"The Sack of Lawrence"- Kansas 1856
Map of Kansas, circa 1872. Lawrence is on the upper right hand side

Lawrence: six years after the incident

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Although the true Civil War would not be declared until 1861, the first battle of the North-South conflict was the Sack of Lawrence, Kansas on May 21st, 1856. The territory of Kansas had been a discrepancy for years previously over the issue as to whether it should be a free state or a slave state. Lawrence itself was newly planted with only 1,500 or so residents and it had only been established a year and a half prior to these attacks by anti-slavery individuals. Briefly after coming about, Lawrence was becoming a highly populated town due to the many anti-slavery believers who moved out to Kansas with nowhere else to go. While some of Lawrence's residents were true abolitionists, many were simply "Free-Soilers," who opposed slavery because the large slave plantations interfered with their smaller farms. Therefore, it was an easy target for the pro-slavery activists who wanted to procure the land. "Border Ruffians" from Missouri as well as slave-supporting people of Kansas attacked. On May 21, about 800 men came in with the intention of arresting the abolitionists or supporters of the Kansas "free-soil government" which slave owners were not very keen to liking. The charge was treason. The pro-slavery believers rode into town with Lawrence deciding against resistance assuming it would be hopeless. Starting with the "Free-Soil" newspapers, the posses went about the city, nearly leveling it completely, despite the townspeople's passive approach. Next they attacked homes and shops stealing what they could and finally burning everything to the ground. This event also caused John Brown to make his attack on Pottawatomie Creek, a pro-slavery town, as reciprocation for the attack. He had heard and believed a rumor that five were killed during the Sack of Lawrence, so in his revenge he and his followers hacked five men to death at Pottawatomie Creek.
The destruction of Lawrence following the attack. The building in the center is the Free-State Hotel, the first building attacked.
Members of the posse riding through the streets during the Sack of Lawrence.

Northern Opinion-
The overall opinion in the North was that they had been wrongfully attacked and in Congress debates grew extremely heavy. Freeing Kansas was on the abolitionists minds. The event also began the bloody struggle known as "Bleeding Kansas" because once the Republicans caught word of physical violence, the National Kansas Commitee was formed. Bleeding Kansas would last until 1865, and was the unofficial start of the Civil War.

Southern Opinion-
Southerners had strong intentions of ensuring that Kansas be admitted as a slave state, and as seen with the unfortunately bloody result of Bleeding Kansas, were prepared to fight to defend their opinion regardless of who was elected Commander-In-Chief.
Rating Of Importance-

The rating we chose was a three because although this led to many things, the war would have happened regardless. It was an important event however, leading to John Brown attacking the pro-slavery settlement as revenge for this incident. Also, this was considered the first major showing of physical violence in the war. However it is not a huge event because it is over-shadowed by the entire event of "Bleeding Kansas" and one battle in that struggle is not often looked upon it is "Bleeding Kansas" as a whole.


“Lawrence, Sack of.” Answers.com. 2006. Answers.com. 13 May 2009. <http://www.answers.com/topic/lawrence-sack-of.htm>

“The Sack of Lawrence.” Eyewitnesstohistory.com. 2008. Eyewitness to History.com. 12 May 2009. http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/pflawrencesack.html.

“The Sack of Lawrence.” ushistory.com. 2009. U.S. History Online Textbook. 12 May 2009. http://www.ushistory.org/us/31c.asp