Chapter 9: battle of Ossawatomie.Captain Brown, after the fourth of July, returned to Lawrence. Early in the month of August, General Lane entered Kansas by the way of Nebraska Territory. The confidence that the fighting men felt in his military ability, made his return an event of historical importance. Several revolting atrocities — the mutilation of Major Hoyt, for example, the scalping of Mr. Hopps, and a dastardly outrage on a Northern lady1--aroused once more the military ardor of the Free State men. Aggressive hostilities began. The cowardice that the Southerners, now vigorously assailed, displayed at every point, has never probably been equalled in American history:  excepting recently, indeed, in the very valiant and venerable State of Virginia. Hitherto, the Republican leaders in the East, by every mail and numerous messengers, had earnestly and successfully counselled peace — urging the Free State men, for party purposes, to submit to outrage rather than strike an offensive blow. The insult of the Fourth of July, followed up, on the 13th of August, by the Governor's proclamation,--which practically called on the Missourians to make a new invasion,--exhausted the patience of the Northern settlers, and, in a rapid series of surprises, they soon, and with unexampled precipitation, drove the Southern invaders from all their inland strongholds. Let us follow John Brown during this eventful period. From the 4th of July till the 30th of August, he was neither idle nor inactive. With a wounded son-in-law, who had been shot at the battle of Black Jack, he left Topeka about the end of July; and, on the 5th of August, entered the camp of the organized Northern companies, then known as Jim Lane's army, at a place four miles from the northern boundary line, which the emigrants had named Plymouth, in honor of the Puritans,--who had crossed the sea for the same purpose that they were now crossing the prairie:
To make the West as they the East,A brother of John Brown's wounded son-in-law, on learning of the casualties of Black Jack, at once left North Elba, and joined the second Massachusetts Company at Buffalo. The old man rode into camp, and  inquired if Wm. Thompson2 was there. He found him, and they left the camp together. The Captain was riding a splendid horse, and was dressed in plain white summer clothing. He wore a large straw hat, and was closely shaven; every thing about him was scrupulously clean. He made a great impression, by his appearance, on several of the company; who, without knowing him, at once declared that he must be a “remarkable man” in disguise. The old hero and his party then proceeded to Nebraska City, or Tabor, in Iowa, and left the wounded man and his brother there. General Lane was not with his army, but came down with a few friends,--among them Captain Brown,reached Topeka on the night of the 10th of August; and at once took command of the Free State forces. He immediately started for Lawrence, and, on arriving there, found that the Northern boys were preparing to attack the Georgians, then at Franklin. He and Captain Brown were both present at that skirmish. They proceeded on the same night to Rock Creek, for the purpose of seizing the murderers of Major Hoyt; and Captain Brown there assumed the command of a small company of cavalry. They encamped near Rock Creek; the disfigured body of Major Hoyt was discovered, and decently buried; and, in the morning, they started for Fort Sanders, on Washington Creek, to find that the Missourians had fled. It is probable that the old man was also at the capture of Fort Titus; and it is certain that, on the 26th of August, his company was at Middle Creek, at a point now called Battle  Mound, eight miles from Ossawatomie, where there was a camp of one hundred and sixty Southern invaders. The Free State forces, consisting of sixty men,--the united companies of John Brown, Captain Shore, and Preacher Steward,3-- surprised and attacked these marauders at noon, and utterly routed them in a few minutes, killing two of them, and capturing thirteen prisoners, and twenty-nine horses, three wagon loads of provisions, and one hundred stand of arms. On the same night, a detachment of this Free State force travelled to a point on the Sugar Creek, fifteen miles distant, and captured over sixty head of cattle, which the Southern marauders had brought into the Territory, or stolen from the settlers.
The Homestead of the Free.
A new invasion.On the 17th of August, the Missourians, alarmed at the threatening aspect of affairs in the Territory, issued, at Lexington, an inflammatory appeal for another grand and overwhelming expedition against the Northern men in Kansas. It is so characteristic of the times and the spirit of the Slave States, and indicates so clearly the terror which Old Brown had inspired in Missouri, that I subjoin it with a few rhetorical omissions only:
At the same time a similar address, more general in its character, was issued from Westport, and dated August 16. It was signed by David R. Atchison, W. H. Russell, A. G. Boone, and B. F. Stringfellow. Thus appealed to, a force of two thousand men assembled at the village of Santa Fe, on the border; and, after entering the Territory, divided into two forces --one division, led by Senator Atchison, marching to Bull Creek, and the other wing, under General Reid, advancing to Ossawatomie.  The force under Atchison fled precipitately on the morning of August 31, on the approach of General Lane, and after a slight skirmish between the advance guards of the Northern and Southern “armies,” which occurred about sunset on the previous evening. They fled in company with the division that had just returned from Ossawatomie. The reception of this force at Ossawatomie by Captain John Brown is one of the most brilliant episodes of Kansas history. They were between four and five hundred strong,--armed with United States muskets, bayonets, and revolvers, with several pieces of cannon and a large supply of ammunition. When John Brown saw them coming, he resolved, to use his own modest phrase, to “annoy them.” This is his own account of the way in which he did it:
The brilliancy of this exploit can only faintly be traced in the old hero's modest and characteristic account of it. Nearly five hundred men, as the Missourians subsequently admitted,--and all of them heavily armed,--were arrested in their march of desolation by a little band of sixteen heroes, imperfectly equipped; for the company of Captain Cline, after firing a few shots, retired from the conflict, in consequence of being out of ammunition; and there was only one Sharpe's rifle in Captain Brown's command. The old man stood near a “sapling,” which is still pointed out, during the whole of this memorable engagement, quietly giving directions to his men, and “annoying the enemy” with his own steady rifle, indifferent to the grape shots and balls which whizzed around him, and hewed down the limbs, scattered the foliage, and peeled off the bark from the trees on every side. When the writer visited the site, many months after this event, the wood still bore the marks of that  glorious conflict. The General of the invading army afterwards admitted that if Brown had been provided with Sharpe's rifles, nothing could have prevented his men from making an ignominious retreat. The fearful slaughter was occasioned by the lawless character of the invading force. Alarmed at being fired at, they refused to obey orders, and foolishly huddled around the dead and wounded, instead of standing in their ranks and “closing up.” Into these panic-stricken groups Old Brown poured a deadly fire; and, before the officers of the enemy could restore order in their companies, thirty-two men lay dead, and more than fifty wounded. The brave band of Captain Brown saw the whites of the enemy's eyes, ere the old man gave the order to retreat. The invaders, true to the Southern instinct, murdered a wounded prisoner who fell into their hands, arrested and killed a Mr. Williams, who was “claimed by neither party,” and who took no part in this or any other conflict; and, on the following morning, offered “Charley,” the Hungarian, a chance for his life, if he should escape their fire — a cowardly excuse, as the fearless boy told them, for riddling him with balls. They fired a volley into him, as he faced them defiantly. Erroneously supposing that they had shot Captain Brown, they returned to Missouri, and boasted of their success; but the large number of corpses and wounded men whom they brought from Ossawatomie, and a knowledge of the insignificant force of abolitionists that had opposed them, created a feeling of terror in  the State, from which the Missourians never fully recovered. They never afterwards thought, and seldom said, that the Yankees would not fight. Captain Brown first created a dread of the North and her men in the minds of the Missourians; which, more than any other terror, prevented them from proceeding vigorously with the project of re-conquering Kansas. For General Lane, in the North, with hardly any loss of life, had done what Captain Brown, with this salutary slaughter, had effected in the South of Kansas--made it necessary to effect a re-subjugation of the Territory, or to give it up to freedom. Lane frightened the Southern invaders; but Brown struck terror into the centre of their souls.
Old Preacher White, who shot Frederick Brown through the heart,--although his victim was quietly walking along on the road unsuspecting and unarmed, -and afterwards, as the corpse lay stiff and bloody on the ground, discharged a loaded pistol into its open mouth, was a “National” Divine, of “the Church South,” of course, whose fate deserves a passing notice here; In order to make capital against the Northern correspondents in the Territory, by throwing discredit on their statements of Southern outrage, a pro-slavery man of Westport, Missouri, wrote an account of the recent murder of a person whom he called “Poor Martin White, a Free State preacher of the Gospel.” It served its purpose — for it was originally published in a Republican paper and widely copied; when — as had  been arranged — Martin White re-appeared, denied the story of his death, and ridiculed the Republicans for believing such stories. For a long time afterwards, the pro-slavery papers, whenever an outrage was recorded, would sneeringly allude to “Poor Martin White.” For his services in furthering this stratagem, and as a reward for the murder of Frederick Brown, “Poor Martin White” was elected a member of the Territorial Legislature which assembled at Lecompton. During the course of the session he gave a graphic account of the killing of Frederick; laughingly described how, when shot, he “toppled over” --the honorable members roared at this Southern-Christian phrase — and abused my friend Phillips, author of “The conquest of Kansas,” for having spoken of the act as a murder; when, said the assassin-preacher, calmly, “I was acting as a part of the law and order militia.” Poor Martin White, when the session was finished, proceeded to his home. But he never reached it. “Ho went to his own place,” indeed; for his corpse was found stiff and cold on the prairie — with a rifle ball in it. Poor Martin White!
A Kansas postscript.Since the foregoing chapter was stereotyped, an unfriendly Kansas paper has related the following incident of the Battle of Ossawatomie:
We have no disposition to extenuate the crimes recently committed by this noted man. But there is no reason why the acts of kindness and charity which he was wont to perform should be forgotten, now that he is about to suffer the doom of a felon. An instance of this sort fell under our personal observation. At the sacking of Ossawatomie, one of the most bitter pro-slavery men in Lykins County was killed. His name was Ed. Timmons. Some time afterwards, Brown stopped at the log house where Timmons had lived. His widow and children were there, and in great destitution. He inquired into their wants, relieved their distresses, and supported them until her friends in Missouri, informed through Brown of the condition of Mrs. Timmons, had time to come to her and carry her to her former home. Mrs. Timmons fully appreciated the great kindness thus shown her, but never learned that Captain John Brown was her benefactor.