Who came to Kansas in 1857; Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church at Lawrence from 1857 to 1875 and 1884 to Present Time an Eye Witness of the Quantrill Raid

Published by: E. F. CALDWELL
Lawrence, Kansas
1895 Lawrence Journal Press


The Lawrence Raid - Its Antecedents and Causes - William C. Quantrill, its Unique Character - Other Raids - Its Unparalleled Brutality

In 1863 there occurred the most important event of the war as far as Lawrence was concerned; that was what has ever since been spoken of as the "Raid." The possibility of such a thing was recognized from the first. An incursion of maurauders from Missouri was considered likely to occur from the breaking out of the war. Lawrence had been the center of the free-state struggle, and had been the center of pro-slavery hate. That struggle had left a good deal of bitter feeling on both sides. It was especially bitter on the Missouri side because they had been defeated in the end they sought. They had three times undertaken to destroy Lawrence and three times had been foiled. It would not be strange, the people thought, if the men of the border should not forget their disappointment, and should take advantage of the war to accomplish what they had so often failed in. And there were signs from across the border which confirmed these fears. There were threats and intimations of what might be, enough to show at least that they had not been forgotten. The negroes who ran away from bondage and came to Lawrence, had one story of the state of feeling on the other side of the border. They all said that the "border ruffians" had lost nothing of their hate f or Lawrence, and they predicted with great positiveness that Lawrence would feel that hate before the war was over. The writer of this had in his family for several years a very intelligent mulatto who had been a slave in one of the border towns across the river. She had been a house servant, and had gained a good deal of culture from coming in contact with the family, and with friends of her master. It was quite noticeable that house servants were much more intelligent than field hands. This woman belonged to a prominent citizen who stood high in pro-slavery circles. He was a man of means and a man of good political standing. He was in secret sympathy with the rebellion, but did not avow his sympathy. This woman said that her master's house was the common resort of all the rebels of that region. They met at night usually, to discuss plans and talk over the situation. Many a time she had cooked all day and filled the cellar with meat and bread and other provisions, and in the night they would be all taken away and the cellar left empty. She never asked any questions, but she knew that the provisions were carried off to supply the guerrilla bands which were prowling about the country. When the guerrilla chiefs were at her master's house, as they often were, it was heir work to serve them. So she passed in and out with perfect freedom. The slaves had a remarkable faculty of seeming to be utterly ignorant of the conversation going on, and seeming utterly blank, while they heard and understood every word that was said. So this woman could pass in and out of the room, and they would not think it necessary to stop their conversation or even guard their expressions. But she knew why they were together and caught every word that dropped. She said that oftener than anything else they were talking of Lawrence, and planning for its destruction. This was early in the war, and she used to speak of it in Lawrence months before the raid took place. She used to say with great earnestness "that the bushwhackers were surely coming, and the people were very foolish not to be prepared for them." This was the common testimony of the ex-slaves who came up from Missouri at the opening of the war. They knew the sentiment of their masters, and the common purpose of the rebels on the border, to repay Lawrence and Kansas for the defeat they had suffered in the former conflict.

Rumors and alarms were common also. In the early days of the war an alarming report was one day brought to Lawrence that a large body of men, fifteen hundred the story went, were marching up from the border. Whence the story came no one knew, and no one cared to scrutinize it very closely. The whole country was aroused. The writer of this was calling around that day among the farmers at one of his out stations ten miles* from Lawrence. He only found one farm house where the men were not either gone or preparing to go. They were going one by one, with their rifles and shot guns, after the manner of the heroes of Lexington. They came back next day and reported no enemy in sight. As the war continued and rumors and alarms thickened, people became accustomed to them, and took little notice of them. Now and then, however, there would come a report that seemed to have a foundation, and the whole community was in a quiver. A very common feeling at first was that some of the troops furnished by Kansas should be retained for the defense of the state. Some thought it very cruel that Kansas towns should be left exposed while so large a proportion of her men were fighting the battles of the country in distant parts. But the wiser people contended that Kansas would be best protected in the long run by vigorously prosecuting the war to a successful issue. The fate of Kansas was wrapped up in the fate of the union.

It has often been a matter of wonder that after all these warnings Lawrence was not on her guard when the blow was finally struck. But this is readily explained by the situation itself. These frequent alarms had produced a state of indifference. It was the "cry of the wolf" with the usual effect. The danger had been threatening for all these years and had not come, and people began to feel that it would never come.

They smiled at the wild reports that kept flying in and began to analyze each report as it came and show how absurd it was. They knew there was danger, but it grew more and more indefinite and far away.

There were also frequent efforts at preparation. In the earlier months of the war the citizens maintained a guard about the town, taking their regular turns like soldiers. This was kept up until the spring of 1863 with more or less steadiness. Not being under military orders it was not a very reliable service, but most of the citizens faithfully fulfilled their part. In the spring of 1863 Gen. George W. Collamore was elected mayor of the city. He had been quartermaster general of the state under Governor Robinson for two years. He was a man of means and well connected in the East. He was a very active man with a good deal of executive ability, and had an air of self-sufficiency which made him want to do everything his own way and made other people disposed to stand aloof from him. He realized as few others did the danger in which Lawrence stood, and he endeavored earnestly and constantly to arouse the people to a sense of the situation. In this he was partially successful. He organized an effective military company and secured arms for them from the state. He also organized and armed companies in the country about Lawrence. A peculiar notion of his was that the guns should be kept in the armory and not be carried home by the men. The result was that when the attack was made the men were scattered about- the city at their homes and their guns were inaccessible. The Wakarusa company, six miles south, assembled the morning of the raid near Blanton's bridge, but had no arms. It is easy to see, however, that there are points of advantage in General Collamore's policy, though this time it proved a mistake. General Collamore worked in another line for the defense of the town. He saw, as everyone did, that the citizens' guard was very unreliable. While most citizens did their duty when appointed for picket service, others failed, and it was never known whether there was, a guard out or not. Besides he insisted that it was unfair to ask men who worked all day to do picket duty all night. It was enough if they held themselves in readiness to rally when danger threatened. He appealed to the military authorities to station at Lawrence a body of soldiers sufficient to do picket duty. This would insure a reliable guard, and relieve the citizens of this double service. He insisted that Lawrence could defend herself if she could only be warned in time of the approach of danger. After many efforts he gained his point and some time in May a small squad of soldiers was stationed at Lawrence, and the citizen soldiery was relieved of patrol duty. About August 1st the military authorities withdrew this guard for service elsewhere. They affirmed very positively that the guard was not needed. Lawrence was in no possible danger. The line between Missouri and Kansas was patrolled along its whole length, and no body of guerrillas could pass into Kansas without the fact being reported. General Collamore protested against the removal of the troops, but without avail. The people were disposed to accept the assurance of the military authorities, and nothing was done to revive the old plan of citizen patrol. The result was that Lawrence had never been so thoroughly off her guard, and so thoroughly at her ease, as at this time of her greatest peril. There could hardly have been a time in the three preceding years when she was feeling entirely secure. Mayor Collamore himself had struggled persistently against a good deal of indifference and some ridicule, and when the troops he had worked so hard to secure were taken away, he was himself half discouraged, and had not undertakea any new lines of defense. The whole town was just resting from the long strain.

The guerrilla method of warfare was adopted early by the rebel element in Missouri. As soon as Fort Sumpter was fired upon the whole state was in confusion. There were disturbances here and there; railway tracks were torn up, bridges burned, and travel generally became dangerous. When the war became thoroughly organized order was restored in the country, railways were protected, and the guerrillas compelled to go into hiding, and apply their vocation more secretly. Of these guerrilla bands, Quantrill soon became the most noted leader. His gang of outlaws, varying from two or three score to two or three hundred, found a hiding place among what was called the "Sni Hills." This was a general name for a rough region lying south of the Missouri river and below Kansas City and Westport, through which the Sni river and the Blue river and some other small streams flowed. It was a country of high bluffs, deep ravines and rocky ledges, all covered with a growth of young timber so dense that a bird could hardly fly through it. It was an ideal hiding for a band like Quantrill's, superior for that purpose to Sherwood forest, the famous hiding place of Robin rfood. Here they could make their preparations unobserved and sally forth unheralded. When the work of robbery and arson was done they could dash back, and once among these wild fastnesses and thickets they were practically beyond pursuit. They could not have lived here but for the sympathy of the surrounding population, and a large portion of the population of this region were secretly in sympathy with the South, while professing loyalty to the union. From the granaries and the herds of those rich farmers the guerrilla bands were secretly maintained, and many a man who 9 claimed to be a friend of the union was secretly feeding the enemies of the union, and making possible their inhuman warfare. Before the end of the war the union cavalry learned the methods of the bushwhackers, and could follow them to their hiding places. When this was done guerrilla warfare became less a one-sided affair, and the bushwhackers were pretty much driven from the country. But the method was learned too late to be of much avail in protecting the country. It availed for retaliation but not for safety.

William Clark Quantrill was born at Dover, Ohio, in 1837. His father, Thomas Quantrill, was a school teacher of good family and good character. His father and mother were both honest, plain people, respected by all. His mother's maiden name was Caroline Clark. William received a fairly good education and was intended for his father's profession. From some of his early letters it appeared that he had in his youth some high ambitions of an entirely different type from those which afterwards possessed him. In 1857, at the age of twenty, he went to Kansas. He and some friends took up claims in Miami county near Stanton. In the winter of 1857 and 1858 he taught school in Stanton and did quite well. The next spring he went to Salt 'Lake and remained two years. In i860 he returned to Kansas and made his headquarters at Lawrence. He went by the name of Charlie Hart and boarded at the Whitney house on the bank of the river. At the time of the raid he spared the Whitney house on this account. He said they had treated him well there. Whether he went by this assumed name on account of crimes already committed, or whether he was now engaged in doubtful transactions which he did not wish to attach to his real name, is not known. At all events he associated with a bad lot of men, and they were engaged in doubtful and shady operations, which soon drew upon them the attention of the police. He escaped them and went over into Missouri, just across the line, not far from where he formerly lived in Miami county. He persuaded four reckless young men to join him in robbing the home of a rich slaveholder in Missouri. He then betrayed his associates to the intended victim, and three of the four were shot dead, he himself shooting one of them. He was arrested and lodged in the Paola jail. Some of his friends secured his release on a writ of habeas corpus, and when he was out of jail some friends placed a fleet horse in a convenient place, and this horse soon took him "beyond the jurisdiction of the court. He had heretofore been in sympathy with the free-state people, but from this on he identified himself with his Missouri friends. He became the leader of their marauding bands, and in a short time was the most distinguished of the guerrilla chieftans. All the most successful raids were under his guidance, and there were no marked successes after he withdrew to another part of the country. He began to be noted in 1862 when he made numerous raids into Kansas. In October 1862 he made a raid on Olathe with about one hundred and forty men. He kept the citizens under guard in the public square while his men carried off whatever they wished in the way of horses or goods. One man was killed. A little later he made a raid on Shawnee town, burned a good portion of the place and killed several men. At other times the same process was repeated at Spring Hill, Aubrey and other points. The next season, the summer of 1863, his movements were more numerous and bold. The whole region along the border was kept in a continual state of commotion and fear. Every night lights against the sky showed that some poor fellows house was going up in flames. Men on the farms did not dare stay in their houses over night, but slept in the cornfields and in the woods. This state of things continued during the summer of 1863. These depredations did not extend more than ten or fifteen miles from the Missouri border into Kansas. The people of Lawrence used to argue that guerrilla bands could not get further than that into the country without being reported. They therefore reasoned that Lawrence was safe because she was forty miles from the border. It would take all night to make the march, and the news would certainly travel faster than a troop could travel. It is surprising now how clear they made this argument appear to themselves. Every day's delay confirmed their conclusion. The military authorities who "understood such matters, were even more positive. So their sense of security grew strong as the enemy drew near, and they were never more at their ease than when the peril was at their very door.

The Lawrence raid was unique. It differed from any other raid in history. Other raids were made for plunder or for military purposes. The earlier raids of Quantrill and his men were made for plunder largely. They dashed into Olathe at night, ordered all the men to the public square and kept them under guard till they were done. Only one man was killed and he was killed in a fray. Often raids were made for the purpose of putting out of the way some persons who were obnoxious to them. Houses were burned, horses were taken, and other things stolen such as took their fancy. But in no case was there a general slaughter. At Lawrence it was butchery from the first charge to the last shot. The butchering and burning began with their approach and hardly ended with their departure. It was not the picking out of a few obnoxious persons as was the case elsewhere. The killing was indiscriminate and mostly in cold blood. There was no provocation and no resistance. There was nothing to irritate or provoke. The few who resisted fared better than those who did not resist. There were men in Lawrence whom they very naturally would look for. But very few of these were found. Governor Robinson was in town that morning. On account of his position and his prominence in the early difficulties they would have counted him a valuable prize. But he was permitted quietly to survey the whole transaction from his stone barn on the hillside. They sought for him elsewhere, but did not look in
the barn. General Lane was in town that morning, and perhaps no man in Kansas would have been dispatched with more relish. But when they called at his house in the early morning, he was "not at home."General Deitzler was in town, having just come from a victorious campaign through the very region from which they hailed. But he was not found. The two Rankins were home on a furlough. They were soldiers and expected no quarters. When they were pounced upon in the street therefore they drew their revolvers and blazed away, and were given a wide berth. They are both living today to tell the story. The men the raiders did kill were quiet, peaceable citizens. Few of them had taken any part in the early disturbances or in the border troubles since the war began. There was Judge Carpenter, a very conservative man, never extreme in any line, and having no sympathy with extreme men on either side. There was Edward P. Fitch, one of the quietest of men, a lover of home and of peace, as brave as a lion, and gentle as a woman. There was S. M. Thorpe of whom no one could cherish a hard thought. Only a few months before he had been elected to the state senate on the issue of opposition to all irresponsible warfare. He had the utmost abhorrence of all parties on either side who were disposed to take advantage of the condition of war for plunder or prey. This suggests the further point that Lawrence herself was a conservative town. The depredations complained of found as little sympathy in Lawrence as in any town in the state. If retaliation was the motive, Lawrence was one of the last towns that should have suffered, and the men killed were among the last that should have been selected. As a matter of fact the victims were not selected at all. The raiders killed whom they found never asking who they were or what they were. It was enough that they were found in Lawrence. Other raids was for plunder, the Lawrence raid was for slaughter. That some of the raiders should assign retaliation as the motive was to be expected. It was the nearest motive at hand and made a plausible excuse. That some of the raiders had suffered personal wrongs and were inspired with feelings of revenge, we can well believe. But this could not have been the inspiration of the attack, nor the cause of its excessive brutality. These things show that it had roots deeper than this. Its roots ran back into the old pro-slavery hate of six years before. Individual members of the band no doubt had their individual motives. But the thing itself had a deeper ground. Its inspiration and its venom flowed from the same source and sentiment whence the earlier invasions came. It sprang from the same sentiment which had three times before assailed Lawrence and been foiled. Individuals of the band may have had a variety of motives, but as a whole the movement sprang from the same soil which produced the Wakarusa war and the troubles of 1856. It was the same conflict on a larger scale. The same principles were at stake, and the same parties confronted each other. The same feelings inspired either side. The same hate sought to gratify itself under the new conditions. The border ruffians of 1856, became the bushwhackers of 1863.

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