“With a borrowed overcoat and cap” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Five

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4

On Thursday, May 8, 1856, Andrew Reeder met with some friends in Lawrence. He had planned to accept his arrest while Charles Robinson bolted Kansas to raise money and arms for the free state government’s defense. Kansas’ first governor changed his mind on learning that if he went to Lecompton, he might not make it out alive. He wrote to Governor Shannon and Judge Lecompte asking that they guarantee his safety in exchange for cooperation.

Reeder’s concern for his life must have grown still further when a new rumor came in

that the enemy were ordered to muster at Lecompton, and had scouts out over the country, and that men were prepared to come from Kickapoo and Atchison, most of them Missourians, of course.

The Missourians at arms would have stronger resolve than the small posse that had tried to take Reeder before. Lawrence could outnumber a dozen or so men without trouble, but not thousands as might come over the border again. Particularly as Reeder learned that Lawrence had a mere “ten kegs of powder … and only 200 Sharps’ rifles.” Five thousand cartridges on hand meant that those rifles wouldn’t soon go silent, but they still numbered only two hundred, with three cannons to back them.

Friday, May 10, Charles and Sarah Robinson quit Lawrence “openly,” leaving the free state government to Lieutenant Governor Roberts. Reeder got word from Shannon and Lecompte. He found Shannon’s answer “unsatisfactory.” Lecompte wrote only to say he would give no answer. With that news, Reeder decided he had best get out of Lawrence before it fell under siege. He

left in a buggy with Lyman Allen, and with a borrowed overcoat and cap, drove to the ravine and walked down its bed to E.W. Clark’s, where [he] remained secreted all day.

While Reeder hid, the free state militias gathered around Lawrence and posted guards on the road to Lecompton. Three hundred had come by the evening. Friends called on Reeder at Clark’s, including William Howard of the Committee and Lieutenant Governor Roberts. The luminaries visited Reeder in hiding apparently to convince him to get out of Kansas, arguing that his absence would avert battle. G.P. Lowrey offered the use of a skiff and horses to get Reeder to Nebraska, but he decided to go by way of Topeka. Further consultation prompted Reeder to opt for a westerly route. About midnight he went back to Lawrence to make the necessary arrangements. The delegate spent the remainder of the night in a house a mile south of town.


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