Marais des Cygnes massacre

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Depiction of massacre

The Marais des Cygnes Massacre is considered the last significant act of violence in Bleeding Kansas prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War. On May 19, 1858, approximately 30 men led by Charles Hamilton, a Georgia native and proslavery leader, crossed into the Kansas Territory from Missouri. They arrived at Trading Post, Kansas in the morning and then headed back to Missouri. Along the way they captured 11 Free-Staters, none of whom were armed and, it is said, none of whom had participated in the ongoing violence. Most of the men knew Hamilton and apparently did not realize he meant them harm. These prisoners were led into a defile, where Hamilton ordered the men to shoot. He even shot and fired the first bullet himself. Five men were killed.

Hamilton and his gang returned to Missouri. Only one man was ever brought to justice. William Griffith of Bates County, Missouri, was arrested in the spring of 1863 and hanged on October 30 of that year. Charles Hamilton returned to Georgia, where he died in 1880.

The incident horrified the nation and inspired John Greenleaf Whittier to write a poem on the murders, "Le Marais du Cygne", which appeared in the September 1858 Atlantic Monthly. [1]

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Coordinates: 38°16′53″N 94°37′11″W / 38.28139°N 94.61972°W / 38.28139; -94.61972