George F. Warren

George F. Warren was born in Maine in 1822 [Wyandotte Constitution List, KSHS] and grew up in New Hampshire. He left for the west in 1852, working as a carpenter on a steamboat between St. Louis and New Orleans before landing in Leavenworth in March, 1855. He took a job clerking in the Leavenworth Hotel, where he met a crowd of Missourians coming for the March 30 "Bogus Election." He told the Howard Committee that men arrived from Weston, Independence, Lexington and elsewhere in Missouri, heavily armed and determined to vote in Kansas. The steamer "New Lucy" landed from Weston with more than 200 "voters" who voted and returned to the boat after dinner, then sailed away. But so many stayed at the hotel over night that the hotel was forced to put 30 men in one room. [Howard Committee, 395]

White House East Room, 1858

The East Room was in disrepair after the Kansas Frontier Guards drilled and slept there in April 1861, ruining the carpet and ceiling with their boots and guns while panic gripped the Capital in the wake of Fort Sumner.
[White House Historical Association]

Although he was a small man, weighing about 110 pounds, Warren was a born fighter and always ready for action. [Still, Autobiography, Ch.4] He joined the secret "Kansas Legion" of free-state men, organized in Lawrence in April 1855 to combat the corresponding "Blue Lodge" of Missouri. Elaborate ceremonies were devised and several "encampments" organized. [Blackmar, History, 491ff.] The Kansas Legion failed to achieve respectability among free-state leaders who "took no part in its operations." [Gihon, Geary and Kansas, Ch.8] Warren's attempt to swallow the Legion's Charter to prevent its capture was recorded in the Congressional Record in 1856:

"The Committee has been put in possession of a small printed publication containing the 'constitution and ritual of the grand encampment and regiments of the Kansas Legion of the Kansas Territory, adopted April 4, 1855, 'which during the recent disturbances in that Territory, was taken on the person of one George F. Warren, who attempted to conceal destroy the same, by thrusting it into his mouth, and biting and chewing it. Although somewhat mutilated by the 'tooth prints,' it bears internal evidence of being a genuine document, authenticated by the original signatures of 'G.W. Hutchinson, grand general' and J. K. Goodwin, grand quartermaster.' On the last page was a charter of the Kansas Legion, authorizing the said George F. Warren, from whose mouth the document was taken, to form a new regiment.." [Greeley, Struggle, 104]

He was at the Sand Bank meeting, the Big Springs Convention, and was in the militia during the "Wakarusa War" in November 1855. [Cutler, History, Shawnee County, Part 7] He was elected Sergeant at Arms of the 1857-1858 House in Lecompton [KHC10:170] and was again Sergeant at Arms for the Leavenworth Constitutional Convention in 1858. One member remembered Warren's devotion to Jim Lane at the convention:

"All eyes were on him (Lane). The drowsy members sat upright. As he proceeded with his speech the interest intensified, and members began to gather round him, sitting upon the desks and standing in the aisles. I shall never forget the scene---the dimly lit room; the darkness without; the excited men within; little Warren, the Sergeant-at-Arms, standing unconscious upon the floor, with partly outstretched arms, and wholly carried away by the speech..." [Thatcher, Leavenworth Convention,13]

Warren was again Sergeant at Arms for the 1859 Wyandotte Convention. When William McDowell called John James Ingall a "liar and a coward," the "indefatigable Warren made tracks for the seats of the minority members." [KHC 7:136] In 1860, he attended the Railroad Convention in Topeka, where as a resident of Baldwin City, he represented Douglas County. where he resided in Baldwin City. [Glick, Railroad Convention,473]

In April 1861, Washington was in chaos. The White House seemed threatened and Jim Lane stepped forward to protect the Lincoln family. Lane's Kansas Frontier Guards could calm nerves, no matter their limited military value. Lincoln, who knew Lane from earlier times, accepted his help and the Guard, including the elderly private George Warren, set up camp in the East Room. Historian Erich Langsdorf said that "the whole story of Jim Lane and the Frontier Guard is a strange mixture of fantasy and fact." But "the Guard was a psychological factor of real importance in helping to calm the city's nerves, no matter what its military value may have been." [Langsdorf, Jim Lane, 14]

Charles Clark