Battle of Old Fort Wayne

An artistic depiction of the massacre

The Marais des Cygnes massacre (/ˌmɛər də ˈzn, - ˈsn, ˈmɛər də zn/,[1][2] also /məˌr də ˈsn, məˌr də ˈsn/)[citation needed] 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 Georgian 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 and five severely wounded. Only one Free-Stater escaped injury.[3]

Hamilton and his gang returned to Missouri. Only one man was ever prosecuted for the crime. William Griffith of Bates County, Missouri, was arrested in the spring of 1863 and was kept until October 30th of that year. Charles Hamilton returned to Georgia, where he died in 1880.

The incident horrified the U.S. and inspired John Greenleaf Whittier to write a poem on the murders, "Le Marais du Cygne", which appeared in the September 1858 The Atlantic Monthly.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Marais des Cygnes". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Marais des Cygnes". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Marais des Cygnes Massacre site - Kansapedia - Kansas Historical Society". Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-12-26. Retrieved 2006-01-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links

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