Lawrence Massacre

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Lawrence Massacre
Part of the American Civil War
Battle of Lawrence.png
The destruction of the city of Lawrence, Kansas, and the massacre of its inhabitants by the Rebel guerrillas, August 21, 1863
DateAugust 21, 1863 (1863-08-21)
LocationDouglas County, Kansas
ResultConfederate victory
Belligerents
United States United States (Union)Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
None[1]William C. Quantrill
Units involved
Civilian population of Lawrence
unmustered recruits
Quantrill's Raiders
Strength
0300-400
Casualties and losses
164 civilians40
 
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Lawrence Massacre
Part of the American Civil War
Battle of Lawrence.png
The destruction of the city of Lawrence, Kansas, and the massacre of its inhabitants by the Rebel guerrillas, August 21, 1863
DateAugust 21, 1863 (1863-08-21)
LocationDouglas County, Kansas
ResultConfederate victory
Belligerents
United States United States (Union)Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
None[1]William C. Quantrill
Units involved
Civilian population of Lawrence
unmustered recruits
Quantrill's Raiders
Strength
0300-400
Casualties and losses
164 civilians40

The Lawrence Massacre, also known as Quantrill's Raid, was a rebel guerrilla attack during the U.S. Civil War by Quantrill's Raiders, led by William Clarke Quantrill, on the pro-Union town of Lawrence, Kansas.

The attack on August 21, 1863, targeted Lawrence due to the town's long support of abolition and its reputation as a center for Jayhawkers and Redlegs, which were free-state militia and vigilante groups known for attacking and destroying farms and plantations in Missouri's pro-slavery western counties.

Contents

Background

By 1863, Kansas had long been the center of strife and warfare over the admission of slave versus free states. In the summer of 1856, the first sacking of Lawrence sparked a guerrilla war in Kansas that lasted for months. John Brown might be the best known participant, but numerous groups fought for each side in Bleeding Kansas.

By the beginning of the American Civil War, Lawrence, Kansas, was already a target for pro-slavery ire, having been seen as the anti-slavery stronghold in the state and more importantly, a staging area for Union and Jayhawker incursions into Missouri. Initially the town and surrounding area were extremely vigilant and reacted strongly to any rumors that enemy forces might be advancing on the town. However by the summer of 1863, as none of the threats had materialized, citizen fears had declined and defense preparations were relaxed.[2]

Motivations

Quantrill himself said his motivation for the attack was, "To plunder, and destroy the town in retaliation for Osceola."[3] That was a reference to the Union's attack on Osceola, Missouri in September 1861, led by Senator James H. Lane. Osceola was plundered and nine men were given a drumhead court-martial trial and executed.[4][5] Several other Missouri towns and large swaths of the Missouri countryside had been similarly plundered and burned by Unionist forces from Kansas. Castel (1999) concludes that revenge was the primary motive, followed by a desire to plunder.[6] The retaliatory nature of the attack on Lawrence was confirmed by the survivors. "The universal testimony of all the ladies and others who talked with the butchers of the 21st ult. Is that these demons claimed there were here to revenge the wrongs done their families by our men under Lane, Jennison, Anthony and Co."[7]

Collapse of the Women's Prison in Kansas City

In a bid to put down the Missouri guerrilla raiders operating in Kansas, General Thomas Ewing, Jr. issued General Order No. 11, which ordered the arrest of anyone giving aid or comfort to Quantrill's raiders. This meant chiefly women or girls who were relatives of the guerrillas. Ewing confined those arrested in a series of makeshift prisons in Kansas City. The women were sequentially housed in two buildings which were considered either too small or too unsanitary, before being moved to an empty property at 1425 Grand.[8] This structure was part of the estate of the deceased Robert S. Thomas, George Caleb Bingham's father-in-law. In 1861 Bingham and his family were living in the structure, but in early 1862 after being appointed treasurer of the state of Missouri, he and his family relocated to Jefferson City. Bingham had added a third story to the existing structure to use as a studio.[9]

At least ten women or girls, all under the age of 20, were incarcerated in the building when it collapsed August 13, 1863, killing four: Charity McCorkle Kerr, Susan Crawford Vandever, Armenia Crawford Selvey, and Josephine Anderson—the 14 year old sister of William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson. Rumors circulated (later promulgated by Bingham who held a personal grudge against Ewing and who would seek financial compensation for the loss of the building) that the structure was undermined by the guards to cause its collapse.[10] However, a 1995 study of the events and affidavits surrounding the collapse concludes this is "the least plausible of the theories." Instead, testimony indicated that alterations to the first floor of the adjoining Cockrell structure for use as a barracks, caused the common wall to buckle. The weight of the third story on the former Bingham residence contributed to the resultant collapse.[11] While Quantrill's raid on Lawrence was planned prior to the collapse of the jail, the deaths of the guerrilla's female relatives undoubtedly added to their thirst for revenge and blood lust during the raid.[12]

Attack

The attack was the product of careful planning. Quantrill had been able to gain the confidence of many of the leaders of independent Bushwhacker groups, and chose the day and time of the attack well in advance. The different groups of Missouri riders approached Lawrence from the east in several independent columns, and converged with well-timed precision in the final miles before Lawrence during the pre-dawn hours of the chosen day. Many of the men had been riding for over 24 hours to make the rendezvous and had lashed themselves to their saddles to keep riding if they fell asleep. Almost all were armed with multiple six-shot revolvers.

Lawrence in ruins as illustrated in Harper's Weekly

Between three and four hundred riders arrived at the summit of Mount Oread, then descended on Lawrence in a fury. Over four hours, the raiders pillaged and set fire to the town and killed most of its male population. Quantrill's men burned to the ground a quarter of the buildings in Lawrence, including all but two businesses. They looted most of the banks and stores and killed between 185 and 200 men and boys. According to an 1897 account, among the dead were 18 of 23 unmustered army recruits.[13] By 9 a.m., the raiders were on their way out of town, evading the few units that came in pursuit, and splitting up so as to avoid Union pursuit of a unified column.

The principal target of the raid, Jayhawker Senator James H. Lane, who had been responsible for the raid in Osceola, Missouri two years earlier, escaped death by racing through a cornfield in his nightshirt.

Aftermath

The Lawrence Massacre was one of the bloodiest events in the whole history of Kansas. The Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence survived the attack, but a number of its members were killed and records destroyed.[14]

A day after the attack, the surviving citizens of Lawrence lynched a member of Quantrill's Raiders caught in the town. On August 25, General Ewing authorized General Order No. 11 (not to be confused with Grant's famous General Order of the same name) evicting thousands of Missourians in four counties from their homes near the Kansas border. Virtually everything in these counties was then systematically burned to the ground. The action was carried out by the infamous Jayhawker, Charles "Doc" Jennison. Jennison's raids into Missouri were thorough and indiscriminate, and left five counties in western Missouri wasted, save for the standing brick chimneys of the two-storey period houses, which are still called "Jennison Monuments" in those parts.

A Missouri abolitionist and preacher described the role of the Lawrence Massacre in the region's descent into the horror of total war on the civilian population of Kansas and Missouri:[15]

"Viewed in any light, the Lawrence Raid will continue to be held, as the most infamous event of the uncivil war! The work of destruction did not stop in Kansas. The cowardly criminality of this spiteful reciprocity lay in the fact that each party knew, but did not care, that the consequences of their violent acts would fall most heavily upon their own helpless friends. Jenison in 1861 rushed into Missouri when there was no one to resist, and robbed and killed and sneaked away with his spoils and left the union people of Missouri to bear the vengeance of his crimes. Quantrell in 1863 rushed into Lawrence, Kansas, when there was no danger, and killed and robbed and sneaked off with his spoils, leaving helpless women and children of his own side to bear the dreadful vengeance invoked by that raid. So the Lawrence raid was followed by swift and cruel retribution, falling, as usual in this border warfare, upon the innocent and helpless, rather than the guilty ones. Quantrell left Kansas with the loss of one man. The Kansas troops followed him, at a respectful distance, and visited dire vengeance on all western Missouri. Unarmed old men and boys were accused and shot down, and homes with their now meagre comforts were burned, and helpless women and children turned out with no provision for the approaching winter. The number of those killed was never reported, as they were scattered all over western Missouri."

The city seal of Lawrence commemorates Quantrill's attack with its depiction of a Phoenix rising from the ashes of the burnt city.

For his part, Quantrill led his men south to Texas for the winter. By the next year, the raiders had disintegrated as a unified force, so were unable to achieve similar successes. William Clarke Quantrill died of wounds received in Kentucky in 1865, with only a few staunch supporters left. Among these appear to have been Frank James and his younger brother, Jesse James.[16]

In popular media

In the USA Network dramedy Psych, the fictional "Battle of Piper's Cove" reenacted in the 2006 episode "Weekend Warriors" seems to be based on the Lawrence Massacre.

The battle is also depicted in the Steven Spielberg-produced 2005 miniseries Into the West and in Ang Lee's 1999 film Ride with the Devil, plus the Audie Murphy western Kansas Raiders (1950).

The 1940 film Dark Command, based on a novel of the same name, is a fictionalized account of the events in much more of a classic B-movie western style. The film starred John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, and Walter Pidgeon, but bore no resemblance to the events of history.

The 2010 Coen Brother's film, True Grit, includes a scene in which the characters played by Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon argue about Quantrill. Damon's Texas Ranger calls him a murderer; Bridges' US Marshall, who "rode with" Quantrill, calls him a patriot. Damon ends the argument after Bridges refers to "Captain Quantrill," ridiculing the title: "Captain of what?" This conversation appeared first in Charles Portis' book of the same name published in 1968. The same exchange existed in the original 1969 film.

See also

References

  1. ^ No union commander present
  2. ^ Albert Castel, Civil War Kansas (University Press of Kansas 1997) pp. 124-126
  3. ^ Albert E. Castel, William Clarke Quantrill: his life and times (University of Oklahoma Press, 1999) p. 142
  4. ^ Ian Spurgeon, Man of Douglas, man of Lincoln: the political odyssey of James Henry Lane (University of Missouri Press, 2009) pp 185-88
  5. ^ Paul R. Petersen, Quantrill of Missouri: The Making of a Guerrilla Warrior--The Man, the Myth, the Soldier (2003) p. 61
  6. ^ Castel, William Clarke Quantrill: his life and times (1999) p 142
  7. ^ Albert Castel, Civil War Kansas (University Press of Kansas 1997) p. 136.
  8. ^ Harris, Charles F. "Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of the Women's Prison In Kansas City", Missouri Historical Review, April 1995, pp. 294,295
  9. ^ Harris, Charles F. "Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of the Women's Prison In Kansas City", Missouri Historical Review, April 1995, pp. 296,297
  10. ^ Bingham, George Caleb, The Washington Sentinel, article, March 9, 1878.
  11. ^ Harris, Charles F. "Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of the Women's Prison In Kansas City", Missouri Historical Review, April 1995, pp. 302, 303
  12. ^ Leslie, Edward E. The Devil Knows How to Ride. De Capo Press, 1998. Pages 193-195.
  13. ^ The Gun and the Gospel : early Kansas and Chaplain Fisher. p. 194.
  14. ^ Sellen, Al. "A Brief Outline of Plymouth’s History". Plymouth Congregational Church. http://www.plymouthlawrence.com/who/history/. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  15. ^ Miller, George Missouri's Memorable Decade, 1860-1870. E.W. Stephens, Columbia, MO., 1898. Pages 100-101. http://digital.library.umsystem.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?sid=27dbc1b1c986779f36fff17f3fb47059;g=;c=civilwar;idno=civc000034
  16. ^ Wellman, 1961; 1986.

Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 38°57′51″N 95°14′09″W / 38.96427°N 95.23590°W / 38.96427; -95.23590