Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jo Shelby on "Bleeding Kansas"

Joseph "Jo" O. Shelby was born in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1830, and was educated at Transylvania University. As a young man he ran a hemp rope manufactory and moved to Missouri in 1852. After the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed two years later, Shelby found himself caught up in the "Bleeding Kansas" battles.

As an old man he related his experience in those dire days of discord. Giving his story to a Kansas historian he related:

"I was in Kansas at the head of an armed force about that time. I went there to kill Free State men. I did kill them. I am now ashamed of myself for having done so, but then times were different from what they are now, and that is what I went there for. We Missourians all went there for that purpose if it should be found necessary to carry out our designs. I had no business there. No Missourian had any business there with arms in his hands. The policy that sent us there was damnable and the trouble we started there on the border bore fruit for ten years. I ought to have been shot there and John Brown was the only man who knew it and would have done it. I say John Brown was right. He did in his country what I would have done in mine in like circumstances. Those were the days when slavery was in the balance and the violence engendered made men irresponsible. I now see I was so myself."

Shelby fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, doing battle in the Trans-Mississippi theater, rising in rank from captain to general. Instead of surrendering at the end of the war, Shelby took his force to Mexico, where he stayed until 1867. Upon returning to Missouri he took up farming again and died in 1897.

Shelby quote from General Jo Shelby: Undefeated Rebel by Daniel O'Flaherty, page 44.


  1. Wow. That was frank. Wish he could have been so reflective BEFORE he resorted to violence.

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