Law and Order League of Kansas

Missouri Bushwackers

Pro-slavery men from Missouri.

The Law and Order League of Kansas, also known as the Army of Law and Order, was established in 1855.

This was the strong arm of the Law & Order Party that was organized at a meeting in Leavenworth, Kansas, on October 3, 1855. The Law & Order Party was established in opposition to the Free State Party at a meeting at Big Springs in August and a convention in Topeka in September.

From the name of this organization, one would naturally suppose that it was formed to promote peace, prosperity, and good government among the people of Kansas. However, this was not the case.

The pro-slavery members of the Law & Order Party felt it necessary to counter growing free-state opposition to the measures passed by the Bogus Legislature and appeal to southerners nationwide to come to their aid. One of the resolutions of the Law & Order meeting expressed their attitude toward free-state opposition:

“Resolved, That we hold the doctrine to be strictly true, that no man or set of men are at liberty to resist a law passed by a legislative body, legally organized, unless they choose by their actions to constitute themselves rebels and traitors, and take all the consequences that legitimately follow the failure of a revolution.” 

The party and the league were formed during the turmoil known as “Bleeding Kansas,” which would determine whether the territory would become a “free” or “slave” state.

Citing criminal violence as justification to target, attack, and arrest persons associated with the Free-State cause, the Law and Order League was tasked with enforcement.

David Rice Atchison

David Rice Atchison

The strength of the force, variously estimated at from 500 to 1,100 men, was organized by David R. Atchison and John H. Stringfellow, whose policy was banishment or extermination of all Free-State men in the territory. Law and Order organizers drew military officers from as far away as Florida to intimidate armed abolitionists arriving from the North.

The “army” was divided into two regiments, with Atchison as Commander-in-Chief. The organization’s headquarters were at Little Santa Fe on the Missouri border, some 15 miles south of Westport. Among the outrages committed by this force was robbing the Quaker Mission because the Quakers were known to assist fugitive slaves. The cattle and horses belonging to the mission were driven off, articles of value were appropriated, and for a time, the mission was broken up.

In the latter part of August 1856, the “army” was preparing to attack the city of Lawrence when Governor John Geary’s timely arrival stopped the proceedings. The Army of Law and Order was a part of the militia disbanded by Governor John Geary, and it was never reorganized.

Compiled by Kathy Alexander/Legends of Kansas, updated March 2024.

Also See:

Bleeding Kansas & the Missouri Border War

Emigrant Aid Societies

Kansas – The Sunflower State

Organizations & Associations in Kansas History


Blackmar,  Frank W., Cyclopedia of State History, Volume I, Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912.
Kansas Bogus Legislature