Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. John L. S. Daley
Dr. Kirstin L. Lawson
Dr. Charles C. Blatchley
James Henry Lane was a giant of Kansas politics during the mid-nineteenth century. His leadership during the territorial crisis of 1855—commonly known as the “Bleeding Kansas” era—contributed mightily to Kansas’s entry as a free state in 1861. During the early stages of the ensuing Civil War, Lane’s political and military presence on the plains was ubiquitous; he served simultaneously as a United States Senator and a brigadier general of the Union Army. Lane’s activities during the first year of the war provide the focal point of the present study.
With Kansas under threat from secessionist elements in neighboring Missouri, Lane commanded a three-regiment brigade of volunteers in the fall of 1861. His tactics, though unconventional for the time, served to temporarily flush the region of its pro-Confederate operations. The present study evaluates the enigmatic memory of this 1861 campaign. Although the historiographical record depicts Lane as a radical jayhawker in the same category as Charles Jennison and James Montgomery, evidence suggests that his ideological motivation was far from radical.
Despite the charges of his critics, Lane exhibited consistent political principles throughout his career. At the core of his beliefs were a Jacksonian brand of Unionism and a politically based opposition to slavery. As the 1850s waned, Lane’s opposition to the “peculiar institution” intensified; Bleeding Kansas revealed to him that the Southern Slave Power and the Union had grown incompatible with one another. When the war began, this recognition inspired Lane to wage total war on the rebel citizenry and on the institution of slavery itself. Lane’s controversial tactics, however, were not the product of a moral crusade against slavery, but rather the realization that unrestricted coercion of the South was a strategic necessity. Lane was among the first Union generals to make war in this way, demonstrating an understanding of the conflict that was years ahead of his time.
Lahasky, Alex, "THE MARCH OF THE UNION ARMIES: JAMES HENRY LANE, THE UNION, AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF TOTAL WAR ON THE KANSAS-MISSOURI BORDER" (2017). Electronic Thesis Collection. 261.