states; not the more famous 54th Massachusetts. This unit fought and died in battle in Missouri even before they were mustered into federal service. They were mustered into service before the 54th Massachusetts even received authorization to begin recruiting.
Of course, I couldn't leave the museum without a visit to their store. I was unable to avoid the urge to purchase a poster of the famous John Stueart Curry image, "The Tragic Prelude." If you get the opportunity to visit the Kansas History Museum, please do. They have so many items you won't see anywhere else. If you can't make the trip there, take a few minutes to visit their website at: