center of the anti-slavery movement in
was the city of
which had been established in the Fall of 1854 by anti-slavery emigrants from
New England. Though hundreds of settlers had moved to
from the east, expressly for the purpose of establishing
as a free state, the pro-slavery forces of
had gained control of the
government and through a campaign of intimidation, determined to make
a slave state.
was called home to about 1,500 residents, most all of whom supported
Free-State movement, and as such, became a target for the
A previous threatened attack in December, 1855,
referred to as the Wakarusa War,
was settled before any blood was shed. But the southern sympathizers were
determined to "put down” the resistance of
On April 23, 1856, pro-slavery advocate and
Jones, went to arrest several Free-State men and was shot by an
unknown person. Jones would survive the shooting and on May 11th,
Federal Marshal J.B. Donaldson proclaimed that the citizenry of
had interfered with the execution of warrants.
In the meantime, a
newspaper, called the Herald of Freedom, was actively publishing numerous
anti-slavery articles, which had long source of bitter contempt to the proslavery
forces operating in Kansas.
As a result, Sheriff
Samuel J. Jones collected a posse of some 750 men with
the intent of destroying the
offices of the Herald of Freedom, as well as another newspaper called the
Kansas Free State.
The "posse” gathered on the outskirts of town, as
well as stationing a large force and cannon atop Mount Oread. The home of
resident, and the first governor of
Charles L. Robinson, was commandeered as the headquarters for the operation.
Troops were also posted on every road leading into the city to stop anyone from
The troops then marched into the city under two
flags – one a blood-red flag on which was "Southern Rights," and the other, the
United States flag. The men then went to the newspaper offices, destroyed the
presses, and threw them, as well as the types, into the river. They then began
the work of destroying the Free State Hotel by firing on it with a cannon. When
the cannon ball missed, the building was set afire and by evening was a
roofless, smoldering ruin. The troops then began to rob various locations before
burning the home of Charles L. Robinson.
One person died during the melee – ironically, it
pro-slavery proponent who was killed by falling masonry.
The attack, on May 21, 1856, considered by some as the true first battle of the
that would not officially begin for five more years, further inflamed both
parties fighting over Kansas and led to more skirmishes in what is known as the
Kansas-Missouri Border War.
Unfortunately, for the City of
this would not be its only attack. During the Civil War, it
would once again be made a target in what is known as the