Going for a Sequel: The Arrest of Samuel Wood, Part Five

Samuel Jones

Samuel Jones

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4


Douglas County sheriff Samuel Jones gave it another go. After first failing to arrest Samuel Wood, he went back to Lawrence the next day with a larger posse. He aimed to take Samuel F. Tappan, who had resisted him the day prior, and then move on to the rest of Wood’s defenders. He had the poor luck to come on Tappan near to a Sunday service attended in chief by armed antislavery Kansans. They came to the rescue of Wood, sending Jones packing for a second time in as many days. According to Merrill’s True History of the Kansas Wars, resistance on April 20th included how

the Free State secretary, pro tem., declared that he would sooner obey the laws of hell, than the laws of the Territory.

In addition, Jones enjoyed “every imaginable indignity .” That banquet of delights so pleased Jones that he removed to Lecompton and turned the clock back to the heady days of early December. Just as when Samuel Wood rescued Jacob Branson from Jones’ custody, the sheriff wrote Governor Shannon. He related how “a mob” of Lawrence citizens rescued Wood “and with violence and force took him from me.” The mob even took Jones guns, which they retained.

I came back to this place for an additional force, and returned to Lawrence with a posse composed of four men, citizens of this county, to assist me in recovering my prisoner; and arresting other persons for theft and other crimes. When there, I summoned an additional posse from among the citizens of Lawrence, -they refused to act, and with my small posse of four men, I attempted to make the arrests, and was again repulsed, and the prisoners taken from me by force, and violent threats uttered against me, and the laws of the territory.

Wilson Shannon

Wilson Shannon

Jones might as well have just told Shannon that he starred in the sequel to December’s trials. No law of nature demands history repeat; people insist on that. If Lawrence chose to resist him again, Jones could choose to move against the town with military force for a second time. He called on Shannon, who must have seen this coming from a sentence or two into the letter,

to furnish me with such military force as may be at your disposal, to assist me in enforcing the laws.

In late 1855, the force at Shannon’s disposal amounted to the half-organized territorial militia. This time around, Wilson Shannon had authorization from Franklin Pierce to call out the Army.


“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.