Quantrill's Raid.At the beginning of the Civil war in 1861 William C. Quantrill (q. v.) was living among the Cherokee Indians. He joined a company which entered the Confederate service, serving for a time with Gen. McCullough and later under Gen. Price. The discipline of an organized army was not to Quantrill's taste, however. He wanted more freedom of movement, especially in the privilege of pillaging the homes of those whom he vanquished. Gathering about him a number of kindred spirits he organized a gang of guerrillas and began operations in western Missouri. As his success became more marked he grew bolder and made several raids into Kansas, plundering the towns of Olathe, Shawnee, Spring Hill, Aubrey and a few others. Early in March, 1862, his gang had been declared outlaws by the Federal authorities, but Quantrill cared nothing for the declaration. None of his raids in 1862 extended into Kansas over 15 miles, and the people of Lawrence, being about 40 miles from the border, felt little apprehension that the city would ever be attacked. True, some precautions were taken to guard against a surprise, but they were generally of a desultory character and were not continued. When Gen. Collamore became mayor he secured a small body of troops to patrol the city, but the military authorities concluded such action was unnecessary and the soldiers were ordered elsewhere.
On the night of Aug. 19, 1863, Quantrill assembled 294 men at Columbus, Mo., where they were organized into four companies and quietly the plans were made for an attack upon Lawrence. Two of Quantrill's companies were commanded by Bill Todd and Bill Anderson, "two of the most desperate and bloodthirsty of the border chieftains." Others who accompanied him were Dick Yeager and the James boys, who afterward became notorious. About 5 o'clock on the afternoon of the 20th they crossed the state line into Kansas, within plain view of a camp of a small detachment of Union soldiers, but as the guerrillas outnumbered the troops five to one Capt. Pike, in command of the camp, offered no resistance, contenting himself with sending word of the movement to Kansas City. About 11 o'clock that night they passed Gardiner, where they burned a house or two and killed a man. At 3 o'clock in the morning they went through Hesper. The moon had gone down, and being ignorant of the way, they took a boy from a house and compelled him to lead them to Lawrence. The raiders entered Franklin 4 miles east of Lawrence at the first break of day, but were very quiet, so as not to arouse attention. Two miles east of Lawrence they passed the farm of Rev. S. S. Snyder and shot him in his barnyard. A mile further on they met young Hoffman Collamore, the son of Mayor Collamore, who replied indifferently to their queries about his destination and they fired upon him. Both he and his pony fell, as if dead, but the boy recovered.
Mr. Cordley narrates that when they drew near the town they seemed to hesitate and waver. "Coming from the east," says he, "the town appeared in its full proportions, as the first light of the morning sun shone on it. It is said some of them were disposed to turn back. But Quantrill said he was going in, and they might follow who would. Two horsemen were sent in advance of the troop to see that all was quiet. They rode through the main street without attracting attention. . . . They returned to the main body and reported the way clear. They now moved on quite rapidly but quietly and cautiously. When they came to the high ground facing Massachusetts street, not far from where the park now is, the command was given in clear tones, 'On to the town!' Instantly the whole body bounded forward with the yell of demons. They came first upon a camp of unarmed recruits for the Fourteenth Kansas regiment. They had just taken in their guards and were rising from their beds. On these the raiders fired as they passed, killing 17 of the 22. This diversion did not stop the speed of the general advance. A few turned aside to run down and shoot the fleeing soldiers, but the main body swept on down Rhode Island street. When the head of the column came about to Henry street the command was heard all over that section, "On to the hotel! On to the hotel!" At this they wheeled obliquely to the left and in a few moments were dashing down Massachusetts street toward the Eldridge house. In all the bloody scenes which followed nothing surpassed for wildness and terror that which now presented itself. The horsemanship of the guerrillas was perfect. They rode with that ease and abandon of men who had spent their lives in the saddle amid rough and desperate scenes. They were dressed in the traditional butternut and belted about with revolvers."
These horsemen sat with bodies erect and arms free, "some with a revolver in each hand, shooting at each house or person they passed, and yelling at every bound. On each side of the stream of fire were men falling dead and wounded, and women and children half-dressed, running and screaming, some trying to escape from danger, and others rushing to the side of their murdered friends."
When they reached the Eldridge hotel the raiders expected resistance and paused a moment in contemplation. Capt. A. R. Banks, provost marshal of the state, opened a window, displayed a white shirt, called for Quantrill and surrendered the house to him, stipulating the safety of the guests. The raiders ransacked the hotel, but Quantrill bade the guests to go to the City hotel, where they would be safe. The prisoners lost no time in obeying Quantrill, who, strange to relate, kept his word with them. As soon as the Eldridge house had surrendered, the raiders scattered all over the town in bands of 6 or 8, taking house by house and street by street. Says Cordley: "The events of the next three hours has no parallel outside the annals of savage warfare. History furnishes no other instance of so large a number of such desperate men, so heavily armed, were let perfectly loose upon an unsuspecting and helpless community." Instead of growing weary of their work as the morning advanced they secured liquor that made them more lawless, reckless, brutal and barbarous than when they came. They said they had orders "to kill every man and burn every house," and while they did not fulfill their commands they set about their task as if that were their intention. They were a rough, coarse, brutal, desperate lot of men, each of whom carried from two to six revolvers, while many also carried carbines. The attack had been perfectly planned. Every man seemed to know his place and what he was to do. So quietly were detachments made, every section of the town was occupied before the citizens comprehended what was happening. With a very few exceptions the raiders had their own way. For some four hours the town was at their mercyand no mercy was shown. Along the business street they did the most thorough work, robbing buildings and shooting the occupants. Then the torch was applied and throughout the town a reign of terror prevailed. Every house had its story of incredible brutality or a remarkable escape. Many were saved by their own quick wit and the bravery of the women.
Quantrill did not return the way he came, for he had information that Maj. Plumb was approaching from the east with a body of troops. After four hours' horrible work all ceased their work of plundering and assembled for departure. To avoid Maj. Plumb they went south, crossing the Wakarusa at Blanton's bridge. They kept up their work of destruction as they went away, burning nearly all of the farm houses they passed. Gen. James H. Lane with a few followers pursued them, as did the regular troops, but the raiders finally escaped to their hiding places along the border. Lawrence spent the following week burying its dead, of which there were 142, as nearly as an estimate could be made. For some time the intense gloom and grief forbade any thought of the future, but the day came when they rallied their spirits and rebuilt their town and homes.
In 1875 the legislature of Kansas appointed a commission "to examine and certify the amount of losses of citizens of the State of Kansas by the invasion of guerrillas and marauders during the years 1861 to 1865. The towns molested had been Lawrence, Olathe, Humboldt, Altoona, Paola and Fort Scott. In 1887 the legislature enacted a law providing for its assumption and payment of these claims for losses. (See Claims.)Pages 524-527 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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