Diary of Sara Tappan Doolittle Lawrence Robinson, December 6, 1855

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Michael Blake
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-- Thursday. We were awakened again, long before daylight. Some friends have had a long journey from the country above. They were not considered safe here, and had gone far away, but they heard that Lawrence had been attacked, doctor and fifteen others killed; and thinking that the war had fairly opened, they had walked thirty miles in the last few hours, that they might with their friends strike and die for liberty.

The guard are again fired upon, and more of our messengers to different parts of the territory and to the states taken prisoners. Horsemen, in companies of four and six, are continually riding over the hills. They are the leading men in the ranks of the enemy; and we hear their design is to plant their artillery on Mt. Oread, and take this house for barracks. They seem to be looking around with the intention of concluding their plans. We feel perfectly safe so far as the planting of their artillery is concerned. Not one man could stand before the deadly fire of the Sharpe's rifles, from the town or ravine. The Missourians are still slowly gathering in at Lecompton, and the camp near Franklin, and the new one on the Wakarusa, south of us, and only about four miles from town. Our supplies are cut off. People are turned from their homes at midnight, and their corn-cribs and hay-stacks burned.

Some other gentlemen also dined with us. They were unexpected guests, nevertheless welcome. Just before dinner, we saw a large mounted party of the enemy's force going over the hill beyond us. We also saw two men on the west side of the hill, coming cautiously towards the house. It looked to us as though it were impossible for them to escape the observation of the enemy, and we watched them anxiously, almost breathlessly, as they slowly were nearing us. The horsemen, fortunately, instead of going on to the summit, kept a little under the eastern slope, and, thank God! our friends were safe. The reason of their coming over was a simple one. They had been guilty of aiding in the rescue of an innocent man from a gang of desperadoes. A gang of men had been prowling about their house all the morning; not all in one body, but at different points, and in such a manner as to excite suspicions of evil intended against them. Finally, this scouting band of the governor's militia all at once started in the direction of their head-quarters, and our friends immediately came over the hills, seeking a safer place. Our messengers fly back and forth to town, and one of them concludes to go to his home in the states, for a little time. We send to his wife to come and see him, and for the first time I begin to feel that the horrors of war are opening upon us. Men, for doing an act of kindness, are hunted for their lives, and daily and nightly watching alone saves them from falling into the hands of the enemy. I go continually from one part of the house to the other, to see if any spies are about, and once fell into a laughable mistake. Having gone up stairs to have a long look out over hill and prairie, I saw a woman upon the west side of the hill. I ran down and said to the gentlemen, "There is a woman coming to the house. Will you step in the dining-room and see if it is any one you would like to see; if not, you can go up stairs." They looked out, and one of them said, "Why, that's my wife."

I laughed as heartily as they, but did not diminish my watchfulness, because once I was "more scared than hurt."

The men were at work on a part of the forts, while some were complete; entrenchments were being thrown up on each side of Massachusetts-street; the soldiers were drilling through the centre of the broad street; ladies were standing in the doorways looking on; while little boy&sgrave;, having caught the general spirit of a resort to arms, were marching about in martial array, with feathers in their paper cocked-hats and imitation guns.

D. R. Atchison, with twenty-five men, was said to be crossing the reserve, towards the camp on the Wakarusa. The men were anxious to go out, and bring him in a prisoner, but the general was firm. We are acting only on the defensive.

The howitzer has just arrived, and several men are guarding it in one of the lower rooms. Some ladies go in to look at the grape and bomb-shells.

It was rumored that Mr. P. has been taken prisoner by the Missourians, and taken into their camp, on the Wakarusa. The indignation of the people is increasing in intensity, and their forbearance growing less. The twelve-pound brass howitzer was brought in by a manoeuvre evincing tact and skill, as well as bravery. The council, having heard of its arrival at Kansas city, decided if possible it must be brought up, and three or four of our citizens, willing to encounter the danger, offered their services for the undertaking. They found the boxes in which it was packed, at the warehouse, consigned to one of our merchants. The proprietor of the warehouse suggested there might be rifles in them, and, to quiet all suspicion, Mr. B., with an axe, raised a board from the largest box, saying, "Let's see what there is."

As they looked in, and saw only wheels, he said, "It's only another of H.'s carriages."

Everything was satisfactory. The board was renailed. The boxes were loaded in the wagons, with mattresses and other furniture on the top, and they left Kansas city, by the ferry route. The wagons getting set as they went up the steep bank on the opposite side of the river, Mr. B. called upon a band of Missourians, standing by, "to give them a lift at the wheels," which they did, and without difficulty they reached Lawrence, where they were received with loud acclamations by the citizens. The little besieged town received with it good cheer, hope and courage.

A lady from Ohio, whose husband has ever been most active in the free-state cause, and for whom the enemy feel no little bitterness, has offered her little "shake" cabin, next the hotel, for the general use. Daily and nightly the ladies meet there, in the one room, with its loose, open floor, through which the wind creeps, to make cartridges; their nimble fingers keeping time with each heartbeat for freedom, so enthusiastic are they in aiding the defence.

At evening, the young Scotchman with his constant companion, the long rifle, came in. He looked sedate, as, seating himself on the lounge, he said, "The war has commenced. They have shot a man, about five miles from here."

"Who?" and "Is he dead?" were the questions which followed in quick succession.

"A Mr. Barber, one of the men who came in to our assistance from Bloomington. He died almost instantly. It is said that Dr. Wood was in the crowd that shot him."

He said besides, "It is almost impossible to restrain the men to-night. Their imprecations of vengeance are loud and deep, and the general has something to do to restrain his own feelings. A guard have gone out to bring in the body."

The plot thickens. Our men are shot down in the broad sunlight by this ruffianly horde. Can the governor say, "My soul is clear of my brother's blood?" The messengers sent to him have returned, and they come with the promise from him that he will be here to-morrow. The governor sent a long letter to General R., and others in command. It was very indefinite, and non-committal, and evinced some tact in the author, to write so much, and yet say so little to any purpose. Upon one point alone was it clear; that is, the enforcement of the laws. In his conversation he was a little more definite. He said he was unable to restrain the men, his militia, though he had repeatedly commanded them to preserve order. He was endeavoring also to shake off the responsibility of this Missouri mob, but the following pass, given to a gentleman who dined with us to-day, will show he has some connection with it:

"Mr. Jones, Sheriff, or any other in command. Mr. Winchell is going, on business of his own, to Lawrence; please pass him without detention or molestation.

Wilson Shannon."

Col. Lane has received a small limb of a tree, with a bullet in it, and hemp bound round it, from the enemy's camp, with the compliments of Col. Burns, of Missouri. Dr. Wood was in company with Burns at the time it was sent.
How to Cite This Page: "Diary of Sara Tappan Doolittle Lawrence Robinson, December 6, 1855," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/2161.