An excerpt from
Gun and the Gospel: Early Kansas and Chaplain Fisher
-- Rev. H.D. Fisher, D.D.
Published by Medical Century Company, 1897; 2nd edition.


The fact of the existence of human slavery under the Aegis of American freedom is so monstrous an idea that if it were not history it would be unbelievable. But the fact admitted, with it was carried all the atrocities of this barbarism and from it developed all the theories of the Northern abolitionists, as well as the direct and stubborn antagonism of the earnest, unconquerable West.

Every great epoch develops men of action, following close upon the sentimental and educational stages of reform. Thus we find Mr. Wesley declaring human slavery "The sum of all villainies," and Garretson and Phillips thundering their anathemas and arousing the slumbering conscience of the American people, and the New England Emigrant Aid Society, with the Methodist itinerant force in the field, to help families obtain homes and keep the moral tone of society firm, and John Brown, of immortal fame, and Jim Lane, the brave Kansas defender and liberator, as leading actors in freedom's cause.

James H. Lane was born at Lawrenceburgh, Indiana, June 22d, 1814. His environments were those of patriotic enthusiasm. The war of 1812, Jackson's great exploits at New Orleans, and the exciting political campaigns which soon followed all afforded for the boy, the youth, the young man, intellectual and sentimental food which incorporated itself into the


warp and woof of his life. He was a child of the frontier.

He was of Scotch-Irish and Puritanic extraction, his father and mother, both of patriotic connection, numbering among their immediate relatives judges, lawyers, statesmen, patriots and honorable politicians. His father was the first speaker of the house in Indiana and afterwards a judge and member of congress. His mother was regarded one of the most devout and intelligent Christian women in Lawrenceburgh, an ornament to the ranks of Methodism in that great Methodist state.

The son imbibed from the mother's teachings and example the highest reverence for religion and true Christian character. We have no doubt that in the development of character the co-mingling of influences so sacred in home life with the attrition of political surroundings, had large influence in forming the idiosyncracies of the man, which made Jim Lane the enigma he was and the historic character he is. His like cannot be found until another necessity like Kansas' border-ruffian warfare shall call him forth to lead in the contest for the right. I knew him intimately and long and well, and never knew a man who, when with good men and in refined surroundings, was so wholly and powerfully under the influence of mother's teachings. Her memory was a veritable presence; her example a perpetual admonition. In the company of politicians his Scotch-Irish pater-master politician's example led him, and he often fell into censurable mirthfulness and conversation, but his mother's name and life was ever before him in thoughtful mood, like a benediction.

He was in partisan politics a democrat. When the war occurred between Mexico and the United States


he enlisted as a private, but was early made colonel of the regiment. He gallantly led his men through all the engagements up to the battle of Buena Vista, and here rallied the scattered regiment of Col. Bowles, and honorably commanded until the close of the war. He became lieutenant-governor of Indiana and elector at large, voting for Franklin Pierce for president, and was also a member of congress and voted with Douglas for the Kansas-Nebraska bill.

With such experience and honors he came to Kansas, arriving one bright April morning in 1855, and with jug in hand (not for liquor, for he was an abstainer, but to get water), he walked into the free-state hamlet, now the historic city of Lawrence. Here he took up his abode, and wrought and fought, and was buried. He came a born, developed, firm son of democracy but his high chivalric nature could not and would not approve the methods introduced by the vice-president of tile United States, David Atchison, and his border-ruffians, to foist slavery upon the soil of Kansas, and also to fetter free-thought, suppress free-speech, and drive out of the territory the free-state men of the United States, who came from almost every state and territory in the Union, bonafide settlers, to secure homes for themselves and families.

The first trial of the forces by count at the ballot box occurred on November 29, 1854, and resulted as follows: Democrats 305, Anti-slavery 248, and Proslavery 2,258, for delegate to congress. On this day occurred the first homicide, when Davis, a pro-slavery man, assaulted unprovoked, Kibby, a free-state man. Davis was killed by Kibby in self defense. On March 30, 1855, a regular invasion of ballot-box stuffers and repeaters from Missouri and other Southern states


took place, when at Lawrence, Leavenworth, Kickapoo, Atchison and elsewhere a pro-slavery legislature was chosen by the boldest and most wicked assault ever made on the ballot-box in the name of popular suffrage. Loyal men were disfranchised, border-ruffians were triumphant. They passed a code blacker than barbarity itself.

In such an emergency free-state men needed a leader, and in Jim Lane they found one whose name was worth a thousand men, and whose bugle-blast became a terrifying tocsin to the enemies of freedom. Up to this date he had simply tried to organize the democracy, but now his lion-heart revolted from the unprecedented crimes of the slave oligarchy. With such aggravations it were marvelous if the free-state citizens had felt no resentment. They were not freebooters, nor were they nor their neighbors thieves or adventurers, but a body of honorable men and women and children, home-seekers, who came to make the prairies bloom as the rose. To such the field of battle was the field of honor. They came to build churches, school-houses, mills, manufactories and cities. It is safe to say that there never was a better, more industrious, more law-abiding people in all respects than were the emigrants who came to Kansas from the non-slaveholding states. Their purpose, as the sequel shows, as the present demonstrates, was to establish a commonwealth in which education, religion, patriotism and righteousness could have their best opportunity and their highest development.

The "Grim Chieftain" combined in himself all the elements of fiery oratory and magnetism, being possessed of a ready flow of forceful language, a vocabulary redundant in expressive adjectives. He charmed his admirers, terrified his opponents, comforted the


discouraged, fired with zeal those whose impulsive natures flamed with freedom's fires, so that every assembly he addressed was thrilled and swayed by a master hand, and even his avowed foes became his admiring friends. In his first alignment with the free-state men, which was looked upon by some New Englanders as rather dubious, he gave utterance to words that would honor the head and heart of a solon. In the “Herald of Freedom,” for August 18th, 1855, he is quoted as follows: "If I believed a prayer from me for you would do any good it would be that you might be endowed with the wisdom of Solomon, the caution of Washington and the justice of Franklin. It requires wisdom, it requires manhood, to restrain passion. I say, as a citizen of Kansas, I wish we had wisdom to-day. There is the existence of a nation hanging upon the action of the citizens of Kansas. Moderation, Moderation, Moderation, Gentlemen!! I am here, as anxious as any of you, to secure a free constitution to Kansas."

There was no small contention on the question of excluding all black people from the state, both slaves and free. Some declared that if blacks settled in Kansas they would prefer that they should be slaves. Some Western states had these exclusive laws. Lane was at first a black-law man. This gave him prestige with Western free-state men.

But he discovered very early that such a clause in the proposed constitution would lose all the sympathy and influence of such men as Giddings, Sumner Wade, Wilson, Stevens, Seward, Grow, and Chase. He gave up his exclusive views, and became a giant, armed cap-a-pie in freedom's camp for all men, without reference to color, race, or previous condition. He


became a member of the constitutional convention, and was sent to Washington with the constitution.

Senator Douglas accused him of forgery, in having struck out the black-law clause. Lane promptly challenged him to deadly combat, but Douglas declined the challenge because Lane was not his peer, not being a senator.

He used to say, "Douglas has carefully put away a challenge which he declined because I was not a senator. You owe it alike to yourselves and me to put me where I can make him fish up that paper." Later Lane was elected senator and he and Douglas became fast friends, and perhaps no senator felt more keenly the loss of a great actor in the national crisis which resulted in making Kansas free, precipitating an already determined rebellion and determining the emancipation of the slave, than Lane felt at the death of Douglas. The war had made them friends to be separated only by death.

The murder of Charles W. Dow by F. M. Coleman was followed by the pro-slavery invaders' arresting Dow's neighbor, one Branson, to prevent him from being a witness against Coleman, who thus went free. This deplorable event was quickly followed by the Wakarusa war. Invasion, murder, arson, and outrages called for resistance and defense. Here was a new chance for the appearance of conflicting jealousies, even among free-state men. The New England men had their preferences, and the Western men were suspected of lack of radicalism. Especially were Southern anti-slavery men distrusted as not sufficiently Puritanical.

Dr. Charles Robinson, afterward Governor, was commander-in-chief of the anti-slavery men dur-


ing this wrar and Jim Lane, who was the best equipped by experience, drill, courage and skill in military affairs was second in command. Like a true soldier he did his duty well and faithfully. He accepted his subordinate rank as other great souls have done and at once began drilling and organizing the troops.

His energy was unflagging, his presence an inspiration everywhere. The free-state forces were less than half the number of the invading enemy. Breastworks and rifle-pits were speedily constructed in regular military style under Lane's supervision, so that the fortifications and earthworks could have resisted an invading force four times the strength mustered by the invading border-ruffians. Every man did his part well, and the name of Jim Lane was now, as ever afterward, a terror to his enemies. As he reviewed the troops and works nearly completed he commended them, at the same time cautioning against rashness alarm or surprise. His were magical words, they nerved every arm, and fired every breast with courage. He was not alone in words of encouragement during the siege. Jimmie McGee, an old Irishman, came and said, "Work away, boys, be-dad; there's 2,000 bushels of corn in McGee's crib, and you shan't starve as long as there is a kernel left!" To indicate the spirit of the times, two brave boys brought a howitzer to Lane's camp and two loyal women brought kegs of powder under a buggy seat to aid in defense of their homes.

On the 29th of December, 1855, Gov. Shannon proclaimed internecine war. Lane hastened to Lawrence and wrote to friends to hurry up the "baggage," meaning munitions of war, and the conflict thus and then commenced did not cease until the slaves were eman-


cipated and Lee had surrendered to the "Silent Man of Destiny."

Lane s management of local affairs won the approval of all the free-state men, and the invading ruffians were compelled to leave the territory, while the Wakarusa war was the initiation of a victory for freedom. Even Shannon, though backed by United States authority, was compelled to admit that the men whom he had called into action were an invading force. All this while Lane scrupulously avoided conflict with United States laws, and the governor issued an order that Lane's men should defend the town, the people and their lives and property. Very soon after receiving such order Lane called his force into line and addressing the motley company as "United States dragoons," ordered them to hold themselves in readiness for action. The invaders made a mad rush for the Missouri line, and thus the Wakarusa war was ended, with Lane as the idol of the free-state dragoons.

Lane's utterances on disbanding the brave defenders of home and freedom were words of wisdom and patriotism which still ring down the aisles of freedom's history. His greatest speech was afterwards delivered in Chicago, and struck a popular chord which produced a national crisis. It was only realized when in the national republican convention in which Mr. Lincoln was renominated; it was then seen that a master-hand had planned that result. There was great dissatisfaction and unrest throughout the country, and a contest which boded no good for the Union cause was imminent. But in the grand council of the Union League the evening before the convention, after many able speeches favoring other candidates had been made.


Mr. Lane arose and made the political speech of his life, carrying the League with him almost to a man. In the closing of his speech he said: "We shall together be watched in breathless listening by all this country-- by all the civilized world-- and if we seem to waver as to our set purpose we destroy hope, and if we permit private feeling to break forth into discussion we discuss defeat, and if we nominate any other man than Abraham Lincoln we nominate ruin. Gentlemen of the Union League, I have done." The next day Mr. Lincoln was nominated on the first ballot. The grim chieftain had won his cause and ruin was averted.

Hon. John Speer has truly said of Lane: "To the experience, skill and perseverance of the gallant Gen. James H. Lane all credit is due for the thorough discipline of our forces, and the complete and extensive preparations for defense. His services cannot be overestimated. Kansas can never forget them."

In 1861 I was stationed in Lawrence. Gen. Lane had recently professed conversion at a camp-meeting near Palmyra. He and Col. H. P. Johnson, a local preacher, and Capt. McLean attended church one evening in Lawrence. Lane related his recent experience, and Johnson spoke after Lane. All three had served in the Mexican war, and both referred to their army life. McLean, who was evidently under the influence of liquor, arose and said: "Yes-- hic!-- Lane and Johnson-- hic!-- were good-- hic!-- soldiers, and fought-- hic!-- and bled and died-- hic!-- and I was there too-- hic!-- and I fought-- hic!-- and bled-- and died, nary a time-- hic!-- and this-- hic!-- is the first-- hic!-- time I've-- hic!-- said anything about it-- hic!" With this Johnston helped him to a seat, and


we sang a verse or two of "Come, ye sinners," to avoid a scene.

Soon after this the rebels fired on Fort Sumter and invested Washington. Lane and the Kansas men who were in Washington offered their services to Mr. Lincoln, and were bivouacked one hundred and eighty strong in the East Room, by concurrence of Gen. Hunter and the Secretary of War. At midnight Mr. Stanton and President Lincoln, arm in arm, walked into the camp in the White House, guarded by Lane and his Kansas heroes, who thus thwarted a well devised plan to kidnap the president and secretary.

President Buchanan, in 1857, had in his message to congress said, "The people of Kansas are in rebellion against the government with a military leader of most turbulent and dangerous character at their head." In reply Gen. Lane said: "I venture the assertion that the message stands without a parallel in its falsification of history. Never have the people of Kansas been in arms, except to resist invasion from other states. When the territory was occupied by four distinct armies from foreign states, laying waste the country and avowing to exterminate the people of Kansas, before resisting them we called upon the territorial authorities and the commandant of the United States troops for protection. Let Buchanan howl and congress enact! Kansas is free, and all the powers of the earth cannot enslave her! To-day the people of Kansas are a unit, and so long as that unity is preserved, nothing can prevail against her." War existed. Civil rights were secured at the cost of precious lives, and equality before the law was made a verity for the first time in history of Kansas, long before the first gun was fired on Fort Sumter. And the "Grim Chieftain"


had much to do in thus immortalizing Kansas. The war thus inaugurated closed only with Sherman's march to the sea and Grant's acceptance of Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Lane was authorized in 1861, by the President and Secretary Stanton, though then a United States senator, to raise troops on the frontier to protect Kansas from invasion. The company remained on duty until the danger of kidnaping the President was over. Senator Lane sent a squad to capture Robert E. Lee but he had left for Richmond before Hon. Charles H. Holmes and his squad reached Arlington. What untold slaughter of human life would have been averted had his plan not miscarried no human pen can describe or tongue proclaim.

In accordance with instructions referred to Senator Lane came home through Missouri incognito, and immediately organized the Third, Fourth and Fifth Kansas Volunteers, appointing Col. Montgomery to the command of the Third, Col. Wear to the Fourth, and Col. H. P. Johnson to command the Fifth, a cavalry regiment. I was made chaplain of the fifth regiment, and we were immediately ordered on forced march to Fort Scott to protect valuable quartermaster stores and ammunition, stored for the army of the frontier. The militia were called to concentrate at Ft. Scott. When we arrived there were about 4,000 men, all told, poorly armed, and very poorly mounted; with no cannon, only one howitzer, and a small Rodman gun. Lane sent two women over the line to report to the rebel army approaching, 18,000 strong, under command of Gens. Price, Raines and Slack, that there were 40,000 Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas troops, armed and equipped, in and around Fort Scott, under


command of Gen. Jim Lane, awaiting their arrival and ready to receive them. The rebel army came to the line at Dry Wood and formed in battle array. Lane sent Montgomery, Wear and Johnson, with 380 men, and Capt. Moonlight with the howitzer, to meet the enemy's main force of 13,000 men, flushed with the victory they had won at Wilson Creek over Gens. Lyon and Sigel. They were to be reinforced by Gen. Slack. Moonlight planted his howitzer on a commanding Kansas knob. The Kansas boys dismounted and with Sharp's rifles in hand crept up through the tall prairie-grass and hazel-brush within convenient reach of the rebel force. Moonlight opened fire, and his first shell burst in the midst of Capt. Bledsoe's splendid battery of field guns, wounding the captain, killing three gunners, upsetting two of his guns, and wounding several others of his men. Lane's men turned loose their Sharp's rifles, and in a few minutes seventy-two rebels lay dead and many others wounded. The rebels overshot Lane's troops and they had but one wounded. The presence of less than 400 men in action soon became to the enemy the mysterious 40,000-- and Jim Lane in command! Gen. Slack was hastily brought up with his splendid force to sustain Price and Raines, but found them in full retreat. In his official report to Calib Jackson, governor of Missouri, he says that when he came upon the field to reinforce Price and Raines he found them and their very efficient army under rapid retreat on the verge of a general stampede, in the presence of a greatly superior force under command of Gen. Jas. H. Lane.

Lane's name was worth a thousand men, his multiplication table answered instead of numbers; and 380 Kansans, inspired by patriotism and their intrepid leader's presence, put 18,000 men to flight, saved Kan-


sas from invasion, and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of army stores.

Gen. Lane moved his command to Kansas City to prevent Gens. Price, Raines and Slack from advancing on Fort Leavenworth. They attacked Lexington, Mo., captured Col. Mulligan and his command, and then started to retreat and attack Gen. Fremont at Springfield. Lane ordered an advance to support Freemont. When we reached Osceola the enemy had burned the town and destroyed the ferry boat on the Osage River. The water was up, and nothing was left but an old abandoned scow, within 40 miles, on which to cross. Not an officer in the command would undertake to cross the command on that old boat. Lane called upon me to help him out of his dilemna By my request he detailed six men from each company, and with these we beached the old boat, calked her seams with old clothes, nailed fence boards on the cracks to keep the calking in place, and put six men to work with battery buckets, to bail the water out. With hearty good will the men obeyed my directions and followed my example while the other chaplains and officers sat on the bank and watched us ferry the command safely over the river.

In due time we reached Springfield, and went into camp to await orders to march and meet the rebel forces under McCullough, Gen. Fremont was in command when we arrived, but was soon superseded by Gen. Hunter. Here transpired under my own observation two of the most trying ordeals of nerve I ever witnessed. Several trained and experienced French soldiers, fine looking fellows, came to America with Fremont. Some of them were attached


to Lane's staff. It was Sabbath morning. Gen. Lane had sent for me. I reported at headquarters, and the general said he wished me to preach to the brigade and visitors, as many would be over to camp by 11 o’clock. While we were talking, in came the French officers, in a high state of excitement. Gen. Fremont had been removed and their anger was unbounded. They laid down their arms on the table and said they were going to leave the camp and return to Paris at once. They stood pale with rage. Lane sprang to his feet like a lion. He seemed taller than ever before. Seizing a revolver in each hand, he said: "You shan't resign. It is the order of the Secretary of War. We must obey. You will disgrace yourselves, dishonor France, and disgust the army." And fairly foaming with rage he stalked up to the men, and with uplifted revolvers, said, hissing it out: "By the eternal, I'll kill you both before you shall disgrace yourselves. Go back to your tents and remain until Gen. Fremont goes east, and like true soldiers remain with your superior."

In the afternoon review took place, and Gen. Fremont's staff came over. Gen. Lane reviewed the troops and put them through the manual of arms. One regiment was cavalry, another was mounted infantry, the rest infantry, so that the troops were not supposed to be well-drilled. But when Lane's command rang along the line every man seemed to be electrified. When they heard his voice, "Ground arms!" every gun dropped as if by magic, and they awaited in breathless expectancy his next word of command. He glanced up and down the long line, and then called, "Shoulder arms!" Every gun leaped to its place so simultaneously that the visitors were filled with sur-


prise, and though out of place, suppressed applause passed from lip to lip. I never saw automatic movement more perfect than that "Shoulder arms" under Jim Lane's inspiring command.

Gen. Hunter assumed command, and immediately ordered the main army to St. Louis, while Lane's command, which never retreated, countermarched by way of Lamar to Kansas. The whole negro population of Missouri which had followed Fremont's march and Lane's brigade were shaken off by Gen Hunter's army and took up their march with the Kansas troops, bound for Kansas and freedom. We, in turn, were followed by McCullough's army, beset on either hand by Coffee's and other noted guerrilla bands, and liable to be attacked at any hour. The second day out Lane sent for me on the march, and explaining our imminent danger of attack and the helpless condition of the great multitude of blacks, said: "What shall I do with them?" I replied that all the men were in the army, and the women and children in Kansas needed help to save the crop and provide fuel for winter, and I advised to send the negroes to Kansas to help the women and children. His laconic reply was, "I'll do it.” When we went into camp he issued an order that all the refugees and blacks should meet on the parade ground next morning at 8 o'clock, ready to go to Kansas; and his first order was, "Chaplains Fisher, Moore and Fish will take charge of these people, escort them to Kansas, divide their property among them as best they can, find homes for them, and report to headquarters.

Jim Lane was a striking character. Without him Kansas would not likely have become what she is. He was a leader of men. His long strain of excitement,


with perhaps inherited suicidal tendency, and his extreme sensitiveness to criticism on defeat, at last broke his indomitable energy and will, and in an unfortunate desire to control presidential patronage he found himself as United States Senator supporting the president, Andrew Johnson, in his opposition to Mr. Summer's civil rights bill, thus antagonising the very sentiment which in Kansas gave him such victories and honors.

When he awoke to see the fatal blunder he had committed he became despondent, a spell of illness ensued, his mind gave way, and while out driving at Fort Leavenworth, where he had sought rest and treatment he stepped behind the ambulance and placing a pistol in his mouth sent a bullet crashing through his brain. Though fatally wounded he regained consciousness and at times was able to recognize his particular friends and members of his family. I was called by telegram to his dying bed and as he took my hand in his and placed it upon the site of his wound he said plaintively, "Bad, Bad," and soon afterward died. The spirit of a leader, a man who had never known defeat at the hands of others, had been ushered before his maker by his own hand while smarting under the sting of political defeat wrought by an error in judgment. In times of war and strife a giant, in times of peace and politics he was but mortal. The most trying ordeal of my ministerial life was thrown upon me by his death. I was called upon to preach the funeral sermon in Lawrence on the Sunday following his demise. There were present men who had carried a rope to hang him on account of the early tragedy which had resulted in the death of Jenkins, and there were present men who had stood watch the livelong night to prevent his mobbing; there were men who were with him during the border-ruffian war and


during the war of the rebellion and who had become a part of him, and there were men who were against him in spirit during those trying times and who had often secretly wished for his removal. There were present neighbors, friends, family, foes political and foes personal-- all testifying to the greatness of the man and to the wonderful works he had done for Kansas and the Union. Many of those present knew his virtues, which were many, and others knew his faults, which were pronounced though few.

How to preach the truth and yet vindicate the gospel was a question. The text chosen was "God is love." I believed then and believe now that in his partially conscious moments, after he had accomplished what all the demons of hell composing the guerrilla army of the border had failed to accomplish though often tried, before he breathed his last expiring breath the teachings of his sainted mother and her prayers, which had exampled him unto her Savior and the Savior of sinners, took hold upon him and, repenting of his sins, he died believing in the Savior of all mankind. I have always had hope that through the saving grace of the Master Jim Lane is saved, saved for the good he has done for the cause of freedom and humanity.

His life was a life of ambitions, successes, triumphs-- and one grave failure.

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