THE LAWRENCE MASSACRE
BY A BAND OF MISSOURI RUFFIANS
AUGUST 21, 1863
150 MEN KILLED
EIGHTY WOMEN MADE WIDOWS
AND 250 CHILDREN MADE ORPHANS
It is a fact not generally known that no complete account of this massacre
has ever been published. The letter furnished by Rev. R. Cordley to the
"Congressional Record" a few days after the event and before all the facts
and incidents had become known, and which was republished in Boughton
& McAllister's Directory of Lawrence 1865, is about all the literature
we can find in regard to it. Mr. Cordley's letter is made the basis of
this history, to which is added the personal experience and observations
of a number of residents who providentially escaped the general slaughter
and who now recall the terrible events of those few hours as though they
We would like to give the personal experience of every one of the survivors
and especially record in detail the deeds of heroism enacted by the brave
women of Lawrence who in that fearful hour saved many a precious life,
and extinguished the flames in nearly a hundred burning dwellings. But
volumes would be required for such an undertaking.
The destruction of Lawrence had no doubt been long contemplated by the rebels
of the border. ever since the war had commenced rumors had been constantly
circulating of the maturing of such a purpose. Each rumor called forth efforts
for defence. The people had become so accustomed to alarms as to be almost
unaffected by them. At several times the prospect had been absolutely threatening.
This was especially the case after the battle of Springfield, and again
after the capture of Lexington by the rebels. The people had never felt
more secure than for a few months preceding the raid of August, 1863. The
power of the rebellion was broken in Missouri, and the Federal force on
the border, while it could prevent depravations by small gangs, seemed to
be sufficiently vigilant to prevent the gathering of any large force. No
rumors of danger had been received for several months .
Still many of the citizens did not feel that the place was entirely
safe. Mayor Collamore, early in the summer, prevailed upon the military
authorities to station a squad of soldiers in Lawrence. These soldiers
were under the command of Lieut. Hadley, a very efficient officer. Lieut.
Hadley had a brother on General Ewing's staff. About the first of August
this brother wrote him that his spies had been in Quantrell's camp- had
mingled freely with his men- and had learned from Quantrell's clerk, that
they proposed to make a raid on Lawrence about the full of the moon, (2)
which would be three weeks before the actual raid. He told his brother
to do all he could for the defense of the town, to fight them to the last,
and never be taken prisoner, for Quantrell killed all prisoners. Lieut.
Hadley showed the letter to Mayor Collamore, who at once set about the
work of putting the town in a state of defense. The milita was called
out, pickets detailed, the cannon got in readiness, and the country warned.
Had Quantrell's gang come according to promise, they would have ben "welcomed
with bloody hands and hospitable graves." Someone asked Quantrell, when
in Lawrence, why he did not come before when he said he would. He replied
"You were expecting me then- but I have caught you napping now."
It may be asked, why the people of Lawrence relaxed their vigilance so
soon after receiving such authentic evidence of Quantrell's intentions?
The city and military authorities made the fatal mistake of keeping the
ground of apprehension a profound secret. Nobody new the reason of the
preparations. Rumors were afloat, but they could not be traced to any
reliable source. Companies came in from the country, but could not ascertain
why they were sent for, and went home to be laughed at by their neighbors.
Unable to find any ground of alarm, people soon began to think that the
rumors were like the other false alarms by which they had been periodically
disturbed for the last two years. The course of the military authorities
tended to strengthen this view.
Mayor Collamore sent to Fort Leavenworth for cannon and troops.
They were at once sent over, but were met at Lawrence by a dispatch from
Kansas City, ordering them back. A few days after, the squad of soldiers
under lieut. Hadley was ordered away. It was evident, therefore, that
the military authorities at Kansas City, who ought to know, did not consider
the place in danger. The usual sense of security soon returned. Citizens
were assured that Quantrell could not penetrate the military line on the
border without detection. They felt sure, too, that he could not travel
fifty miles through a loyal county without their being informed of the
approach of danger. The people never felt more secure, and were never
less prepared, than the night before the raid.
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. They kept the
boy during their work in Lawrence, and then Quantrell dressed him in a
new suit of clothes, gave him a horse and sent him home. they entered
Franklin about the first glimmer of day. They passed quietly through,
lying upon their horses, so as to attract as little attention as possible.
The command, however, was distinctly heard- "Rush on, boys, it will be
daylight before we are there! We ought to have been their an hour ago."
From here it began to grow light, and they travelled faster. When they
first came in sight of the town they stopped. Many were inclined to waver.
They said: "They would be cut to pieces and it was madness to go on."
Quantrell finally declared that HE was going in, and they might follow
who would. Two horsemen were sent ahead to see that all was quiet in town.
Those horsemen rode through the town and back without attracting attention.
They were seen going through Main street, but their appearance there at
that hour was nothing unusual. 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.
Their progress from here was quite rapid but cautious. Every now and
then they checked up their horses as if fearful to proceed. They were
seen approaching by several persons in the outskirts of the town, but
in the dimness of the morning and the distance, they were supposed to
be Union troops. They passed on in a body till they came to the high ground
facing Main street, when the command was given- "Rush on to the town!"
Instantly they rushed forward with the yell of demons. The attack was
perfectly planned. Every man knew his place. Detachments scattered to
every section of the town, and it was done with such promptness and speed
that before people could gather the meaning of their first yell, every
part of the town was full of them. They flowed into every street. Eleven
rushed up to Mount Oread, from which all the roads leading into town could
be seen for several miles out. These were to keep watch of the country
round about, least the people should gather and come in on them unawares.
Another and larger squad, struck for the west part of the town, while
the main body, by two or three converging streets, made for the hotel.
They first came upon a group of recruits for the Kansas Fourteenth. On
these they fired as they passed killing seventeen out of twenty-two. This
attack did not in the least check the speed of the general advance. A
few turned aside to run down and shoot fugitive soldiers, but the company
rushed on at the command- "To the hotel!" which could be heard all over
the town. In all the bloody scenes which followed, nothing equalled, in
wildness and terror, that which now presented itself. The horsemanship
of the guerrillas was perfect. They rode with that ease and abandon which
are acquired only by a life spent in the saddle amid desperate scenes.
Their horses scarcely seemed to touch the ground, and the riders, sat
with bodies and arms perfectly free, with revolvers on full cock, shooting
at every house and man they passed, and yelling like demons at every bound.
On each side of this stream of fire, as it poured toward the street,
were men falling dead and wounded, and women and children half dressed,
running and screaming- some trying to escape from danger and some rushing
to the side of their murdered friends.
THE CAPTURE OF THE HOTEL
They dashed along the main street, shooting at every straggler on the
sidewalk, and into almost every window. They halted in front of the Eldridge
House. The firing had ceased and all was quiet for a few minutes. They
evidently expected resistance here, and sat gazing at the windows above
them, apparently in fearful suspense. In a few moments, Captain Banks,
Provost Marshal of the State, opened a window and displayed a white flag,
and called for Quantrell. Quantrell rode forward, and Banks, as Provost
Marshal, surrendered the house, stipulating the safety of its inmates.
At this moment the big gong in the hotel began to sound through the house
to arouse the sleepers. At this the whole column fell back, evidently
thinking this the signal for an attack from the hotel. In a few moments,
meeting with no resistance, they pressed forward again, and commenced
the work of plunder and destruction. They ransacked the hotel, robbing
the rooms and their inmates. These inmates they gathered together at the
head of the stairs, and when the plundering was done, marched them across
the street on to Winthrop street under a guard. When they had proceeded
a little distance, a ruffian rode up, and ordered a young man out
of the ranks, and fired two shots at him, but with no effect. One of the
guards at once interposed, and threatened to kill the ruffian if one of
the prisoners was molested. Quantrell then rode up and told them the City
Hotel, on the river bank, would be protected, because he had boarded there
some years ago and had been well treated. He ordered the prisoners to
go there, and stay in, and they would be safe. The prisoners were as obedient
to orders as any of Quantrell's own men and lost no time in gaining the
house of refuge. This treatment of the prisoners of the Eldridge house
shows that they expected resistance from that point, and were relieved
by the offer of surrender. They not only promised protection, but were
as good as their word. Other hotels received no such favors, and had no
such experience of rebel honor.
At the Johnson House they shot at all that showed themselves, and the
prisoners that were finally taken and marched off, were shot a few rods
of the house, some of them among the fires of the burning buildings. Such
was the common fate of those who surrendered themselves as prisoners,
Mr. R. C. Dix was one of these. His house was the nest door to the Johnson
House, and being fired at in his own house, he escaped to the Johnson
House. All the men were ordered to surrender. "all we want," said a rebel,
"is for the men to give themselves up, and we will spare them and burn
the house." Mr. Dix and other gave themselves up. They marched them towards
town, and when they had gone about two hundred feet, the guards shot them
all, one after another. Mr. Hampson, one of the number, fell wounded,
and lay as if dead till he could escape unseen. A brother of Mr. Dix remained
in the shop, and was shot four times through the window, and fell almost
helpless. The building was burning over his head, and he was compelled
to drag himself out into the next building, which fortunately was not
burned. The air was so still that one building did not catch from another.
THE CARNAGE- "HELL LET LOOSE."
After the Eldridge House surrendered, and all fears of resistance were
removed, the ruffians scattered in small gangs to all parts of the town
in search of plunder and blood. The order was "to burn every house, and
kill every man." Almost every house was visited and robbed, and the men
found in them killed or left, according to the character or whim of the
captors. Some of these seemed completely brutalized, while others showed
some signs of remaining humanity. One lady said that as gang after gang
came to her house, she always met them herself, and tried to get them
talking. If she only got them to talking, she could get at what little
humanity was left in them. those ladies who faced them boldly, fared the
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.
When it was known that the town was in their possession, everybody expected
they would rob and burn the tow, kill all military men they could find,
and a few marked characters. But few expected a wholesale murder. Many
who could have escaped, therefore, remained and were slain. For this reason
the colored people fared better than the whites. They new the men which
slavery had made, and they ran to the bush at the first alarm.
A gentleman who was concealed where he could see the whole , said the
scene presented was the most perfect realization of the slang phrase,
"Hell let loose," that ever could be imagined. Most of the men had the
look of wild beasts, they dressed roughly and swore terribly. They were
mostly armed with a carbine and with from two to six revolvers strapped
The surprise was so complete that no organized resistance was possible.
Before people could fully comprehend the real state of the case, every
part of the town was full of the rebels, and there was no possibility
of rallying. Even the recruits in camp were so taken by surprise that
they were not in their places. The attack could scarcely have been made
at a worse hour. The soldiers had just taken in their camp guard, and
people were just waking from sleep. By some fatal mistake, the authorities
had kept the arms of the city in the public armory, instead of in each
man's house. There could be no general resistance, therefore, from the
houses. When the rebels gained possession of the main street, the armory
was inaccessible to the citizens, and the judicious disposition of squads
of rebels in other parts of the town, prevented even a partial rally
at any point. There was no time nor opportunity for consultation or concert
of action, and every man had to do the best he could for himself. A large
number, however, did actually start with what arms they had towards the
street. Most saw at once that the street could not be reached, and turned
back. Some went forward and perished. Mr. Levi Gates lived about a mile
in the country, in the opposite from that by which the rebels had entered.
As soon as he heard the firing in the town, he started with his rifle,
supposing that a stand would be made by the citizens. When he got to town,
he saw at once that the rebels had possession. He was an excellent marksman,
and could not leave without trying his rifle. The first shot he made the
rebel jumped in the saddle, but did not kill him; and when he was dead
brutally beat his head in pieces.
Mr. G. W. Bell, County Clerk, lived on the side hill overlooking the
town. He saw the rebels before they made their charge. He seized his musket
and cartridge box with the hope of reaching the main street before them.
His family endeavored to dissuade him, telling him he would certainly
be killed. "They may kill me, but they cannot kill the principals I fight
for. If they take Lawrence, they must do it over my dead body." With a
prayer for courage and help he started. But he was too late. The street
was occupied before he could reach it. He endeavored then to get round
by the back way, and come to the ravine west of the street. Here he met
other citizens. He asked, "Where shall we meet?" They assured him
it was to late to meet anywhere, and urged him to save himself. He turned
back, apparently intending to get home again. The rebels were no scattered
in all directions, and he was in the midst of them. A friend urged him
to through his musket away, which he did. Finding escape impossible, he
went into an unfinished brick house, and got up on the joists above, together
with another man. A rebel came in and began shooting at them. He interceded
for his friend, and soon found that the rebel was an old acquaintance
who had often eaten at his table. He appealed to him in such a way that
he promised to spare both their lives, for old acquaintance sake, if they
would come down. They came down, and the rebel took them out to about
twenty of his companions outside. "Shoot him! Shoot him!" was the cry
at once. He asked for a moment to pray, which they granted, and then shot
him with four balls. His companion was wounded and lay for dead, but afterwards
recovered. The treacherous rebel who deceived and murdered him afterwards
went to his house, and said to his wife, who was ignorant of her husbands
fate: "We have killed your husband and now we come to burn his house."
They fired it, but the family saved it. Mr. Bell was a man of excellent
character, and left a wife and six children to miss and mourn him.
What little resistance was offered to the rebels, developed their cowardice,
as much as their general license given them developed their brutality.
On the opposite bank of the river twelve soldiers were stationed. when
the rebels first came into town, they filled Massachusetts street. They
even attempted to cut the rope to the ferry. But these brave boys
on the opposite side made free use of their rifles, firing at every butternut
that came in sight. Their minnie balls went screaming up the street, and
it was not many minutes before that section of the town was pretty much
deserted; and if one of the ruffians by chance passed along that way,
he was careful not to expose himself to the bullets from across the river.
The result was, all that section of the town which stretched along the
river bank was saved. In this section stood Governor Robinson's house,
which was inquired for. Here was the armory, which they took possession
of early, but left it with the most of its guns unharmed.
Another evidence of their cowardice was shown in the fact, that very
few stone houses were molested. They shunned almost all houses which were
closed tightly, so that they could not see in, when the inmates did not
show themselves. There is a deep ravine, wooded but narrow, which runs
almost through the center of town. In this many citizens escaped. They
often chased men into this ravine, shooting at them all the way. But they
never followed one into the ravine itself, and seldom followed up to the
brink. Whenever they came near to it, they would shy off as if expecting
a stray shot. The corn-field west of the town was full of refugees. The
rebels rode up to the edge often, as if longing to go in and butcher those
who had escaped them, but a wholesome fear that it might be a double game,
restrained them. A Mrs. Hindman lived on the edge of this corn-field.
They came repeatedly to her house for water. The gang insisted on knowing
what "was in the corn-field?" She brave woman, replied, "Go in and
see. You will find it the hottest place you have been in to-day." Having
been to carry drink to the refugees, she could testify to the heat. The
rebels took her word and left. So every little ravine and thicket around
the outskirts of the town were shunned as if a viper had been in it. Thus
scores of lives were saved that would otherwise have been destroyed.
In almost every case where a determined resistance was offered, the
rebels withdrew. Mr. A. K. Allen lives in a large brick house. A gang
came to his door and ordered him out. "No!" replied the old gentleman,
"if you want anything of me, come where I am. I am good for five of you."
They took his word for it, and he and his house were thenceforth unmolested.
The two Messrs. Rankin were out in the street trying to gain a certain
house, when they were overtaken by six of the ruffians. They at once faced
their foes, drew their revolvers, and began to fire, when the whole six
broke and fled. The cowards evidently did not come to fight, but to murder
SCENES AND INCIDENTS.
We can only give a few incidents of the massacre as specimens of the
whole. The scenes of horror we describe must be multiplied till the amount
reaches one hundred and eighty, the number of killed and wounded.
Gen. Collamore, Mayor of the city, was awakened by their shouts around
the house. His house was evidently well known, and they struck for it
to prevent his taking measures for defense. When he looked out, the
house was surrounded. Escape was impossible. There was but one hiding
place- the well. He at once went into the well. The enemy went into the
house and searched for the owner, swearing and threatening all the while.
Failing to find him, they fired the house and waited round to see it burn.
Mrs. Collamore went out and spoke to her husband while the fire was burning.
But the house was so near the well that when the flames burst out they
shot over the well, and the fire fell in. When the flames subsided, so
that the well could be approached, nothing could be seen of Mr. Collamore
or the man who had decended into the well with him. After the rebels had
gone, Mr. Lowe, an intimate friend of Gen Collamore, went at once down
the well to seek for him. The rope supporting him broke, and he also died
in the well, -and three bodies were drawn from its cold water.
At Dr. Griswold's there were four families. The doctor and his lady
had just returned the evening before from a visit east. Hon. S. M./ Thorp,
State Senator, Mr. J. C. Trask, Editor of State Journal, Mr. H. W. Baker,
grocer, with their wives, were boarding in Dr. Griswold's family. The
house was attacked about the same time as Gen. Collamore's. they called
for the men to come out. When they did not obey very readily, they assured
them "they should not be harmed- if the citizens quietly surrender it
might save the town." This idea brought them out at once. Mr. Trask said,
"if it will help save the town, let us go." They went down stairs and
out the doors. The ruffians ordered them to get in line, and to march
before them towards town. They had scarcely gone twenty feet from
the yard before the whole four were shot down. Dr. Griswold and Mr. Trask
were killed at once. Mr. Thorp and Mr. Baker wounded, but apparently dead.
The ladies attempted to reach their husbands from the house, but were
driven back. A guard was stationed just below, and every time any of the
ladies attempted to go from the house to their dying friends, this guard
would dash up at full speed, and with oaths and threats, drive them back.
After the bodies had lain about half an hour, a gang rode up, rolled them
over, and shot them again. Mr. Baker received his only dangerous wound
at this shot. After shooting the men, the ruffians went in and robbed
the house. They demanded even the personal jewelry of the ladies. Mrs.
Trask begged for the privilege of retaining her wedding ring. "You have
killed my husband let me keep his ring." "No matter," replied the heartless
fiend, and snatched the relic from her hand. Dr. Griswold was one of the
principal druggists of the place, Mr. Thorp was State Senator, Mr. Trask
Editor of the State Journal, and Mr. Baker one of the leading grocers
of the place. Mr. Thorp lingered in great pain till the next day, when
he died. Mr. Baker, after long suspense, recovered. He was shot through
The most brutal murder was that of Judge Carpenter. Several gangs called
at his house and robbed him of all he had- but his genial manner was too
much for them, and they all left him alive and his house standing. Towards
the last, another gang came, more brutal than the rest. They asked him
where he was from. He replied "New York." "It is you New York fellows
that are doing all the mischief," one replied, and drew his revolver to
shot him. 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 then fired the house, but
through the energy of the wife's sister, the fire was extinguished. The
Judge had been married less than a year. He was a young man, but had already
won considerable distinction in his profession. He had held the office
of Probate Judge for Douglas county, and a year before was candidate for
Attorney General of the State.
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.
Mrs. Fitch endeavored to drag the remains of her husband from the house,
but was forbidden. She then endeavored to save his miniature, but was
forbidden to do this. Stupefied by the scene, and the brutality exhibited
toward her, she stood there gazing at the strange work going on around
her, utterly unconscious of her position or her danger. Finally one of
the ruffians compelled her to leave the house, or she would probably have
been consumed with the rest. Driven out, she went and sat down with her
three little ones in front, and watched the house consumed over the remains
of her husband. Mr. Fitch was a young man of excellent character and spirit.
He was one of the "first settlers" of Lawrence, and taught the first school
in the place.
James Perine and James Eldridge were clerks in the "County Store." They
were sleeping in the store when the attack was made and could not escape.
The rebels came into the store and ordered them to open the safe, promising
to spare their lives. The moment the safe door flew open, they shot both
of them dead, and left them on the floor. They were both very promising
young men, about seventeen years of age.
Mr. Burt was standing by a fence, when one of the rebels rode up to
him and demanded his money. He handed up his pocket book, and as the rebel
took the pocket-book with one hand, he shot Mr. Burt with the other. Mr.
Murphy, a short distance up the same street, was asked for a drink of
water, and as the fiend took the cup with his left hand he shot his benefactor
with his right. Mr. Murphy was over sixty years of age. 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. Mr. Albach,
a German, was sick in his bed. They ordered the house cleared that they
might burn it. The family carried out the sick man on the mattress, and
laid him in the yard, when the rebels came out and killed him on his bed,
unable to rise. These are species of cruelty to which savages have never
One of the guerrillas went to the stable of J. G. Sands, corner of Pinckney
and Tennessee streets- stole his carriage horse and the pet pony "Freddie,"
while engaged in this, four others came up the alley, one of them was
heard to say, "why in h___ are not these houses burnt." Dismounting to
execute their threat, they were met by "Freddie" running past them, who
had escaped from his captor, they were urged to assist in securing the
runaway, at once remounting they all followed him, who lead them away
from this part of town and before he was again secured they were engaged
in other scenes of murder. This providential escape of the pony undoubtedly
saved, not only the houses, but also the lives of Dr. Fuller, B. W. Woodward
and J. G. Sands.
G. H. Sargeant's was on New Hampshire street between Winthrop and Henry.
Early in the day the guerrillas entered the house and robbed the inmates
of all their valuables. Notice was given them to remove furniture as the
house would be burnt. Before applying the torch one of the party assisted
in carrying out the piano. During the burning Mr. Sargeant, Charley Palmer
and a Mr. Young, a printer, were in the yard, also Mrs. Sargeant, a sister
of J. G. Sands Esq., and Mrs. Mary Hanom. A squad of ruffians fired a
volley into the men killing Mr. Palmer, wounding Mr. Sargeant, but
missing Mr. Young, who dropped and feigned death. 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. By this time the body of Mr. Young was terribly scorched by his
nearness to the burning building, but his presence of mind saved him.
The ladies dragged him into the weeds, in line with the other bodies,
covered them with sheets and were know more molested.
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.
The residence of F. W. Read was probably visited by more squads than any
other place, as it is situated in the heart of the city. Seven different
bands called there that morning. Mr. Read had been drilled with his company
the day before and had left his gun in the store, he started for it but
was met at the door by robbers and retreated back into his house. He ran
up stairs and raised his head up to look out of the window, when a bullet
struck the window sill within six inches of his right eye, the squad piled
bedding and books at the foot of the stairs and set it on fire to burn
him out but Mrs. Read put the fire out.
The next squad were for stealing,
after demanding as they all did fire arms at first, they wanted money
next and then helped themselves to whatever they could find. They found
in the back side of a bureau drawer a little box containing a pair of
gold and coral armlets used to loop up the dress at the shoulder of their
little girl Addie who had died a few months before. Mrs. Read begged very
hard that he would please not take them as they had been her little dead
child's and she wanted them to remember her by, the brute replied with
an oath "Damn your dead baby, she'll never need them again." The next
squad went in the bed-room, turned the clothes all down, one took out
a big bowie knife and cut the mattress for a yard while another lit a
match to set it on fire, it proved to be a hair mattress and would not
burn, they set the clothing on fire but it was put out.
The next squad
that rode up, only came in the house, he looked and seemed satisfied that
there was not much left in the house worth carrying off, on looking around
he coolly said "this is all I want Madame" and stepped up to the piano
and with one jerk pulled off the piano cover which was a new and very
nice one, walked out took the saddle from his horse and put it on for
a saddle blanket. The next squad were half drunk and demanded with an
oath who had put the fire out, Mrs. Read told them she did and would do
it again, the order was given to hold that woman, a villain grabbed her
by the wrists and held her in a vice like grasp, while the others piled
up bedding and books on a cotton lounge under a window and set it on fire
and remained inside until the smoke drove them all on the porch where
Mrs. Read was dragged and held till the casing, curtains and drove
them all on the porch where Mrs. Read was dragged and held till the curtains
and lounge were burning up and out of the top of the window, when they
let her go and said, "Damn you, you can have your home now, if you will
put it out," and went away.
Mrs. Read rushed through the smoke into the
bed-room, grabbed a pillow in each hand, and thus protected, shoved against
the window which was so burned that it fell out on the ground and the
home was saved. The next squad was commanded by and officer who inquired
for Mr. Read, and was told that he had gone east for goods. "Where was
your store?" She pointed to where Woodward's Drug Store now is, corner
Massachusetts and Henry street, and replied there it is all burning up.
One man in his squad immediately replied yes there has some one gone east
from that store, there had, it was P.R. Brooks who was then clerking for
Mr. Read, which showed how well posted they were and that their spies
had been here and done their work only too well.
Mrs. Read said "you seem
to be an officer, look at this house and at that burning store and say
if you have not punished us enough." The officer turned to his men and
gave the command, "men go away from here and tell all the other squads
no to molest these premises any more to-day, this family has been punished
enough," and he remained on the porch for one half hour. He was the only
one Mrs. Read saw that day that did not act the brute, and is believed
to be a man who is of high respectability now living in Missouri. The
last man that came was named Skeggs, to tell what he done would make this
story too long, he was fiendish and brutal, he staid too long and was
killed, the only one of the rebels known to have been killed.
Mr. Thornton had remained in his house till it was in flames. He then
ran out and they shop him three times in the hips. Another shot struck
him back of the shoulders, and passed clear down his back. Another shot
struck his head. The rebel then leaped from his horse with a brutal oath
exclaimed: "I can kill you," and pounded him over the head with the butt
end of his revolver till he fell senseless from exhaustion. The man was
going to shoot again, but Mrs. Thornton ran between them and prevented
him, and the brute soon left. Though so terribly shot Mr. Thornton still
lived, but two bullets in the hip joints could never be extracted, and
he was a cripple for life.
D.W. Palmer, a gunsmith, was wounded and thrown into the flames of his
burning shop. Mr. Langley lived about a mile from town. He was a fine
old gentleman of sixty. He was a peaceable man, taking no special part
in public affairs. He and wife lived by themselves on a small farm. Two
of the pickets stationed outside the town came to the house. Mrs. Langley
begged them "to be merciful: they were old people and could not live long
at best." But her entreaties had not effect, they hunted the old gentlemen
around the house and shot him in the yard. The first shot not doing its
work they shot him again and again. They then set fire to the house, but
through the energies of the old lady the fire was put out and the house
There were many hair - breadth escapes. Many ran to the cornfields near
to town; others fled to the "friendly brush" by the river bank. The
ravine which runs almost through the center of town, proved a safe refuge
to scores. The cornfield west of town and the woods east, were all alive
with refugees. Many hid in the "Park" which was planted with corn. Many
others who could get no further, hid among the weeds and plants in their
gardens. Mr. Strode, colored blacksmith, had a little patch of tomatoes,
not more than ten feet square. He took his money and buried himself among
the vines. The rebels came up and burned his shop not more than ten feet
off but did not discover him.
Mr. Hampson, who had been, shot lay wounded close by a burning building.
It would be certain death to show signs of life. His wife, therefore,
who stood by him, asked on of the rebels to help carry her husband's body
away from the flames. He took hold of Hampson and carried him out of reach
of the fire without discovering that he was alive. As soon as she could,
his wife helped him on a hand-cart, and covered him up with rags, and
then drew the whole away out of danger. The rebels she passed thought
her crazy for "drawing off that load of old rags."
One of the most wonderful escapes was that of Rev. H. D. Fisher. We
give an account of it in his own words: "When Quantrell and his gang came
into our town, almost all were yet in their beds. My wife and second boy
were up, and I in bed, because I had been sick of quinsy. The enemy yelled
and fired a signal. I sprang out, and my other children, and we clothed
ourselves as quick as it was possible. I took the two oldest boys
and started to run for the hill, as we were completely defenseless and
unguarded. I ran a short distance, and felt I would be killed. I returned
to my house, where I had left my wife with Joel, seven years old, and
Frank, six months old, and thought to hide in our cellar. I told Willie,
twelve years old, and Eddie ten years old to run for life, and I would
hide. I had scarcely found a spot in which to secrete myself, when four
murderers entered my house and demanded of my wife, with horrid oaths,
where that husband of hers was, who was hid in cellar.
She replied, "The
cellar is open you can go and see for yourselves. My husband started over
the hill with the children." They demanded a light to search. My wife
gave them a lighted lamp, and they came, light and revolvers in hand,
swearing to kill me a first sight. They came within eight feet of where
I lay, but wife's self-possession in giving the light had disconcerted
them, and they left without seeing me. They fired the house in four places;
but my wife by almost superhuman efforts, and with baby in arms, extinguished
the fire. Soon after, three others came and asked for me. But she said,
"Do you think he is such a fool as to stay here? They have already hunted
for him, but thank God! They did not find him."
They then completed their
work of pillage and robbery, and fired the house in five places, threatening
to kill her if she attempted to extinguish it again. One stood, revolver
in hand to execute the threat if it was attempted. The fire burned furiously.
The roof fell in, then the upper story, and then the lower floor; but
a space about six by twelve feet was by great effort kept perfectly
deluged with water by my wife to save me from burning alive. I remained
thus concealed as long as I could live in such peril. At length, and while
the murderers were still at my front door and all around lot watching
for their prey, my wife succeeded, thank God, in covering me with an old
dress and a piece of carpet, and thus getting me out into the garden and
to the refuge of a little weeping willow covered with morning glory vines,
where I was secured from their fiendish gaze and saved from their hellish
thirst for my blood. I still expected to be discovered and shot dead.
But a neighbor woman who had come to our help, aided my wife in throwing
a few things saved from the fire over and around the little tree where
I lay, so as to cover me more securely."
Hon. S. A. Riggs, District Attorney, was set upon by the vilest ruffian
of the lot. His wife rushed to his side at once. After a short parley
the man drew his revolver and took aim. Mr. Riggs pushed the revolver
aside and ran. The man started after him, but Mrs. Riggs, seized hold
of the bridle rein and clung to it till she was dragged round a house,
over a wood pile, and through the yard back on to the street again. Mr.
Riggs was still in sight, and the man was taking aim at him again, when
Mrs. Riggs seized the other rein and turned his horse round, and Mr. Riggs
was beyond reach. All this time the man was swearing and striking at her
with his revolver, and threatening to shoot her.
Old Mr. Miner hid among the corn in the Park. Hearing the racket around
Mr. Fisher's house near by, he ventured to the edge of the corn to gratify
his curiosity. He was seen and immediately shot at. He ran back into
the corn, but had not preceded far before he heard them breaking down
the fence. The corn was evidently to be searched. He ran, therefore, through
the corn, and lay down among the weeds beyond. The weeds only partially
covered him, but it was the best he could do. He had scarcely laid down
when the rebels came dashing through the corn, and stationing a picket
at each corner of the field to prevent escape, they searched the field
through but found no one. They did not happen to look among the grass
almost at their very feet.
Near the center of town was a sort of out door cellar with a very obscure
entrance. A woman, whose name we have been unable to obtain, but who ought
to be put on record as one of the heroines of that day, took her station
at a convenient distance from that cellar. Every poor fugitive that came
into that region, she directed into this hidden cellar. Thus eight or
ten escaped from the murderers. Finally, the rebels noticing that their
victims always disappeared when they came into this locality, suspected
this woman of aiding in their escape. They demanded of her that she should
show their hiding place. She refused. One of them drew his revolver, and
pointing it at her said, "Tell us or I will shoot you." "You may shoot
me," answered the brave woman, "but you will not find the men." Finding
they could not intimidate her, the left.
Mr. Bergen was wounded and then taken off with six or eight other prisoners.
After taking them a short distance, their captors shot all of them dead
but Mr. Bergen. He was lying down exhausted from loss of blood, and
for some reason they passed him by. There he lay among the dead, feigning
death. After lying a short time, a rebel rode up, and discovering he was
not dead, took aim at his head and fired. He felt the ball pass and instinctively
dropped his head, and the rebel supposing he had completed his work, rode
off. His head was now brought under the body of a young man who had been
killed with the rest. There he lay, the living under the dead, till the
rebels left town. At one time, the young man's mother came to wash the
blood from the face of her murdered son. Mr. Bergen begged her not to
move her son's body, as his only hope of life was in laying his head under
the lifeless corpse.
Several saved themselves by their ready wit. An officer in the camp
of recruits, when the attack was made, ran away at full speed. He was
followed by several horsemen, who were firing at him continually. Finding
escape impossible, he dashed into the house of a colored family, and in
the twinkling of an eye, slipped on a dress and shaker bonnet, passed
out the back door and walked deliberately away. The rebels surrounded
the house, and then some of them entered and searched, but found no prey.
A son of John Speer hid for some time under the side walk. The fire
soon drove him into the street, which was full of rebels. He went boldly
up to them and offered his services in holding horses. They asked his
name, and thinking that the name Speer would be his death warrant, he
answered "John Smith, and he remained among them unharmed to the last.
One man was shot as he was running away, and fell into the gutter.
His wife thinking him, killed, began to wring her hands and scream. The
rebel thinking from this her husband was dead, left. As soon as he was
gone, the man said, "Don't take on so, wife, I don't know as I am hit
at all." And so it proved.
Mr. Winchell, being hard pressed, ran into the house of Rev. Charles
Reynolds, Rector of the Episcopal Church. Mrs. Reynolds at once arrayed
him in female attire, and shaved off his moustache with a knife, and set
him in a rocking chair with a baby in his arms, and christened him "Aunt
Betsie." The rebels searched the house but did not disturb "Aunt Betsie."
Mr. G. Grovenor, had a narrow and almost providential escape. He lived
where he now does corner of Berkely and New Hampshire streets. While standing
on his porch a rebel rode up within ten feet of him and snapped his pistol
at him, it missed fire. It failed the second time, but at that instant,
another gang rode up and the leader said "don't shoot that man," and told
Mr. Grovenor to go to the cellar or somewhere. The house was now in flames,
but he secreted himself in the cellar under the back kitchen, until the
danger had passed. One gang ordered Mrs. Grovenor to draw water for themselves
and their horses. A young man, more human than the others alighted from
his horse, and told her he would draw the water. This young man said he
had no idea that any such murderous work was contemplated. He was told,
they were going to re-capture some horses that had been stolen. He had
not killed anyone nor set fire to any houses and was not going to.
General Lane, who was of course among the first sought for, hearing
them coming, jumped from his bed, seized an ax and chopped the door plate
from his front door and then fled in his night clothes to the corn field
west of his house, taking the door plate with him; passing through the
field he obtained clothes from a house on the outskirts of town and commenced
to gather a posse for resistance and pursuit.
John Speer had a son 17 years of age who was sleeping in the Republican
office building, and not the slightest trace of him has ever
been found. Another son was also brutally murdered.
Mr. Joseph Savage who lives two miles southwest of town had just arose
and was out back making his morning toilet. When he heard the tramp of
horses feet coming up the road, and presently heard a loud knocking at
the door. He supposed the horsemen were Union troops and the caller, a
soldier who wished to make some inquiry. After completing his toilet he
opened the door, and the man who had evidently come to murder him was
just going out the gate. Mr. Savage owes his life to the deliberate manner
in which he performed his morning wash.
Among the last brutal murders perpetrated, was the killing of Mr. Stone
and two or three others at the City Hotel or Whitney House, where Quantrell
had promised protection and as far as he knew evidently kept his word.
But two drunken ruffians, came at the last and hearing the weeping and
wailing of some women who had just heard that their husbands were lying
in the street dead, demanded what all the fuss was about? On being told,
they replied, "we'll give you something to cry for," and immediately
commenced firing into the hotel which was full of people. The old man
stone as he was called, was the first to fall, at least two others were
killed and several wounded.
"As the scene at their entrance was one of the wildest, the scene after
their departure was one of the saddest that ever met mortal gaze. Massachusetts
street was one bed of embers. On this one street, seventy-five buildings,
containing at least twice that number of places of business and offices,
was destroyed. The dead lay all along the sidewalk, many of them so burned
that they could not be recognized, and scarcely be taken up. Here and
there among the embers could be seen the bones of those who had perished
in the buildings and been consumed. On two sides of another block lay
seventeen bodies. Almost the first sight that met our gaze, was a father,
almost frantic, looking for the remains of his son among the embers of
his office. The work of gathering and burying the dead soon began. From
every quarter they were being brought in, until the floor of the Methodist
Church, which was taken as a sort of hospital, was covered with dead and
In almost every house could be heard the wail of the widow and
orphan. The work of burial was sad and wearying. Coffins could not be
procured. Many carpenters were killed, and most living had lost their
tools. But they rallied nobly, and worked night and day, making pine and
walnut boxed, fastening them together with the burnt nails gathered from
the ruins of the stores. (It sounded rather harsh to the ears of friends,
to have the lid nailed over the bodies of their loved ones; but it
was the best that could be done.) Thus the work went on for three days,
till one hundred and twenty-two were deposited in the Cemetery, and many
others in their own yards. Fifty-three were buried in one long grave.
Early on the morning after the massacre, our attention was attracted by
loud wailings. We went in the direction of the sound, and among the ashes
of a large building, sat a woman, holding in her hands the blackened skull
of her husband, who was shot and burned in that place. Her cries could
be heard over the whole desolated town, and added much to the feeling
of sadness and horror which filled every heart."
The rebels were in the town from about five o'clock until nine. About
that time a body of United States mounted troops, who had left Kansas
City the night before, as soon as Quantrell's movement were known, were
seen approaching from the east about eight miles distant. The rebel pickets
saw them first from the hill where the university now stands. The forces
were at once called together and they left town by the road leading south,
thus avoiding the troops. These latter struck across the prairie and overtook
the rebels about ten miles south of Lawrence. For some reason, no attack
was made, and the two bodies marched in sight of each other all day, and
at night the rebels escaped to their hiding places in Missouri. The first
ten miles of there route out of town was marked by burning farm buildings
and haystacks- they continuing their murderous work.
The population of Lawrence was about 2,000, and there could not have
been more than 400 men, a very large number being in the army. The
proportion of killed among these was vastly greater than in the bloodiest
battle of the war. There were left about eighty widows and 250 orphans.
The whole number killed was about one hundred and fifty. One hundred and
forty-three bodies were found and buried. Several were killed and burned
in buildings and their bodies never found, twenty five were wounded, two
of whom died a few days after.
There were between 300 and 400 in the company. About one-half were rebel
cavalry thoroughly drilled; the other half were the ruffians of the border.
They were the same clans who had disturbed the country in the early days
of Kansas- "the border ruffians." They remembered their former defeat,
and for all these years had been nursing their wrath to keep it warm.
The former clan were the most effective, the latter, the most brutal.
Quantrell* was once a school teacher in Ohio. He
came to Kansas before the war
* Since the first pages of this book was in print and stereotyped, the
publisher has been shown, in the rooms of the state Historical Society,
two autograph letters, signed W. C. QUANTRILL. He evidently spelled his
name with an "I" instead of an "E" as it is usually written. One of the
letters was written when a young man and was full of good advice to his
younger brothers in regard to the importance of an education.
and lived in Lawrence six months. He went by the name of Charly Hart.
He boarded at the City Hotel, where he kept his prisoners during the slaughter.
He became implicated in a horse stealing affair, which at that time was
a fatal disease, and left for parts unknown. When the war broke out he
found it convenient to take his place on the rebel side of the line.
His fate has always been involved in mystery. He has been reported killed
at a dozen different times, and has been reported as living in half a
dozen different places. There is little doubt however, but he was killed
or disabled in the spring following the raid. About June 1864 he very
suddenly disappeared from the field of action, and was never present again.
There is a belief that he died of wounds and disease some time after this
in the hospital at Louisville, which is not unlikely.
Many other states including Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania had severe
raids during the war, but none that approached the Quantrell Raid in complete
destruction of life and property. The Legislature of their states have
assumed the losses and paid the sufferers, while the Legislature of Kansas
have never done anything for the widows and orphans, whose husbands and
fathers helped cut out from the "Great American Desert" the best and richest
agricultural state that God's bright sun ever shone upon.
Notwithstanding there is about money enough in the State Treasury to
pay it, or the fact that it would be only a tax of one mill on the dollar
each year for four years, if it were necessary to raise the funds that
way, there is a moral certainty that the United States would assume the
debt and pay back to the state the just claim it has been reserved for
the legislature of 1865 to immortalize themselves, by paying a bill for
their relief, which in justice they should and we have no doubt but will
Partial list of killed and wounded, taken from the Leavenworth Conservative
of August 26, 1863:
Massacre at Baxter Springs
The true-life adventures of a cavalry trooper who finds himself in the middle of a guerilla war. Caught between Quantrill's guerillas and James Blunt, Union general who unwittingly leads his cavalry into a deadly ambush. The narrative describing the battle is based on previously unpublished Wisconsin archival material.
General James G. Blunt: Tarnished Glory
General Blunt was an immensely successful leader. He and John Brown helped escaped slaves reach Canada; he led the defeat of Confederate troops at Fort Wayne, Prairie Grove, and Cane Hill. Also accused of corruption, womanizing, and egotistical tirades throughout his military career
Civil War on the Western Border, 1854-1865
Fanatical politics of the western frontier, immigrant abolitionists with loaded Spencer rifles funded by mysterious personages back East, cut-throats, gin heads and horse thieves, colorful character descriptions
The work has been made available by the Kansas Collection
of Kenneth Spencer Research Library and the Department of History of the
University of Kansas. Kansas 30 June 1994
Guide to Missouri Confederate Units
The origins and history of Missouri Confederate units that served during the Civil War. Deeply torn, some Missourians chose sides enthusiastically, others reluctantly. The several thousand that sided with the Confederacy earned reputations for hard fighting exceeded by few other states, North or South
Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border
The western front was the scene of some of that conflict's bloodiest and most barbaric encounters as Union raiders and Confederate guerrillas pursued each other from farm to farm with equal disregard for civilian casualties
Jesse James and the Civil War in Missouri
I wanted to know more about Jesse James and what was going on in Missouri during the time of the war. This book gave me a good basic understanding. It was very easy reading and helpful
Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War
This places James within a specific political context, showing why it was possible for this murderous bandit to emerge as a folk hero among Southern sympathizers following the Civil War in which he fought as a teenager
There are many places in the historical records where there are two spellings: Quantrell and Quantrill
Books have been titled using both spellings
AmericanCivilWar.com has used the spelling that is part of the original source documents