Colonel James Montgomery was an abolitionist and Jayhawker during the days of Bleeding Kansas and Union colonel during the Civil War.
Born to James and Mary Baldwin Montgomery in Austinburg, Ohio on December 22, 1814, Montgomery later moved with his family to Kentucky in 1837 where he taught school when he grew up. Briefly, he was married in Kentucky but his wife died just a short time later. He soon remarried and the couple moved to Missouri in 1852, where they lived in several places awaiting the opening of Kansas Territory. In 1854, he and his wife settled about five miles west of present-day Mound City, Kansas.
At this time, the area was plunged in the midst of the Kansas-Missouri Border War and Montgomery soon became a leader of local Free-state men. Just a year after he had moved to Linn County, his cabin was burned down by Missouri guerillas and he soon built a new home that was more of a fortress and was referred to as Fort Montgomery.
In 1857 he organized and commanded a group called the “Self-Protective Company,” which began to order pro-slavery settlers to leave the area. As the conflicts in the area continued, the current pro-slavery governor sent troops into Southeastern Kansas to quell the disturbances, which encouraged the pro-slavery advocates to harass the free-staters even more. On many occasions, he worked with John Brown in order to make Kansas a free state.
When the Civil War broke out, he entered the army of the Union as Colonel of the Third Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry on July 24, 1861. By June 1863, Montgomery was commanding his own brigade in operations along the east coast that somewhat resembled his earlier “Jayhawking” raids.
In 1864 he resigned his commission and returned to Kansas. He lived peacefully with his wife and seven children and worked as a farmer until December 6, 1871, when he died. He is buried in the National Cemetery in Mound City, Kansas – grave #76.
©Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.