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Border Disputes and Warfare

Border Disputes and Warfare > Significant Incidents > Sack of Lawrence (May 21, 1856)
12 Topic Specific Items
Photograph, Ruins of the Free State Hotel
Author: Robinson, Sara T. L. (Sara Tappan Lawrence), 1827-1911
Date: 1856

An illustration of the Free State Hotel ruins, Lawrence, Kansas Territory, 1856, copied from Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life by Mrs. Charles Robinson.

Keywords: Book illustrations; Border disputes and warfare; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Free State Hotel; Hotels; Lawrence buildings; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Photographs and Illustrations; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856

Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott]
Author: Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879
Date: May 9, 1856

Marcus Parrott wrote from Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, to his brother, Edwin Parrott, regarding recent events, which were "unfathomably deep in the waters of territorial trouble". He described the movement of armed men towards Lawrence, a mix of U.S. troops and militiamen from Missouri. Marcus also referred to the current situations of Robinson, Reeder, Lane, and other men who were to play important roles in the imminent Sack of Lawrence. Despite these threats, Marcus still commented on his own economic situation and again asked for money from his brother and father.

Keywords: Delaware Indian lands, Kansas Territory; Jones, Samuel J. (Sheriff); Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Neosho, Kansas Territory; Parrott, Edwin A.; Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879; Pierce, Franklin, 1804-1869; Real estate investment; Reeder, Andrew H. (Andrew Horatio), 1807-1864; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Telegraph; Town development

Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott]
Author: Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879
Date: May 11, 1856

Marcus Parrott wrote from Leavenworth, Kansas Territory to his brother, Edwin Parrott, updating him on the situation in K.T. in the days leading up to the Sack of Lawrence. Marcus told him of attempts to arrest both Andrew Reeder and Charles Robinson, and how Reeder claimed that he was privileged from arrest. He also discussed the movement of the troops and his plans to visit Neosho in the coming few days, provided that the political tensions subside.

Keywords: Lecompte, Samuel D. (Samuel Dexter), 1814-1888; Missouri River; Neosho River, Kansas Territory; Parrott, Edwin A.; Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879; Reeder, Andrew H. (Andrew Horatio), 1807-1864; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Sumner, Edwin Vose, 1835-1912

Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott]
Author: Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879
Date: May 15, 1856

Marcus Parrott wrote to his brother, Edwin Parrott, from Leavenworth, K.T. He told Edwin that the border ruffians had made their first move into Lawrence the night before, defeating the "Lawrence party". Marcus added that morale in the town was exceptionally low after the departure of both Reeder and Robinson, and believed that the two men, plus the editors of the "Herald of Freedom" and the "Kansas Free State" were imprisoned. He also believed that, this victory gone to the border ruffians, with the support of Governor Shannon, the free soilers would be cleansed from the area.

Keywords: Border disputes and warfare; Border ruffians; Brown, George W. (George Washington), 1820-1915; Buford expedition; Free soil; Miller, Josiah; Parrott, Edwin A.; Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879; Platte County, Missouri; Reeder, Andrew H. (Andrew Horatio), 1807-1864; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Sumner, Edwin Vose, 1835-1912

Legal document, Free Passage to Josiah Miller out of Kansas Territory
Author: Donalson, I.B. ; Shannon, Wilson , 1802-1877
Date: May 16, 1856

Josiah Miller, of the Kansas Free State newspaper in Lawrence, was arrested for treason by South Carolina soldiers and was tried in a military tent near Lecompton. He was defended by James Christian and was acquitted. Governor Shannon and I. B. Donalson, U. S. Marshall of the Kansas Territory, issued him this pass on his way out of the territory so that he would not be arrested again by border ruffians.

Keywords: Border ruffians; Christian, James; Courts; Donalson, Israel B.; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Kansas Free State (newspaper); Lecompton, Kansas Territory; Miller, Josiah; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877

Speech, David R. Atchison to Pro-Slavery "Soldiers"
Author: Atchison, David R.; Root, Joseph Pomeroy
Date: May 21, 1856

According to a note on the top of page one made later by R. J. Hinton, "this report was made for me [Hinton] by or under the direction of Lt. Gov. (Dr.) Root [Joseph Pomeroy Root, subsequently elected the state's first lieutenant governor under the Wyandotte Constitution], who was a prisoner, heard & reported the speech" made by David Atchison to the assembled proslave "Soldiers" camped two miles west of Lawrence before they marched on and sacked the town on May 21, 1856. The transcript is labeled "Hon. David R. Atchison's Speech . . ." and begins, "This is the most glorious day of my life! This day I am a border-ruffian!" Amidst "Yells" and "Cheers," Atchison rallied the "true sons of the noble South," encouraging them to "tear down their Free State Hotel" and "thow into the Kanzas their printing presses," and to bravely follow their "worthy . . . Leader, Col. [John H.] Stringfellow!"

Keywords: Abolitionists; Atchison, David Rice, 1807-1886; Beecher Bibles; Border disputes and warfare; Border ruffians; Free State Hotel; Free state settlers; Free state supporters; Hinton, Richard Josiah; Jones, Samuel J. (Sheriff); Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Missourians; New England Emigrant Aid Company; Newspapers - Free State; Pierce administration; Root, Joseph P., 1826-1885; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Southerners; Stringfellow, John H.

"Southern Rights" flag
Author: No authors specified.
Date: May 21, 1856

Pro-slavery forces carried this flag while attacking the anti-slavery stronghold of Lawrence. Sheriff Samuel Jones led the group in sacking the town on May 21, 1856. A group of South Carolinians known as the Palmetto Guards participated in the attack, and flew their "Southern Rights" flag over the "Herald of Freedom" newspaper offices and the Free State Hotel before destroying the buildings.

Keywords: Border disputes and warfare; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Flags and banners; Free State Hotel; Herald of Freedom; Jones, Samuel J. (Sheriff); Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Objects; Palmetto Guards; Proslavery; Proslavery activities; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; South Carolina; Violence

Letter, O. E. L[earnard] to Dear Friends
Author: Learnard, Oscar E.
Date: May 23, 1856

Written just two days after the sack of Lawrence, this letter contained Learnard's observations of and reflections on "the fearful disaster to which this unfortunate town has been subjected." The town's citizens, wrote Learnard, chose not to resist the authority of the U.S. marshal but were nevertheless brutalized by Sheriff Jones and a posse of Missourians. He also mentioned Governor Reeder, Governor Shannon and David R. Atchison, who "made a speech."

Keywords: Atchison, David Rice, 1807-1886; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Free State Hotel; Jones, Samuel J. (Sheriff); Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Learnard, Oscar E., 1832-1911; Missourians; Proslavery support; Reeder, Andrew H. (Andrew Horatio), 1807-1864; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Violence

Letter, Jas Finley to Dear Sister
Author: Finley, James Agnew
Date: May 24, 1856

James A. Finley, a Lawrence resident at the time of the Sack of Lawrence, wrote to his sister recounting the events that had transpired only three days before. Concisely but vividly he described events as they unfolded from the morning of May 21st, when David Atchison "planted 2 cannon upon the hill above town." Finley, a more fortunate man than many in Lawrence that day, claimed to have suffered no losses in the incident.

Keywords: Atchison, David Rice, 1807-1886; Deitzler, George W.; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Eldridge House; Finley, James Agnew; Free state perspective; Guns; Jones, Samuel J. (Sheriff); Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Missourians; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Sharps rifles; Smith, George W.; United States marshals; Weapons (see also Guns)

Letter, Wm Phillips to Respected Madam [Sara Robinson]
Author: Phillips, William
Date: May 26, 1856

William Phillips, after visiting Charles Robinson in jail, wrote to Sara Robinson updating her on her husband's situation. Phillips reported to her that Charles was being held on two counts: one for high treason and the other for usurping office. He also related to her the events of the sack of Lawrence and the resulting destruction of her home.

Keywords: Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Leavenworth County, Kansas Territory; Leavenworth, Kansas Territory; Lecompte, Samuel D. (Samuel Dexter), 1814-1888; Phillips, William; Preston, Colonel; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Robinson, Sara T. L. (Sara Tappan Lawrence), 1827-1911; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877

Letter, S. N. Simpson to Hiram Hill Esqr
Author: Simpson, Samuel Newell
Date: June 6, 1856

Samuel Simpson wrote from Lawrence, Kansas Territory, to Hiram Hill, in the wake of the Sack of Lawrence. Simpson told Hill he would "not attempt to give any description of what we have gone through, and the state of affairs here. And again business is completely prostrated and nothing is doing ". He discussed briefly some of Hill's property affairs, and stated in his closure that "it is war and murder constantly", though he added in a postscript that "the free state cause never looked more promising."

Keywords: Hill, Hiram; Real estate investment; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Simpson, Samuel Newell; Skirmishing; Violence; Whitney, Thaddeus L.

Abbott Howitzer
Author: No authors specified.
Date: 1856

Major James Burnett Abbott traveled east to raise funds and purchase arms for the free-state cause. In New York Abbott met Frederick Law Olmsted, who assisted in raising funds for the howitzer from the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts. The howitzer was taken to Lawrence, where it was captured by proslavery forces on May 21, 1856. It was recaptured at Fort Titus on August 16, 1856. Afterwards the howitzer was used in Linn County and by James H. Lane's brigade during the Civil War.

Keywords: Abbott howitzer; Abbott, James Burnett; Ames Manufacturing Company; Border disputes and warfare; Cannons; Civil war; Fort Titus, Battle of; Free state cause; Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Linn County, Kansas Territory; Massachusetts; Objects; Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1822-1903; Violence; Weapons (see also Guns)

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Photograph, Ruins of the Free State Hotel
Authors: Robinson, Sara T. L. (Sara Tappan Lawrence), 1827-1911
Date:  1856
An illustration of the Free State Hotel ruins, Lawrence, Kansas Territory, 1856, copied from Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life by Mrs. Charles Robinson.

Keywords: Book illustrations; Border disputes and warfare; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Free State Hotel; Hotels; Lawrence buildings; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Photographs and Illustrations; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856


Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott]
Authors: Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879
Date:  May 9, 1856
Marcus Parrott wrote from Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, to his brother, Edwin Parrott, regarding recent events, which were "unfathomably deep in the waters of territorial trouble". He described the movement of armed men towards Lawrence, a mix of U.S. troops and militiamen from Missouri. Marcus also referred to the current situations of Robinson, Reeder, Lane, and other men who were to play important roles in the imminent Sack of Lawrence. Despite these threats, Marcus still commented on his own economic situation and again asked for money from his brother and father.

Keywords: Delaware Indian lands, Kansas Territory; Jones, Samuel J. (Sheriff); Lane, James Henry, 1814-1866; Neosho, Kansas Territory; Parrott, Edwin A.; Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879; Pierce, Franklin, 1804-1869; Real estate investment; Reeder, Andrew H. (Andrew Horatio), 1807-1864; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Telegraph; Town development


Letter, Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott]
Authors: Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879
Date:  May 11, 1856
Marcus Parrott wrote from Leavenworth, Kansas Territory to his brother, Edwin Parrott, updating him on the situation in K.T. in the days leading up to the Sack of Lawrence. Marcus told him of attempts to arrest both Andrew Reeder and Charles Robinson, and how Reeder claimed that he was privileged from arrest. He also discussed the movement of the troops and his plans to visit Neosho in the coming few days, provided that the political tensions subside.

Keywords: Lecompte, Samuel D. (Samuel Dexter), 1814-1888; Missouri River; Neosho River, Kansas Territory; Parrott, Edwin A.; Parrott, Marcus J., 1828-1879; Reeder, Andrew H. (Andrew Horatio), 1807-1864; Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Sumner, Edwin Vose, 1835-1912


Senate Executive Documents, Reports from Colonel E.V. Sumner
Authors: Sumner, Edwin Vose
Date:  May 16, 1856 - August 31, 1856
Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner, leader of a Kansas Territory cavalry regiment, corresponded primarily with Territorial Governer Wilson Shannon and the Secretary of War's Adjutant General regarding military action taken in response to the Sack of Lawrence and the subsequent retaliatory skirmishes between free state and proslavery men. Sumner maintained that safety in the Territory could not be guaranteed "unless the posse of the U.S. Marshal was dismissed" in favor of local troops. Fearing civil war, Sumner and his correspondents discussed the convening of the Topeka Legislature, which they dubbed "bogus".

Keywords: Border disputes and warfare; Dispersal of Topeka Legislature; Fort Riley, Kansas Territory; Free state activities; Free state legislature; Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Leavenworth, Kansas Territory; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; Sedgwick, John; Shannon, Wilson, 1802-1877; Skirmishing; Smith, Persifer F.; Sumner, Edwin Vose, 1835-1912; Topeka, Kansas Territory; United States marshals; Violence; Woodson, Daniel


"Southern Rights" flag
Authors: No authors specified.
Date:  May 21, 1856
Pro-slavery forces carried this flag while attacking the anti-slavery stronghold of Lawrence. Sheriff Samuel Jones led the group in sacking the town on May 21, 1856. A group of South Carolinians known as the Palmetto Guards participated in the attack, and flew their "Southern Rights" flag over the "Herald of Freedom" newspaper offices and the Free State Hotel before destroying the buildings.

Keywords: Border disputes and warfare; Douglas County, Kansas Territory; Flags and banners; Free State Hotel; Herald of Freedom; Jones, Samuel J. (Sheriff); Lawrence, Kansas Territory; Objects; Palmetto Guards; Proslavery; Proslavery activities; Sack of Lawrence, May 1856; South Carolina; Violence


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