“They fired at him; he fell mortally wounded”

William Addison Phillips

William Addison Phillips

The Eldridges, who had gone to Lecompton to plead the case of their hotel furnishings and the Lawrence that surrounded them, got nowhere. J.B. Donaldson would promise only that he would not destroy the Free State Hotel. Wilson Shannon, when offered everything he had ever asked of the free state party, still declined to order out the Army to preserve the peace. When they told the Governor that this might drive Lawrence into resistance by force, Shannon declared himself for war.

William Phillips doesn’t mention the Eldridges’ mission in his Conquest of Kansas, likely because a promise of total capitulation and repeated begging for help didn’t make for an inspiring story. He does, however, relate a few incidents that the Lawrence memorialists left out of the version they sent to Franklin Pierce. The first concerns “a young man named Jones,” late of Illinois. Jones, who appears to have had no connection to the infamous Sheriff Jones, had gone off to a store to buy some flour. He returned home by way of Blanton’s Bridge, and there met “two of these young Southerners, belonging to the posse.”

Seeing fresh prey, the proslavery men attacked. Phillips arms them

with United States muskets and bayonets. These arms were Mississippi rifles, as they are called. They were public arms, belonging to the territory, in the charge of Governor Shannon, and with his permission given to these young Southerners and Missourians

Shannon did have public arms at his disposal and probably would have let them out to Donaldson’s posse. Whether the Southerners had their weapons from his hand or not, they put them to use against Jones. Still near the store, he dismounted and bolted for it. His enemies followed him inside. Someone there gave Jones a pistol to answer them with,

whereupon the men raised their pieces and threatened to shoot him unless he gave it up. The person in the store again got it, when an altercation between him and the two men ensued.

Jones took that moment to claim the better part of valor, leaving the store while the fight progressed. For his heroism, Jones received pursuit by the two proslavery men, who swore that an abolitionist would not escape them.

They fired at him; he fell mortally wounded, and died during the day, or before next morning. The murderers immediately left.

Through the long build-up to this, many people had faced deadly threats and harassment. A messenger from Lawrence had dodged bullets as he rode. Proslavery men had detained others and warned uninvolved parties that they could not travel safely. Now a man had died, the first political murder in Kansas since Reese Brown in January.

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