Border Tensions

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In this Johnson County Library documentary, Historians Dianne Mutti Burke, Katie Armitage, and Jeremy Neely explain how the Border War spread beyond “Bleeding Kansas” to Missouri during the Civil War.


Diane Mutti-Burke on Commemorating the Border War

James Montgomery was a Jayhawker during the Bleeding Kansas Affair and a controversial Union colonel during the American Civil War. Montgomery was a staunch abolitionist and used extreme measures against pro-slavery populations.

In 1854, Montgomery purchased land near present day Mound City, Kansas, where he became a leader. In 1857 he organized and commanded a “Self-Protective Company”, using it to order pro-slavery settlers out of the region. Conflict with other pro-slavery elements led territorial governor James W. Denver to dispatch U.S. Army soldiers in to restore order. Montgomery at times cooperated with the abolitionist John Brown and befriended Charles “Doc” Jennison.

The news of Russell Hinds’ ruthless murder spread quickly up and down the Missouri-Kansas border. The death electrified the entire area.

Dr. Charles Jennison’s name became infamous. Jennison’s “religion was hatred of everything connected with slavery and the state of Missouri.” Linn County, Kansas: A History. 1928, p. 296 Jennison often boasted, “the Missouri mothers hush their children to sleep by whispering the name of Doc Jennison.” A later Linn County history describe Jennison as “a moral vagabond, cruel, heartless, and conscienceless.” Western Missouri would feel his cold touch throughout the next few years.

The five murders Jennison committed closely followed the Presidential Election and the formation of an armed abolitionist 300 man regiment created by Kansan, James Montgomery, which threatened to invade Missouri in late 1860 to free slaves and kill slave owners. Missouri governor Robert Stewart dispatched a regiment to the area to quiet the tensions. An atmosphere of general terror filled the Missouri border counties.