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James H. Lane - Grim Leader in the
James "Jim” Henry
Lane, aka: "The Grim Chieftain,” "Bloody Jim” (1814-1866)
A controversial U.S.
Kansas partisan and Union General during the
Civil War, Lane was born
in Lawrenceburg, Indiana on June 22, 1814. He grew up to study law in his
father’s office and was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1840. During the Mexican
War (1846-48,) he served with the Indian Volunteers. Afterwards, he returned to
Indiana and followed in his father’s footsteps in politics and became Indiana’s
Lieutenant Governor in 1849. In 1853, he was elected as a congressman. The
following year, he cast his vote for the
Act of 1854, and in
1855 moved to
Kansas Territory, where he would soon gain notoriety as
the leader of "Jayhawkers" in the "Free-State” movement.
organized the defense of
Lawrence during the so-called "Wakarusa War” in
December, 1855, which became a turning point in his career. Up until this time,
Lane had been fairly conservative, but as the strife of the
Kansas-Missouri Border War increased, he
became more and more controversial, due his speeches, ruthlessness, and tactics.
Though he is often described as quarrelsome,
belligerent, and unbalanced – often committing acts that were every bit as
atrocious as those of the
Missouri Bushwhackers, he was a dynamic speaker with
charismatic leadership abilities that won him much support among those
supporting the antislavery cause in
Kansas during the time.
was elected as one of
Kansas’ first senators in 1861 and was appointed Brigadier
General of volunteers in December, 1861. As such, he raised the "Frontier Guard”
as well as commanding what was referred to as "Lane's
Brigade” or the "Kansas
Brigade,” comprised of the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Kansas Volunteers. He was
also responsible for forming the First Kansas Colored Volunteers, the first
regiment of African American troops to see action on the side of the Union
Battle of Wilson's Creek,
on August 10, 1861, the Union army retreated, leaving the
border exposed. To combat this, Lane organized his men led them into action
Confederate General Sterling Price, in the
Battle of Dry Wood Creek
on September 2, 1861. Though, his troops lost the
battle, Lane continued on, fighting in a skirmish at Paninsville,
September 5th. Lane continued his cause, fighting through the towns of Butler,
Harrisonville, and Clinton,
Missouri, before he ended his campaign by the
burning of Osceola,
on September 23, 1861.
had heard that there were hidden caches of
Confederate supplies and money were
being held in
Osceola and determined to wipe Osceola from the map. He and his men first stripped the town of
all of its valuable goods which were loaded into wagons taken from the
townspeople. Though they found no hidden
Confederate supplies or money, nine citizens were given a farcical trial and shot. Finally,
Lane's men brought their frenzy of pillaging and murder to a close by burning
the entire town. The settlement suffered more than $1,000,000 worth of damage
including that belonging to pro-Union citizens.
then celebrated by getting drunk, so much so, that according to reports, many of
the men were unable to march when it came time to leave many and had to ride in
wagons and carriages. With them, they took their plunder including Lane's
personal share, which included a piano and a quantity of silk dresses. The
troops then continued to Kansas City,
Lingering fury regarding the
Osceola Massacre stirred
hatred in many a
citizen and would become one of the causes for
William Quantrill's raid on
Kansas two years later on August 21,
After to assault on Osceola, Lane and his men joined Major
General John C. Fremont's army in a southward pursuit of Price's
retreating forces but were soon ordered back to
Kansas to take defensive
Lane was severely criticized for his actions in
Osceola, most severely by General Henry
Halleck, Commander of the Department of
who believed that the attacks made by Lane and Colonel Charles Jennison,
aggravated anti-Union sentiments in
and intensified resistance to federal authority in the state.
Raid as illustrated in Harper's Weekly, September, 1863.
actions, he would state: "The course pursued by those under Lane and Jennison has turned against us many thousands who were formerly Union men.
A few more such raids will make this State unanimous against us." Thus,
Lane's Brigade was ended.
Two years later, when
William Quantrill attacked
in what has become known as the
could be heard shouting, "Remember Osceola!" Though Lane was in residence
Lawrence at the time, he was able to escape the attack by racing
through a cornfield in his nightshirt.
continued to serve in the
Civil War until it ended and was re-elected to the U.S.
Senate in 1865. However, he soon began to lose favor among his supporters when he
backed the President Andrew Johnson’s reconstruction policies, including the
president’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill. He soon became despondent and was accused
of abandoning his fellow Radical Republicans, as well as rumors of financial
July 1, 1866 he shot himself in the head as he leapt from his carriage in
Kansas. He died ten days later and was buried in
Oak Hill Cemetery.
of America, updated March, 2011.
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