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Bleeding Kansas

November 3, 2016

Sean Michael, October 2016

The abolitionists headed West
and called themselves “Free Soilers.”
They were strong against slavery
but did not welcome blacks to settle.
A separatists state was created.

Slave-owning whites arrived with another notion:
To take slavery across the nation to the Pacific Ocean.
The free soilers resisted their presence,
but laws were passed that banned even speaking against a “Pro-Slaver.”
Free soilers countered by holding their own elections and creating their own laws.

A dichotomous government was formed and struggled in vain
over what is right and what is wrong.
Only causing pain,
because a state divided in two
by principal and moral view is preoccupied and feeble.

When a pro-slavery sheriff is shot down,
800 angry men retaliate and march on the town.
Hatred blazes through the countryside
as even women and children die.
There is no turning back now.

Free State Men shooting at John Little inside store (National Park Service)

Free State Men shooting at John Little inside store (National Park Service)

This war they dare call “civil” begins in the East
in 1861 as guns explode.
The conflict in “Bleeding Kansas” forebodes
that father and son will turn their guns against each other;
brother will kill brother.

During lulls in the fighting, they share tobacco and whiskey,
then return to the front lines and resume one knee.
Black powder burns the air.
Musket balls burrow in flesh.
Gangrenous infections devour limbs creating amputees.

Famine spreads through the ranks.
Confederate soldiers pillage boots and coats from the dead,
as Lincoln operates the telegraph and directs Union soldiers.
Destroying the southern railways would prove to be the ultimate coup
as rebels froze and died cut off from supply lines.

“There is no greater task before us…” Lincoln said
before an assassin’s bullet smashed into his head
in a last ditch effort by the Confederacy to dismantle the Union government
and commence with guerrilla warfare against a grieving North.
Sic semper tyrannis; thus always to tyrants.

War, bellowed General Nathan Forrest, means killing;
and the confederate president orders the remaining regiments to continue the fight.
But battle-worn and weary General Johnston surrenders his troops.
The Unionist were no angels and even Lincoln contradicted his stances on slavery,
but when the war was over, there was no doubt both sides fought
with tremendous bravery.

Free.
Free as the air.
It would be long after Lincoln spoke those words that freedom had any meaning,
long after the heart of Kansas began bleeding.
Dare to defy, dare to dream, and be free from the bondage of
spiritual slavery.

 

Posted for  dVerse Poets, Open Link Night #183, November 3, 2016

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From → BLOG, Poetry

16 Comments
  1. Are we really over it yet? I feel that there are so many aspects of slavery still at play

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  2. Nebraska permalink

    Powerful work, Sean.

    This is my favorite section:

    “because a state divided in two
    by principal and moral view is preoccupied and feeble.

    When a pro-slavery sheriff is shot down,
    800 angry men retaliate and march on the town.
    Hatred blazes through the countryside
    as even women and children die.
    There is no turning back now.”

    Like

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this piece and there will be more like it in future. I’m on an historical trip right now. Peace.

      Like

  3. Great piece here and so relevant in today’s world.

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  4. I appreciate the references to history..and that ending of spiritual slavery made me pause ~ Good one Sean ~

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    • History’s been on my mind lately and I’ve enjoyed writing about it. Yes, spiritual slavery is surrendering to the struggle.

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  5. Great historical piece, Sean…and it seems that much of that history is being revisited today. Will we ever learn?

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  6. I can’t say I enjoyed this piece, Sean, as it made me angry and sad. It also taught me about American history, so much violence and death which we don’t really know much about over here. Thank you.

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    • Yes, I thought it’d evoke some of these emotions. I hope that can find beauty in these feelings, associated with art. It’s an expression of the human heart and condition. You’re welcome and thank you as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Some strong reflections of the wrongs of the past. I only wish we were beyond it all. Evolution of humanity is moving way too slowly. Nice to see you join in, Sean.

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    • People are upset about Christopher Columbus and the Confederacy, but times were different then. We can only hope to move forward and make our country better for all Americans. I do think you’re right that evolution is moving slowly and with our new and current political plight… Well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

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  8. My mother’s grandfather moved into southeastern Kansas less than 20 years after this period. My dad’s great grandfather fought for the Union and even took a bullet for Uncle Abe.

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