Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas, August 1863

Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas, August 1863


It is doubtful whether the world has ever witnessed such a scene of horror- certainly not outside the annals of savage warfare. History gives no parallel, where an equal number of such desperate men, so heavily armed, were let perfectly loose in an unsuspecting community. The carnage was much worse from the fact that the citizens could not believe that men could be such fiends. No one expected an indiscriminate slaughter. (from Union newspaper account)

Stories about Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas, August 1863

"A trifle atrocity prone..."

    A trifle atrocity prone..."

    That could be said of Quantrill and his raiders, but it could also be said of his opponents. The Lawrence raid came after numerous female relatives of his men were arrested (just for being relatives) and killed or maimed in the collapse of the building in which they were confined. The collapse may have been accidental... or not. The raid on Lawrence, Kansas didn't come out of the blue or without motivation. It was one in a long string of atrocities by both sides that had been taking place in the border area since 1854. The prison collapse wasn't the sole reason, only the finally trigger. The response to the Lawrence raid was Order 11 which forcibly depopulated several Missouri counties of anyone sympathetic to, or suspected of being sympathetic to, the Rebels, turning the area into what was called the "Burnt District.". It's well to remember that the majority of the raiders at Lawrence killed no one. Cole Younger is said by more than one source to have saved several lives that day.

    "Quantrell assembled his gang about noon the day before the raid, and started towards Kansas about two o'clock. They crossed the border between five and six o'clock, and struck directly across the prairie toward Lawrence. He passed through Gardner, on the old Sante Fe wagon road, about 11 o'clock at night. Here they burned a few houses and killed one or two citizens. The passed through Hesper , ten miles southeast of Lawrence, between two and three o'clock. The moon was now down and the night was very dark and the road doubtful. They took a little boy from a house on Captain's Creek, near by, and compelled him to guide them into Lawrence."

    Dawn, August 21, 1863...

    "At the house of the Rev. S. S. Snyder a gang turned aside from the main body, entered his yard and shot him. Mr. Snyder was a prominent minister among the United Brethren. He held a commission as lieutenant in the Second Colored Regiment, which probably accounts for their malignity."

    Scenes from the raid...

    "The most brutal murder was that of Judge Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter ran into the house, up stairs, then down again, the ruffian after him and firing at every turn. He finally eluded them and slipped into the cellar. He was badly wounded, so that the blood lay in pools in the cellar where he stood for a few minutes. His hiding place was soon discovered, and he was driven out of the cellar into the yard and shot again. He fell mortally wounded. His wife threw herself onto him and covered him with her person to shield him from further violence. The ruffian deliberately walked around her to find a place to shoot under her, and finally raised her arm and put his revolver under it, and fired so she could see the ball enter his head. [they had been married less than a year]

    "Mr. Fitch was called downstairs and instantly shot. Although the second ball was probably fatal, they continued to fire until they lodged six or eight balls in his lifeless body. They then began to fire the house.

    "Mr. Ellis, a German blacksmith, ran into the corn in the park, taking his little child with him. For some time he remained concealed, but the child growing weary began to cry. The rebels outside, hearing the cries, ran in and killed the father, leaving the child in its dead father's arms.

    "Noticing life in Mr. Sargeant one of the men coolly reloaded his pistol saying he "would soon finish him." Mrs. Sargeant at once fell on her husband's prostrate body, begging for his life, but the murderer placed the pistol above her shoulder and sent a ball crashing through his head. Mr. Sargeant survived eleven days.

    "The courage shown by these ladies is seldom matched by the soldier's in the excitement of a battle. On every side men were falling, close to them Mr. Williamson was killed, near them Mr. Hay was shot down. Bullets were flying all about them, but they stood guard over the dead and dying."

    _from "The Lawrence Massacre" _ J. S. Broughton

    Without any ties to the South or to slavery, he chose the Confederacy apparently because in Missouri this allowed him to attack all symbols of authority. He attracted to his gang some of the most psychopathic killers in American history.

    --James McPherson on Quantrill

    See all 2 stories…

    Additional Info
    bgill -Contributions private
    View count:
    113 (recently viewed: 6)