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“Voices Through Time: Character and Characteristics of the Kansas-Missouri Border War” provides opportunities for AP students to “taste the full menu” of a highly complex issue involving numerous pers


Computers & Internet, Social Studies  


11, 12  

Title – Voices Through Time:Character and Characteristics of The Kansas-Missouri Border War
By – Joel Latman
Primary Subject – Social Studies
Secondary Subjects – Computers / Internet
Grade Level – 11-12 AP-Upper Level US History

Note from

    This lesson plan relies heavily on photographs and cartoons that we do not have the rights to publish. Hopefully, with a little research, you should be able to find these pictures yourself, or assign the research to your students. You might also be able to request assistance from the lesson plan author.

Introduction: This lesson plan was presented to Dr. Mary Ann Wynkoop, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City, in partial fulfillment for the requirements of the NEH Landmarks in History Institute — Crossroads of Conflict: Contested Visions of Freedom and The Missouri-Kansas Border Wars Rationale: Mom, what’s for dinner?

      Far too often, the response is:

Let’s have take-out

      , or

Let’s go to the neighborhood fast food restaurant

      . This is acceptable on occasion, but a steady diet of fast food is not healthy; it only briefly satisfies one’s taste buds. Over time, fast foods loose their flavor and essence and become even more bland to the palette. A steady diet of burgers, fries and a coke eventually becomes mundane. It has been stated, “variety is the spice of life”. Today teenagers often become “addicted” to fast foods, failing to savoir a multiplicity of cuisines because they may never have experienced food from another culture, their parents may not have exposed them to new and different foods, or the appearance of an entrée may not look appetizing, or even appear messy to the eye.
      Unfortunately, according to Mount Holyoke historian Dr. Jonathan Liippman, the above scenario holds true as adolescents learn United States history. Dr. Lippman has stated that to arouse student interest “history needs to be messy, the messier the better.”

High school learners need to be aware that history involves various idiosyncratic personalities in an mélange of interactive experiences with one another.

      These characteristics of individuals provide “unique ingredients and various spices” giving unique flavors to history. History does not occur in a vacuum. No two people react to the same situation in the same way.

Traditional high school textbooks provide a homogenized approach to the study of United States history. Schoolbooks tend to gloss over, or even exclude biographical backgrounds and personal anecdotes, which contribute to a student’s deeper understanding and greater appreciation for United States history.

    A system of “pasteurization” is employed that filters out the “cream”, and thus secondary textbooks become mundane and bland, thus dulling the “taste buds”, stifling natural curiosity and inquisitiveness. Over time, from grades 1-11 students become weaned on a steady “fast food diet” approach to the study of our nation’s interesting and often times provocative past.


The purpose of “Voices Through Time: Character and Characteristics of the Kansas-Missouri Border War” is to provide opportunities for advanced placement and upper level grade 11-12 United States history students to conduct primary and secondary research and gain a more in-depth understanding of people, places and events in the cavalcade and march to our nation’s Civil War . Students will “taste the full menu” of what United States has to offer. They will learn that the Border War was a highly complex issue involving numerous personalities engaged in a series of many significant historical events.

National and Connecticut State Social Studies Standards:

  • Content Standard 1: Individual Development and Identity

    All humans think, learn, act, and develop cognitively, socially, physically, emotionally, personally, and mentally as well as construct, test, confirm, revise, and apply multiple concepts of and multiple identities as to who they are. While much of what humans are and become has been associated with genetics and assumed natural stages of physical, psychological, emotional, and mental development, a far greater factor in mental, social, emotional, personal, and identity construction and application is the interaction of the individual with his or her environments and the consequences of these interactions. All individuals should know the factors that contribute to who they are; to what they think, feel, and believe; to what they decide and do; to why they are likely to make certain decisions and act in particular ways; and to how they perceive themselves, their abilities, their personality, and the world.


    The student thinks chronologically, therefore, the student is able to:

    • Distinguish between past, present, and future time.
    • Identify the temporal structure of a historical narrative or story: its beginning, middle, and end (the latter defined as the outcome of a particular beginning).
    • Establish temporal order in constructing their [students’] own historical narratives: working forward from some beginning through its development, to some end or outcome; working backward from some issue, problem, or event to explain its origins and its development over time.


    The student engages in historical issues-analysis and decision-making, therefore, the student is able to:

    • identify problems and dilemmas confronting people in historical stories, myths, legends, and fables, and in the history of their school, community, state, nation, and the world.
    • Analyze the interests, values, and points of view of those involved in the dilemma or problem situation. Identify causes of the problem or dilemma.
    • Propose alternative ways of resolving the problem or dilemma and evaluate each in terms of ethical consideration (is it fair? just?), the interest of the different people involved, and the likely consequences of each proposal.
    • Formulate a position or course of action on an issue by identifying the nature of the problem, analyzing the underlying factors contributing to the problem, and choosing a plausible solution from a choice of carefully evaluated options.
    • Identify the solution chosen by characters in the story or in the historical situation; or, recommend a course of action they. Evaluate the consequences of the actions taken.
    • Explain how events after the Compromise of 1850 and the Dred Scott decision in 1857 contributed to increasing sectional polarization. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
  • Content Standard 2: Local, United States, and World History
    • Students will use historical thinking skills to develop an understanding of the major historical periods, issues and trends in United States history, world history, and Connecticut and local history.
    • Demonstrate an under-standing of major events and trends in world history, United States and local history from all historical periods and from all the regions of the world.
    • Analyze the causes and consequence of significant events that were associated with “Bleeding Kansas” and the onset of the Civil War.
    • Locate the events, peoples and places they have studied in time and place ( e.g., on a time line and map) relative to their own location.
    • Explain relationships among the events and trends studied in local, national and world history.
    • Identify various parties and analyze their interest in conflicts from selected historical periods.
    • Describe, explain and analyze political, economic and social consequences that came about as the resolution of a conflict.
    • Demonstrate an under-standing of the ways race; gender, ethnicity and class issues have affected individuals and societies in the past.
    • Demonstrate and perform specific research techniques and skills to locate and analyze primary source materials.
    • Analyze specific quotations and character descriptions to identify significant people and
      the roles they played in major events of the mid-nineteenth century.

Who Am I ?

      Using the descriptions and quotations listed below, please match each with the corresponding person’s photograph, best painting or most accurate political cartoon. Please place the correct name in the space that is provided at the left. Please note that each photograph, painting or political cartoon may be used only once.
      ____________ 1. Prior to my death I uttered these words “I _______ ________ am now quite certain the crimes of this guilty land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think; vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done.”
      ____________ 2. The fourteenth President of the United States, to strengthen the Democratic Party in Kansas appointed me Kansas’ first territorial governor. Who am I ?
      ____________ 3. My political enemies portrayed me as “a politician who coveted the White House, sought to overturn the Missouri Compromise and to introduce popular sovereignty into Kansas-Nebraska Territory. Who am I ?
      ____________ 4. “All persons living in Jackson, Cass, and Bates Counties, Missouri, and in the part of Vernon included in this district, except those living in 1 mile of Independence, Hickman Mills, Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville, Creek and west of the Big Blue are hereby ordered to remove from their present places of residence within fifteen days from the date hereof. Those who, within that time establish their loyalty to the satisfaction of the commanding officer of the military station nearest their present places of residence will receive from him certificates stating the fact of their loyalty, and the names of the witnesses to remove to any military station in the district, or to any part of the State of Kansas except counties on the eastern border of the State”. I issued this order in response to violence occurring the Border War. Who am I ?
      ____________ 5. As a leading benefactor of the New England Emigrant Aid Company (NEEAC), I provided resources for the establishment for a non-slave owners’ settlement in Kansas Territory. Who am I ?
      ____________ 6. “At the front door the gang entered, met by Julia and her frightened children. Cursing and yelling fiercely, they demanded her husband. Receiving no reply from the terror-stricken woman, the men crashed through the home, up and down, from one room to the next, madly hunting their prey. Failing in this, it was decided simply to smoke the victim out. Setting the house on fire, the raiders fell back into the street to watch and wait for the mayor’s appearance.” I was the leader of this 1863 guerrilla raid into the bastion of free state territory. Who am I ?
      ____________ 7. “You and your people are aggressors upon our rights. You come to drive our ‘peculiar institution and us’ from Kansas. We do not intend, cost what it may, to be driven or deprived of any of our rights.” Who was responsible for making this statement ?
      ____________ 8.” Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that all that part of the territory of the United States included within the following limits, except such portions thereof as are hereinafter expressly exempted from the operations of this act, to wit: beginning at a point in the Missouri River where the fortieth parallel of north latitude crosses the same; then west on said parallel to the east boundary of the Territory of Utah, the summit of the Rocky Mountains; thence on said summit northwest to the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude; thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the territory of Minnesota; thence southward on said boundary to the Missouri River; thence down the main channel of said river to the place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby, created into a temporary government by the name of the Territory Nebraska; and when admitted as a State or States, the said Territory or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union with without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of the admission: Provided, That nothing in this act contained shall be construed to inhibit the government of the United States from dividing said Territory into two or more Territories, in such manner and at such time as Congress shall deem convenient and proper, or from attaching a portion of said Territory to any other State or Territory of the United States.” I maneuver this legislation through the U.S. Senate. Who am I ?
      ____________ 9. On the morning of August 21, 1863, being one of the youngest members, “I rode with the Devil” – killing more than 150 Kansas adolescent boys and free-state men. After the Civil War, I gained fame by committing train robberies. Who am I ?
      ____________ 10. “Cowering over the cabin with her four younger children, Mahala Doyle heard two gunshots, moaning, and a “wild whoop.” In the morning, John found the bodies of his father and eldest brother on the road near the house. James Doyle had been shot in the forehead and stabbed in the chest. William’s head was cut open, and his face and side bore knife wounds. Drury lay apart from the others in a ravine. His fingers and arm were severed, his head and chest slashed open”. I was responsible for these actions. Who am I ?
      ____________ 11. Known by the sobriquet “the Grim Chieftain” and as a friend of President Lincoln after Kansas became a free state, I was elected her first United States Senator. I eventually became the most powerful politician west of the Mississippi River during the Civil War. Who am I ?
      ____________ 12. “My enemies accused my bill of violating ‘a sacred pledge,’ of being ‘part and parcel of an atrocious plot’ to transform the northern portion of the old Louisiana Purchase ‘into a dreary region of despotism, inhabited by masters and slaves'”. Who am I ?
      ____________ 13. I was present when President Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and remarked to the president: “Your victory is but an adjournment of the question from the halls of legislation at Washington to the prairies of the freedom-loving West, and there, sir, we shall beat you.” As one who was opposed to slavery in Kansas, I was opposed to violence. I eventually became a national senator from Kansas. Who am I ?
      ____________ 14. As a result of my ruling (1) blacks could not be citizens of the United States; (2) slaves were property protected by the Constitution; and (3) a state could decide for itself if someone formerly emancipated should revert to slavery within that state’s boundaries. Coming when forces already were setting the stage for Civil War, Who am I ?
      ____________ 15. Following the Bushwhackers attack on Kansas in August of 1863, the federal government declared martial war. In 1869 -1870, still disturbed and angered by this hostile action, I responded in a unique way. My efforts and response to this day remain evident to my fellow Americans. Who am I ?
      ____________ 16. Two months before I took office, my wife and I saw our eleven-year-old son killed when our train was wrecked. After pro-slavery Border Ruffians, mostly from Missouri, illegally voted in a government which I recognized, I called the Topeka Constitution, a shadow government set up by Free-Staters, an act of “rebellion.” I continued to recognize the pro-slavery legislature even after a congressional investigative committee found its election illegitimate. I dispatched federal troops to break up a meeting of the shadow government in Topeka. The act provoked outrage among northerners who saw me as kowtowing to slave-holding interests, and contributed to critical estimates of me as untrustworthy and easily manipulated. My motto eventually became “there’s nothing left to do, but get drunk.” Who am I ?
      ____________ 17. In 1853-54 I was a representative in the Massachusetts legislature and while there, originated and organized the New England Emigrant Aid Company. I worked to combine the northern states in support of my plan to send antislavery settlers into Kansas. Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, and Osawatomie, Kansas, were settled under the auspices of my company. Who am I ?
      ____________ 18. I represented the “radical” or abolitionist wing of the free state movement, but I was also a coalition builder, and thus became a founder and leader of the Free State Party established in the summer of 1855. My cool, detached leadership provided a stabilizing influence on the party —a counter balance to the much more volatile Jim Lane—and he was subsequently elected governor of under the “extra-illegal” Topeka Constitution. I helped negotiate a truce that ended the “Wakarusa War”. Who am I ?
      ____________ 19. At the beginning of the Civil War, I was personally opposed secession. I was elected presiding officer of the Missouri State leaving the Union. Things changed drastically, however, when Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon seized the state’s Camp Jackson at St. Louis. Outraged by this act, I joined with the Southerners, and was assigned by pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne Jackson to command the newly reformed Missouri State Guard in May 1861. I temporarily secured the city of St. Louis for the South I won even a greater victory at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which resulted in Lyon’s death and temporary Confederate control of southwestern Missouri. Who am I ?
    ____________ 20. On May 21, 1856, as their leader, together with a group of proslavery men acting as a posse, entered Lawrence intent on destroying the offices of the Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State. In the raid that followed we destroyed the newspaper offices (dumping their type in the Kansas River), looted several other businesses, and burned the Free State Hotel (later the Eldridge House). This action became widely known as the “first sack Lawrence.” Who am I?


Selected Bibliography:

Collins, Robert. Jim Lane: Scoundrel, Statesmen, Kansan . Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 2007.

Earl, Jonathan. John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry . Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.

Atchison, Nichole. Bleeding Kansas . Lawrence, Kansas: The University of Kansas Press, 2004.

Goodrich, Thomas. Bloody Dawn: The Story of The Lawrence Massacre . Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1991.

Oates, Stephen. To Purge This Land With Blood . New York: Harper &Row;, 1970.

Oates, Stephen. The Approaching Fury . New York: Harper Collins, 1997.

Oates, Stephen. The Whirlwind of War . New York: Harper Collins, 1998.

Siddali, Silvanna. (Editor) Missouri’s War: The Civil War In Documents . Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2009

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