Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Burning Kansas: Jayhawkers, Bushwackers, and the Raid on Lawrence

By Aussiegirl

Our good friend, the brilliant and erudite Tim Birdnow of Birdblog fame, tackles one of his favorite historical subjects, the Civil War, in what is surely one of the most fascinating narratives you are likely to read on a little-known aspect of that great and bloody conflict. No one brings history to life quite the way Tim Birdnow does. Don't miss this gripping tale. Better than any fiction you are likely to find.

Birdblog: Burning Kansas: Jayhawkers, Bushwackers, and the Raid on Lawrence

On May 30, in the Year of Our Lord Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Four, the Congress of these United States placed a bill before President Franklin Pierce, a bill which would lead to the deaths of tens of thousands and would nearly rip the Nation asunder. Of course, these men hadn`t the foggiest idea that they were placing a death warrant on President Pierce`s desk, nor did the good President know that his signature sealed the fate of countless Americans. What he was signing was innocuously titled ``The Kansas-Nebraska Act`` and this particular bill was intended to open the territories west of Missouri and Iowa to settlement and eventual statehood, and sought to replace the increasingly unworkable Missouri Compromise (in which slavery would be confined to territory south of the 36*30` latitude, or the southern border of Missouri) with a more open system, one which would allow the settlers to decide for themselves whether to be slave or free. This policy, titled Popular Sovereignty and championed by Stephen Douglas, granted an opportunity to the slaveholding South to maintain parity within government with the free North by allowing territorial settlers to vote on what type of state they wished. This may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was, in reality, a monstrously stupid one, the equivalent of dousing a fire with gasoline. Hordes of new settlers poured into Kansas from both North and South, absolutely determined to win this undeveloped prairie for their side. Bloodshed began almost immediately, leading Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune to name the unhappy grassland ``bleeding Kansas``; Kansas was indeed hemorrhaging, and badly.

We often refer to the awful war of 1860-65 as the Civil War, but that isn`t an accurate moniker; the people were not fighting among themselves but rather, one region was fighting another. The old Southern tradition of calling it the War Between the States is really a more accurate representation of that fight in most of the war zones-most but not all. The sad truth is that there actually was a civil war, a terrible and bloody deathstruggle between peoples of different heritage and lifestyles, and it occurred in eastern Kansas and western Missouri; the most vicious and bitter fighting of the War occurred in these parts, and there was little mercy for the enemy. Kansas was bleeding, and Death was waiting in the wings.


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