In 1854 a shooting war developed between proslavery men from Missouri and free-staters in Kansas over control of the territory. The prize was whether Kansas would become a slave or a free state when admitted to the Union, a question that could decide the balance of power in Washington. War to the Knife is an absorbing account of a bloody episode in our nation's past, told in the unforgettable words of the men and women involved: Robert E. Lee, William Tecumseh Sherman, Sara Robinson, Jeb Stuart, Abraham Lincoln, William F. Cody, and John Brown—hailed as a prophet by some, denounced as a madman by others.
Because the conflict soon spread east, events in “Bleeding Kansas” have largely been forgotten. But as historian Thomas Goodrich reveals in this compelling saga, what America's “first civil war” lacked in numbers, it more than made up for in ferocity.
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Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, the principal southern states began to threaten and then to achieve secession before Lincoln's inauguration. Fort Sumter was an outpost of the US Army in Charleston Harbor, which the Confederate States bombarded and captured in 1861 as the first engagement of the Civil War. Buffalo Bill Cody killed buffalos during the construction of the transcontinental railways and later became a showman. John Brown was an abolitionist who believed that violence against slavery was justified, as he showed in the assault at Harpers Ferry in 1860. Missouri, acquired from France through the Louisiana Purchase, was a border state that remained in the Union during the Civil War. Kansas was a battleground between pro- and anti-slavery forces before being admitted to the Union as a free state in 1861.