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X. John Brown's defence of Lawrence.

We next find our hero in the town of Lawrence, at the most perilous crisis of its history. His defence of it is still remembered with gratitude by all the brave men who witnessed and participated in it. The writer at that time was in Iowa, in charge of a train of provisions, clothing, and military supplies, furnished for the free state men by the patriotism and philanthropy of the generous North. He has, therefore, no personal knowledge of John Brown's conduct at that eventful period of the history of Lawrence; but from a friend who was an eye witness, and a brave actor in it under the command of “the mighty man of valor,” he has been furnished with the following faithful and graphic narration. Brave like his captain, but, like the old man, modest also, we are not permitted to announce his name.

On the 13th day of September, 1856, Jim Lane, with an army of some seventy-five or eighty men, pursued a number of the “enemy,” and compelled them to take shelter in some log houses at Hickory Point. These were so situated on a high, rolling prairie as to [159] command a view of the whole country about it; and being well fortified in them, the besieged considered themselves safe even from the destructive effects of Sharpe's rifles; and knowing that the besiegers were destitute of cannon, they ran up from the top of their main building a black flag--“No surrender.” This was too much for the besiegers, for they were the descendants of those brave-hearted men who had once intrusted their lives and their fortunes to the Mayflower and to their God. Immediately despatching a messenger to Lawrence for reinforcements and a small six-pound howitzer, with directions to come via Topeka, Lane withdrew his men a few miles to the west, and encamped for the night near a spring, where he found a copy of the inaugural of Governor Geary, whose arrival in the territory had been announced only a few days before. Upon reading this document, Lane at once became satisfied of the good intentions of Geary towards the people of Kansas, and thereupon disbanded his men; and after having sent another messenger, also by the way of Topeka, to countermand his previous order for reinforcements, he proceeded in person to the north line of the territory. But Colonel Harvey, to whom this message was sent, instead of going by Topeka, commenced his march directly for Hickory Point, on Saturday night, about ten o'clock, with about one hundred and fifty men, and one piece of cannon. He arrived there about two o'clock on Sunday afternoon; and being unable to agree upon any terms with the besieged, immediately commenced a cannonade upon their fortresses, and ere [160] the sun set on that Sabbath eve, that black flag was taken down, and a white one run up in its place. The vanquished came to terms, and agreed to leave the territory if Colonel Harvey would graciously permit them to do so; which reasonable request, it is hardly necessary to say, was-granted.

But during this transaction, another scene in the Kansas drama was enacted at Lawrence. Brown, who had been up to Topeka, was on his way home, and remained in Lawrence over Sunday. His little army --which consisted of some eighteen or twenty men, and probably never exceeded thirty at one time — was at Ossawattomie, where he lived. This was an independent company-so independent, indeed, that they trusted alone for victory to their Sharpe's rifles and to the God of battles. With these brave and resolute men, six of whom were Brown's own sons, he carried on a guerilla warfare; and whatever may be said of his movements at Harper's Ferry, whether they militate against his sanity or his loyalty to our government, his efforts in behalf of free Kansas will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed them.

I was up early on Sunday morning, and went down to the river and bathed, and came back to my tent, which was on the west side of Lawrence, and busied myself in the forenoon in writing letters home, and in writing in my journal the proceedings of the last week, for I had been absent that length of time, and my journal had necessarily been neglected. The number of men in town on that day was considerably less than was usual; for, besides those at Hickory Point and [161] Ossawattomie, there were several other companies in different parts of the territory, leaving Lawrence unprotected by a single company. The number of available men-citizens, parts of companies, and strangers — that were in town that day, would not, when all told, amount to more than two hundred; so that it would not have been a very difficult job for a thousand well-armed and well-disciplined troops to have marched into the heart of the city, and burned it, as was partially done in the month of May previous, by federal authority. It was not, therefore, a very desirable piece of information, on this Sabbath morning, when the church bells should have been tolling the hour for the worship of Almighty God, an hour that is made holy by the long-remembered associations of aged pastors and Sabbath school teachers, whose frail forms are now fast fading from our view — the announcement that “twenty-eight hundred Missourians were marching down upon Lawrence, with drums beating, and with eagles upon their banners.” Yet such was actually the case. Such an announcement was actually made, with the expectation that we would believe it. But we did not; for we considered it, as we had become accustomed to consider all of like character, only rumors, and gave them no consideration until we should become convinced of their truth. We continued our several occupations, whatever they happened to be, whether reading, writing, cooking, moulding bullets, or cleaning guns, and paid but little attention to rumors, having found by experience that a large majority of them were false alarms. Yet, notwithstanding this seeming [162] indifference to danger, messenger after messenger arrived in town during the day, each one bringing additional news of the invading army, and corroborating the statements of those who had preceded him, viz., that Atchison and Reid were at the head of a large force of Missourians, variously estimated at from fifteen hundred to three thousand, and that Lawrence would be the object of their attack that afternoon.

At about four o'clock in the afternoon of the same day, we were compelled to give credence to these rumors, for we had almost ocular demonstration of their truth; for we saw the smoke of Franklin, a little town five miles south-east of Lawrence, curling up towards heaven, and mingling with the clouds. There were dwellings, under whose roofs were clustered many little ones; the domicile in whose sanctuary are holily kept all the sacred household gods, that receptacle for man's happiness here below, which, by the principles of the great common law, is termed the freeman's castle, was crumbling to ashes before his eyes — the work of a horde of incendiaries, who are urged on to their deeds of darkness and death by the influence of that missionary system which a northern contemporary gravely terms “a southern economical interest of paramount magnitude.” Then there was “hurrying to and fro,” but not in “hot haste,” and with “tremblings and tears of distress,” but with the cool and determined resolution to repel the invaders, if there was enough virtue in powder to do so.

I believe it is the first impulse of an unorganized populace, during the impending of such danger as now [163] threatened us, to desire a leader or commander, and to obey his orders. At least, it was so in the present instance; for it was very evident, that without a concert of action, and a combination of the different forces that were in town, there would be but little safety in that immediate vicinity. The inquiry was next, Who shall be that leader? Who can so arrange the effective force of the place as to defend it to the best advantage? It was no sooner known that Captain Brown was in town, than he was unanimously voted general-in-chief for the day. The principal portion of the people had assembled in Main Street, opposite the post office; and Captain Brown, standing upon a dry-goods box in their midst, addressed them somewhat as follows:--

“ Gentlemen, it is said there are twenty-five hundred Missourians down at Franklin, and that they will be here in two hours. You can see for yourselves the smoke they are making by setting fire to the houses in that town. Now is probably the last opportunity you will have of seeing a fight; so that you had better do your best. If they should come up and attack us, don't yell and make a great noise, but remain perfectly silent and still. Wait till they get within twenty-five yards of you; get a good object; be sure you see the hind sight of your gun : then fire. A great deal of powder and lead, and very precious time, is wasted by shooting too high. You had better aim at their leg, than at their heads. In either case, be sure of the hind sights of your guns. It is from this reason that I myself have so many times escaped ; for, if all the bullets [164] which have ever been aimed at me had hit me, I would have been as full of holes as a riddle.”

Having thus taught them in the arts of war, he commenced his preparations for defence. There were several forts and breastworks, and also one or two unfinished churches in the south, south-west, and southeast sides of the town: these were all manned with as many soldiers as could be spared for them. On the north of the town ran the Kansas River; on the west was a ravine; and the enemy were looked for on the south. As for myself, I occupied, with some fifteen or twenty others, a breastwork thrown across the south end of Massachusetts Street — a precaution which had been found necessary in the early part of the season.

Captain Brown was always on the alert, visiting every portion of the town, and all the fortifications, in person, giving directions, and exhorting every man to keep cool, and do his duty, and his reward would be an approving conscience. Among other preparations for a vigorous defence, a number of merchants went into their stores and brought out a large lot of pitchforks; and every man who was not provided with a bayonet on his gun was furnished with a fork, which certainly would be no mean weapon, if dexterously handled.

In the mean time, the invading army had left Franklin, and were marching towards Lawrence; and about five o'clock in the afternoon, their advance guard, consisting of four hundred horsemen, crossed the Wakerusa, and presented themselves in sight of town, about two miles off, when they halted, and arrayed themselves [165] for battle, fearing, perhaps, to come within too close range of Sharpe's rifle balls. Brown's movement now was a little on the offensive order; for he ordered out all the Sharpe's riflemen from every part of town, --in all not more than forty or fifty,--marched them a half mile into the prairie, and arranged them three paces apart, in a line parallel with that of the enemy; and then they lay down upon their faces in the grass, awaiting the order to fire. While occupying this position, a gallant trooper from the enemy's side rode up about half a mile in advance of his comrades to reconnoitre; halting upon a little rise in the road, and while feasting his eyes with a sight of “Lane's Banditti,” a full mile off, one of them, not having the fear of the Missourians before his eyes, drew a bead on him, and fired at him, waiting with breathless anxiety to see what came of it. In two or three seconds, the ball struck in the road, immediately at the horse's feet, and the rider, satisfied with this demonstration, immediately wheeled about, and putting spurs to his horse, was soon out of the reach of even Sharpe's rifle balls.

Brown now changed the position of his men to a rising piece of ground, about a quarter of a mile to the left, which overlooked a small cornfield of eight or ten acres, and there stationed them as before, with their faces to the ground. A simultaneous movement on the part of the enemy brought the two armies face to face, about half a mile apart, and with the cornfield between them.

It was now just approaching dusk. The shades of evening were fast settling upon all Kansas; and instead [166] of there being a Joshua there, to charter a little more of the light of day, the sun, in anticipation of a fratricidal strife, went rapidly down behind the mountains; there was no light, even of the moon and stars, for the intervening clouds; and Night — the good angel that she was — came and spread her dark mantle over the earth, and concealed the further shedding of blood from those who would weep at sight of it. But during this cover, there were those among us who were to depart and be no more with us forever. They were to

lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world — with kings,
The powerful of the earth,

in that grand receptacle for the dead, “the distant Aidenn,” on the confines of whose shores there are doubtless worthier and “better” soldiers, as well as “elder.”

The distance now between the contending armies was such as to give to Sharpe's rifle balls, that were fired with precision, a deadly effect; as was evinced by the fact that several horses were found riderless. In a few moments, the firing became general; and in the darkness, and otherwise stillness of the night, the continual flash, flash, flash of those engines of death along that line of living fire, presented a scene the appearance of which was at once not only terrible, but sublimely beautiful. For fear that the few men detailed to meet the enemy would be surrounded in the darkness by the superior number of horsemen, and cut to pieces, a twelve-pound brass piece, under guard of [167] twelve men, was sent to their assistance; but before it had arrived upon the ground, the foe had become panic-stricken and fled. The sons of chivalry and of the sunny South, four hundred strong, well armed and mounted, precipitately fled before thirty or forty footmen.

That night, T. and I took our blankets and lay down immediately within the breastwork before mentioned, with a stone for a pillow and the clouds for a covering. We had been here for a few moments only, when Captain Brown came along, and said, “With your permission, I will be the third one to aid in defending this fortification to-night.” We readily granted his request, and he then lay down by our side, and told us of the trials and the wars he had passed through ; that he had settled in Kansas with a large family, having with him six full-grown sons; that he had taken a claim in Lykins county, and was attending peacefully to the duties of husbandry, when the hordes of wild men came over from Missouri and took possession of all the ballot-boxes, destroyed his corn, stole his horses, and shot down his cattle, and sheep, and hogs, and repeatedly threatened to shoot him, hang him, or burn him, if he did not leave the territory; and as many times endeavored to put their threats in force, but were as often prevented by his “eternal vigilance,” which he found to be the price of his life, and of those of his family; that they afterwards did kill and murder one of his sons, in cold blood, in his own hearing, and almost in his own sight; and all, forsooth, because he hated slavery! When he [168] told me that he held that promising son in his arms as he drew his last breath, and thought of the resemblance he bore to his mother, I thought, in the indignation of the moment, that had that been my son, I would have sworn, by the blood that crimsoned his face, forever to raise my voice and my arm against the measures and the men who had thus hunted him to an untimely death.

Another eye witness and participator in this memorable action, who was posted with Major Bickerton on Mount Oread, afterwards published a poetical account of it; which, as the writer — Richard Realfhad engaged to be at Harper's Ferry, but died on his passage from England as he was coming over for that purpose, I subjoin, as well as on account of its historical accuracy, literary merit, and an indication of the range of intellect which the brave old hero gathered around him.

The defence of Lawrence.

All night, upon the guarded hill,
     Until the stars were low,
Wrapped round as with Jehovah's will,
     We waited for the foe;
All night the silent sentinels
     Moved by like gliding ghosts;
All night the fancied warning bells
     Held all men to their posts.

We heard the sleeping prairies breathe,
     The forest's human moans,
The hungry gnashing of the teeth
     Of wolves on bleaching bones; [169]
We marked the roar of rushing fires,
     The neigh of frighted steeds,
And voices as of far-off lyres
     Among the river reeds.

We were but thirty-nine who lay
     Beside our rifles then;
We were but thirty-nine, and they
     Were twenty hundred men.
Our lean limbs shook and reeled about,
     Our feet were gashed and bare,
And all the breezes shredded out
     Our garments in the air.

Sick, sick, at all the woes which spring
     Where falls the Southron's rod,
Our very souls had learned to cling
     To Freedom as to God;
And so we never thought of fear,
     In all those stormy hours,
For every mother's son stood near
     The awful, unseen powers.

And twenty hundred men had met,
     And swore an oath of hell
That, ere the morrow's sun might set,
     Our smoking homes should tell
A tale of ruin and of wrath,
     And damning hate in store,
To bar the freeman's western path
     Against him evermore.

They came: the blessed Sabbath day,
     That soothed our swollen veins,
Like God's sweet benediction, lay
     On all the singing plains;
The valleys shouted to the sun,
     The great woods clapped their hands, [170]
And joy and glory seemed to run
     Like rivers through the lands.

They came: our daughters and our wives,
     And men whose heads were white,
Rose sudden into kingly lives,
     And walked forth to the fight;
And we drew aim along our guns,
     And calmed our quickening breath;
Then, as is meet for Freedom's sons,
     Shook loving hands with Death.

And when three hundred of the foe
     Rode up in scorn and pride,
Whoso had watched us then might know
     That God was on our side;
For all at once, a mighty thrill
     Of grandeur through us swept,
And strong and swiftly down the hill
     Like Gideons we leapt.

And all throughout that Sabbath day
     A wall of fire we stood,
And held the baffled foe at bay,
     And streaked the ground with blood;
And when the sun was very low,
     They wheeled their stricken ranks,
And passed on, wearily and slow,
     Beyond the river banks.

Beneath the everlasting stars,
     We bended child-like knees,
And thanked God for the shining scars
     Of his large victories;
And some, who lingered, said they heard
     Such wondrous music pass,
As though a seraph's voice had stirred
     The pulses of the grass.

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