Sacking of Osawatomie
After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Osawatomie, Kansas was settled by Free State settlers. In 1855, this belief conflicted with that of the Kansas Territorial Government who, at the time, was controlled by Pro-Slavery men. It was this conflict that would lead to the Sacking of Osawatomie on August 30, 1856. At the time of the raid, Osawatomie had a population of about 200. Many residents had already fled the town due to concerns about pro-slavery raiders.
The battle occurred in what is today John Brown Park on Main Street in Osawatomie. The central feature of the park is John Brown’s cabin. The cabin was NOT located here at the time of the battle. It was moved to the park and restored in 1911. John Brown Memorial Park is a nice park with numbered markers and informational signs to show the progression of the battle.
Besides being a known “free-state” town in 1856, Osawatomie was likely also targeted due to its most famous resident John Brown, who in the previous few months had made a name for himself after leading the Pottawatomie Massacre and the Battle of Black-Jack. Brown was a wanted man and Osawatomie would pay a steep price for serving as the headquarters for “Osawatomie John Brown”.
Approximately 250-400 pro-slavery men commanded by John W Reid rode toward Osawatomie to seek revenge for a raid reportedly led by Brown’s men on the home of Reverend Martin White. On their way into town, they were stopped by one of Brown’s sons, Frederick, who approached them aggressively and after reaching for his sidearm was quickly shot dead.
Upon hearing of his son’s death, Brown hurried toward town from his cabin, collecting as many men as he could on the way. He could only come up with around 30 men. Brown led his small army through the trees along the Marais Des Cygnes River which runs just north of the park and the town. Brown and his men fired their first shots at the Pro-Slavery force when they were near the location of the John Brown Statue. The two sides were still several hundred yards apart at this point and nobody was harmed with this first volley. Reid’s men then charged down the hill toward Brown’s men. While this first advance was repelled by the Osawatomie men, but the numerical superiority meant that it would not take long for Brown’s force to be overwhelmed.
Another charge and flanking maneuver by Reid’s men forced the free state men to flee with most of them going across the river, hoping to draw Reid’s men across the river and away from the town. Reid’s men did not take the bait and instead headed due east into the town where they would pillage and burn down all but three buildings. The three that were not burned being full of women and children. While the exact number of casualties of the Battle of Osawatomie is unknown, the estimate is likely 5 free state men, including Frederick Brown, and an even smaller number of Pro-Slavery men.
I would love to hear any comments or suggestions regarding the “Border War Tour”, possible stops that I haven’t hit yet, or even comments about my new book. Pick up a copy of “Moonlit Mayhem” wherever books are sold or get your signed copy from my website www.jonathanjonesauthor.com and get $5 off with the code Olathe521.