Henry H. Williams, who lived near the Pottawatomie, got the word on Wednesday, May 21, 1856. The Border Ruffians, under the leadership of IB Donaldson and Samuel Jones, had come for Lawrence again as long expected. He mounted up and rode the ten miles “to arouse” the Pottawatomie Rifles under the command of John Brown’s son. At about four in the afternoon, everyone gathered where the Osawattomie and the California road met. They waited on two other companies, the Marion Rifles and Pomeroy Guards, but only two men showed from those groups.
The roused Rifles soon had a second messenger from Lawrence, who contradicted the previous and seems to have said they should stay put and wait on further word. They would have none of that and resolved to go and find out the situation for themselves. That brought them to a third messenger, who reported the town’s surrender and subsequent destruction.
This startling news was received in silence by the company. Then the word “Onward” was passed along the line, and although scarcely a word was spoken, the thoughts of every man could be read in his countenance. We pushed on, and a messenger was dispatched the arouse the settlers at Osawattamie.
More bad news came in: No free state militia operated in or near Lawrence. The Border Ruffians held Blanton’s Bridge and still had a force in Lecompton. That looked like more than thirty-odd men could handle, so they camped at Prairie City and hoped that more men would appear. Company C of the Kansas Volunteers and the Pomeroy Guards joined them on May 23. That evening, the news came that proslavery men had taken Charles Robinson off his steamer and hauled him back to Kansas.
That got the Rifles and company moving, aimed at intercepting Robinson at Palmyra and rescuing him. There the Marion Rifles finally appeared. While they waited for the free state governor to come by, John Junior and a small group went to check on Lawrence, finding Robinson’s house burned and both presses ruined:
the town was sacked according to “Law and Order” by a posse of 400 South Carolinians, Georgians, and Border Ruffians
The militias considered their next course. Lawrence would not fight for itself and they couldn’t carry that battle on their own, so everyone agreed to go home and look to their own defense.
On our return from Palmyra we received intelligence of a disturbance on Potawatamie Creek, in which five men were killed.