May 21 - 1856 - The Sack of Lawrence
As a prelude to the American Civil War, the territory of Kansas was engaged in an armed conflict between pro-slavery and anti-slavery men. The entire era is referred to as "Bleeding Kansas," and it was sparked by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide if they would be free or slave states by popular vote. This made large numbers of armed settlers descend upon Kansas. After a series of small conflicts and political maneuverings, including two territorial governments, real violence began when a group of 800 pro-slavery fighters attacked and destroyed the town of Lawrence, the anti-slavery capital. The residents of Lawrence largely let the posse, led by their official county sheriff, Samuel Jones, destroy most buildings, including the impressive Free State Hotel. Only one person died, a pro-slavery fighter who was crushed under rubble. The country thought this level of violence was shocking. Yet more violence continued in Kansas after the Sack of Lawrence, which would only escalate and then be eclipsed by the violence of the Civil War.