The First District, Part Five

The Howard Committee

The Howard Committee

Parts: 1, 2, 3, 4

When last we left the First District, men from Missouri had come again to steal the election. They had provisions stocked up in advance. They openly announced their intentions, declaring that they had every right to vote in Kansas and even if they didn’t, hordes of Emigrant Aid Society men coming in justified a retaliatory strike. That those hordes did not appear didn’t enter into it. On arrival, they violently accosted at least two known free soil men, going so far as to chase one into the river and shoot at him.

I have mentioned frequently that the border ruffians came over armed. The fact appears in just about every piece of testimony I have read. The Howard Report cites no less than nineteen witnesses on the subject. I will not inflict upon the reader to a tedious recounting of all nineteen pieces of testimony, but the fact bears some repeating.

Erastus D. Ladd testified, repeatedly:

They had tents, and were armed; I saw private arms, and I saw rifles and other arms of that kind, double-barrelled shot-guns, revolvers, and knives.

There a large number who had arms at the polls; some few had shot-guns or rifles, but mostly revolvers and knives during most of the day.

So far as I observed all of the Missourians were armed at the polls, but not all of them with their larger arms, but with their side arms, revolvers, and knives.

According to Norman Allen:

They were generally armed with rifles and shot-guns, and many of them had belts with bowie-knives and revolvers exposed, though some were somewhat concealed by coat-skirts. […] some 400 or 500 at the polls who were armed with shot-guns and rifles.

The residents of Lawrence, of course, had their own firearms. It appears, however, that they largely left the guns at home. Nor do they appear to have boasted so extensive an arsenal as the Missourians. A large group of men going around armed sends a message. That many witnesses insist the Missourians behaved themselves, with some conspicuous exceptions for firing on a supposed abolitionist and manhandling another, doesn’t much help their case in light of that. People who care for their safety do not go out of their way to rile men with guns who have already uttered violent rhetoric and late in the day carried some of it out.

I wrote all of that to come to this. While most of the Missourians had personal weapons, Edward Chapman saw something else entirely at Lawrence that day:

They claimed that they had a right to come here and vote; all they asked was to vote here peaceably, and if they could not do it peaceably they must resort to some other means. Most of them had double-barreled shot-guns, and guns of various descriptions, and most of them had side-arms. I saw a couple pieces of artillery.

Maybe artillery meant something else in the nineteenth century? No such luck:

We crossed the ravine, and came very near the house of the election. Some gentleman hallooed to me; I went back, and we got into conversation about the matter. He asked me if I thought there was any prospect of difficulty here? I told him I thought not. He said how he was in hope there would not be. I told him that if there were citizens enough in the place to give them a fair fight they would do it. He thought there would be no use in doing that, and invited me to go down a short distance with him. We went to a wagon, and he lifted up a cloth and some blankets, and remarked to me that there was a couple of “bull-dogs” they had, loaded with musket-balls. They were all covered up in the hay, with the exception of the rims of them; they were a couple of brass cannon.

The border ruffians brought with them to Lawrence two cannons. Nice election Kansas had there, terrible shame if something had to happen to it. The Missourians expected a nice, quiet election. No need to make trouble…but if someone did then they had a Plan B with a side-order of cannons.

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