The Fourteenth District, Part Three

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

David Rice Atchison (D-MO)

The Fourteenth District: parts 1 and 2

G.A. Cutler told us that no less a figure than David Rice Atchison himself came over to the Wolf River precinct of the Fourteenth District to ensure the election of proslavery men to the legislature. He and his Misosurians also convinced the local proslavery men to change their support to the Missourian’s preferred candidates, including Atchison’s lieutenant’s brother, J.H. Stringfellow. Cutler didn’t see or didn’t recognize Stringfellow’s brother Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow, but other witnesses put him in the Fourteenth District that day as well. Cutler also testified that he saw no violence.

Maybe at Wolf River everything went fine. Bleeding Kansas or no, the Missourians did not necessarily have to conduct themselves violently to get their way. Success through intimidation gave them far less cause to do so. But the Fourteenth District had other precincts. A.A. Jamison saw more at Burr Oak, beginning with the Missourian’s arrival:

There was a firing of fire arms during the evening until late in the night. I saw them passing as I was at the road. The next morning the firing begun again.

Jamison does not say that, at least so far, the Missourians shot at anything and people, then and now, do sometimes shoot their guns in celebration or to signal to one another. But firing off guns in large numbers sent a message about the group’s willingness to use them more deliberately. Continuous fire of guns sounds much more like a ballistic telegraph spelling out ‘we mean business and will shoot you if you get in the way’ than a group of well-lubricated men simply having a good time.

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow

The free staters withdrew their ticket, but the Missourians resolved to make the withdrawal stick. Jamison testifies that

There was a party selected towards evening of good fighting men to stand and protect the polls until they were closed and they saw that all was right. Their reason for forming such a fighting party, as they said themselves, was, that they were afraid the free State men would come in and vote towards evening.

The free state men might vote in the election. Obviously, this could not stand. Did those men, or any others, see any action? Apparently so:

The threats I heard after the free State ticket was withdrawn, were not to take life. I saw some fighting by fisticuffs. I saw a man about five minutes after he had been shot, but I did not see it done. I saw others who had their heads badly cut with clubs and stones.

Fights happen and the Missourians had enough alcohol to lubricate their fists, but this sounds a bit beyond regular brawling. Jamison didn’t see the fights themselves and didn’t testify to how they came about, but from context he seems to believe they came out of the political dispute. I wouldn’t call that conclusive, but it certainly looks bad for the Missourians.

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