Kansas MemoryKansas Memory

Kansas Historical SocietyKansas Historical Society

James H. Holmes, testimony

Item Description Bookbag Share

8th Dec.: Testimony of James H. Holmes. Unmarried.
Age 23. My object in coming to this Territory was for the purpose of making some experiments in agricultural chemistry where soil is cheap & natural and little labor suffices to support a man. At the time I started, I was stimulated to come, from the report of the arrest of Judge Schuyler at Parkville. I am well acquainted with Mr. Schuyler: we were citizens of the same Co. Tompkins, N. Y. We belonged to the same church, Westhill Congregational Church situated a mile or two west of Ithaca. I spent the summer of 1855 with Prof. Mapes in N. Y. studying agricultural chemistry. My parents reside in Dutchess Co. My father does business in N. Y. City 24 Beaver St. I have no mechanical trade. My early life has been principally occupied with study. I spent some years in the dray business in the store of Judge Schuyler at Ithaca. I left the city of New York on the 17th of last June.
Within the past 4 weeks I have united with 15 others, in all 16 of us & taken claims about 6 miles from Lawrence on Washington Creek about 4 miles this side of Fort Saunders. Our intention is to make a rural town: we wish to Establish an agricultural school and a high school and hope in time to get an observatory as our plot is very elevated causing

Page 2

a view of 20 miles. My companions are all temperance men: industrious & energetic determine to make their homes in Kansas. Some two or three are married: the rest are single: but all of them have sent for their families, brothers, sisters, etc. Among them are carpenters & masons bringing their tools with them. Some are printers & some are farmers: we mean to have with us, if we can get them, a clergyman, a lawyer & a physician. We propose making our town an industrial & literary rather than a commercial center. I came expecting to join Clubbs Vegetarian Settlement. This Settlement was chiefly composed of married people from the States of Pen. N.Y. & Ohio. They number some 40 families & making about 100 people: probably 50 men among. They did not come prepared for war, not anticipating any trouble. Their settlement was upon the Neosho near the north line of the Osage Reserve. Owing to a Stormy spring when they arrived about the month of April & to an unfortunate locality in the bottoms when the river swollen by long rains overflowed upon them compelling them to remove in the falling rain & wetting both goods & persons, many of the settlers were taken sick with fever & with fever & ague. Their tents were not properly adapted and their other means of protection inadequate to their new condition. Add to this before leaving their Eastern homes, their expectation had been too highly colored. Their condition was farther rendered uncomfortable by the persecutions and threats of their pro slavery neighbors. Their leader being a lawyer & Editor & by previous habits unfitted for a pioneer life: this increased the discontent of the people, so that after struggling long for 3 months or more, the Enterprise was disbanded. Many, perhaps the larger portion returned immediately on arriving & finding no houses & no arrangements for them as had been promised.

Page 3

There are now remaining there probably not more than half a dozen families. But the Valley of the Neosho is beautiful. I have examined it from a point about where the 14.2 mile creek empties into it near the Kaw Reserve, down to the Catholic Mission about 12 miles below the Octagon settlement. The bottoms of the Neosho are broader & richer than those of the more Northern streams & avg from 2 to 5 miles in width. The timber is chiefly hickory & walnut of a very large growth: I saw several trees which I think would square 3 or 4 ft 60 ft from the ground. As a general thing the trees were of a large size. Many of the large bottoms are covered with oak & plum & hazel shrubs, among which the wild rye & pea grass grows luxuriantly. Upon this the cattle feed & fatten. The cattle will leave their hay to go down into the bottoms for the purpose of luxuriating on this wild rye & pea grass and here they may remain all winter sheltered by the shrubs and finding abundance of fattening food. Here also Santa Fee traders are accustomed to winter their stock in large numbers. Major & Russels extensive government contractors whose headquarters are at Leavenworth winter their stock here. It is said they keep 4 or 5000 head for their own purposes. As severe as the last winter was I saw cattle that had fattened there preferring those luxuriant bottoms to the hay which this owner had put up for them. From a superficial observation I should say that evidence exists of minerals of various kinds: iron & coal I saw clear indications of: & the limestone is of a very superior quality & fineness. I also saw dark colored sandstone in abundance.
When I came into the Territory I came up alone by the Missouri river: It was just after Cutter & Grove’s Cos had been sent back. On this boat there were Stringfellow’s men, Capt [xxx] a Mississippian, surveyor Genl Calhoun & others.
After being threatened & having my things examined, although I had

Page 4

brought no arms (save a very beautiful rifle from the students of the N.Y. Central College to Judge Schuyler) of which I was the bearer, there was a guard set over me: but I escaped them by concealing myself but with the loss of all my effects the rifle included. I landed at Ft Leavenworth at [xxx] in the morning in a heavy rain where I jumped ashore to escape my persecutors. After wallowing awhile in the mud of the banks I found the guard house and claimed protection. Here I remained till morning light. To the Company on guard I related my story but without seeing any sympathy as the men principally Georgians & South Carolinians.
From that time onward during 4 or 5 weeks I was constantly on foot travelling through various parts of the county alone. It was during this time that I explored the Valley of the Neosho.
Finding the Octagon Settlement broken up I returned to Lawrence & after being there about a week I learned that a body of Georgians were committing depredations near Ossawatomie, and a Co. of 60 men being fitted out I joined them & from that time till the present have been under arms, now nearly 5 months and during over 3 months of that time I have camped out sleeping on the naked ground a part of the time without blankets or any cover. Capt Cracklin of the Lawrence Stubbs commanded the first expedition. The Georgians had a block house on the Marais des Cygnes two miles below Ossawatomie, well fortified & stored with provisions for 100 men. On [xxx] our approach they fled leaving behind them 3000 pounds of bacon & some 10 sacs of flour & 2 lbs of sugar with tea, coffee & c to match. Their arms they carried with them or concealed. As we had lost our way in approaching them, they had 24 hours notice of our approach, which gave them time to remove their most valuable things.
I remained near Ossawatomie taking in charge a company of 15 men, armed but not mounted. We were in camp: the

Page 5

citizens of Ossawatomie supplied us with food as we remained to protect them at their earnest solicitation. During the weeks which preceded the battle of Ossawatomie we were constantly alarmed by rumors of an attack upon the Settlers,
About 2 weeks before we had authentic information of the [xxx] attack. I was appointed to come up to Lawrence to solicit assistance. Harvey at that time was in command, Lane not having arrived. He detailed a company of horse & foot accounting in all to probably 60 men. I had been about but 2 days when on reaching Stanton 6 miles above Ossawatomie with the soldiers who were with me. I found the places which had [xxx] 20 families [xxx] [xxx]: and the whole community in the utmost confusion, people flying in all directions in the greatest terror. Most of them Stanton families have left the Territory & have not returned. Passing on to Ossawatomie we found all but two families had left, the male members of their families had remained to defend the place. Mr. Chestnut and Mr. [xxx] were the only two families who were there & who remained in their houses. During the entire battle of the [xxx] [xxx], I should have remarked that owing to a scarcity of ammunition at Lawrence & in the Territory generally at the time of our [xxx], Lawrence, we were short of [xxx]. We [xxx] at Ossawatomie for some days idle awaiting the threatened attack. At this time we heard of the enemy being in the neighborhood: [xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] had come up from Missouri by the way of Ft. Scott & Sugar Creek & had encamped on Middle Creek only 2 miles distant ahead of us. About the same time our advanced scout of 6 men discovered a party of 10 marauders, [xxx] a prisoner named George Partridge who were a few days after, killed in the [xxx] battle. They were proceeding towards their camp to which we were also advancing & our scouts gave chase immediately & came up to their camp. (The prisoner meanwhile escaping on

Page 6

the horse on which he was riding) they commenced firing into the camp. A few hours before the occurrences ten [xxx] I had gave back to you (to be continued)

Page 7

Testimony of Jas. H. Holmes. (continued)
To Ossawatomie. I solicited the commanders to permit me to return so as to be at Ossawatomie in case of an attack on it. About 12 m. runners came stating that the camp of the enemy had been discovered & requesting Capt Brown to collect all the men he could mount and hasten with all dispatch to them. I placed myself under him & we reached the battle ground just as the others under Capt Shores & Cline had taken the camp and released Partridge. Capt Browns party went back to Ossawatomie & after getting supper started with 25 men for the Pottawatomie along which & its tributaries a second band, or rather part of the first that had been routed in the camp had been burning the houses of free State men, robbing them & turning their families out, also burning hay stacks & the like. We kept upon their trail all night and at day light reached the old camping place on Middle Creek where they had already been & fled on finding it in possession of our men. On approaching their camp Capt Brown who was also ignorant at this time of its being in possession of our men, drew up his little company of 25 to attack them. The other party being taken by surprise also made preparations for defense. A few words however, from Capt Brown, whose prudence at this moment was equal to his courage, sufficed to place matters right. It is proper here to remark that when the enemy before Capt Brown started with his men for Ossawatomie, he supposed that Shores, Cline & the rest were following him. But instead of this they returned to the camp with their prisoners save the wounded whom they sent on

Page 8

to Ossawatomie. Capt Brown being ignorant of all this and having followed the trail of the enemy all night to this very camp & finding it occupied after the evacuation of the preceding night could infer nothing else but that he had treed the villains he was in search of. Our party who were in the camp also knowing of the other party of marauders, were expecting a visit from them: The mistake on both sides therefore was mutual and natural. But for the [xxx] & prudence of Capt Brown in demanding of our men who they were, a bloody & a sad catastrophe, would have been the finale to this [xxx] blunder.
The prisoners taken the previous evening were then [xxx] & released. The entire army then proceeded down towards Sugar Creek and then after visiting several pro-slavery nests & taking a few horses for our scouts returned, Shores company the same day to the old camp on Middle Creek & Browns & Clines not until the following day. Shores returned to Ossawatomie immediately proceeded towards Lawrence having been ordered by Col Harvey then in command to be absent not over 3 days which time he had already exceeded. On the day following (Friday) Brown & Cline reached Ossawatomie fatigued with their long marches & greatly in need of rest. Browns Co. passed across the Marais des Cygnes & then encamped about a mile from the town. The next morning at sunrise before many of the inhabitants were stirring while I had my saddle in my [xxx] & going down to the Pottawatomie to [xxx] a man rushed in breathless with the intelligence that Frederick Brown was killed & that the Missourians were approaching & within a mile & a half of town. We were scarcely able to get into a position for fighting when they were

Page 9

down upon us. The moment I heard the news I jumped onto my horse & with my Sharp’s rifle rode directly towards them & discharged my rifle at random into their advancing column: after which I wheeled & retreated towards the town. The noise of my rifle attracted the attention of the family of O. C. Brown who were at this instant preparing for breakfast & on looking out discovered their danger & immediately fled into town nearly a mile distant. I subsequently learned that my shot had taken effect as some of the ruffians remarked that “those damned Yankees, could shoot as one of them had shot over ½ a mile & cut a mans throat.” When I reached the town again I met old Capt Brown just going into the woods to take his position. The time gained by the [xxx] which I had made by camp the [xxxxxxxxx] was to us an important moment gained as it afforded time to get the old Capt Brown from his quarters into town. [xxx] to taking his position in the brush, Capt Brown had started 11 men in a block house in the center of the town. Before he could secret his position to be sheltered from view they had arrived on the high ground overlooking us so that they could see our Exact force. It was a beautiful sight to see that long line of men a [xxx] [xxx] with the arms glittery in the rising sun. Dr Updegraff who was properly Captain of the forces put himself under the lead of Capt Brown. After being stationed in the brush, we were strictly ordered not to fire until the enemy were within 200 yds. Those having Sharps rifles were placed in front. When the firing was at its highest & the balls of the enemy were falling and around us like hail, our gallant old Capt passed constantly up & down the lines [xxx] & directing the [xxx]. We were

Page 10

placed from 10 to 15 ft. apart. While we were in this position a part of their left wing was detached to flush us by [xxx] down along the river. The main body calculating on their flanking party being on our rear, charged down upon us yelling like fiends: as [xxx] retreating into the timber backward towards the banks of the river, not intercepted having by the [xxx] [xxx] which did not come up with us until we had the river [xxx]: this only achievement was in doing as lower down towards the [xxx]. It was during this time while the eyes of our men were fixed upon the [xxx] & the commands of our Capt could not be heard for the awful yelling that Brown passed constantly along [xxx] our moments in the retreat. We retreat step by step until our last charges were spent as can stand by the [xxx] [xxx]: where each [xxxxxxxxxx] ( to be continued)

Item Description

Copyright © 2007-2019 - Kansas Historical Society - Contact Us
This website was developed in part with funding provided by the Information Network of Kansas.