Category: Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
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We have already told how the campaign was opened, in the spring of 1856, in Atchison county, in a letter which we at that time addressed to the editor of the _Herald of Freedom_. This paper was printed at Lawrence, on the printing press destroyed by the "Law and Order" mob. The weekly issue in which this letter was published was passing through the press on the day the town was sacked, one side having been printed, the other side being yet blank. Then the Border Ruffians came into the town, broke up the press and threw it into the river, and tumbled the half printed weekly issue into the street. The above-named article was on the printed side, and was read by the whole crowd, and they were terribly angry. If the writer had been in town he certainly would not have escaped alive, if this mob could have found him.

As it was, their curses would not be edifying reading in a Christian newspaper. Lecompton could not give its friends food or lodging. It had been located in an out-of-the-way and inaccessible place; its proprietors were Sheriff Jones, Judge Lecompton, and men of that _ilk,_ and business men avoided the place as if it had been smitten with a pestilence. The people of the surrounding country were generally Free State men, and the South Carolinians could not choose, but were forced to return to Atchison. They had been angry and impatient when their friends in Atchison had constrained them to do things up in such "milk and water" style, and in Lawrence they had been held back in the same manner, and they returned in a savage temper. Should a cowardly Yankee be allowed to defy them, and scoff at them, and call them "bull-dogs and blood-hounds," with impunity? and now, with this man they had to have a settlement.

We have already seen how the contending factions spread murder and violence south of the Kaw River; but from May till September Leavenworth county became a "dark and bloody ground." Immediately after the Fourth of July, Col. Sumner had been, because of his too great leniency to Free State men, superseded in command at Fort Leavenworth by Persifer F. Smith, a man whose heart was hard as a rock of adamant toward the Free State people, and under his eyes Leavenworth city and county were given up to blood and robbery.

In Atchison county, from the beginning of these border troubles to the end of them, not one man's life was taken, and yet David R. Atchison, Gen. B. F. Stringfellow, and his law partner, Peter T. Abell, were the leading members of the Atchison town company. Robert S. Kelley and Dr. John H. Stringfellow also maintained unchanged their bloody purposes. We find in the _Squatter Sovereign_, under date of June 10th, the following editorial, and this displays its uniform temper:

The Abolitionist: shoot down our men, without provocation, wherever they meet them; let us retaliate in the same manner. A free fight is all we desire. If murder and assassination is the programme of the day, we are in favor of filling the bill. Let not the knives of the Pro-slavery men be sheathed while there is one Abolitionist in the Territory. As they have shown no quarters to our men, they deserve none from us. Let our motto be written in blood on our flags, "_Death to all Yankees and traitors in Kansas_."

Why, then, were not these bloody counsels made good by deeds? Our circumstances were peculiar. It will be seen above that it was only the Yankees and Abolitionists in whose bodies the knives of the "Law and Order" party were to be sheathed; and the Yankees in the country were only a handful of men, and were therefore powerless; but between them and these bloody-minded chieftains was interposed a barrier that proved insurmountable. The great mass of the squatters were just from the other side of the river. Sometimes a son had left a father, and crossed the river to get a claim; or a brother had left his brother, or a girl had married a young man in the neighborhood, and as the young folks were poor, they had left the old folks and had gone to seek their fortune in the new Territory. Of course the old folks would still have a care for the young couple. They were in easy reach of each other, and would still visit back and forth. Now who does not see that to touch any one of these was to touch all? It was like touching a nest of hornets. The reader will observe that these people had no quarrel with the people of the South: they were bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. Neither had they any special quarrel with Southern institutions; only this, that they would rather live in a free State. They did feel that way, and they could not help it. But in one thing they had been sorely wounded. In the invasion of Kansas, and in the carrying the elections by violence, their personal rights had been invaded, and they did resent that. And now here were some Yankee neighbors whom they knew to be kindly and peaceable people, and whose help they needed in building up their churches; and yet these were to be murdered or driven out of the Territory _for nothing!_ and it touched their Southern blood. It was neither just nor right, and they would not allow it; and in such an issue there would be a common bond of sympathy on both sides of the river. Moreover, such men as Oliver Steele, Judge Tutt and the Irvings and Harts and Christophers had grave misgivings what would be the final issue of this system of murder and violence that had been adopted to make Kansas a slave State.

And so it was that the leaders in this conspiracy, right here in this city and county of Atchison, which was their headquarters, found themselves strangely embarrassed and handicapped. Their will was good enough, but how to carry out their purpose?--that was the pinch. A private assassination was a thing that looked easy enough at the first sight, but it might turn out that they had undertaken an ugly job for themselves.

A meeting of the Disciples was held at the house of Archibald Elliott in the month of June. It was called quietly, and no noise made about it. There was a large attendance, and it was evident that if we could hold regular meetings great good would be done. But the neighborhood was soon filled with alarming rumors. It was said that a company of South Carolinians were seen to go into a grove of bushes, about nightfall, where the writer would be expected to pass, and that they were seen to emerge from the same place the next morning. One event, however, adjourned our meetings without date. There was a man living in the western part of the county named Barnett, who was a man of considerable attainment, and had been a member of the Christian Church. But he was given to drink. His wife, however, who was an excellent Christian woman, remained steadfast to the church, and Barnett, as he saw his hold on the church and his hope of heaven slipping away from him, clung the more loyally to his wife, as though her Christian excellencies would save them both. At her request he invited me to preach a sermon at his house, and I consented. But when the South Carolinians in Atchison heard of it, they sent an insulting message to Barnett that they would come and shoot me. Barnett's Southern blood was all on fire. Who were these men that had come to Atchison county to ride rough-shod over him in his own house? He sent a message equally defiant back to them, that if they did come he and his neighbors would shoot them. But there was one man in the county that needed to have no nervousness as touching his reputation for personal bravery. That man was Caleb May; and he interposed and said: "Let us wait patiently for more peaceful times. The Son of man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." But this adjourned without date our meetings.

One incident must illustrate the strained and peculiar condition of affairs in Atchison county. Archimedes Speck lived on the Stranger Creek, several miles below the residence of the writer. He was a man of magnificent physical development, and was a pronounced Free State man. His wife's people originally came from North Carolina, and she was proud of her Southern blood; and the husband and wife did not come to Kansas to be run over by anybody. Yet they were eminently peaceable people, if let alone. These gentlemen in Atchison had determined to disarm the Free State people living in the country; and Mr. Speck, being a Free State man, open and avowed, they called on him, but he was not at home. They therefore asked his wife: "Has your husband a rifle, musket, or fire-arms of any kind?" She brought out an old Queen Anne's musket, as rusty and worn as if it had been in service ever since the Revolutionary war. But while they were inspecting the rusty old thing, whether it was worth carrying away, she took from a closet a bran span new double-barrel fowling-piece, and, putting her finger on the trigger, she said, "Now, sir, if you do not lay down that musket and leave the house, I will shoot you." If this gentleman had suddenly roused up a female tiger, he would not have been more terror-stricken than when he found himself facing this woman, blazing with scorn and irrepressible resentment, and he concluded he did not want the rusty old musket, _and did not ask to examine the other one._

Mr. S. had threatened to flog one of his Pro-slavery neighbors who had insulted him, as he alleged, and the man went to Atchison and made oath that he was in fear of his life, and the Sheriff was sent out with a warrant to arrest Mr. Speck. But at this time Leavenworth county was full of murder and bloodshed; guerrilla parties, both Free State and Pro-slavery, were fighting in many parts of the Territory, and Lane had returned, and was leading the Free State men in this warfare, and had threatened with many oaths to wipe out Atchison, and there were rumors that he was already near at hand. And so, to provide against all contingencies, the Sheriff was accompanied by a _posse_ of forty armed men, who took with them a cannon which had been loaned to Atchison by the people of Missouri.

Mrs. Speck received the Sheriff graciously, explained to him that her husband was absent, but would soon return, but to all questions as touching his present whereabouts, she shook her head mysteriously and refused to explain. The thing looked suspicious. Was it possible that Lane was even now in the neighborhood? and the Sheriff went back to his _posse_ to hold a council of war. He had stationed them on a high bluff on the north bank of the Stranger Creek, and, looking across the wide timbered bottom to the opposite bluff, they could dimly see a large number of objects approaching through the brush-wood. What could it be? Was it Lane coming to attack him? And now two horsemen emerged from the brush and rode on a full gallop down the bluff.

"It is Lane! It is Lane!" they cried. "Let us ride back to Atchison and get ready to defend the town," and on a gallop they skedaddled back to Atchison.

Mr. Speck had been with some of his neighbors to bring home a herd of cattle. An old cow had broken from the herd, intending to get back to her former grazing ground, and Mr. Speck and his neighbors had ridden full gallop to head her off. On reaching home, and learning of the visit of the Sheriff, he went at once to Atchison to give bonds to keep the peace; and to make all things square, he took with him the rusty old musket and proffered it to the gentleman that had been so solicitous to get it. Mr. Speck assured him that Mrs. S. was now willing he should have it, and _would not shoot him if he took it_.

These gentlemen had been making money out of pocket. They had been frightened out of their wits by a spunky woman; and forty armed men, with a loaded cannon, had been stampeded and made to run pell-mell into Atchison by a herd of cattle and two or three men on horseback, riding at full gallop after an old cow.

These men had undertaken to do a wicked thing, and had been made ridiculous in doing so; and this contributed largely to that revolution in the public opinion of the county, which had been going on for eighteen months, and which at the last compelled a radical change in the policy of these "Border Ruffian" leaders. But this again gave the chiefs of this conspiracy abundant experience that it pays to do right, and that a good Providence had brought them prosperity and honor by defeating their original counsels and turning them into foolishness.

But first we must tell of the carnival of riot, ruin, and robbing that had been going on in other parts of the Territory.

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