“Nearly all were armed” The Arrest of Samuel Wood, Part Four

Samuel Newitt Wood

Samuel Newitt Wood

Parts 1, 2, 3

We left Lawrence on the night of April 19, 1856. The town probably had a public meeting that endorsed resisting Sheriff Jones in his effort to arrest Samuel Wood, reciting the normal free state position that they had no obligation to follow the laws of the territorial government or respect the orders of its officers. While Lawrence did its usual, Samuel Jones also took inspiration from the past. Samuel Wood had thwarted Jones last time around, showing up with more men than Jones had to rescue Jacob Branson. Jones elected to try again with more men.

John Speer takes us from there:

The following Sunday, April 20, Jones made a descent on the city, with a posse of ten men. The first effort was to arrest Mr. Tappan, (he was was afterward Colonel of the First Colorado, and a member of the Peace Commission under President Grant,) but Tappan resisted; and then, “there was a splendid chance for fun,” as the boys remarked.

Jones differs from Speer in telling Wilson Shannon that he came in with four men, but tried to get more inside Lawrence. Given we know proslavery people passed through the town, thanks to the example of Axalla Hoole, Jones might have genuinely expected to get more. Jones and Speer both have reasons to slant the numbers. For Jones, a small posse makes him appear more vulnerable and stresses how no one in Lawrence respected his authority. For Speer, a large one casts Jones more convincingly as an invader.

Either way, it seems Jones and his posse came upon Samuel Tappan and found the third Samuel of this story not inclined to go quietly. The news reached to a nearby hall, where Reverend S. Y. Lum conducted a Sunday service.

It was “the church militant and the church triumphant” -and the church a la militaire, for that matter; for they were nearly all armed. The audience almost fell over each other in attempt to reach the scene; and the preacher was not more than a length behind, accusing Jones of breaking up his church.

This all sounds a bit too good to be true, but Lawrence’s men did rise against Jones and drive him off. Speer reports a rumor that Jones picked Tappan for his reputation as “a non-resistant.” If Tappan had ever professed pacifism, as some abolitionists did, but Speer believes the conviction left him when a territorial legislator knocked Tappan down. Tappan called the bogus legislature “a Nero Legislature”. The proslavery man didn’t know from Nero, but believed Tappan meant “a negro Legislature.” Thereafter, Tappan armed himself. That also sounds too good to be true, but if Tappan said it then he had to know southerners, and plenty of Yankees, would take it as a mortal insult. He might well have called the body “negro” and claimed Nero later on.

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