The Buford Expedition, Part Eleven: Broken Promises

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, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Five grand lighter than he expected to be, Jefferson Buford and had nearly made it to Kansas. They went up to Kansas City, where Buford had everyone form a line and gave a speech. Then his men knelt and swore not to leave Kansas until they had won it for slavery. From Kansas City, the expedition moved on to Westport, where Fleming has them “equipped for settlement”. If Buford’s proscription of firearms had any effect beyond the rhetorical, I imagine it fell by the wayside here. The proslavery men finally crossed into Kansas on May 2, 1856. The proslavery party rejoiced and free state men lamented:

“Our hearts have been made glad,” wrote one of the Southerners, “by the late arrival of large companies from South Carolina and Alabama. they have responded nobly to our call for help. The noble Buford is already endeared to our hearts; we love him; we will fight for him and die for him and his noble companions.” On the free State side, ex-Governor Reeder writes: “There have come to the Territory this spring three or four hundred young men, including Buford’s party, who evidently came here to fight, and whose leaders probably understood the whole program before they left home.”

Missourians pledged that the would help Buford’s men, the enamored author above included. Before Buford and company could leave Westport, the citizens gave him “a fine horse with fine saddle and bridle.” Once in Kansas, the festivities gave way to the business of settlement. This scattered the filibusters. Buford himself sought “some central location” where he could set up shop in the hopes that his men would follow along and so remain easily reachable. An army dispersed can soon become no army at all. They might well have stuck with Buford, had he lived up to his end of the bargain.

Some of Buford’s men now asked that the money for paying for their claims be given to them, but this their leader declined to do until they should select their quarter sections and settle on them. Others wanted him to support them at his own expense, pay their bills at hotels, etc. His refusal to do this soon caused the loss of a number of the most worthless of the party.

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Fleming doesn’t think well of those men. He has a point, considering they wanted money before making claims and might well make off with the money instead of the land, but it doesn’t strike me as unusual for them to expect Buford to subsidize them until they could find parcels to settle. Even if you meant to get your land immediately and had energy enough to build a mansion on it first thing, people need to eat and have shelter while they find unclaimed spots that seem adequate. Given the very tenuous state of land claims in the territory, that might take a while. Nobody came to Kansas to starve, sleep in the rain, or descend into penury. Killing Yankee abolitionists might warm the heart, but they expected to improve their condition too.

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