"Bleeding Kansas" Sites

A Prelude to the Civil War

  Long before the Civil War, the issue of slavery divided the country. With the Missouri Compromise of 1820 Missouri was allowed slave status but expansion was restricted--no slavery north of 30 36' latitude.
    But by 1854, the Act was repealed. The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed new territories to determine slavery by a majority vote of settlers--"Popular Sovereignty."
     Sparsely populated, the Kansas territory was "up for grabs." Forces on both sides of the slavery issue sent settlers into Kansas to take up claims and tip the scales in their favor...Kansas was settled in strife.
     As early as 1855, the division between these factions was obvious, evidenced by the election of two territorial governors. Wilson Shannon operated the pro-slavery government out of Topeka. Free-Soiler Charles Robinson chose Lawrence as his headquarters.
    Atrocities took place on both sides. Each claimed its own breed of logic and extremism. But the tension appeared greatest where the Missouri Border Ruffians and Jayhawkers crossed ptaths. In this region, zealotry to the cause resulted in heinous retaliatory actions.
    With forts and meeting spots scattered throughout Miami, Linn and Bourbon counties, direct confrontations were a daily occurrence. As strong personalities congreagated in the area, tensions rose.
    Neighbor against neighbor, the events foretold the unparalledled horrors which would unravel the fabric of our nation.

Marais des Cygnes Massacre
    On May 19, 1858 a band of Border Ruffians, led by Charles Hamilton, traveled to the area surrounding Trading Post, KS--on the North-South military trail just on the west side of the Kansas-Missouri border. 
    Hamilton rounded up neighbors and acquaintances. The band of proslavers rode on horseback, marching their hostages to a ravine one mile from the Missouri line, along the Marais des Cygnes River. On Hamilton's order, the pro-slavers, still on horseback, took aim at their neighbors. Amazingly, six survived the ordeal. Only one Border Ruffian, William Griffith, was ever held accoutable for his actions. Found guilty, he was hung in Mound City on Oct. 23, 1863.
    John Greenleaf Whittier
immortalized the fallen in a poem, "Le Marais du Cygne."
Select a photo 
to see the original--

Historical marker

Max at the infamous ravine

Mine Creek Civil War Battlefield
Mine Creek, the only major Civil War battlefield in Kansas is located in Linn County. On Oct. 23, 1864 Union troops known as the "Army of the border." led by Major General Samuel Curtis, overran General Sterling Price's men in the Battle of Westport. A 100-mile retreat ensued. Weighted down by wagon trains filled with loot collected during his raids, General Price jeoparidzed his men and position for the plunder.
    On Oct. 25, the wagon train became lodged in Mine Creek and the Confederates employed a rear-guard action rather than lose their bounty. In the final tally, 2,500 Union troops defeated 6,500 Confederate soldiers. Approximately 1000 Confederates died, were wounded or were captured in the battle.

The Mine Creek battle site is managed by the Kansas State Historical Society. The building on the site is closed on Mon. & Tues., but a mowed path and markers in the field tell the story of the battle.

Mine Creek marker 1

Mine Creek marker 2

Across the draw, Mine Creek

National Cemetery, Ft. Scott
On July 17, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act authorizing the purchase of land to establish national cemeteries to bury the union dead. The National Cemetery at Ft. Scott was among the first established.
    Union and Confederate soldiers...Buffalo soldiers, Indian scouts, and Unknown soldiers...all are buried on the grounds.
    Among the straight rows of white headstones are 13 grave markers set out of line. These contain the bodies of Confederate soldiers, who were at "cross-purposes" with the Union troops (See top photo of this section)

The bottom photo of this section is a photo-collage of the stones of some of the Indian soldiers buried here.

Confederate graves Out of Line

Ft. Scott National Cemetery

Indian soldiers headstones

John Brown Territory
    Rev. Samuel Adair and his wife Florella purchased a Miami County cabin in March 1855 for $200. Her half-brother, John Brown, his sons, and their families were soon living with the Adairs, holding free-state meetings and concealing runaway slaves.
    John Brown was responsible for the Pottawatomie Massacre of pro-slavery sympathizers near midnight May 24, 1856. Missouri ruffians fought back, raiding nearby Osawatomie on Aug. 30. From that point on, John Brown was a marked man.
    John Brown Memorial Park, where the battle took place, was dedicated in 1910 by Teddy Roosevelt. The cabin stands now at the park in a stone shether built during the 1930's. 
WPA building houses Adair cabin

Exterior, Adair cabin

Monument to John Brown

Much of the text for this page came from a travel brochure, "Border Wars: Bleeding Kansas, A Prelude to the Civil War--a tour through Miami, Linn, and Bourbon counties."

Photos © 1999 Carol Yoho
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