Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Sheriff Jones went away, vowing that he would have revenge, and sent the following dispatch to Gov. Shannon:

DOUGLAS CO., K. T., NOV. 27, 1855.

SIR:--Last night I, with a posse of ten men, arrested one Jacob Branson, by virtue of a peace warrant regularly issued, who, on our return, was rescued by a party of _forty men_ who rushed upon us suddenly from behind a house by the roadside, all armed to the teeth with Sharpe's rifles.

You may consider an open rebellion as already having commenced, and I call upon you for THREE THOUSAND MEN to carry out the laws. Mr. Hargis, the bearer of this letter, will give you more particularly the circumstances. Most respectfully,

SAMUEL J. JONES, Sheriff Douglas County.




On receipt of the above dispatch, Gov. Shannon wrote to Major-General William P. Richardson, reciting the story told him by Sheriff Jones, together with additional stories (equally false), told him by Hargis, and closed his letter with the following order:

You are therefore hereby commanded to collect together as large a force as you can in your division, and repair, without delay, to Lecompton, and report to S. J. Jones, Sheriff of Douglas County, together with the number of your forces, and render him all the aid and assistance in your power in the execution of any legal process in his hands. The forces under your command are to be used for the sole purpose of aiding the Sheriff in executing the law, and for no other purpose.

I have the honor to be Your obedient servant,



Gov. Shannon knew, as well as he knew his name was Wilson Shannon, that this meant another invasion of Kansas Territory. There was no organized militia in Kansas. Gen. Richardson did not live in Kansas; he lived in Missouri, and it meant Missouri militia and not Kansas militia. Moreover, the Governor knew, or at least ought to have known, what an unreliable man this Sheriff Jones was. Jones was Postmaster at Westport, and Shannon was living at Shawnee Mission, in the neighborhood of Westport. And yet, without one moment's inquiry, he placed the issues of life and death of this infant Territory in the hands of this lying scoundrel.

There was a rallying of the clans of the blue lodges of Missouri. The following appeal, sent by Brig. Gen. Eastin, editor of the _Leavenworth Herald_, and commander of the second brigade, Kansas militia, must serve as a sample of the dispatches that were scattered broadcast through the border Missouri counties:


It is expected that every lover of _law and order_ will rally at Leavenworth on Saturday, December 1, 1855, prepared to march at once to _the scene of rebellion_ to put down the outlaws of Douglas county, who are committing depredations upon persons and property, burning down houses and declaring open hostility to the laws, and have forcibly rescued a prisoner from the Sheriff. Come one, come all! The outlaws are armed to the teeth, and number 1,000 men. Everyman should bring his rifle and ammunition, and it would be well to bring two or three days' provisions. Every man to his post and do his duty. MANY CITIZENS.

In answer to the above appeal 1,500 men, mostly from Missouri, encamped around Lawrence, under such notabilities as Maj. Gens. Strickler and Richardson, Brig. _Gen_. Eastin, Col. Atchison, Col. Peter T. Abell, Robert S. Kelley, Stringfellow and Sheriff Jones. They had broken into the United States Arsenal at Liberty, Clay County, Mo., and stolen guns, cutlasses and such munitions of war as they required.

But when this was known the free State men turned out from all the settlements of Kansas with equal alacrity, to defend Lawrence. They came singly, and in squads and in companies. They came by night and by day. Sam Wood, Tappin and Smith, the rescuers of Branson, and who were residents of Lawrence, left the city, and there were none there against whom Sheriff Jones had any writs to execute. Dr. Robinson was appointed Commander-in-Chief for the defense of the city, and James H. Lane was appointed second in command. But Lane was the principal figure in the enterprise. He alone had military experience, and he alone had the daring, the genius and the personal magnetism of a real leader.

The free State men, for the last year, had been passing through the furnace-fires of a vigorous discipline, and they would have fought as the Tennessee and Kentucky backwoodsmen of Andrew Jackson fought behind their cotton bales at the battle of New Orleans. They had seen their rights wrested out of their hands by a mob of ruffians, and now they were proposing to settle the matter in that court of last resort that is the final and ultimate appeal of the nations. Except Gen. Lane, they had small knowledge of military tactics, but they knew how to look along the barrel of a rifle; moreover, they would fight behind breastworks, and this to raw troops would have been an immense advantage.

It is probable that the first intimation that Gov. Shannon got of the real state of affairs at Lawrence was conveyed to him in the following letter, written by Brig. Gen. Eastin:

GOVERNOR SHANNON:--Information has been received direct from Lawrence, which I consider reliable, that the outlaws are well fortified with cannon and Sharpe' rifles, and number at least 1,000 men. It will, therefore, be difficult to dispossess them.

The militia in this portion of the State are entirely unorganized, and mostly without arms. I suggest the propriety of calling upon the military of Fort Leavenworth. If you have the power to call out the government troops, I think it would be best to do so at once. It might overawe these outlaws and prevent bloodshed.

S. J. EASTIN, Brig. Gen. Northern Brigade, K. M.


Gen. Eastin is mistaken in putting their number at 1,000, but whether many or few they certainly would have fought a hard battle. They were picked men from all the Kansas settlements. Our old friend, Caleb May, was there, as grim and as self-possessed as Andrew Jackson. So also Old John Brown was there with his four sons, though they did not arrive until Gov. Shannon had made overtures for peace.

The Governor telegraphed to Washington to obtain authority to call out Col. Sumner with the United States troops at Fort Leavenworth. He also wrote to Col. Sumner to hold himself ready to march at a moment's notice. And now this simple-minded Gov. Shannon, Ex-Governor of Ohio, who had come to Kansas to waste in a few short months the ripe honors he had been so carefully hoarding up for a life-time, bethought himself that it was time for him to go and look with his own eyes after this rebellion he had so foolishly and recklessly stirred up.

We have already remarked that Gen. James H. Lane was the most conspicuous figure in the defense of Lawrence. It is proper to pause and consider the character of this man, who shone for a time like a brilliant meteor, and then had his light quenched in the blackness of darkness.

He had now been eight months in Kansas. He came out of the Mexican war with a good reputation as a brilliant and dashing officer, and a man of approved courage. As a politician he had been highly favored by the people of Indiana. He was in the convention that nominated President Pierce. He was in Congress at the time of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and aided in its enactment. He was the friend of Stephen A. Douglas. Yet he came to Kansas a man of broken fortunes. He was bankrupt in reputation, bankrupt in property, and bankrupt in morals, and he came away from unhappy family relations. Notwithstanding, he brought with him boundless ambition, and a consciousness in his own heart that he possessed genius that might lift him up to the highest pinnacle of honor. His first effort was to reorganize that political party that was in control of the Government at Washington, and that he had so faithfully served in Indiana. As respects slavery, he probably would have said with Mr. Douglas that he did not care whether it was voted up or voted down. But his effort fell stillborn and dead. Dr. John H. Stringfellow was an old Whig, and so also were many of the Pro-slavery leaders, and they would not hear to it that there should be any parties known save the Pro-slavery and Free State parties. The Free State men were equally averse to making any division in their own ranks. Mr. Lane was to choose, and he did choose _with a vengeance_.

Bad men usually pay this compliment to a righteous life, that they seek to conceal their wicked deeds and wear the outside seeming of virtue. But this strange man never pretended to be anything else than just what he was. He displayed such audacious boldness as gave an air of respectability even to his wickedness.

His public speaking did not belong to any school of oratory known among men; yet, if to sway the people as a tempest bends to its will a field of waving grain, be oratory, then was Mr. Lane, in the highest sense of the word, an orator. He spoke once in Chicago when the people were most excited over the Kansas troubles. A great crowd came to hear, and he swayed them to his will, as only such men as Henry Ward Beecher and Patrick Henry have been able to do. But this gospel was the gospel of hate. Implacable, unforgiving hate was his only gospel.

At last this man, at once both great and wicked, having attained the highest honors the people had to bestow, died by his own hand. The people believed that he had gone wrong and betrayed them, and they withdrew from him their favor. Mr. Lane loved popularity more than he loved heaven, and he shot himself through the brain.

The writer, unwilling alone to take the responsibility of expressing such a judgment as the above, appealed to a gentlemen whose high position in public life and kindly and conservative temper eminently qualify him to speak, and this is what he says:

No one can question the fact that Mr. Lane's career in Kansas exerted a great influence in shaping the affairs and controlling the destiny of the young State. During his life I was alternately swayed by feelings of admiration and distrust. I recognized fully the marvelous energy and equally marvelous influence of the man, but I distrusted his sincerity and lacked confidence in his integrity. When I met him, or listened to one of his impassioned speeches, ne swept me away with the contagion of his seeming enthusiasm, but when I went out from the influence of his personal magnetism I felt that something was lacking in the man to justify a well-grounded confidence.

This man that had in him such a commingling of good and evil was now the leading spirit in the defense of Lawrence. [2]