I.B. Donaldson’s overgrown posse, now handed over to Samuel Jones and still bent on delivering some long-awaited punishment to the antislavery town of Lawrence, cheered when Jones and twenty of their number came out of Lawrence with the town’s cannons in tow. David Rice Atchison, Missouri’s just-former Senator, resumed his speech after. The Senator wanted the mob to behave themselves. Gentlemen should treat women well, even women of the enemy, unless they fought back. Then those gentlemen should kill those women without hesitation. At “the least appearance of resistance,” they could cast all restraint aside. Good order would last as long as no one got in the way.
Then the posse marched in a line, straight to Lawrence. William Phillips made much of how some wore red; the redcoats (or red flannel shirts) had come again to
trample under foot the rights of American freemen. As motley an assortment of banners floated over them. The flag of South Carolina, with a crimson star in the centre, and the motto “Southern rights.” Another flag resembled the American flag, being striped like it; but there were no stars, and in their stead a rampant tiger, -fit emblem of the men it floated over, and the cause it vindicated. Another had white and black alternate stripes, which truly represented the cursed amalgamation of races which is ruining the slave states, and which these nullifying filibusters meant to introduce into Kansas, and to nationalize. One banner bore the inscription, “South Carolina;” another, “Supremacy of the white race,” on the one side, and “Kansas, the outpost,” on the other.
Phillips shared his fear of racial amalgamation with most white Americans, whatever their politics. By implication he repeated the standard abolitionist attack that slavery turned the whole South into a brothel, which had some truth to it, but his fear of race mixing also stands on its own. The notion that the proslavery force would have boasted their intent via a flag doesn’t bear scrutiny, though. Most likely Phillips invented the flag or gave it his own meaning.
The proslavery men came despite Donaldson’s promise not to bring his posse into town. By handing them off to Jones, he made them Jones’ posse and no one had pledged anything about that body of men. They advanced past an earthwork at the end of Massachusetts Street, which dated back to the Wakarusa War. There they stopped and brought up their own cannons, aiming them down the street. Phillips reports that they stopped there for fear that Lawrence had mined the street. Some pressed on despite orders, but Jefferson Buford called them back. The delay didn’t last long. Two “spies” came forward and told Buford the mines existed only in rumor. Soon the force “was in possession of the town.”
Phillips credits Jones with advising the women and children to get out of town before the army arrived, which speaks volumes. We can attribute some of the impetus to custom, but it also repeats the undercurrent often seen among proslavery leaders that once their boys got going they might not stop for, or at, anything. All the same, few had gone until then.
It was a trying and sorrowful scene to see the people of Lawrence leave their homes and fly from the place. Some of the women were moved to tears, and others would look back, like Lot’s wife, and freely vent their indignation. They had not time to move their effects; and, had they been seen taking them off, they would probably have been stopped.
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