In May 1856 the Kansas pro-slavery legislature, backed by Pres. Franklin Pierce, authorized a territorial militia unit to arrest leaders of the rebellious free-state legislature and their “governor,” Charles Robinson, in Lawrence, Kan. The 850 militia men included many non-residents of the territory and one of its leaders was former Missouri senator David Rice Atchison. The “Border Ruffians” (as Kansans referred to them) apparently injured no one, but they burned and looted some buildings, including the Free State Hotel. Atchison, himself, allegedly fired a cannon at the hotel but missed.

Two months later at the Indiana Republican State Convention in Indianapolis, an “equestrian burlesque team” called the “Earthquakes” lampooned the “sack of Lawrence” in a “dramatic spectacle,” and featured the principal characters led by the devil in a red suit and a smokestack made to look like a cannon with a small boy inside shooting firecrackers. This song, set to the tune of “The British Grenadiers,” evidently was part of the show. The spelling “Buchaneers” ridicules the newly nominated Democratic presidential candidate James Buchanan, known as “Old Buck.” Although eastern newspapers exaggerated Atchison's role in the Lawrence affair, his actions and his stance on slavery issues during his senatorial tenure made him a national symbol of pro-slavery efforts.

“Quindaro Hornpipe,” the tune that follows “Atchison's Buchaneers,” is one Dave and Cathy heard on a recording by New England fiddlers Allan Block and George Wilson with the name being at least as obscure as the tune itself. Many residents of Kansas City, Kan., however, know an area of their city by that name. Quindaro was an abolitionist town founded in 1857 by Abelard Guthrie and Charles Robinson on the Missouri River six miles above the mouth of the Kansas River. Land for the town was obtained from the Wyandotte Indians, and Guthrie named the town after his wife, who was a member of the tribe. Her name is reportedly a common Wyandotte word meaning, “bunch of little sticks,” translated by abolitionist rhetoric to “in Union there is strength.” The town's history is quite short. Most of its men joined the Union army in 1863, leaving many buildings vacant and a solitary family residing there.

The earliest publication of the tune we have found is in Elias Howe's “Leviathan Collection” in 1858 in Boston. Howe published about 200 different tune collections and his store was a center for music in Boston during the Civil War era. Given the direct link between Massachusetts abolitionists and the Kansas territory, and the widespread publicity in northern and eastern presses concerning Quindaro's founding, it is a good guess that some musician in Massachusetts was inspired by the news of the day to write and/or name a tune for the new town, perhaps for a minstrel show or other stage production. Quindaro had regular dances in its early days, so it is possible the tune originated in this region, although the tune does not seem to be in the regional repertoire of this century.

Let others talk of Taylor, of Bragg and Captain May,
Of Worth and Twiggs and Butler, who fought at Monterey;
Much as we love these heroes, their fame a speck appears
To the row, row, row, row, row, row, row of Atchison's Buchaneers.
The Free State Men are spoonies, that shame their bonny nags,
And bump upon their saddles like to a miller's bags;
But we the Old Line Rangers, sit firm upon our rears
'Mid the row, row, row, row, row, row, row of Atchison's Buchaneers.
The President with wonder admires our jolly pranks;
We come like claps of thunder upon the Yankee's flanks.
Huzzah! We're bloody bandits, no common cavaliers!
O, the row, row, row, row, row, row, row of Atchison's Buchaneers.
Some people say we're fighting 'gainst Freedom's holy cause;
But we hurrah for Atchison, who doesn't mind the Laws.
And with our knives and pistols wipe out the man who jeers,
At the row, row, row, row, row, row, row of Atchison's Buchaneers.
We're patriots, we reckon, and slapping blades we be,
For we've prevented Kansas, from ever being free.
Let Freedom and the Eagle desert their lofty spheres,
And bow before the Buck horns of Atchison's Buchaneers.
Then sure to Senator Atchison our praises now are due.
He drilled us Border Ruffians, and brought our worth to view.
May he be in Buck's Cabinet for four right jolly years,
Through the row, row, row, row, row, row, row of Atchison's Buchaneers.

© Big Canoe Records, 1995