The Free State Embassy, Part Four

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Parts 1, 2, 3

Wilson Shannon read the letter that G.P. Lowery and C.W. Babcock delivered to him. From it, and conversation with them, he understood the plight of Lawrence. He claimed to have nothing to do with the Missourians then besieging the town, but could hardly deny that he summoned the militia against them. Shannon sincerely wanted to avoid a bloodbath, but not much else. He told the free state envoys that Lawrence must agree to obey the laws of Kansas and comply with the seizure of both their party’s leadership, though warrants issued to Sherrif Samuel Jones, and surrender their arms. This prompted more argument with Lowery and Babcock, which Shannon found unpersuasive. He sent the two off with a letter of his own.

Lowery and Babcock went over to Kansas City for fresh horses and turned back for home. There they encountered more happy portents:

I looked around and saw a man driving a team, hauling a wagon which I have no doubt contained a cannon. It was going in the direction of the Wyandott ferry, and we started after it as soon as we could change horses. As we passed through Westport, going from Shawnee Mission to Kansas City, I saw a large crowd, of whom Allen McGhee seemed to be the leader. They were drinking, and getting ready to go up to the camp at the Wakarusa. Several whom I knew came up and talked to us, and said they were “going to wipe the damned down of Lawrence clean out this time, and no mistake.” None of them said anything about the laws or the rescue-only the opportunity to wipe out the inhabitants.

The envoys had seen and spoken to such groups before, but the encounter so soon after Shannon essentially told them that Lawrence ought to surrender itself must have rankled. Not keen on crossing paths with the party again, Lowery and Babcock took a longer route home. They navigated the dark night of December 5, 1855 with the help of an Indian guide, avoiding some camps along the way.

The long road to Lawrence took Lowery and Babcock to the Delaware ferry, where Shannon had told them he aimed to meet the 1st Cavalry that very night.

we inquired whether Colonel Sumner or any dragoons had gone down to the ferry, and we were told they had not.

The Executive Minutes of Shannon’s administration include word from Sumner, dated December 5, promising

I will march with my regiment in a few hours, and will meet you at the Delaware crossing of the Kansas this evening.

Shannon had to have that letter in hand when he told Lowery and Babcock of his plans to meet the 1st Cavalry. Sumner wrote it around ten in the morning and communication between Shannon and Sumner seems to take rather less than a day. Plans for the relief of Lawrence, it seems, had changed.


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