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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Rich Smyth's Where Are They Now? Interesting Connections

In 1854 Free-stater David Chase Buffum was in the second group sponsored by the emigrant aid company to arrive in Kansas to fight for the cause of freedom. He left Salem, Massachusetts with his cousin Robert Buffum, a hide tanner from the same state, making the cross country trip in four days. He took a land grant and began farming. He also joined a Free-state militia being assigned to Company D, Second Regiment, 1st Brigade of Kansas Volunteers.1 

An acquaintance described David as 
a shoemaker from Lynn, Massachusetts. He was slim in stature, of medium height, with a large brain. He would not be called brilliant, but was a strong, deep thinker. He was rather slow in action and speech, but in thought and expression was the very impersonation of a pure, genuine Yankee. He was brave and daring, ...though in manners he was modest and retiring. He took his claim four miles west of Lawrence.
The "Kickapoo Rangers," was a pro-slavery militia, who numbered between 250 to 300, and had been plundering throughout the region. Previously, members of this group had visited Buffum’s farm stealing a horse, saddle, bridle, chickens and two double barreled shot guns.

On September 16th 1856 Buffum was plowing a field on his farm when members of the group again approached. Six of this band including Charles Hays, Henry Titus and local Sheriff Samuel Jones took the blind horse Buffum was using before Hays shot him in the stomach. Prior to his death, Buffum was able to give an affidavit describing his murder:
Oh, this was a most unprovoked and horrid murder! They asked me for my horses, and I plead with them not to take them. I told them that I was a cripple--a poor lame man-- that I had an aged father, a deaf-and- dumb brother, and two sisters, all depending upon me for a living, and my horses were all I had with which to procure it. One of them said I was a God d---d abolitionist, and seizing me by the shoulder with one hand, he shot me with a pistol that he held in the other. I am dying; but my blood will cry to Heaven for vengeance, and this horrible deed will not go unpunished. I die a martyr to the cause of freedom, and my death will do much to aid that cause.
David Buffum headstone
(Kansas Historical Society)
Although arrested twice, Hays managed to avoid prosecution with the help of pro-slavery individuals including judges and sheriffs. He eventually left the area for Colorado. Buffum’s grave remains unmarked today with the original marker now in the collection of the Kansas Historical Society. An account from the society provides the only provenance:
The stone was given to the Society in 1919, and the only statement from that time indicates the stone, found in two pieces, was found in a field and brought to Topeka and the Historical Society. Given that the Oread Cemetery saw a lack of care for many years, the field may well have been the cemetery itself.2
David Buffum’s cousin, Robert Buffum left Kansas with his wife Elizabeth, headed for Ohio. Prior to that time and after his cousin’s murder, there were unsubstantiated reports that David was involved with John Brown. Where and when is not known.

David Chase Buffum unmarried, died the day after being shot on September 17th 1856 and was buried in Oread Cemetery (Pioneer Cemetery). The marker shown above was placed on his grave. Etched into the stone is the following:
His death, although a great loss to his friends and the community has been a great gain to the cause of Freedom. He was devoted to the cause for which he suffered, his last words being “I am willing to die for the cause of Freedom in Kansas.
The marker disappeared from the plot sometime in the early part of the 20th Century and shortly thereafter presented to the Kansas State Historical Society where it can be viewed at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.

David Chase Buffum is buried in Pioneer Cemetery,
Lawrence, Kan., in an unmarked grave
(Friends of Oread Cemetery -http://bit.ly/2lHluX9)
The cemetery originally called Oread Cemetery, is located on the University of Kansas West Campus near the Lied Center.

David’s brother, Robert Buffum enlisted in the 21st Ohio Infantry at the outbreak of the Civil War. A civilian scout by the name of James J. Andrews devised a plan to destroy the Western and Atlantic Railroad link from Georgia to Chattanooga, which would isolate Atlanta. Two civilians and twenty-two Union soldiers would participate. Robert being one of those soldiers that volunteered.

This event proved to be one of the most dramatic in the history of the conflict. Books were written about the incident and movies made; “The Great Locomotive Chase” or “Andrews Raid.” The first ever Medals of Honor were awarded to some of the participants.

Monument in National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tenn.,
marking mass grave of executed Great Locomotive Chase raiders
(Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Div., Washington, D.C.
Photograph taken by William Henry Jackson in 1902
On April 12th 1862 a northbound train being pulled by a locomotive named The General stopped at Big Shanty, Georgia. The twenty-four northern raiders commandeered the train. With Confederates in pursuit, the raiders took off north. After 80 miles The General ran out of fuel and "The Great Locomotive Chase" ended. Within two weeks they were all captured with the civilians and some of the soldiers hung while the rest were placed in prison camps.3

Six soldiers and one civilian (William "Bill" Campbell), were convicted as spies and hung with their bodies buried unceremoniously in an unmarked grave. Later the remains were transferred to the National Cemetery in Chattanooga. Andrews' body was temporarily buried at the site of the execution. His remains were also reinterred in the National Cemetery on October 16th 1887. The gravestone and monument are near the Ohio Memorial (Section H, grave No. 12,982).

James J. Andrews grave,
National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tenn.
(Find A Grave/Kurt Lau #46787540).
Robert Buffum along with the remaining soldiers was placed in various southern prison camps until March 17th 1863, when he was included in a prisoner exchange. On March 25th 1863, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism in the raid. The medal was presented by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Robert was then escorted to the White House for an audience with President Lincoln. He was the third person to receive the medal at that time.

Unfortunately, the rest of his war career did not go so well. After being promoted to Second Lieutenant on May 24th 1863, he was listed as absent without leave from June 22nd to December 12th of that year. This was not the first time he had been reported as AWOL. Doctors granted him leave after leave to recover from mental stress. Finally the military had had enough and forced him to resign. The cause of his military resignation was "for the good of the service" on April 28th 1864.

A drinking problem he had developed in the army extended to civilian life and he was arrested for some unknown offense and confined to an insane asylum for three years. Upon release he continued drinking. In Minerva, Ohio he got into an argument with someone that said President Lincoln should be hung. Robert shot the man and was confined in prison. The victim left the area before testifying and Robert was released.

Robert Buffum grave marker,
adjacent to Soule Cemetery
(New York Correction History Society)
Robert had been out of the hospital for only a month and with his wife and one son was staying at the home of John S. Seaverns at 116 Grand Street, Newburgh, New York (opposite Saint Georges Church). They had been there several days when on September 1st 1870 Robert accused Seaverns of abusing his wife the previous evening. Seaverns offered Robert money to leave which was refused. While Seaverns was having tea in the living room of his home with his own wife, Robert shot him in the back of the head with a double barreled pistol he had purchase earlier that day.5 After his discharge, Robert and his family which included a daughter and at least two sons, returned to Massachusetts. His troubles continued and he was again committed to an insane asylum for another three years.4

Found guilty of murder, Robert was sent to Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York on May 23rd 1871. Six days later he was transferred to the State Asylum for Insane Criminals in Auburn, New York.6

On July 20th 1871, Robert barricaded the door to his cell and with a razor cut his own throat. He was buried the next day in an unmarked grave at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York. Sometime after his initial burial, convict remains were reinterred in a mass grave about 3 1⁄2 miles away in the town of Sennett adjacent to the Soule Cemetery. The unidentified remains of 240 convicts were buried ten to a box. Although they cannot be certain, historians and researchers feel that the body of Robert Buffum is located with the other remains in the mass grave.

The grave stayed unmarked until July 29th 1995, when the Medal of Honor Society found his remains and placed a Medal of Honor grave marker on his plot.

The cemetery is located on Franklin Street Road, Sennett, New York.--Rich Smyth

      1The New England Emigrant Aid Company (originally the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company) was a transportation company founded in Boston, Massachusetts by activist Eli Thayer in the wake of the Kansas– Nebraska Act, which allowed the population of Kansas Territory to choose whether slavery would be legal.  Note: Eli Thayer died in Worcester, Massachusetts April 15th 1899; interment in Hope Cemetery.
       2 Sara J. Keckeisen, Librarian, Curator Kansas Historical Society. Statement supplied by, via email to the author on November 24th 2015.
      3 There is a historic marker in downtown Atlanta, at the corner of 3rd and Juniper streets, marking the site where Andrews was hanged.
     4 Andrew J. DeKever “Here Rests in Honored Glory,” CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 14, 2012), p. 36 (http://bit.ly/2kE7hKg).
        5  Ibid.
        6  Ibid.

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