John A. Garraty and Robart A. McCaughey, eds., The American Nation: A History of the United States (New York: Harper & Row, 1998), 406.
By denouncing the free-state government located at Topeka, President Pierce encouraged the proslavery settlers to assume the offensive. In May they sacked the antislavery town of Lawrence. A psychopathic Free Soiler named John Brown then took the law into his own hands in retaliation. In May 1865, together with six companions (four of them his sons) Brown stole into a proslavery settlement on Pottawatomie Creek in the dead of the night. They dragged five unsuspecting settlers from their rude cabins and murdered them. This senseless slaughter brought men on both sides to arms by the hundreds. Brown and his followers were indicted for the murders, but Brown's recent biographer, Stephen B. Oates, has written "Kansas was in complete chaos." Armed bands, one led by Brown himself, "prowled the countryside, shooting at one another and looting." Pressure from federal troops eventually forced Brown to go into hiding. He finally left Kansas in October 1856. By that time some 200 persons had lost their lives. Exaggerated accounts of "Bleeding Kansas" filled the pages of northern newspapers.