Bleeding Kansas Facts


Key facts about the violence experienced in the Kansas Territory prior to the American Civil War.

John Brown, Abolitionist

Portrait of John Brown, a leading operative in Bleeding Kansas who was hanged in 1859 for leading a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Image Source: Library of Congress.


  • 1855-1861


  • Kansas Territory

Notable events:

  • Wakarusa War (November 21 to December 9, 1855)
  • Sacking of Lawrence (May 21, 1856)
  • Pottawatomie Massacre (May 24, 1856)
  • Battle of Black Jack (June 2, 1856)
  • Battle of Franklin (June 4 – 5, 1856)
  • Destruction of Fort Saunders (August 15, 1856)
  • Battle of Middle Creek (August 28, 1856)
  • Battle of Osawatomie (August 30, 1856)
  • Battle of Slough Creek (September 11, 1856)
  • Battle of Hickory Point (September 13 – 14, 1856)
  • Marais des Cygnes Massacre (May 19, 1858)
  • Montgomery’s Raid (December 16, 1858)


  • Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune, reportedly coined the term “Bleeding Kansas” to describe the escalating violence in the Kansas Territory during the 1850s.
  • Pro-slavery partisans who operated in Bleeding Kansas were known as Border Ruffians.
  • Anti-slavery partisans who operated in Bleeding Kansas were known as Free-Staters and Jayhawkers.
  • The Battle of Osawatomie was the largest armed conflict to take place in Bleeding Kansas.
  • Recent historical research documents 157 homicides in Kansas between 1854 and 1861. Of those, only fifty-six can be directly attributed to political differences regarding slavery – roughly eight deaths per year. By comparison during the 1850s, Los Angeles County, California experienced homicide rates ranging from 110 to 414 deaths per 100,000 people.
  • Much of the hysteria engendered by the turbulence in Bleeding Kansas was a product of sensationalized reports published by Northern and Southern newspapers intended to foment the passions of pro and anti-slavery partisans.
  • The politicized accounts of violence that occurred in Bleeding Kansas intensified the sectional polarization that eventually spawned the Civil War.