Kansas Civil War History

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Kansas Civil War Map
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Kansas Civil War History Map

Kansas, which experienced the notorious Kansas-Missouri Border War, suffered few American Civil War (1861-1865) battles but witnessed numerous guerrilla raids and bushwhacking atrocities.

Introduction: Present-day Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the Eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the Western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.
 
The first European to set foot in present-day Kansas was Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who explored the area in 1541. In 1803, most of modern Kansas was secured by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Southwest Kansas, however, was still a part of Spain, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas until the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in 1848. From 1812 to 1821, Kansas was part of the Missouri Territory. The Santa Fe Trail traversed Kansas from 1821 to 1880, transporting manufactured goods from Missouri and silver and furs from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Wagon ruts from the trail are still visible in the prairie today.

In 1827, Fort Leavenworth became the first permanent settlement of white Americans in the future state. The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854, establishing the U.S. territories of Nebraska and Kansas, and opening the area to broader settlement by whites. Kansas Territory stretched all the way to the Continental Divide and included the sites of present-day Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.
 
The Territory of Kansas was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until January 29, 1861, when the eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Kansas.

Kansas Civil War Map
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Kansas, Secession, and Civil War Map

Kansas Civil War Map
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Kansas-Nebraska Map

Prelude to Civil War: Kansas was first settled by European Americans in the 1830s, but the pace of settlement accelerated in the 1850s, in the midst of political wars over the slavery issue. See Sectionalism.
 
Missouri Compromise: Missouri was initially settled by slave-holding Southerners coming up the Mississippi River and Missouri River. Missouri entered the Union in 1821 as a slave state following the Missouri Compromise of 1820, in which it was agreed that no state north of Missouri's southern border with Arkansas could enter the Union as a slave state. Maine entered the Union as a free state in the compromise to balance Missouri. See also: Popular Sovereignty and Missouri Civil War History.
 
Bleeding Kansas: One of the greatest areas of concerns for Missouri slave-holders was a Federal law that decreed that if a slave physically entered a free state, he or she was free. The Underground Railroad, in which slaves gained their freedom by heading north, was already becoming established in the state. The slaveholders were particularly concerned about the prospects of the entire western border becoming a conduit for the Underground Railroad if those new states entered the U.S. as free states. In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act nullified the Missouri Compromise and declared that the two states could decide on their own whether to enter as a free or slave state (see Popular Sovereignty). The result was a de facto war, commonly referred to as the Border War, between pro-slavery residents of Missouri (called Border Ruffians) and Kansas free staters (see Free-Soilers and the Free Soil Party) to influence how Kansas entered the Union. Most of these conflicts involved attacks and murders of individuals on both sides, with the Sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces and the Pottawatomie Massacre by John Brown being the most notable. Kansas initially approved a pro-slavery constitution called the Lecompton Constitution, but, after the U.S. Congress rejected it, the state approved a free-state Wyandotte Constitution.
 
When officially opened to settlement by the U.S. government in 1854, abolitionist Free-Staters from New England and pro-slavery settlers from neighboring Missouri rushed to the territory to determine if Kansas would become a free state or a slave state. Thus, the area was a hotbed of violence and chaos in its early days as these forces collided, and was known as Bleeding Kansas or the Border War. The abolitionists eventually prevailed and on January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a free state.

Missouri and Arkansas sent settlers into Kansas all along its eastern border. These settlers attempted to sway votes in favor of slavery. The secondary settlements of Americans in Kansas Territory were abolitionists from Massachusetts and other Free-Staters, who attempted to stop the expansion of slavery from neighboring Missouri. Directly presaging the American Civil War, these forces collided, entering into skirmishes that earned the territory the name of Bleeding Kansas. See also: Jayhawkers and Border Ruffians.

Price's Raid Map
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Civil War Kansas Battlefield Map

Lawrence Massacre History
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Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas

Civil War: According to the 1860 U.S. census, Kansas had a free population of 107,204 and an additional slave population of 2. Kansas was admitted to the United States as a free state on January 29, 1861, making it the 34th state to enter the Union, but the Border War had not been settled and old scores and feuds continued into the Civil War. Guerrilla warfare was the norm in Kansas during the Civil War, while battles, which applied Napoleonic tactics, were not.
 

The first Kansas regiment was pressed into service on June 3, 1861, and the seventeenth, the last raised during the Civil War, on July 28, 1864. The entire recruitment quota assigned to Kansas was 16,654, and the number raised was 20,097, leaving a surplus of 3,443. Statistics indicated that losses of Kansas regiments killed in battle and from disease are greater per thousand than those of any other State.

On August 21, 1863, William Quantrill led several hundred men, known as Quantrill's Raiderson a raid into Lawrence, Kansas, destroying much of the city and killing nearly 200 people. The Battle of Baxter Springs, sometimes called the Baxter Springs Massacre, was a minor battle in the War, fought on October 6, 1863, near the modern-day town of Baxter Springs, Kansas. The Battle of Mine Creek, also known as the Battle of the Osage, was a cavalry battle that occurred in Kansas during the war.

On October 25, 1864, a series of three battles occurred, the first two in Linn County, Kansas, with the final in Vernon County, Missouri. The first was the Battle of Marais des Cygnes (also called the "Battle of Trading Post"), the second was the Battle of Mine Creek, and the third was the Battle of Marmiton River (over the border in Missouri). They were between Major General Sterling Price, leading the Missouri expedition, against Union forces under Major General Alfred Pleasonton. Price, after going south from Kansas City, was initially met by Pleasonton at Marais des Cygnes. At the end of the day, the Confederates were forced to withdraw after attacks and assaults by Union forces. See also Kansas in the American Civil War: A History and Kansas in the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Kansas Territory and the State of Kansas Map
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Kansas Territory Changes Map

Aftermath and Analysis: Kansas Territory was established by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854, establishing both the Nebraska Territory and Kansas Territory. The most momentous provision of the Act in effect repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and allowed the settlers of Kansas Territory to determine by Popular Sovereignty whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state. See also: Kansas-Nebraska Act and Missouri Civil War History.
 
After the Civil War, many veterans constructed homesteads in Kansas and the population of Kansas grew rapidly when waves of immigrants turned the prairie into farmland. Many African Americans also looked to Kansas as the land of "John Brown" and, led by freedmen began establishing black colonies in the state. Leaving southern states in the late 1870s because of increasing discrimination, they became known as Exodusters.

At the same time, the Chisholm Trail was opened and the Wild West-era commenced in Kansas. Wild Bill Hickok was a deputy marshal at Fort Riley and a marshal at Hays and Abilene. Dodge City was another wild cowboy town, and both Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp worked as lawmen in the town. In one year alone, 8 million head of cattle from Texas boarded trains in Dodge City bound for the East, earning Dodge the nickname "Queen of the Cowtowns."

(Sources and related reading below.)

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Sources: Wishart, David J. ed. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8032-4787-7. complete text online; 900 pages of scholarly articles; National Park Service; Library of Congress; National Archives; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; The Union Army: Military Affairs in Kansas (1861-1865).

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