Battle of Franklin of Bleeding Kansas


R.L. Williams House, Franklin, Kansas

R.L. Williams House, Franklin, Kansas

Almost immediately after the Battle of Black Jack, Kansas bands of both  pro-slavery and Free-State men began to concentrate toward Franklin, the Wakarusa, Hickory Point, and Bull Creek on the Shawnee reserve. Franklin had not been entirely abandoned by the pro-slavery forces since the Sacking of Lawrence.

Buford’s men and a number of Missourians were assembled there, with a brass 6-pounder, a large quantity of ammunition and other camp supplies which had been taken at Lawrence, and the plunder taken from intercepted wagons had also been stored there. The pro-slavery forces used the town as a rallying point when they invaded from Missouri.

To recapture the stolen property, secure the ammunition and break up the stronghold of the enemy who would have Lawrence at their mercy if the free-state forces were called to support Brown, an attack was planned upon Franklin by the free-state men in the vicinity of Lawrence.

The plan of attack was poorly worked out and as a result, there was no concerted action. About 16 men left Lawrence on the night of June 4, for Franklin. The plan was to have the Wakarusa Company attack on one side and the Lawrence party on the other. Failing to find the Wakarusa Company at the place agreed upon, the men from Lawrence entered the town about 2 a.m. and went to the place where they supposed the cannon to be for the purpose of capturing it and the ammunition, but the cannon was not to be found. In fact, nothing was found where it was supposed to be, and for nearly an hour the Lawrence men hunted about the town before the real operations commenced. By this time the pro-slavery men were awake and prepared.

Bleeding Kansas Fight

Bleeding Kansas Fight

Finally, the free-state men marched to the guard-house and demanded the surrender of the garrison. The garrison had been warned of the approach of the free-state men, refused to surrender, and fired a volley of rifle shots. This was returned by the free-state men and then the cannon, which had been placed just inside the guard-house door, was fired. It had been loaded with nails, broken scrap iron, etc., which went screaming through the darkness but the aim was poor and no one was hurt. The firing on both sides continued and pro-slavery men in other houses began to open fire on the attacking party which did not desire to assail anything but the guard-house. The Wakarusa Company, which had lost its way in the darkness, was guided by the sound of the firing and found its way into Franklin, but not knowing friend from foe, was unable to take any active part in the engagement. The men knew, however, that Buford had most of his stores in a place near where they entered the town. They broke into the storehouse, obtained a large quantity of ammunition, and some Sharpe’s rifles as well as a few of the guns which had been seized from the free-state men. All kinds of provisions were stored in this house in case of need. Much of these were loaded into a wagon and hurried away. Several wagons could have been loaded, had the Wakarusa men had them.

As day began to break the firing in the streets ceased. The free-state men feared the approach of the United States troops who were in camp near Lawrence and were forced to leave Franklin without taking with them the cannon they had captured. Only one free-state man was hurt during the fight, while four of the opposite side were badly wounded, one of whom died a few days later. Although it had not been carried out as planned, the expedition was not an entire failure, for supplies had been secured and the pro-slavery party taught that the free-state men could strike back.


Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January 2020.

About the Article: This historic text was published in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Volume I; edited by Frank W. Blackmar,  A.M. Ph. D.; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912. The text is not necessarily verbatim as we have edited for readability, errors, and other corrections.

Also See:

Bleeding Kansas & the Missouri Border War

The Civil War in Kansas

Kansas – The Sunflower State

Kansas Photo Galleries