For some fugitives, the path to freedom went south and west.
Men and women
in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana could escape north into Indian Territory,
west toward the frontier, or south to Mexico. Of the three destinations, Mexico
proved the most attractive. "Sometimes, someone would come 'long and try to get
us to run up North and be free," declared San Antonio former slave Felix
Haywood. "We used to laugh at that. There was no reason to run up
North. All we had to do was to walk... south, and we'd be free as soon
as we crossed the Rio Grande."
Haywood's views were confirmed by the San Antonio
Ledger , a pro-slavery newspaper that noted in 1852 that
Mexico had "long been regarded by the Texas slave as his El Dorado for
accumulation, his utopia for political rights, and his Paradise for
happiness." By the eve of the Civil War nearly ten thousand runaways
lived south of the Rio Grande.
Missouri enslaved men and women sought freedom in another western sanctuary, Kansas.
Between 1861 and 1865, twelve thousand fugitives crossed the Kansas-Missouri
border to freedom. Some fled to Kansas Territory, seeking Lawrence, a major
stop on the western
Underground Railroad . Opportunities for flight
increased dramatically after the Civil War began. When Kansas Senator
James H. Lane led Union forces into southwest Missouri in August 1861,
runaways began to enter his military camp. Without authorization from
Washington, Lane signed up the men as soldiers and sent the women and children
to safety in Kansas. His impetuous act created the first African-American
troops in the Union Army during the Civil War and encouraged other Missouri
refugees from Arkansas and Indian Territory to make their way to Kansas and
Henry Clay Bruce, the brother of future Mississippi Senator Blanche K.
Bruce, was one of those refugees. Years later he recalled in his
autobiography how he and his fiancée escaped from Missouri to Kansas in
1863. Bruce strapped around his waist "a pair of Colt's revolvers and
plenty of ammunition" for the run to the western border. "We avoided
the main road and made the entire trip...without meeting anyone.... We
crossed the Missouri River on a ferry to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I
then felt myself a free man."