Civil War on the Western Border: 1854-1865

Civil War on the Western Border: 1854-1865

Civil War on the Western Border: 1854-1865

Civil War on the Western Border: 1854-1865


The first phase of the Civil War was fought west of the Mississippi River at least six years before the attack on Fort Sumter. Starting with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, Jay Monaghan traces the development of the conflict between the pro-slavery elements from Missouri and the New England abolitionists who migrated to Kansas. "Bleeding Kansas" provided a preview of the greater national struggle to come.

The author allows a new look at Quantrill's sacking of Lawrence, organized bushwhackery, and border battles that cost thousands of lives. Not the least valuable are chapters on the American Indians' part in the conflict. The record becomes devastatingly clear: the fighting in the West was the cruelest and most useless of the whole affair, and if men of vision had been in Washington in the 1850s it might have been avoided.


Abraham Lincoln sat on the edge of his bed talking to Lyle Dickey. The day had been a hard one on the Illinois Circuit. Dickey blinked sleepily at the yellow candle flame, but Lincoln wanted to talk. News of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act by Congress had just been received, and Lincoln's deliberate mind would not rest. He had deserted the hustings for the more lucrative practice of law, but this act aroused his indignation and tempted him to re-enter politics. Dickey fell asleep. Next morning, when he awoke, Lincoln sat propped up in bed still talking as though the conversation had been uninterrupted.

Lincoln had watched excitement grow over the Kansas-Nebraska bill since its introduction on January 4, 1854, by his political antagonist of twenty years' standing, Senator Stephen A. Douglas. The Little Giant, as he was called, had concocted the measure to end political turmoil over slavery, make him the leader of a reunited Democratic Party and, perhaps, President of the United States. His bill's panacea was simple: Quit discriminating against slaveholding pioneers; open all territories to settlers from both North and South, and let them decide by vote whether to exclude or countenance slavery. What could be fairer than that?

Douglas understood the rules of equity better than he did the temper of the American people. He failed, utterly, to foresee that this doctrine of squatter sovereignty would ignite a civil war.

The Little Giant had reached his eminent position by courage and resourcefulness. Confidence gleamed from his tailored clothes and highly polished boots. If the North reproached him for opening Western territories to slavery, he could explain to them that a free economy would triumph over slavery in a fair contest. The concession, therefore, was nomi-

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