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Border Disputes and Warfare

Border Disputes and Warfare > Significant Incidents > Wakarusa War (Nov. - Dec. 1855)
13 Topic Specific Items
Letter, Hiram Hill to Dear Wife
Author: Hill, Hiram
Date: November 31, 1855

Hiram Hill wrote from Lexi[ng]ton, Missouri to his wife in Williamsburgh, Massachusetts on his way to Lawrence, Kansas Territory. The low river had forced him and other steamboat passengers to come ashore 25 miles short of Lexington. Once there, he heard rumors of war, reporting that Missourians "all armed to the teeth" were entering the Territory. Hill was sick and wished to turn back, but fellow travelers Mr. Whitney and Judge Johnson planned to continue. Hill included a brief message for his adopted son, Arthur.

Keywords: Hill, Hiram; Religion; Sickness (see Illness); Steamboats; Violence; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855; Whitney, Thaddeus L.

Letter, Hiram Hill to Dear Wife
Author: Hill, Hiram
Date: December 7, 1855

In a brief letter similar to the one written to his brother on the same date, Hiram Hill told his wife that he would continue to Kansas Territory. Hill was in Richland (possibly Richmond), Missouri, on his way to Kansas City and ultimately to Lawrence, where he had heard that 1,100 free state and 800 proslavery men were prepared to fight. The governor of Missouri had called for 3,000 more to oppose the free state "Rebils." Hill, a free state supporter, assured his wife of his well-being.

Keywords: Cannons; Health; Hill, Hiram; Sharps rifles; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855

Letter, Hiram Hill to Dear Brother
Author: Hill, Hiram
Date: December 7, 1855

Hiram Hill, a resident of Williamsburgh, Massachusetts en route to Kansas City and ultimately to Lawrence, Kansas Territory, wrote from Richmond, Missouri to his brother. He relayed the murder of an unnamed free state man (likely Charles W. Dow), the gathering of 1,100 free state and 800 proslavery men at Lawrence, and other Wakarusa War events. Hill, a free state supporter, felt that the information he received from Missourians was inaccurate or exaggerated. He doubted reports that 60 proslavery men had been killed at Lawrence, or of abolitionists driving proslavery settlers from their homes. Hill reported the arrests of free state men including Judge Johnson and General Pomeroy, who he heard had escaped.

Keywords: Abolitionists; Cannons; Dow, Charles W.; Free state perspective; Health; Hill, Hiram; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Missourians; Pomeroy, S. C. (Samuel Clarke), 1816-1891; Proslavery perspective; Sharps rifles; Violence; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855

Letter, [Hiram Hill] to Dear Wife
Author: Hill, Hiram
Date: December 8, 1855 - December 9, 1855

Hiram Hill wrote from Westport, Missouri to his wife as he received new information concerning the Wakarusa War at Lawrence. Hill was frustrated by these reports, which conflicted and were from the proslavery perspective, and which concerned the number of free state and proslavery soldiers, the status of the war, and government action taken to prevent conflict. Hill was also troubled by shameless "traveling and drinking and swearing" and gunshots on the Sabbath. The last page of the letter expresses his relief at news of peace in Lawrence, where he would learn "the other syde of the story" upon arrival. The murder of Thomas W. Barber, who rode outside Lawrence and was shot by a proslavery supporter on December 6th, was mentioned. Hill also described an eventful stagecoach journey.

Keywords: Barber, Thomas W.; Cannons; Daily life; Free state militia; Health; Hill, Hiram; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Pomeroy, S. C. (Samuel Clarke), 1816-1891; Proslavery perspective; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Sharps rifles; Stagecoaches; Violence; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855

Wakarusa Treaty
Author: Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Robinson, Charles ; Shannon, Wilson , 1802-1877
Date: December 8, 1855

A draft of an agreement between Governor Wilson Shannon, representing the territorial government, and Charles Robinson and James Lane, representing the free state movement, settling the dispute that resulted in the Wakarusa War. In essence, Robinson and Lane pledged to "aid in the execution of any legal process" against individuals involved in rescuing free state supporter Jacob Branson provided that these individuals received a hearing before a U.S. District Court judge. This compromise ended the Wakarusa War.

Keywords: Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Free state activities; Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855

Letter/Order, Wilson Shannon to C. Robinson and J. H. Lane
Author: Shannon, Wilson , 1802-1877
Date: December 9, 1855

According to D. W. Wilder, Governor Wilson Shannon arrived in Lawrence on December 7, 1855, and on December 8 made "a treaty with the Free-State Generals" ending the Wakarusa War. The paper was signed by Shannon, Robinson and Lane. With the document represented here, dated Lawrence, December 9, 1855, Governor Shannon "authorized & directed [Robinson and Lane] to take such measures & use the enrolled force under your command in such manner for the preservation of the peace & the protection of the persons & property of the people in Lawrence & vicinity as in your judgment shall best secure that end." ( A subsequent notation indicated that the order was written in Robinson's hand, but signed by Shannon.)

Keywords: Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Free state activities; Free state militia; Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Militia; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855

Letter, H Hill to [Brother]
Author: Hill, Hiram
Date: December 9, 1855

Hiram Hill wrote from Weston, Massachusetts to his brother, describing his stagecoach journey from Richmond. Although 47 miles from Lawrence, he had not received a trustworthy update concerning the Wakarusa War. Hill mentioned Thomas W. Barber's murder, numbers of men and weapons involved in the war, and his plans to briefly visit Lawrence. He vowed never to travel to Kansas Territory in winter again. Hill also showed concern for Russell, who tended his cattle in Williamsburgh, Massachusetts.

Keywords: Barber, Thomas W.; Free state militia; Hill, Hiram; Proslavery perspective; Stagecoaches; Travel; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855; Weather

Certificate, Head Quarters Kansas Volunteers
Author: Kansas Volunteers
Date: December 12, 1855

This certificate, signed by Charles Robinson and James Lane, was issued by the Head Quarters of the Kansas Volunteers, a Free state militia group led by Robinson. It documented Robert Gilbert's service "in defending the City of Lawrence. . .from demolition by foreign invaders" during the Wakarusa War. Gilbert had arrived in Kansas Territory only weeks before, having traveled from his native England.

Keywords: Battles; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Free state activities; Free state militia; Free state regiment; Gilbert, Robert L.; Hunt, Morris; Immigrants; Kansas Volunteers; Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855; Wilder, Solomon

Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Father [Thomas Parrott]
Author: Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879
Date: December 13, 1855

Marcus Parrot wrote from Leavenworth City, Kansas Territory, to his father, Thomas Parrott, in Dayton, Ohio. Marcus told him that the local citizens had been in "a state of war for the last ten days", referring to the events of the Wakarusa War. Marcus had raised his own company of free state men to fight the invading Missourians, and was captured by them, but freed at the conclusion of the skirmish. He also mentioned a duel which was supposed to take place (but never occurred) between James Lane and G.P. Lowery, in which he himself was to be Lane's "second".

Keywords: Atchison, David Rice, 1807-1886; Leavenworth County, Kansas Territory; Leavenworth, Kansas Territory; Lowrey, G.P. (Grosvenor P.); Parrott, Edwin A.; Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879; Parrott, Thomas; Wakarusa River; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855; Weapons (see also Guns)

Letter, John Brown to Orson Day Esqr.
Author: Brown, John , 1800-1859
Date: December 14, 1855

In mid-December 1855, John Brown wrote to Orson Day (a brother in law) of White Hall, New York, from Browns Station, Kansas Territory, regarding the "Kansas War" (Wakarusa War) from which he had "just returned." The territory was, according to Brown, "now entirely in the power of the Free State men," and he continued to "believe the Missourians will give up all further hope of making Kansas a Slave State."

Keywords: Brown, John, 1800-1859; Browns Station, Kansas Territory; Firearms; Free state cause; Free state constitutions; Missourians; Proslavery prospects; Slaves in Kansas Territory; Topeka Constitution; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855

Letter, unsigned [Marc Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott]
Author: Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879
Date: December 15, 1855

Marcus Parrott wrote from Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, to his brother, Edwin Parrott, in Dayton, Ohio. Marcus recounted the events of the Wakarusa War, and described the actions of the Missourians prior to their attack, which supported his idea that it was premeditated. He told about his experience as a prisoner in the Missourians' camp and his interview with Governor Shannon regarding a peace treaty between the two groups. Marcus was pleased with the terms of the treaty, but was wary of Shannon's motives, saying that he was trying to "ring in" the free state party.

Keywords: Ammunition; Atchison, David Rice, 1807-1886; Barber, Thomas W.; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Kansas River, Kansas Territory; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Leavenworth County, Kansas Territory; Leavenworth, Kansas Territory; Lecompton, Kansas Territory; Missourians; Parrott, Edwin A.; Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Stringfellow, Benjamin F.; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855; Weapons (see also Guns)

Letter, Hiram Hill to Dear Wife
Author: Hill, Hiram
Date: December 12, 1855

Hiram Hill arrived in Lawrence, Kansas Territory shortly after the end of the Wakarusa War. This letter to his wife reviewed the events of the war, made mention of women's assistance, described Hill's journey from Leavenworth with Mr. Conway, and gave an account of Thomas W. Barber's funeral, at which Charles Robinson and James Lane spoke. Barber was killed south of Lawrence on the 6th. Hill had met Mr. Whitney, Judge Johnson, Mr. Haskell, and Mr. Simpson, and planned to visit Charles Robinson. Hill also detailed Governor Shannon's settlement with free state leaders at Lawrence.

Keywords: American Indians (see also Native Americans); Funerals; Health; Hill, Hiram; Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Town development; Travel; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855; Women

Letter, John Brown to Dear Wife [Mary Brown] & Children every one
Author: Brown, John , 1800-1859
Date: December 16, 1855

Soon after his return from Lawrence, where he and other volunteers had successfully defended that place, John Brown wrote from Osawatomie to give his family "a brief account of the invasion," the so-called Wakarusa War. As it turned out, Brown provided some interesting details about their preparations and arrival in the besieged city and the negotiations that were ongoing when the Browns came on the scene. The Free State leaders, according to Brown, skillfully accomplished and signed an agreement with Governor Shannon that was "much to their own liking."

Keywords: Abolitionists; Barber, Thomas W.; Bogus legislature; Brown, John, 1800-1859; Brown, Mary Ann Day, 1816-1884; Coleman, Franklin M.; Dow, Charles W.; Free state cause; Free state militia; Jones, Samuel J. (Sheriff); Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Missourians; Pomeroy, S. C. (Samuel Clarke), 1816-1891; Proslavery supporters; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Sharps rifles; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855

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Militia Commission, issue by James H. Lane to Joel Grover
Authors: Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866
Date:  November 27, 1855
This printed document, headed with the name "James H. Lane," announced the election and certification of Joel Grover as colonel of the 6th Regiment, First Brigade of Kansas Volunteers, raised "to defend the City of Lawrence from threatened destruction by foreign invaders." It is dated November 27, 1855, and signed "J. H. Lane," general commanding.

Keywords: Border ruffians; First Brigade of Kansas Volunteers; Free state militia; Grover, Joel; Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Militia; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855


Letter, Hiram Hill to Dear Wife
Authors: Hill, Hiram
Date:  November 31, 1855
Hiram Hill wrote from Lexi[ng]ton, Missouri to his wife in Williamsburgh, Massachusetts on his way to Lawrence, Kansas Territory. The low river had forced him and other steamboat passengers to come ashore 25 miles short of Lexington. Once there, he heard rumors of war, reporting that Missourians "all armed to the teeth" were entering the Territory. Hill was sick and wished to turn back, but fellow travelers Mr. Whitney and Judge Johnson planned to continue. Hill included a brief message for his adopted son, Arthur.

Keywords: Hill, Hiram; Religion; Sickness (see Illness); Steamboats; Violence; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855; Whitney, Thaddeus L.


List of Companies
Authors: No authors specified.
Date:  November-December, 1855
This document listed general information about militia recruited by free state leaders during the Wakarusa War, November-December, 1855. These troops gathered to defend Lawrence against an estimated 2000 Missourians. Details on the number of commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and rank and file are provided for Companies A through I, Horse Company No. 1, and the headquarters company. The documents also listed the weapons available ("Sharpe's Rifles," "Other Arms," and "Cartridges"). All of the officers were listed. A total of 349 men with 156 Sharpe's Rifles and 169 other weapons and 6807 cartridges were recruited. James H. Lane served as the brigadier general and William Y. Roberts was the adjutant general. Colonels were Lyman Allen, M. A. Hunt, and C, K. Holliday. Majors were Jno. A. Wakefield, David Dodge, J. M Mitchell, Geo. W. Smith, Sr., Milton C. Dickey and men with the last names of Thomas, Tuton, Sampson, and Yates.. George W. Smith, Jr. was the Sergeant Major, A. H. Malory, Quartermaster; Jno. G. Crocker, Quartermaster Sergeant; Mr. Hunt, Commisary; and Dr. S. B. Prentiss and Dr. Foles, surgeons.

Keywords: Allen, Lyman; Crocker, John G.; Dickey, Milton C.; Dodge, David; Free state activities; Free state militia; Holliday, Cyrus Kurtz, 1826-1900; Hunt, Morris; Kansas Volunteers; Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Mallory, Anson H.; Militia; Mitchell, J. M.; Prentiss, S.B.; Roberts, William Young; Smith, George W.; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855; Wakefield, John A.


Letter, C. K. Holliday to My Dear Wife [Mary Holliday]
Authors: Holliday, Cyrus Kurtz, 1826-1900
Date:  December 6, 1855
Cyrus K. Holliday wrote briefly from Free State Headquarters in Lawrence, Kansas Territory to his wife, Mary Holliday, in Meadville, Pennsylvania, describing the number and location of surrounding Proslavery forces and of Free State forces gathered in Lawrence. Cyrus had been working for peace, but was prepared to fight in a shortly expected attack.

Keywords: Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Free state; Holliday, Cyrus Kurtz, 1826-1900; Holliday, Mary; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Violence; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855


Letter, Hiram Hill to Dear Brother
Authors: Hill, Hiram
Date:  December 7, 1855
Hiram Hill, a resident of Williamsburgh, Massachusetts en route to Kansas City and ultimately to Lawrence, Kansas Territory, wrote from Richmond, Missouri to his brother. He relayed the murder of an unnamed free state man (likely Charles W. Dow), the gathering of 1,100 free state and 800 proslavery men at Lawrence, and other Wakarusa War events. Hill, a free state supporter, felt that the information he received from Missourians was inaccurate or exaggerated. He doubted reports that 60 proslavery men had been killed at Lawrence, or of abolitionists driving proslavery settlers from their homes. Hill reported the arrests of free state men including Judge Johnson and General Pomeroy, who he heard had escaped.

Keywords: Abolitionists; Cannons; Dow, Charles W.; Free state perspective; Health; Hill, Hiram; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Missourians; Pomeroy, S. C. (Samuel Clarke), 1816-1891; Proslavery perspective; Sharps rifles; Violence; Wakarusa War, November-December 1855


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