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  • Writer's pictureJohnathan Hart

The fight for freedom.

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

We all know about the American Civil War, but Black Jack is where the first armed conflict over slavery was fought.

As settlers moved westward in the years before the Civil War, the debate over slavery grew. Would slavery be allowed in the new states coming into the Union? In 1854, the newly-formed Kansas Territory became a focus of the issue.

Proslavery and antislavery backers poured into the area. Feelings ran high, and political conflict soon became violent. Citizens on both sides of the slavery issue formed free-wheeling militias. Several incidents in the spring of 1856 brought matters to a head. Proslavery men sacked the city of Lawrence, an antislavery stronghold. John Brown's men carried out the bloody night-time murder of several proslavery men at the "Pottawatomie Massacre". Henry Clay Pate and his proslavery militia then came looking for Brown. The result was the Battle of Black Jack.

The exact extent of the battle site is uncertain, but evidence indicates the point of land between the ravines to your left was the center of the action and the probable location of Pate's surrender. Visitors may cross the bridge and walk around the battlefield area. The older wooden signs were placed there in the 1960's. They are based on the memories of Samuel Shore, who fought here with John Brown. He returned in 1911 and pointed out the locations of particular incidents in the battle.

Reports of the clash at Black Jack soon appeared in newspapers in Kansas Territory and across the nation. Brown himself wrote an account for the New York Tribune, July 11, 1856.

“Had I known whom I was fighting I would not have trusted a flag of truce. captain Brown commanded me to order my company to lay down their arms. Putting a revolver to my breast he repeated the command, giving me one or two minuted to make the order”

Henry Clay Pate on John Brown on the Battle of Black Jack, New York Tribune, June 15, 1856

“Captain Pate reproaches me with the most dishonorable violations of the rights secured under a flag of truce, but says: My object was to gain time, and if possible have hostilities suspended for awhile." So much, in his own language, for good faith, of which he found me so destitute.” John Brown writing from Lawrence, Kansas Territory, July 1,1856, to the New York Tribune,July 10, 1856.

Jacob Lawrence, a 20th Century artist, painted several series depicting people and places in African American history. This painting of the Battle of Black Jack was part of his John Brown series, completed in 1941.

The Battle of Black jack, although forgotten by many, has lived on as a symbol of the conflict over slavery that led to the national Civil War in 1861.

“Talk will do no good. That time is past. What we now need is men, money and rifles."

Free-state settler Charles A Wright, in a letter written from Lawrence, Kansas Territory, June 16, 1856.Welcome to your blog post. Use this space to connect with your readers and potential customers in a way that’s current and interesting. Think of it as an ongoing conversation where you can share updates about business, trends, news, and more.Do you have a design in mind for your blog? Whether you prefer a trendy postcard look or you’re going for a more editorial style blog - there’s a stunning layout for everyone.

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