Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society.

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tants of Kansas and aroused the Pro-Slavery party to
retaliatory activity. Captain Pate, of Missouri, has-
tened with a company of volunteers on a mission of ven-
geance. He assisted in the capture of John Brown, Jr.,

John Brown 239

and his brother Jason, Neither of these men had par-
ticipated in the Pottawatomie aft'air, but the former was
driven chained in front of horsemen over the burning
Kansas plains and subjected to such harsh treatment
that he became insane. In this condition he was thrown
into prison. The homes of the two brothers were burned
by the invaders.

In the meantime, Captain Pate had turned his at-
tention to John Brown and his party, expecting soon to
capture them. Brown heard of this and prepared to
meet the Missourians, The two parties met June 2 at
Black Jack, where the first pitched battle was fought
between Pro-Slavery and Anti-Slavery forces. At its
conclusion. Pate and all of his men surrendered uncon-
ditionally to John Brown, The Missourians were as-
tounded when they heard that their company which had
gone to avenge those who fell on the Pottawatomie, had
themselves fallen into the hands of Brow-n, whose name
had now become a terror to Pro-Slavery men on the
border. The battle of Black Jack was the most complete
victory scored by Brown in Kansas, though it is not so
famous as his defense of Lawrence and Osawatomie,
It remains for some literary genius to describe it as the
first battle of the Civil War, for here the North and the
South met to settle the issue of slavery in open combat
by force of arms.

Shortly afterward John Brown gave up his prisoners
and captured arms to Colonel Edwin V, Sumner, in
command of the United States troops in this district and
afterward a noted Union general in the Civil War,

The Topeka Legislature had adjourned to meet July
4, 1856. John Brown and his men were encamped near
that city to be at hand if the threatened clash of arms

240 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

should attend the opening of the session. Seventeen
members answered to the roll call. John Brown, Jr.,
could not be present as he was at that time in prison.
Other members were in the city, but before they could
assemble Colonel Sumner appeared with government
troops and ordered the Legislature to disperse, declar-
ing, "This is the most disagreeable duty of my whole

Later Brown and his men left Kansas, but he and
his son Frederick soon returned. Free State men frorn
the northern states began to pour into the Territory by
way of Nebraska. This immigration was encouraged
and financially assisted by various organizations in the
East and powerfully stimulated by the eloquence of
James H. Lane, whose appeal to northern audiences
turned many liberty loving, adventurous spirits toward
the Territory that was struggling to become a free state.

In the presidential campaign of 1856 the admission
of Kansas was made a political issue. The Republican
party in its first national convention, June 17, 1856,
adopted a resolution declaring that "Kansas should be
immediately admitted as a state with her present free
constitution." In the House of Representatives at
Washington Galusha M. Grow, of Pennsylvania, pre-
sented a bill for the admission of Kansas as a free state
under the Topeka constitution, and it passed that body
by a vote of 99 to 97 on July 3, 1856. The attention of
the entire country with increasing interest now turned
to Kansas. The crystallization of public sentiment' and
the tide of immigration to the Territory was rapidly giv-
ing the Free State forces the ascendancy.

Disregarding his son's protest that his father should
not come to Lawrence for fear of arrest, John Brown

John Brown 241

accompanied by Lane arrived in that city. The Free
State forces now prepared for aggressive war against
their foes. As the Border Ruffians pushed the fighting
in the earher struggles of "Bleeding Kansas," their ad-
versaries now rallied to the attack. Their policy, which
earlier was purely and at times feebly defensive, had
changed and their object now seemed to be to drive the
Pro-Slavery element out of the Territory. The southern
colonists of southeastern Kansas trembled with dread
at the news of the approach of John Brown. Their
startled imagination placed him at the head of every
movement of the Free State forces and every rumored
raid in the Territory. The correspondent of the New
York Times referred to him as "the old terrifier" and
"the terror of all Missouri."

For a time the Free State bands swept southward,
driving the Pro-Slavery men before them. Franklin,
"Fort" Saunders and "Fort" Titus successively fell into
their hands with arms and ammunition. In the attack
on "Fort" Titus the Free State men brought into requi-
sition a cannon that they had previously captured and
fired into the doomed fort shots moulded from the type
of one of their newspaper offices. They gleefully
shouted that they were delivering to Colonel Titus "a
second edition of the Herald of Freedom." It is doubt-
ful whether John Brown participated in any of these
fights, but the vanquished saw his uncanny and ghostly
presence in all of them.

In the midst of this strife and confusion, after giving
up a number of Free State prisoners in exchange for
Pro-Slavery men held by Lane and his lieutenants, Gov-
ernor Shannon resigned his office. President Pierce
refused to accept the resignation but peremptorily re-
Vol. XXX — 16.

242 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

moved Shannon from office. His administration had
been a stormy one and he withdrew with rehef to him-
self and to the evident satisfaction of the contending
parties who had filled the record of his brief term of
office with turmoil and confusion. The governorship of
Ohio has not always been a pleasing job, but Governor
Shannon could certainly bear testimony that it is a
position under all circumstances much to be preferred
to the governorship of the Territory of Kansas in the
days of "J™" Lane, John Brown and "Dave" Atch-
ison. Wilson Shannon, who had previously served as
governor of Ohio, spent his last days peacefully as a
citizen of Lawrence, Kansas, and re-established himself
in the good will of many who had been his critics and

John Brown was not long inactive. He was now
prepared to give the Pro-Slavery settlers some of their
own medicine. With a company of thirty or forty men,
which was soon increased by union with another com-
pany, he added to his equipment by contraband seizures
until his force was w^ell mounted, well armed and well
supplied with food and ammunition. He was getting
ready to meet another invasion from Missouri.

After capturing a number of prisoners and about
one hundred and fifty cattle, John Brown entered the
town of Osawatomie for the purpose of defending it
against the invading army under Atchison. His arrival
was now marked by a cloud of dust that enveloped his
captured herd and motley troopers, giving to the column
an imposing and forbidding aspect. The number of his

* Wilson Shannon was born in Belmont county, Ohio, February 24,
18U2. He was Governor of Ohio 1838-40 and 1842-44. Failing to restore
order in Kansas, he incurred the hostility of Pierce and Buchanan. Hence
his summary dismissal. He died in Lawrence, Kansas, August 31, 1877.

John Brown 243

men was comparatively small, not over one hundred
effectives, and against them was now marching an in-
vading army from Missouri one thousand strong, under
the command of General David R. Atchison, formerly
a United States Senator from that state.

Atchison assembled his army about forty miles from
Osawatomie. He sent forward General John W. Reid
with two hundred and fifty men and a cannon to destroy
that town. On his way Reid was joined by other Pro-
Slavery men, including Rev. Martin White. As they
approached in the dawning twilight. White met Fred-
erick Brown and before the latter could grasp the situa-
tion shot him through the heart. He afterward tried to
excuse his sanguinary act on the ground that his home
had been attacked. He said:

"The same day I shot Fred, I would have shot the last devil
of the gang that was in the attack on my house, if I had known
them and got a chance."

It will thus be seen that in these stirring times even
the ministers of the gospel in Kansas had their blood
up to the fighting temperature. John Brown coolly
commented on this act as follows :

"Old preacher White, I hear, boasts of having killed my son.
Of course he is a lion."

After the killing of Frederick Brown the forces
tinder General Reid advanced to the attack on Osa-
watomie. Brown with about forty resolute men pre-
pared to defend the place. One of his followers said
to him, ''What do you want me to do?" "Take more
care to end life well than to live long," was the grim
answer. The Missourians opened fire on the town and
Brown's men replied with spirit. When men and horses

244 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

in the advancing column were struck with balls from
the Sharpe rifles there was confusion in the advancing
line. Their leader, however, with drawn sword led
them to the charge. The Free State men were grad-
ually driven out of the town but held their position along
the stream. From the underbrush and rocks they
poured a hot fire into the ranks of the Missourians.
Reid brought his cannon into action and Brown's men
were finally driven across the Marias des Cygnes which
runs near the town. As soon as the Border Ruffians
entered the place they commenced plundering and burn-
ing it. General Reid claimed that in this battle about
thirty Free State men were killed, including "a. son of
old Brown and probably Brown himself." In John
Brown's report of the battle he says :

"The loss of the enemy, as we learned by different state-
ments of our own as well as other people, was some thirty-one
or two killed, and from forty to fifty wounded."

He speaks of his own loss as two killed in battle;
three missing, probably captured, and two wounded. On
their part the Missourians claimed that they had none
killed and five wounded. Just what the losses were in
the engagement will perhaps never be known.

As John Brown and his son Jason stood on the bank
of the stream watching the smoke and flames of burn-
ing Osawatomie against the horizon. Brown is reported
by his son to have said :

"God sees it. I have only a short time to live — only one
death to die, and I will die fighting for this cause. There will
be no more peace in this land until slavery is done for. I will
give them something else to do than to extend slave territory.
I will carry the war into Africa."

John Brown 245

The attitude of the government at Washington while
war was in progress between the Pro-Slavery and Free
State men of Kansas is significant. United States
troops were there ostensibly to keep the peace and main-
tain the authority of the general government, but for
the most part, due to political considerations perhaps,
they were inactive. While the Pierce and Buchanan
administrations were frankly favorable to the Pro-
Slavery party and the agents that they sent were under-
stood to reflect the Washington view, after experience
on the soil of Kansas, some of them materially revised
their conclusions on the situation and sympathized with
the Free State cause. This was notably true of Gov-
ernors Reeder and Geary and even the attitude of Gov-
ernor Shannon was at times disappointing to the Pro-
Slavery party.

Although John Brown was defeated at Osawatomie
the stand that he made there added immensely to his
reputation. General James H. Lane, "Jim Lane," as
he was popularly called, and some of his Free State
associates were holding a ''council of war" in Lawrence
on September 7, which was interrupted by loud cheering
in the streets. The bent form of old John Brown as he
rode into the town with a rifle across his saddle bow,
aroused wild enthusiasm. The cheering was declared by
an eye witness to have been "as great as if the President
had come to town, but John Brown seemed not to hear
and paid not the slightest attention."

He next proceeded to the home of Ottawa Jones, a
friendly educated Indian, and found it in ruins. On
September 10 he was joined by his son, John Brown,
Jr., who had been imprisoned by the territorial agents
of the Pierce administration without even the form ol

246 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

an indictment. He was finally released on bail, but was
never afterward brought to trial While in prison he
had regained his reason, but he never fully recovered
from the effects of the brutal treatment to which he
was subjected immediately following his capture. He
hurried at once to Lawrence where an enthusiastic
meeting of Free State men was in progress. He brought
with him the chains with which he had been bound and
which had been worn bright during his long imprison-

About this time the new territorial governor, John
W. Geary, appointed by Buchanan, arrived and made
a sincere effort to end the civil war that had been raging
in Kansas. He was supposed to have come with Pro-
Slavery inclinations, but, like some of his predecessors,
he gradually swayed so far in favor of the Free State
cause that he found it expedient to resign.

Governor Geary began his administration by a vig-
orous restoration of order in the Territory. He played
no favorites. While he captured and threw into prison
over one hundred Free State men, he was equally zealous
in his efforts to stop invasions from Missouri. Not long
after he assumed the duties of his office another army
from that state, more formidable than any previously
sent, came to make one more desperate effort to capture
Kansas for the slave power. Under the leadership of
Reid, Heiskel, Stringfellow and Whitfield, this well
organized and equipped force of two thousand five
hundred men moved forward with Lawrence, the Free
State stronghold, as their objective. Governor Geary
ordered Lieutenant Colonel Joseph F. Johnson, now a

* These chains are now in the Museum of the Ohio State Archaeo-
logical and Historical Society.

John Brown 247

United States army officer but later a famous Confed-
erate general, to defend the town. This pleased the Free
State men, as they began to feel that they would be
protected in their constitutional rights by the new

In the meantime, in the presence once more of immi-
nent danger, the citizens of Lawrence threw up rude
works and prepared for a siege. The ruined walls of
the old Free State Hotel were used in building breast-
works. John Brown was again there, giving directions,
moving among the defenders and urging them to resist
to the death the advancing host.. It was on this occa-
sion that he mounted a dry-goods box in the main street
of the town and delivered the following characteristic
speech :

"Gentlemen — It is said there are twenty-five hunderd Mis-
sourians down at Franklin, and that they will be here in two
hours. You can see for yourselves the smoke they are making
by setting fire to the houses in that town. This is probably the
last opportunity you will have of seeing a fight, so that you had
better do your best. If they should come up and attack us, don't
yell and make a great noise, but remain perfectly silent and still.
Wait until they get within twenty-five yards of you, get a good
object, be sure you see the hind sight of your gim, then fire.
A great deal of powder and lead and very precious time is wasted
by shooting too high. You had better aim at their legs than at
their heads. In either case, be sure of the hind sight of your
gun. It is for this reason that I myself have so many times
escaped, for, if all the bullets which have ever been aimed at me
had hit me I would have been as full of holes as a riddle."

The invaders, however, did not attack the town.
Governor Geary gave the Missourians to understand
that they must quit the Territory or face the United
States troops. They reluctantly concluded to retire.
This ended the invasions by the Border Ruffians. As
they withdrew they realized, as the whole country was

248 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

coming to realize, that the efifort to make Kansas a slave
state had ended in failure. The tide of immigration
was steadily adding strength to the Free State party
and its ultimate complete triumph could not long be

With the restoration of peace and the liberation of
his son, John Brown decided to leave Kansas. He no
longer had any incentive to stay. One of his sons had
lost his life. Another had been severely wounded.
Another had been driven into temporary insanity and
imprisoned. Their homes had been burned. There was
little to hold them in Kansas. John Brown, though he
kept his own counsel, was thinking of operations in
another field — he was planning "to carry the war into
Africa." If the freedom of Kansas was assured, as he
was still disposed to doubt, that would be very good so
far as it went, but he was dreaming of nothing less than
liberating the bondmen in all slave states of the Union.
He would still keep a very watchful eye on Kansas, and
if occasion seemed to demand it, would again appear in
the Territory where his name was known to every in-
habitant and was still an asset to the militant element of
the Free State party.

On October 10, 1856, he and his four sons had
reached Tabor, Iowa, a frontier town settled chiefly by
immigrants from Oberlin, Ohio. Here he found the
people kindly disposed and sympathetic with his views.
The anti-slavery sentiment was strong and they had
followed with absorbing interest the news from Kansas.
Here Brown and his men rested for a time, but he could
not long remain inactive. Later in the month he went
to Chicago with his sons Jason and John. Here he met
Horace White, afterward editor of the Chicago Tribune

John Brown 249

and the New York Ei'cning Post and now Assistant
Secretary of the National Kansas Committee. Brown
at the request of friends in the East assisted in forward-
ing arms to Tabor to be used in Kansas if occasion
should require. Two hundred rifles in this shipment
afterward went for use to Harper's Ferry.

From Chicago Brown proceeded to Ohio. It was
probably on the occasion of this visit to the state that
his half-sister, Mrs. S. C. Davis of Grafton, Ohio, said
to him :

"John, isn't it dreadful that Fremont should have been de-
feated and such a man as Buchanan put into office?"

"Well, truly," answered Brown, "as I look at it now, I
see that it was the right thing. If Fremont had been elected, the
people would have settled down and made no further effort.
Now they know they must work if they want to save a free

He proceeded east, meeting Gerrit Smith, Frank B.
Sanborn, Dr. Samuel G. Howe, Thomas Wentworth
Higginson, Theodore Parker, George L. Stearns, Wen-
dell Phillips, Henry D. Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson
and other prominent anti-slavery men. These all be-
came his stanch friends and enthusiastic supporters.
Among the recommendations that Brown carried with
him was one from Governor Salmon P. Chase of Ohio.*

On the 18th of February he appeared before the
Joint Committee on Federal Relations of the Massachu-
setts Legislature and delivered an address recounting
his experiences in Kansas. On this occasion he held up
before the committee the chains by which his son John
had been bound. His stirring appeal brought applause
but no financial support.

*Governor Chase's recommendation bore date of December 20, 1856.
He gave Brown |25 at that time.

250 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

After visiting many persons in the East in an effort
to raise money for his anti-slavery warfare, he came to
Cleveland May 22, to Akron the day following and
spent several days in his old home town of Hudson.
On June 24 he attended the semi-centennial of the
founding of Talmadge, Ohio. A message was here
handed to the chairman of the meeting, stating that
John Brown was present and "would like to speak about
Kansas." This privilege the chairman refused on the
ground that it would be "entirely inconsistent with the
occasion." By August 7 he had returned to Tabor,

In the meantime, Kansas, under the administration
of Governor Geary, had been pea^ceful. His even-
handed justice, however, did not suit President Bu-
chanan or the South. They wished to have more favor
shown their friends within the Territory. The gov-
ernor received so little assistance from Washington that
he felt constrained to resign in March. He was suc-
ceeded by Robert J. Walker of Mississippi, former
United States Senator from that state and Secretary of
the Treasury. The South felt that now they had one
of their own men in office and could have matters in
Kansas administered to their liking. In this they were

Governor Walker began by promising both parties
absolutely fair treatment and a fair election. They
accepted this assurance and went to the polls together.
The Free State party won a big victory, electing their
delegate to Congress by a majority of 4089 and choosing
thirty-three members of the Legislature to nineteen for
the Pro-Slavery party. The result was anything but
pleasing to the Washington administration.

John Brown 251

As soon as it became apparent that Walker was pur-
suing a policy similar to that of Geary, he incurred the
hostility of the Pro-Slavery party. Buchanan, who had
appointed him six months before, accepted his resigna-
tion. It is significant that Governors Reeder, Geary and
Walker, all Democrats and appointed as men of Pro-
Slavery views, when on the ground where they could
judge the situation from first hand knowledge, so far
swayed to the favor of the Free State party that they
were given to imderstand that their resignations would
be acceptable.

Brown returned to Kansas in 1857 and recruited a
few men for the warfare against slavery. On Novem-
ber 17, he started with his men for Tabor and from this
village he soon set out for Springdale, Iowa, a Quaker
community thoroughly in sympathy with his anti-slavery
views, but opposed to warfare and the use of "carnal
weapons" to liberate the bondmen. The trip overland
was performed through the storms and drifting snows
of winter. The little band included Luke F. Parsons,
Richard Raelf, John E. Cook, William H. Leeman,
Charles P. Tidd, and John Henri Kagi. To these fol-
lowers he declared, ''God has created me to be the de-
liverer of slaves as Moses delivered the children of

"They found nothing in this statement," declares
Villard, "to make them doubt his sanity, or that seemed
inherently impossible. A fanatic they recognized him
to be; but fanatics have at all times drawn satellites to
them, even when the alliance meant certain death."

On the dreary journey they trudged over the snow,
from December 4, arriving in Springdale shortly after
Christmas. They whiled away the evenings in debating

252 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

various questions and singing, in which John Brown
heartily joined. "The Slave has seen the Northern Star"
and "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" were among his

Their journey at last ended, they found a very hos-
pitable reception in Springdale. Located here in com-
parative comfort, they spent the remainder of the long
winter very pleasantly. They kept up and conducted
with decorum their debates. A mock legislature was
organized,* bills were introduced, discussed and enacted
into laws. Cook, Kagi and Raelf were men of much
more than ordinary ability and developed into speakers
of power and eloquence. At Springdale Brown added
two Quaker youths, of Ohio birth, to his company —
Edwin and Barclay Coppoc.

Leaving his men in Springdale, John Brown pro-
ceeded to the East, stopping to visit his son John at Lin-
denville, Ohio. It was on this trip, at the home of Gerrit
Smith in Peterboro, New York, that Brown divulged
his remarkable plan for a constitution to govern the
territory captured from the slave power. Chimerical
as this seemed, his friends in the East, after full expla-
nations from him, approved the general plan. As
Brown had by-laws for the government of his men in
Kansas, he felt that he must have an ambitious consti-
tution for the larger project that was now absorbing his
thought. After visiting Canada he returned to Spring-
dale and with his men went to Chatham, Canada, where
a convention of colored freedmen and his followers
from Springdale united to form the constitution. The
details of the proceedings and the full text of this doc-

Online LibraryOhio State Archaeological and Historical SocietyOhio archæological and historical quarterly (Volume 30) → online text (page 17 of 43)