Border War: Kansas Nebraska Act 1854

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Video: The Kansas Nebraska Act

In this Johnson County Library documentary, Historians Dianne Mutti Burke, Katie Armitage, and Jeremy Neely explain how the The Kansas-Nebraska Act led to “Bleeding Kansas.”

The Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30′ north except within the boundaries of the proposed state of Missouri. To balance the number of “slave states” and “free states,” the northern region of what was then Massachusetts was admitted into the United States as a free state to become Maine. On March 30, 1,000 Missourians come to Lawrence to vote for a pro-slavery territorial constitution.

In October 1855, John Brown, Sr. arrives near Osawatomie to join his sons.

On November 21, 1855, Free-Stater Charles Dow is shot and killed by pro-slavery settler Franklin N. Coleman. On December 1, 1855, a small army of Missourians, acting under the command of Douglas County, Kansas Sheriff Samuel J. Jones, entered Kansas and laid siege to Lawrence.

During the siege, the main body of the invaders were encamped on the Wakarusa bottoms, some six miles (10 km) from Lawrence. The invading army numbered nearly 1,500 men. They were indifferently armed as a whole, although they had broken into the United States Arsenal at Liberty, Missouri, and stolen guns, cutlasses and cannon, and such munitions of war as they required.

In Lawrence, John Brown and James Lane had mustered Free-State settlers into a defending army and erected barricades. No attack on Lawrence was made. A treaty of peace quelled the disorder, and its provisions were generally accepted. The only fatal casualty occurring during the siege was of a Free-State man named Thomas Barber, who had come to the defense of Lawrence. His death was memorialized in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier entitled Burial of Barber.

On May 21, 1856 Lawrence was sacked by Missourians under the command of Sheriff Sam Jones.

On May 24, in brutal retaliation for the sacking of Lawrence and the beating of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in Washington by Preston Brooks of S. Carolina, Brown and four of his sons killed and mutilated five pro-slavery settles near Pottawatomie Creek.

On June 2, the first regular battle of Free-State and Pro-slavery forces took place at Black Jack, thus signaling the beginning of the struggle which became the Civil War.

In early August John Brown returns to Kansas after a trip to Nebraska City. He comes with a military caravan under James Lane. A series of skirmishes and battles take place at Franklin, fort Saunders and Ft. Titus.

In late August, Brown was raiding along the MO border, and on Aug. 28 returned to Osawatomie with 150 cattle. On Aug. 30, Gen. John Reid and 250 men set out to destroy the abolitionist stronghold of Osawatomie. Brown’s son Frederick is killed and the town burned. Brown leaves Kansas Oct. 5 to travel back east to raise money for his anti-slavery crusade.