Portrait of John Brown.

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. [Wikimedia Commons]

Bleeding Kansas Facts

1855-1861

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

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Date:

  • 1855-1861

Location:

  • 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)

Significance:

  • 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.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Bleeding Kansas Facts
  • Coverage 1855-1861
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date November 29, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 17, 2021
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