Much has been written of the civilians present at the First Battle of Bull Run, mostly in a dismissive, derogatory manner. David Detzer treats the matter more practically and, I think, fairly in Donnybrook. Many of these observers had familial or official ties to the men of McDowell’s army (I hesitate to refer to the army as “Army of Northeastern Virginia”, because while I have found that there was such a department, I can find nothing on any such officially named army). Quite a few were politicians, including the Secretaries of State and the Treasury. Secretary of War Cameron shuttled back and forth between Washington and McDowell’s HQ. Various senators and representatives from congress were present, as many of the participants were their constituents. These included Senator Wilson of Massachusetts, Senator Wade of Ohio, and Congressman Ely of New York, who wandered so near the front that he was captured by the rebels. Rhode Island governor Sprague – who later would capture one of the most sought after prizes of the Civil War, Secretary Chase’s daughter, the alluring Kate – took a hand in the direction of infantry and artillery on the battlefield.
And among those present at the battle were two senators from western states who would later become Union generals, John Logan of Illinois and James Lane of Kansas.
My favorite Lane photo can be found in Edward Leslie’s deeply flawed The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders. That photo, showing an impossibly coiffed Lane, is reproduced courtesy of the Kansas State Historical Society, but I couldn’t find it on their website. I imagine it is a moneymaker for them. If anyone has a digital copy of it, let me know.
Senator Jim (not to be confused with Reverend Jim, pictured here)
was born in either Boone County, KY or Lawrenceburg, IN, in 1814. His father was a judge and politician, and at one time a member of Congress. Jim followed his father into the law and politics, led Indiana troops in the war with Mexico, and eventually represented Indiana in Congress (1853-1855), where he voted in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska act.
In 1855, Lane relocated to Kansas, perhaps to help organize the Democrat party in the territory. Corruption in the party there led to the formation of the Topeka Movement, a free-state organization. The movement was a coalition of New Englanders and Westerners, and Lane headed up the western contingent. While no abolitionist, Lane was opposed to pro-slavery efforts to admit slavery into the territories through nefarious means. He came to lead the military arm of the movement and took to appearing in military garb.
In 1856, on behalf of the free-state Topeka government Lane petitioned Congress for Kansas’ admission to the Union as a state. Oddly, all of the signatures on the petition appeared to be written by the same person. While he was in Washington, fighting broke out between pro-slavery and free-state forces in Kansas. Lane raised an army and entered Kansas from Iowa and Nebraska. Union army forces under territorial governor John Geary calmed things down, and Lane returned to his law practice and farm.
In 1858, Jim Lane killed another free-state settler over a property line disagreement. He was acquitted of murder but maintained his political influence, and when Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861 Lane represented the new state in the U. S. Senate. In the early days of the war, Lane formed a group of Kansas men called the Frontier Guard and assigned them the role of protecting the White House.
Around this time, Lane and President Lincoln became friendly, and AL would later take sides with Lane in disputes with Kansas Governor Charles Robinson, the former leader of the New England contingent of the Topeka Movement. Lincoln appointed Lane a brigadier general of US volunteers in August 1861. You won’t find him in Generals in Blue – his commission was cancelled in March of 1862 because sitting congressmen were not permitted to hold a general officer commission. However he was reinstated the following month. As far as I know, Lane is the only person to hold both the office and the commission without being required to give one up, a sign of one hell of a politician.
During the war Lane directed some small operations along the Missouri-Kansas border. He was reelected to his seat in the Senate in 1865. At the end of the war, he directed Captain Redleg Terrell and Fletcher to apprehend the outlaw Josey Wales, telling Fletcher:
“The war’s over. Our side won the war. Now we must busy ourselves winning the peace. And Fletcher, there’s an old saying: To the victors belong the spoils.” To which Fletcher responded with the classic:
“There’s another old saying, Senator: Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.” Senator Lane came back with his own classic, in response to Fletcher’s outrage at the killing of his guerrillas after their surrender: “They were decently treated. They were decently fed and then they were decently shot. Those men are common outlaws, nothing more.” It’s ironic that an actor named Schofield played Lane in the film, because the real Senator had a run in with General John Schofield in the aftermath of the raid on Lawrence.
[Edit] Some folks didn’t “get it”: the above is a reference to the film “The Outlaw Josey Wales”. The film is fiction.
OK, sorry about that! Anyway, after Lincoln’s assassination Lane unfortunately took the side of Andrew Johnson in his veto of the Civil Rights bill and drew the ire of the Radical Republicans. Coincidentally, he came under investigation for some shady war contracts by which he may have illegally profited. On July 1, 1866, while riding with two friends in Leavenworth, KS, Lane drew his revolver and shot himself in the mouth. He died ten days later and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence, KS (photo from www.findagrave.com). More on Lane and what he did at Bull Run later.