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Bleeding Kansas
Digital History ID 1189

Author:   Julia Louisa Lovejoy

Annotation: A first-hand account of life in "Bleeding Kansas."


September 5th, 1856

[To the Independent Democrat, Concord, New Hampshire]


I am not able to sit up but a few moments, having had a severe attach of bilious intermittent fever, and my husband sick with bilious fever at the same time, and our nurse, who kindly proffered his aid, being an old gentleman upwards of 70, crippled with rheumatism. Altogether, in these "dark days" of crime, we have had a sorry time of it, as every hour almost, of our sickness, some startling intelligence of new murders and depredations saluted our acutely nervous senses. Thanks to an ever watchful Providence, we are both now convalescent.

Our hearts sicken at the atrocities perpetrated daily upon the innocent and unoffending.-Ossawattamie has been laid in ashes, every house burned, and four of our men killed.-The gallant Brown, while searching after his saddle, was shot dead in the street. Fifty Ossawattamie families shelterless, are now living in their wagons in the woods, endeavoring to escape these fiends in human form-Heaven and Elijah's ravens to feed them! This was a beautiful town, about the size, I think, of Lawrence. Jude Wakefield's house and four of his neighbor's were burnt night before last. The ruffians have burnt every Free State man's house in Leavenworth, pressed the men into their service, at the peril of their lives, driven the women and children, with just the clothes on their backs, into the boats and sent them down the River. Children with no parents to take care of them, were pushed into the boat and sent off too! Our men have driven their army twice this week, at the North, between here and Lecompton, and near Black Jack, between this place and Westport. At Black Jack the two armies were drawn up in line of battle, a ravine separating them, but after viewing our brave fellows, they concluded that running was the better part of valor, and took to their heels, and put spurs to their horses, as though Lucifer was hard after them, and entered Westport, (as we learned by a lady who came in the stage yesterday from thence) and told the people that "Lane had 10,000 men, and was coming down to destroy the place," and they went to fortifying the town. Lane had about four hundred men with him, all told, and they, 'tis said, numbered five to his one! What brave fellows these ruffians are when they are not sucking whiskey!

Our men took a lot of teams, etc., yesterday, they had arrived within a few miles of Lawrence, and were coming to burn the place. A company met them, and fired once, when every man fled to Lecompton. Not one house have our people burnt here, only the forts that were taken honorably in war-but they are burning houses, stealing, murdering and abusing the prisoners they take, by chaining some, threatening to scalp others and in every way make them miserable, whilst our prisoners are treated as guests. Two seated on their carpeted floors in their nicely furnished room, told a friend of mine who visited them yesterday, "that when they left Platte City to come here to fight, the ladies told them not to come back without bringing some Yankee scalps!" They said "for the future they should pursue a different course."

The people of Westport have great cause for alarm, for the ghosts of murdered victims, we have no doubt, are haunting the place, and ere long their blood will be avenged! Our men have gone over the river, to help the Delaware Indians, today. The Ruffians are stealing their horses, and committing other depredations amongst them, burning one of their houses and an Indian boy with it-this will arouse their ire, and they are a powerful tribe. Now these fellows will find they have got somebody besides Yankees to fight! The Sacs that passed through here, we hardly think will dare to fight us, because they will lose their lands by so doing. A scout is now watching on Oread Mount, a few rods from my window, in the direction of Lecompton.

All our men and teams were taken that went to Leavenworth to get us something to eat; when not one sack of flour could be got in town, three men sent down the River, two killed and the teams kept. A lady drove up to Lecompton, and told them "she wanted eleven sacks of flour for the troops." They mistrusted nothing, as she, I think, had been cooking for the troops with Mrs. Robinson. She got her flour, carried it to Governor Robinson's tent, and in due time it came safely here, but the troops will hardly grow fat upon it! What is this to feed so great a multitude? I cannot write half the enormities practised here-I must cease or bring on a reaction of my disease.

If any of our friends feel a disposition to contribute their mite to aid those who are periling their lives and their all for the sake of freedom, it will be very thankfully received. Our losses by border ruffianism fall more heavily now in these times of scarcity for food.-Money cannot be sent safely-but a check on any good Bank, St. Louis, Chicago or any other, would answer just as well, let the sum be ever so small.


Source: Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol 11 (1942).

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