Thursday, August 12, 2021

the last book I ever read (Truman by David McCullough, excerpt two)

from Truman by David McCullough:

On May 22, 1856, hard-riding Missouri “Border Ruffians” shot up the town of Lawrence, Kansas, an abolitionist stronghold. Two days afterward, a strange, wild-looking man named John Brown, a new Kansas settler, decided the moment had come to “regulate matters.” Armed with broadswords honed to razor sharpness, Brown and his sons descended after dark on three isolated cabins on little Pottawatomie Creek. There they took five pro-slavery Kansas men and boys, none of whom had anything to do with the raid on Lawrence, and chopped them to pieces—“as declared by Almighty God,” said John Brown.

No sooner had the Free-Soilers gained control in Kansas in the next round of elections than Kansas riders came charging over the line into Missouri to take their turn at murder and arson. For years before the Civil War began in the East, this terrible Border War—civil war in every dreadful sense of the term—raged all up and down the Missouri-Kansas line and continued until the surrender at Appomattox. It was like some horrible chapter out of the Middle Ages, with gangs of brigand horsemen roaming the land. They could appear out of nowhere any time, led often by men who were no better than young thugs, some possibly deranged, like the bantam-sized “Doc” Jennison, whose outlaw Kansans were called Jayhawkers or Red Legs (for their red leather leggings), or the Missouri guerilla “Bloody Bill” Anderson, who liked to mutilate his victims. It was a war of plunder, ambush, and uncreasing revenge. Nobody was safe. Defenseless towns were burned. Osceola, Missouri, and Shawneetown, Kansas, were all but wiped from the map.

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