Bleeding Kansas

2002 Photos/Narratives courtesy of Rick Jordahl, KC, MO
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Bleeding Kansas
The Lawrence Raid
Battle of Mine Creek

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1. Bleeding Kansas - Wikipedia
2. Bleeding Kansas
3. Lawrence Massacre - Wikipedia
4. Quantrill's Raid the Lawrence Massacre self guided tour
5. Kansas Historical Quarterly - Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence
6. Battle of Mine Creek - Wikipedia
7. Mine Creek Battlefield history - Kansapedia

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Bleeding Kansas

Kansas Territory-Prelude to Civil War:

By the mid-1850’s America’s great untamed West was expanding rapidly. Up until that time a delicate balance of power had been maintained in Congress between pro-slavery states and free states. Several compromise acts had been passed by Congress including the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act which opened the Kansas territory for settlement. The solutions, however, were only temporary and the nation became increasingly divided over the status of slavery in new states admitted to the Union.

The latest of these compromises, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed by Congress on May 30, 1854, represented one last desperate attempt to mediate a divided nation and maintain the delicate political balance. The Kansas-Nebraska Act maintained that the question of slavery in the new territories be determined by the residents themselves. This stipulation became known as Popular Sovereignty and led to territorial conflict between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions.

By 1856 the political tension that captured the nation’s attention escalated into violence as incident after bloody incident erupted from this hotly contested rivalry between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces. Anti-slavery Jayhawkers clashed with Bushwhackers from neighboring Missouri as the two sides were provoked to bitter and often bloody struggle in Kansas Territory to sway popular decision to their own favor. The two sides descended upon the territory and conflicts arose as each side sought majority control. Confrontation and deadly skirmishes over the issue of slavery would continue in the Kansas Territory for 5 years in an era to be forever known as “Bleeding Kansas”.

The conflict in the Kansas Territory further strained already troubled relations between North and South. The struggle over control of the Territory was disputed both by militants on the local level and politicians on the national level. The political turmoil brought about by the Kansas-Nebraska Act contributed to the birth of the Republican Party in 1854. The anti-slavery stance of the new political party became a topic of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 and attracted national attention.

Pottawatomie Massacre:
Then, in one of the most famous events in the Bleeding Kansas era, radical abolitionist John Brown (of Harper’s Ferry fame) led a small band of followers including four of his sons, to murder five pro-slavery settlers on the night of May 24, 1856. The brutal slayings, committed with artillery swords, were supposedly in retaliation for previous events in territorial Kansas including the murder of free state men. Perhaps another factor which led the radical and vicious Brown to such a horrible act was the savage caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in Washington which had taken place just days earlier.

Marais des Cygne Massacre:
On May 19, 1858 an armed action took place that answered Brown’s murderous fanaticism of 1856 and again focused the nation’s attention on Bleeding Kansas. On the far eastern front of Kansas Territory, near Trading Post and the Marais des Cygne river (tr.“Marsh of the Swan”) about 30 pro-slavery Missourians, led by Charles Hamelton, seized 11 anti-slavery free staters, lined up the unarmed men in a ravine and shot them down killing five instantly and wounding five others. It was perhaps the bloodiest single incident in the Territory and became known as the Marais des Cygne Massaacre.

The five-year territorial conflict known as ‘Bleeding Kansas’ brought the nation, month by month, inexorably to the brink of Civil War. This brutal and bloody struggle between free state and pro-slavery factions in Kansas Territory served both as a warning and a chilling prelude for the terrible conflict that soon would engulf the entire country. Finally, on January 29, 1861 Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state. Her struggle over the still unsettled slavery issue came at terrible cost and provided a last ominous warning of the peril that awaited a nation.


Lecompton-Capital of Kansas Territory Enlarge “In 1855 the new town of Lecompton became the capital of Kansas Territory. The governor and other officials established temporary offices in town as construction proceeded on an elegant Capitol building. A Federal Land office drew people from all over the territory to register their land claims. The Territorial Legislature which was generally pro-slavery, met above the Land Office in “Constitution Hall” in January, 1857. In the Fall, a convention met in Constitution Hall and produced the famous Lecompton Constitution that would have created Kansas as a slave state. The constitution was rejected after intense national debate that contributed to the coming of the Civil War. In part, the Lecompton Constitution failed because the anti-slavery party won control of the Territorial Legislature in the election of 1857. The new legislature met in Constitution Hall and immediately began to abolish the pro-slavery laws. Lecompton, however, had been branded as a pro-slavery town and the victorious antislavery forces chose Topeka as the capital when Kansas became a state in 1861.

Constitution Hall, a national historic landmark, still stands in Lecompton and is a state historic site. Part of the never-completed capitol later was rebuilt as Lane University. President Dwight Eisenhower's parents met while attending Lane University and were married in Lecompton in 1885. The building now is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a museum of Territorial history”


Constitution Hall Built in 1856, Constitution Hall was one of the busiest places in Territorial Kansas. One of the oldest wood frame buildings in Kansas, Constitution Hall in Lecompton is the site where, on October 19, 1857, pro-slavery territorial legislators adopted the ill-fated Lecompton Constitution that protected slavery in the new territory. Because of its far-reaching importance, however, the document, supported by Democratic President James Buchannan, was debated at a national level and was later defeated by Congress and never took effect


Constitution Hall (The Assembly Room in 1857) Enlarge “Using your imagination, you can envision this room during 1857. The political activity lasted only about a year but at that time this room was often packed with large crowds. Smoke and the sound of voices filled the air. A sometimes sticky mixture of sawdust, tobacco juice and mud covered the floor. Plain tables, chairs and benches were scattered about. A railing divided the onlookers in the back of the room from those taking part in the meeting”


Constitution Hall (Assembly Room) The building also served as a Federal Land Office where settlers to the new territory filed claims

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