August 21, 1863 Bushwacker

During the “Bleeding Kansas” period, pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” and anti-slavery “Jayhawkers” crossed one another’s borders with impunity, primarily to murder each other’s civilians and burn out one another’s towns.

Lawrence, 1863
Lawrence, Kansas 1863

In the early morning hours of August 21, 1863, 300 to 400 riders converged in the darkness outside the city of Lawrence, Kansas.

These were a loose collection of independent “bushwacker groups”, pro-slavery and nominally Confederate, though subject to no structure of command and control.

This was a civilian group operating outside of any structured chain of command, more a gang of criminal outlaws than any military operation. There was Cole Younger and Frank James, the soon-to-be-famous Jesse’s older brother. There was William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson, whose men were known for tying the scalps of slain Unionists to the saddles and bridles of their horses. Leading this assemblage of ruffians was a 27-year-old former schoolteacher from Ohio: William Clarke Quantrill.

Lawrence Kansas
Lawrence Kansas

Lawrence, Kansas was mostly asleep at that hour, as several columns of riders descended on the town. It was 5:00am and pitch dark, as most of the city of 3,000 awoke to the sound of pounding hooves.

Doors were smashed in amid the sounds of gunshots and screams. Quantrill’s band went through the town, systematically shooting most of the male population.

The shooting, the looting and the burning went on for four hours. Between 160 and 190 of the men and boys of Lawrence, ages 14 to 90, were murdered. Most of them had no means of defending themselves.

06quantrill0Intending to deprive Confederate sympathizers from their base of support, General Thomas Ewing authorized General Order No. 11 four days later, ordering that most of four counties along the Kansas-Missouri border be depopulated. Tens of thousands of civilians were forced out of their homes as Union troops came through, burning buildings, torching fields and shooting livestock.

The area was so thoroughly devastated, it would forever be known as the “Burnt District”.

48fc70e5-6dfd-415f-bcfa-7e414722ae07_d

Following the raid on Lawrence, Quantrill fled to Texas and was later killed in a Union ambush, near Taylorsville Kentucky.

William Clarke Quantrill
William Clarke Quantrill

Quantrill’s band broke up into several smaller groups, with some joining the Confederate army. Others such as Frank and Jesse James and the Younger brothers, went on to apply the hit and run tactics they had learned from Quantrill’s “army” to a career of bank and train robberies.

Quantrill himself explained the incursion as retribution, for the 1861 “Jayhawker” raid of Colonel Charles “Doc” Jennison and Senator James H. Lane, that left 9 dead in Osceola, Missouri, resulting in acres of so-called “Jennison Monuments”, the two story brick chimneys which were all that remained of the burned out homes of Union and Confederate sympathizer, alike.

Others blamed the raid on the collapse of a makeshift jail in Kansas City, that killed several female relatives of the raiders. It seems more likely that it was just one more in a series of homicidal raids carried out by both sides, such raids usually resulting in the death of innocents.

QuantrillsGuerrillasReunion1920
Quantrill’s Guerrillas Reunion, 1920

In 1907, newspaper articles appeared in Canada reporting that Quantrill was still alive, living on northwest Vancouver Island, under the name of John Sharp.  “Quantrill” claimed to have survived that Kentucky ambush after all, despite wounds from bullet and bayonet. Sharp/Quantrill made his way south to Chile, according to the story, before drifting up north and finally become a mine caretaker at Coal Harbour at Quatsino, on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

The story was probably one of fiction on Mr. Sharp’s part, but the fib would prove to have unfortunate consequences. Weeks later, two men traveled north to Canada, with the apparent purpose of taking revenge.  The pair took a coastal steamer out of Quatsino Sound the following morning, the day in which Sharp was found, severely beaten.  John Sharp died several hours later, without identifying his attackers.  The crime has never been solved.

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.
Advertisements

May 22, 1856 State’s Rights

The issue of slavery had joined and become so intertwined with ideas of self-determination, as to be indistinguishable.

Since the earliest days of the Republic, those supporting strong federal government found themselves opposed by those favoring greater self-determination by the states. In the southern regions, climate conditions led to dependence on agriculture, the rural economies of the south producing cotton, rice, sugar, indigo and tobacco. Colder states to the north tended to develop manufacturing economies, urban centers growing up in service to hubs of transportation and the production of manufactured goods.

domestic-tariffs-at-the-souths-expense (1)In the first half of the 19th century, 90% of federal government revenue came from tariffs on foreign manufactured goods. A lion’s share of this revenue was collected in the south, with the region’s greater dependence on imported goods.  Much of this federal largesse was spent in the north, with the construction of railroads, canals and other infrastructure.

The debate over economic issues and rights of self-determination, so-called ‘state’s rights’, grew and sharpened with the “nullification crisis” of 1832-33, when South Carolina declared such tariffs to be unconstitutional and therefore null and void within the state. A cartoon from the time depicted “Northern domestic manufacturers getting fat at the expense of impoverishing the South under protective tariffs.”

Chattel slavery pre-existed the earliest days of the colonial era, from Canada to Brazil and around the world. Moral objections to what was really a repugnant institution could be found throughout, but economic forces had as much to do with ending the practice, as any other. The “peculiar institution” died out first in the colder regions of the US and may have done so in warmer climes as well, but for Eli Whitney’s invention of a cotton engine (‘gin’) in 1794.

It takes ten man-hours to remove the seeds to produce a single pound of cotton. By comparison, a cotton gin can process about a thousand pounds a day, at comparatively little expense.

54521_cotton-pick_lg

The year of Whitney’s invention, the South exported 138,000 pounds a year to Europe and the northern states. Sixty years later, Great Britain alone was importing 600 million pounds a year from the southern states. Cotton was King, and with good reason.  The stuff is easily grown, highly transportable, and can be stored indefinitely, compared with food crops.  The southern economy turned overwhelmingly to the one crop, and its need for plentiful, cheap labor.

25The issue of slavery had joined and become so intertwined with ideas of self-determination, as to be indistinguishable.

The first half of the 19th century was one of westward expansion, generating frequent and sharp conflicts between pro and anti-slavery factions. The Missouri compromise of 1820 attempted to reconcile the sides, defining which territories would legalize slavery, and which would be “free”.

The short-lived “Wilmot Proviso” of 1846 sought to ban slavery in new territories, after which the Compromise of 1850 attempted to strike a balance.  The Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 created two new territories, essentially repealing the Missouri Compromise and allowing settlers to determine their own direction.

This attempt to democratize the issue had the effect of drawing up battle lines.  Pro-slavery forces established a territorial capital in Lecompton, while “antis” set up an alternative government in Topeka.

78451229_783584_lIn Washington, Republicans backed the anti-slavery side, while most Democrats supported their opponents.  On May 20, 1856, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner took to the floor of the Senate and denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  Never known for verbal restraint, Sumner attacked the measure’s sponsors Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois (he of the later Lincoln-Douglas debates), and Andrew Butler of South Carolina by name, accusing the pair of “consorting with the harlot, slavery”.  Douglas was in the audience at the time and quipped “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool”.

In the territories, the standoff had long since escalated to violence. Upwards of a hundred or more were killed between 1854 – 1861, in a period known as “Bleeding Kansas”.

The town of Lawrence was established by anti-slavery settlers in 1854, and soon became the focal point of pro-slavery violence. Emotions were at a boiling point when Douglas County Sheriff Samuel Jones was shot trying to arrest free-state settlers on April 23, 1856. Jones was driven out of town but he would return.

Lawrence Massacre
Sack of Lawrence, Kansas

The day after Sumner’s speech, a posse of 800 pro-slavery forces converged on Lawrence Kansas, led by Sheriff Jones.  The town was surrounded to prevent escape and much of it burned to the ground.  This time there was only one fatality; a slavery proponent who was killed by falling masonry.  Seven years later, Confederate guerrilla Robert Clarke Quantrill carried out the second sack of Lawrence.  This time, most of the men and boys of the town were murdered where they stood, with little chance to defend themselves.

Meanwhile, Preston Brooks, Senator Butler’s nephew and a Member of Congress from South Carolina, had read over Sumner’s speech of the day before.  Brooks was an inflexible proponent of slavery and took mortal insult from Sumner’s words.

 

Preston Brooks (left), Charles Sumner, (right)

Brooks was furious and wanted to challenge the Senator to a duel. He discussed it with fellow South Carolina Representative Laurence Keitt, who explained that dueling was for gentlemen of equal social standing. Sumner was no gentleman, he said.  No better than a drunkard.

Brooks had been shot in a duel years before, and walked with a heavy cane. Resolved to publicly thrash the Senator from Massachusetts, the Congressman entered the Senate building on May 22, in the company of Congressman Keitt and Virginia Representative Henry A. Edmundson.

Caning of Charles SumnerThe trio approached Sumner, who was sitting at his desk writing letters. “Mr. Sumner”, Brooks said, “I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.”

Sumner’s desk was bolted to the floor.  He never had a chance. The Senator began to rise when Brooks brought the cane down on his head. Over and over the cane crashed down, while Keitt brandished a pistol, warning onlookers to “let them be”. Blinded by his own blood, Sumner tore the desk from the floor in his struggle to escape, losing consciousness as he tried to crawl away. Brooks rained down blows the entire time, even after the body lay motionless, until finally, the cane broke apart.

states_rights_imgIn the next two days, a group of unarmed men will be hacked to pieces by anti-slavery radicals, on the banks of Pottawatomie Creek.

The 80-year-old nation forged inexorably onward, to a Civil War which would kill more Americans than every war from the American Revolution to the War on Terror, combined.

StateRights_and_Nullification

If you enjoyed this “Today in History”, please feel free to re-blog, “like” & share on social media, so that others may find and enjoy it as well. Please click the “follow” button on the right, to receive email updates on new articles.  Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share.

May 24, 1856 – Pottawatomie Massacre

There had been 8 killings to date in the Kansas Territory; Brown and his party had just murdered five in a single night. The massacre lit a powder keg of violence in the days that followed. Twenty-nine people died on both sides in the next three months alone.

John Brown Sr. came to the Kansas Territory as a result of violence, sparked by the expansion of slavery into the Kansas-Nebraska territories between 1854 and 1861, a period known as “Bleeding Kansas”.  To some, the man was a hero.  To others he was a kook, the devil incarnate.  A radical abolitionist and unwavering opponent of the “peculiar institution” of slavery, John Brown believed that armed confrontation was the only way to bring it to an end.

John_Brown
John Brown

Brown and four of his sons: Frederick, Owen, Salmon, and Oliver, along with Thomas Weiner and James Townsley, set out on what they called a “secret expedition”, on May 23, 1856. The group camped between two deep ravines off the road that night, remaining in hiding until sometime after dark on the 24th. Late that night, they stopped at the house of James P. Doyle, ordering him and his two adult sons, William and Drury, to go with them as prisoners. Doyle’s wife pleaded for the life of her 16 year old son John, whom the Brown party left behind. The other three, all former slave catchers, were led into the darkness.  Owen Brown and one of his brothers murdered the brothers with broadswords. John Brown, Sr. didn’t participate in the stabbing, it was he who fired a shot into James Doyle’s head, to ensure that he was dead.

The group went on to the house of Allen Wilkinson, where he too was brought out into the darkness and murdered with broadswords. Sometime after midnight, they forced their way into the cabin of James Harris. His two house guests were spared after interrogation by the group, but Wilkinson was led to the banks of Pottawatomie Creek where he too was slaughtered.

There had been 8 killings to date in the Kansas Territory; Brown and his party had just murdered five in a single night. The massacre lit a powder keg of violence in the days that followed.  Twenty-nine people died on both sides in the next three months alone.

Harper's FerryBrown would go on to participate in the Battle of Black Jack and the Battle of Osawatomie in the Kansas Territory.  He would be hanged in 1859 after leading a group to the armory in Harper’s Ferry Virginia, in a hare brained scheme to capture the weapons it contained and trigger a slave revolt. The raid was ended by a US Army force under Colonel Robert E. Lee, and a young Army lieutenant named James Ewell Brown (JEB) Stuart.

Brown supporters blamed the 1856 massacre on everything from defending the honor of the Brown family women, to self defense, to a response to threats of violence from pro slavery forces. Free Stater and future Kansas Governor Charles Robinson may have had the last word when he said, “Had all men been killed in Kansas who indulged in such threats, there would have been none left to bury the dead.”

May 22, 1856 A Caning in the Senate

Senator Stephen A. Douglas, he of the later Lincoln-Douglas debates, was in the audience at the time, and said “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool”.

For the earliest European settlers in this country, massive amounts of labor would be required to carve a living out of the North American wilderness.

A system of indentured servitude began as early as 1607, where individuals paid for their passage to the new world with terms of labor.

The first Africans arrived in 1619 and at first, they too were given terms of indenture. Slave laws were soon passed however, Massachusetts in 1641 and Virginia twenty years later, as permanent bondage replaced temporary indenture in the lives of an increasing number of blacks.

The “peculiar institution” of slavery proved most economically feasible in large, labor intensive farm operations such as tobacco producers. By the end of the Revolution, it had proven to be unworkable in the colder climates.

Slavery may have withered in the south as well, but for the invention of the cotton gin (short for “engine”) by Massachusetts native Eli Whitney in 1792. The machine could do the work of ten men and the world’s appetite for American cotton seemed endless.

Missouri_Compromise_Map_1820

There were just over a million slaves in the US in 1805, worth about $300 million. On the eve of the Civil War 55 years later, their number had quadrupled while their value as “property” had increased tenfold. In the eleven states which eventually joined the Confederacy, four out of ten people were slaves by 1860, doing over half of the agricultural labor. It wasn’t limited to the “South” either, the census of that year counted some 92,500 slaves in the “Northern” states of Maryland and Delaware, and another 2,000 in Washington DC.

The “Missouri Compromise” of 1820 simultaneously carved Maine out of Massachusetts and added Missouri to the Union, attempting to preserve the balance of “Slave” vs “Free” states at 12 each. Both sides hated it, one for its acquiescence in the face of slavery, the other because of the precedent that Congress could limit it.Sumner Speech

In the 1850s, a series of confrontations between anti-slavery “Free-Staters” and pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” took place in the Kansas Territory. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 intended to democratize slavery, allowing local elections on the issue. Instead, it further pitted the sides against one another in a period of violence known as “Bleeding Kansas”.

Massive amounts of cotton money flowed through the financial centers of New York City. 40% of every dollar that Europeans paid for Southern cotton stayed in New York, in the form of insurance, shipping, warehouse fees and profits.

When South Carolina seceded in December 1860, the world waited to see who would next call for secession. It was New York City, when Mayor Fernando Wood addressed that city’s governing body on January 7.  Two days later Mississippi called for secession, the second of the cotton states to do so.

Charles_Sumner_1855
Charles Sumner

Into this morass comes Charles Sumner, Senator from Massachusetts. A powerful speaker, Sumner was an adamant opponent of slavery, and a leader of the Radical wing of the Republican Party. One of a handful of “hotheads” on both sides of the slavery issue, he could be so confrontational that even his fellow Republicans sometimes asked him to tone it down.

Charles Sumner took to the floor of the Senate on May 20, 1856, and denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act in the harshest of terms, even for him. He attacked the measure’s sponsors Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois (he of the later Lincoln-Douglas debates), and Andrew Butler of South Carolina, by name, accusing the pair of “consorting with the harlot, slavery”.  Douglas was in the audience at the time, and said “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool”.

APButler
Senator Andrew Pickens Butler

Senator Butler’s nephew, Preston Brooks, was a member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina. He was an inflexible proponent of slavery, believing that any restriction was an attack on the southern state’s right of self-determination and the social structure of the south.

Brooks was furious when he heard of the speech, and wanted to challenge Sumner to a duel. He discussed it with fellow South Carolina Democrat, Representative Laurence M. Keitt, who explained that dueling was for gentlemen of equal social standing. Sumner was no gentleman, he said, no better than a drunkard.

Brooks had been shot in a duel years earlier, and walked with a heavy cane. Resolved to publicly thrash Sumner, he entered the Senate building on May 22, in the company of Keitt and Virginia Democrat Representative Henry A. Edmundson.

Preston Brooks
Preston Brooks

The trio approached Sumner, who was sitting at his desk writing letters. “Mr. Sumner”, Brooks said, “I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.”

Sumner’s desk was bolted to the floor.  He never had a chance. He began to rise when Brooks brought the cane down on his head. Over and over the cane smashed down on Sumner’s head while Keitt brandished a pistol, telling onlookers to “let them be”. Blinded by his own blood, Sumner tore the desk from the floor in his struggle to escape, losing consciousness as he attempted to crawl away. Brooks rained down blows the entire time, even after the body lay motionless, until finally, the cane broke apart.

Reaction to the attack split along regional lines. Newspapers in the south applauded this upholding of family honor before a social inferior. Southern Senators made rings from broken pieces of the cane, while Northern Senators took to carrying knives to defend themselves. Newspapers said that national debate had been replaced by the bowie knife and the club.Caning of Charles Sumner

Sumner’s fellow Massachusetts Republican Representative Anson Burlingame denounced Brooks as a coward on the floor of the House, earning him a challenge to a duel from Brooks, who appears to have been surprised by Burlingame’s eager acceptance. As the challenged party, Burlingame had the right to choose weapons, and he specified rifles on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls as the site. Knowing Burlingame to be an expert shot, Brooks declined the duel, objecting to unspecified risks to his safety if he was to cross “hostile country” to reach Canada. He would be mocked as a coward by Northerners for the rest of his life.

It was three years before Charles Sumner was able to resume his duties in the Senate, his colleagues keeping his seat vacant for the entire time: a reminder of the country’s political division. The nation would be plunged into Civil War five years later, almost to the day.

May 21, 1856 Bleeding Kansas

The first half of the 19th century was one of westward expansion in the United States, generating frequent and sharp conflicts between pro and anti-slavery factions.

Lines of conflict had existed since the time of the Revolution, between those supporting federal government leadership of the young nation, and those in favor of greater self-determination by the states. In the South, climate conditions led to dependence on agriculture, the rural economy of the southern states producing cotton, rice, sugar, indigo and tobacco. Colder states to the north tended to develop manufacturing economies, urban centers growing up in service to hubs of transportation and the production of manufactured goods.

In the first half of the 19th century, 90% of federal government revenue came from tariffs on foreign manufactured goods. Most of this revenue was collected in the South, with the region’s greater dependence on imported goods.  Much of this federal largesse was spent in the North, with the construction of railroads, canals and other infrastructure.domestic-tariffs-at-the-souths-expense

This debate over economic issues and rights of self-determination, so-called ‘state’s rights’, grew and sharpened in 1828 with the threatened secession of South Carolina, and the “nullification crisis” of 1832-33, when South Carolina declared such tariffs unconstitutional, and therefore null and void within the state. The Encyclopedia Britannica entry in the subject includes a Cartoon from the time depicting “Northern domestic manufacturers getting fat at the expense of impoverishing the South under protective tariffs.”

Chattel slavery existed from the earliest days of the colonial era, from Canada to Mexico, and around the world. Moral objections to what was really a repugnant practice could be found throughout, but economic forces had as much to do with ending the practice, as any other. The “peculiar institution” died out first in the colder regions of the US and may have done so in warmer climes as well, but for Eli Whitney’s invention of a cotton engine (‘gin’) in 1792.

It takes ten man-hours to remove the seeds to produce a single pound of cotton. By comparison, a cotton gin can process about a thousand pounds a day, at comparatively little expense.Cotton-gin

The year of Whitney’s invention, the South exported 138,000 pounds a year to Europe and the northern colonies. Sixty years later, Britain alone was importing 600 million pounds a year, from the American south. Cotton was King, and with good reason.  The stuff is easily grown, is more easily transportable, and can be stored indefinitely, compared with food crops.  The southern economy turned overwhelmingly to this one crop, and its need for plentiful, cheap labor. The issue of slavery had joined and become so intertwined with ideas of self-determination, as to be indistinguishable.

The first half of the 19th century was one of westward expansion in the United States, generating frequent and sharp conflicts between pro and anti-slavery factions. The Missouri compromise of 1820 was the first attempt to reconcile these factions, defining which territories would be slave states, and which would be “free”.

The short-lived “Wilmot Proviso” of 1846 sought to ban slavery in new territories, after which the Compromise of 1850 attempted to strike a balance.  The Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, basically repealing the Missouri Compromise and allowing settlers to determine their own way through popular sovereignty.

This attempt to democratize the issue instead had the effect of drawing up battle lines.  Pro-slavery forces established a territorial capital in Lecompton, while “antis” set up an alternative government in Topeka. BleedingKansasFight

In Washington, Republicans backed the anti-slavery forces, while Democrats generally supported their opponents.  The standoff resulting was soon to escalate to violence. Upwards of a hundred or more would be killed between 1854 – 1861, in a period known as “Bleeding Kansas”.

The town of Lawrence, Kansas was established by anti-slavery settlers in 1854, and soon became the focal point of pro-slavery violence. Emotions were at the boiling point when Douglas County Sheriff Samuel Jones was shot trying to arrest free-state settlers on April 23, 1856. Jones was driven out of town but he would return.

On this day in 1856, a posse of 800 pro-slavery forces closed around the town, led by Sheriff Jones. Cannon was positioned to cover the town, and detachments of troops were posted to prevent escape. They commandeered the home of the first governor of Kansas, Charles L. Robinson, and used it as their headquarters.kansas

The town’s two printing offices were sacked, the presses destroyed, and the type thrown into the river. The posse next set about to destroy the Free State Hotel, which they believed had been built to serve more as a fort than a hotel.

They may have been right, because it took the entire day with cannon shot, kegs of gunpowder and incendiary devices, before the hotel was finally reduced to a roofless, smoldering ruin.

There was looting and a few robberies as the men left town, burning Robinson’s home on the way out. There was only one fatality; a slavery proponent who was killed by falling masonry.

john-brownIn the next few days, a group of unarmed men will be hacked to pieces by anti-slavery radicals. Four months of partisan violence and depredation ensued. Small armies formed up across eastern Kansas, clashing at Black Jack, Franklin, Fort Saunders, Hickory Point, Slough Creek, and Osawatomie

A United States Senator will be beaten nearly to death on the floor of the Senate, by a member of the House of Representatives. The 80-year-old nation would forge inexorably onward, to the Civil War that would kill more Americans than every war from the American Revolution to the War on Terror, combined.