The Buford Expedition, Part Four: “What military and other service do I require?”

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Walter Lynwood Fleming

Fleming’s paper is available here (PDF) or in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume IV (huge PDF).

Previous Parts: 1, 2, 3

The winter of 1856 found Jefferson Buford’s expedition to save Kansas for slavery and make back his investment of forty slaves’ sale price about ready to go. Plans had changed a bit since he announced it. Buford would no longer take women, children, or slaves as subsidized emigrants; he wanted fighting men. According to Buford, “the great number of emigrants” required him to make one more adjustment. If you wanted to come, you absolutely had to meet Buford at one of his stated points of departure: his home of Eufaula, Columbus (Georgia), or Montgomery. But if you came, you got to go:

I will receive all males over eighteen from any Southern State, who join me at the time above designated; their rations to begin from the time above named for rendezvous. Emigrants must pay their own expenses to the place and day of rendezvous.

You could come from Delaware or Texas, but Buford would not put himself on the hook for your transport. However, you wouldn’t really have to pay:

Those gentleman in Carolina and other States forming companies to join me, can very easily obtain free transportation for their companies by proper application to the directors of the railroads over which they must pass.

When Buford said railroads, he meant the plural. Nineteenth century rail networks rarely connected to one another in any sensible scheme, particularly in the South. Buford thus asked anybody coming from afar to gamble on multiple railroad owners having a soft spot for dodgy colonization ventures, possibly to the degree of forgoing dozens of fares. Maybe they would, but that seems an awful lot to ask a poor emigrant to chance. Buford knew that full well. He advised anybody interested to throw a public meeting and put out the collection plate. However, he specified that contributions should not hinge on an individual going, but rather come earmarked “for the common benefit.”

Then Buford walked back his military language. After asking often for fighting men, coming armed and organized into a regiment and companies with officers, he walked it back:

I am asked, what military and other service do I require? None, except that when he gets to Kansas, the emigrant shall begin some honest employment for a living, if he be working on his claim, that will give him credit to buy bread on. On his way there he is expected to be orderly and temperate, to attend the reading of the Scriptures and prayer night and morning, to learn to fear God, to be charitable to our enemies, gentle with females and those in power, merciful to slaves and beasts and just to all men.

A cynical mind might note that Buford laid the temperance, religious, and humanitarian obligations upon his colonists only while they traveled. In Kansas, they needed only look to their own profit. A more generous one might admit that access to religious services might prove difficult on the frontier, however scrupulous the supplicant.

Buford closed his letter of February 1 with a request that interested parties write at once and the names of two men in South Carolina who he believed in the process of raising their own companies to join him. He gave his assurance that those worthies would totally for sure have free rides on the railroad. If you came from South Carolina, you should sign up with them.

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