By Andy May
The Bleeding Kansas period lasts from 1854 when Kansas was opened to white settlement until 1861, when it became a state. What were the people like? Why did thousands of Kansans fight and die over the issue of slavery? Some claim it was only money, but this does not ring true, it had to be more than that for the fighting to be so fierce. Besides this, the anti-slavery people repeatedly offered to compensate the slave-owners for the loss of their slaves, and the pro-slavery people turned these offers down.

During the 1850s, popular votes were used to determine which states were free and which were slave, why didn’t this work? Why was “popular sovereignty” a “living, creeping lie” according to the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln? And yet, popular sovereignty was the solution proposed by the anti-slavery Northern Democratic Presidential nominee, Stephen A. Douglas, why? For that matter, why did the Democratic Party split into two parties allowing Lincoln to slip in and win with 40% of the vote? Most importantly, why did so many pro-slavery Democrats come to Kansas and quickly become Republican and anti-slavery? This book examines the Kansas immigrants and their radical transformation, the book is about the people. We use the immigrant’s first-hand accounts, from privately published autobiographies, published essays, letters, and standard histories to tell the story of the people of Kansas during this critical period in American history.

The book is historical fiction, but the events all really happened and all the characters are real people. I needed the flexibility of historical fiction so I could invent dialog when necessary for the story. The people are presented as I came to understand them.

Sometimes to learn what happened you need to listen to those that were there and lived through it.

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Figure 1. Click here to order the book at Amazon.com.

Some of the people of Bleeding Kansas:

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Figure 2. Charles Robinson, Free-State leader and the first governor of the State of Kansas. Public Domain Photo from the Kansas State Historical Society.

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Figure 3. Sara Robinson, wife of Charles, author of a bestselling book on the history of Kansas from 1854 through 1856. Public Domain Photo from the Kansas State Historical Society.

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Figure 4. Sheriff Samuel Jones, pro-slavery leader and first sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas. Undated public domain photo from kansasmemory.org, Courtesy Kansas State Historical Society. (Kansas Memory, circa 1856 – 1860)

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Figure 5. John Geary, Territorial Governor of Kansas. He brought peace to Kansas for a time in late 1856. Photo as he looked in 1857 when he was still Governor of Kansas. Public domain image, from Wikimedia Commons.

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Figure 6. John Doy, center, seated, and his rescuers. John Doy was imprisoned in Missouri for transporting Negros in the underground railroad. He was later rescued. The rescuers, from left to right, Major James Abbott, Captain Joshua Pike, Jacob Senix, Joseph Gardner, Thomas Simmons, S. J. Willis, Charles Doy (plaid shirt), Captain John E. Stewart, Silas Soule, George Hay. Public domain photo taken by Amon Gilbert DaLee in 1859.

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Figure 7. The “Treason Prisoners.” These men were imprisoned for participating or being elected to the Free-State government of Territorial Kansas. The prisoners, from left to right, George Brown, John Brown Jr., Judge George W. Smith, Charles Robinson, Gaius Jenkins, Henry Williams, George W. Deitzler. Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections. (New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1856), Public domain image, photo taken for Sara Robinson in 1856 and turned into a drawing by Leslie’s Illustrated newspaper.

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Figure 8. Old John Brown, image from the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian.

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Figure 9. Senator James Lane. General and jayhawker. Image from the Kansas State Historical Society.

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Figure 10. James Montgomery, jayhawker and Union Colonel.

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Figure 11. Wilson Shannon, one of the Kansas Territorial governors and very pro-slavery at first. Later he became Free-State. Image from Durwood Ball’s essay on Edwin Vose Sumner.

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Figure 12. Daniel Woodson, Territorial Secretary, acting-governor several times, very pro-slavery. Image from the Kansas State Historical Society.