The Civil War in Kansas
The years of 1854-1861 were a turbulent time in Kansas territory. One could make an argument that the Civil War actually began in "bleeding" Kansas ten years before Fort Sumter became the flashpoint in 1861. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 established the territorial boundaries of Kansas and Nebraska and opened the land to legal settlement. It allowed the residents of these territories to decide by popular vote whether their state would be free or slave. This concept of self-determination was called popular sovereignty'. In Kansas, people on all sides of this controversial issue flooded the territory, trying to influence the vote in their favor.
Rival territorial governments, election fraud, and squabbles over land claims all contributed to the violence of this era. Three distinct political groups occupied Kansas: pro-slavers, free-staters and abolitionists. Locally, trouble began in the summer of 1856 when a group of about 30 pro-slavery settlers from South Carolina arrived in Bourbon County. It was suspected that they were sponsored by the Southern Emigrant Aid Society and were members of the Dark Lantern Societies. These societies terrorized free-state settlers and attempted to drive them from Kansas. Violence broke out immediately between these opposing factions and continued until 1861 when Kansas entered the Union as a free state on January 29th. This era became forever known as "Bleeding Kansas".