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James Montgomery

Portrait of James Montgomery

"Jayhawker."  Born: December 22, 1814, Ohio.  Died: December 6, 1871, Linn County, Kansas.

James Montgomery was one of Kansas' most famous (or infamous) "jayhawkers." Born in Ohio in 1814, Montgomery moved to Kentucky, taught school, and became a minister in the "Campbellite" church. Then he went to Missouri where he lived with his second wife until soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

Montgomery purchased a claim in Linn County, near Mound City, and quickly became a recognized leader of the free-state movement. In 1857 he organized a company of men to protect the free-state minority of southeast Kansas and to harass pro-slave settlements in Kansas and Missouri. While this type of activity abated for some months in 1859 and 1860, shortly before the Civil War officially began in April 1861, Montgomery and Charles "Doc" Jennison renewed their earlier activities and reportedly began "operating a ring of 'desperate jayhawkers' engaged in regular robbing. Stolen mounts were recognized up in Iowa, and jocular people said that the pedigree of every good horse was 'out of Missouri by Jennison.'"

Montgomery soon joined the regular service, being elected colonel of the Third Kansas Volunteer Infantry, a part of "Lane's Brigade." When the Third, which gained quite a reputation along with the rest of the brigade for its jayhawking, was consolidated with some other units to form the Tenth Kansas Volunteer Infantry in April 1862, Montgomery remained the regiment's colonel. In early 1863, however, he transferred to the Second Regiment, South Carolina Colored Volunteers, and helped fill its ranks with black recruits. Throughout 1863 and part of 1864, Montgomery practiced his brand of Kansas warfare in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. In 1864 he resigned his commission, returned to Kansas, and ended his military career as colonel of the Sixth Kansas State Militia, which was active in October of that year during the threatened invasion by General Sterling Price.

After the war, Montgomery returned to his Linn County farm, where he died, December 6, 1871.

Entry: Montgomery, James

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 1969

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.