A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Burning Kansas: Jayhawkers, Bushwackers, and the Raid on Lawrence

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth


On May 30, in the Year of Our Lord Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Four, the Congress of these United States placed a bill before President Franklin Pierce, a bill which would be lead to the deaths of tens of thousands and would nearly rip the Nation asunder. Of course, these men hadn`t the foggiest idea that they were placing a death warrant on President Pierce`s desk, nor did the good President know that his signature sealed the fate of countless Americans. What he was signing was innocuously titled ``The Kansas-Nebraska Act`` and this particular bill was intended to open the territories west of Missouri and Iowa to settlement and eventual statehood, and sought to replace the increasingly unworkable Missouri Compromise (in which slavery would be confined to territory south of the 36*30` latitude, or the southern border of Missouri) with a more open system, one which would allow the settlers to decide for themselves whether to be slave or free. This policy, titled Popular Sovereignty and championed by Stephen Douglas, granted an opportunity to the slaveholding South to maintain parity within government with the free North by allowing territorial settlers to vote on what type of state they wished. This may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was, in reality, a monstrously stupid one, the equivalent of dousing a fire with gasoline. Hordes of new settlers poured into Kansas from both North and South, absolutely determined to win this undeveloped prairie for their side. Bloodshed began almost immediately, leading Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune to name the unhappy grassland ``bleeding Kansas``; Kansas was indeed hemorrhaging, and badly.

We often refer to the awful war of 1860-65 as the Civil War, but that isn`t an accurate moniker; the people were not fighting among themselves but rather, one region was fighting another. The old Southern tradition of calling it the War Between the States is really a more accurate representation of that fight in most of the war zones-most but not all. The sad truth is that there actually was a civil war, a terrible and bloody deathstruggle between peoples of different heritage and lifestyles, and it occurred in eastern Kansas and western Missouri; the most vicious and bitter fighting of the War occurred in these parts, and there was little mercy for the enemy. Kansas was bleeding, and Death was waiting in the wings.

The Massachusetts Immigrant Aid Society was founded by abolitionist Eli Thayer for the express purpose of flooding Kansas with Free-Staters. The town they established was named after the Society`s treasurer and principle financier Amos Lawrence, and the MIAS was a source of profound bitterness to the Southerners who came to settle. Lawrence, Kansas became the focal point of the wrath which was to follow, a place of God, guns, and Puritan ethics set down on the dusty prairie, a place of theft, murder, and bloodshed as well.

Trouble stalked Lawrence from the time of it`s inception; fights, threats, and accusations lead to a territorial Grand Jury ordering the arrest of the town`s leading citizens, as well as the closing of it`s newspaper and the Free State Hotel (home to the more rabid visiting abolitionists). On May 21 of 1856 a mob of about 1000 men set out from Missouri to enforce the Grand Jury decree, accompanying a Federal Marshall and bringing 5 cannons with them. This group became known as the Border Ruffians, and they would proudly earn the right to that title; they fired several rounds from their cannon at the Free State Hotel, set it on fire along with several newspaper shops and an abolitionists house. A couple of innocent bystanders were hit by stray bullets fired by the Ruffians, and this mob generally sacked the town.

This would prompt a 50 year old former tannery owner and radical abolitionist with an apocalyptic vision and ferocious hatred toward slaveholders to launch a holy war against the men of the South.

Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth he hath but a short time.

Rev12: 7-10 and 12-13


On the night of May 24 a silent band of men, armed with swords culled from a secret society, crept through the darkness on a mission of vengeance. This band was actually a family, lead by a thin, wild-eyed father hell-bent on murdering evil Southerners to atone for the deaths at Lawrence. He had received the swords to be used in Ohio (which, oddly enough, was the home of his antithesis William Clark Quantrill) from a shadowy organization called the Grand Eagles, who turned them over to him after he proclaimed that the way to keep slavery out of Kansas was to go there and ``meddle directly with the peculiar institution``. The dark Judge had plans for those swords, plans involving the spilling of much blood onto the prairie soil.

John Brown had come to Kansas in answer to the plea of his son, who had settled there a short while before. Brown was not merely a believer in abolition, he was a man thirsting for vengeance against all who supported the institution of slavery, and he dreamed of a violent, bloody slave uprising in which the Southerners would be massacred in punishment for their sins. In his wrath he vowed the violent destruction of the evil institution of slavery, and he would begin his campaign here in Kansas, a campaign which would end with a rope at Charlestown, Va. after his spectacular but bungled raid on Harper`s Ferry. Between these two events he would torment the planters of western Missouri, beginning a fine old tradition which would lead to the vengeance of Quantrill`s Bushwackers and the burning of Lawrence.

But all of that was in the future; right this moment farmer Brown and his boys were creeping along the edges of Pottawatomie Creek, seeking prey to devour. Pottawatomie was a pro-slavery stronghold, and the ideal place for a zealot like Brown to launch his Jihad. To make matters worse, Brown and his sons received word that very night that Senator Sumner had been bludgeoned on the Senate floor by a Southerner, and this set his sons aflame.

They came to a tiny cabin occupied by a poor Southern family named Doyle. The Doyles were from Tennessee, and had migrated to Kansas to separate themselves from the effects of the peculiar institution (slavery devastated the economy and social fabric of places where it was practiced, and the Doyles may have been pro-slavery as any good southerner was at that time, but they weren`t fans of the institution.) Brown pounded on the door, ordered Mr. Doyle and his sons outside, and chopped them into pieces. Their only crime was that they were from the South.

Next they went to the house of an old man named Wilkinson, whom they murdered in a similar way. After that it was to William Sherman, known as Dutch Bill, who had been one of the leaders of the Border Ruffians. They split his head open and chopped off one of his hands, as well as hacked his chest open.

Satisfied, John Brown washed the blood from his sword and returned home.

He would launch vicious raids on Missouri farms for a couple of years after the Pottowatomie massacres, and would have a price on his head, but the abolitionists would protect him, and they would eventually win the struggle for Kansas.

The Jayhawkers

Following the lead of John Brown, groups of abolitionists would begin raiding the farms and plantations of western Missouri with regularity. The original intent of the raids was to free slaves, but they quickly degenerated into plunder parties as the thieves (Jayhawking was a term meaning theft) ``fined`` the slaveholders and their supporters for their crimes. These raiders would often steal anything which was not nailed down, including tomb stones to be used as elegant steps adorning Jayhawker homes in Lawrence. The citizenry of Missouri complained bitterly about these raids, and the Federal authorities would issue arrest warrants, but Kansas had to execute those warrants, and Kansas was now in the abolitionists hands. Furthermore, Kansas was very poor at this time, having few trees and being in the early stages of development, so the authorities in Kansas were eager to overlook the means by which such wealth poured into the territory.

Over time these raids became more violent, and eventually they were little more than acts of murder and mayhem. Farmholders were generally hanged, often in front of their small children. Women would be raped-including young slave girls, and often the slaves were robbed along with their masters. This went on for years, even before there was a state of war. Many of the men who would later ride with Quantrill had seen their fathers hanged, or their sisters raped. They had seen their mothers being forced by the Jayhawkers to burn down their own homes. It was little wonder that these young boys would become brutal and violent adults. It`s small wonder they would fight back.

Perhaps the most notorious Jayhawker was James Lane. Lane had been a Congressman in Indiana, and his vote in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska act had nearly ruined his career. He had headed west to restore his fortune, settling in Lawrence and becoming a major general in the Free State Militia. Lane would organize numerous raids on Missouri, and would become one of the men the Partisan Ranger companies most hated.

Another infamous Jayhawker was Charles ``Doc`` Jennison. Jennison would lead the 7th Kansas Cavalry ``Jayhawker`` regiment, which sound respectable enough, but in reality his was a band of thieves and brigands who would terrorize the Missouri countryside and steal mountains of bootie. William ``Buffalo Bill`` Cody and Wild Bill Hickock rode with Jennison, and Cody once called the 7th Jayhawkers ``the biggest bunch of thieves on Earth``. (On a personal note, I once met Cody`s grandson in, well, Cody, Wyoming where my cousins had a cattle ranch. I was a young`un at the time.)

Silas Soule was a friend of the Brown family and participated in the Sand Creek Massacre as part of the 1st Colorado Cavalry.

The Jayhawking raids greatly intensified after the opening of hostilities, and even the Union commanders hated the Jayhawkers because of their brutality and vile character. On more than one occasion formal complaints came to Gen. McClellan, who passed them along to Secretary of War Stanton recommending the disbanding of the Jayhawker regiments, but Stanton hated the South and was only too happy to see the raids continue.

These raids did more to recruit for the Confederacy, and for the Bushwackers than anything the South could possibly have done; fate delivered them into the band of the damned. A casual look at some of the men on Quantrill`s roster makes this all too plain:

Andy Walker-25 year old newlywed who was attacked by Jayhawkers in December of 1861 and lost his stock and witnessed them burn his farm to the ground.

George Todd-Quantrill`s captain, Todd`s father refused to be impressed into service to build Fort Union in Kansas City. The army imprisoned the younger Todd at starvation rations until his father (an engineer) started work. Todd joined Quantrill shortly thereafter.

William Gregg had served as an enlisted soldier in the Confederate Army. When his enlistment expired he returned home to find his uncle had been hanged for having Southern sympathies.

Nathan Kerr became a guerilla after Federal troops hanged his father.

George Wiggington-father murdered in front of the family, house burned to the ground.

Jesse James-whipped by Kansas Jayhawkers for refusing to divulge the whereabouts of his brother Frank, he returned home to find his stepfather had been hanged (he survived, but was mentally incapacitated by the attack), and his mother beaten into a miscarriage.

Dave Poole-Lived with his Uncle until Jayhawkers attacked and killed him while robbing their house.

James Poisal-father murdered in retaliation for Federal defeat at Odessa, Mo. battle.

John Brown-No relation to the notorious Jayhawker, Brown`s father was killed while trying to retrieve cattle scattered by the Jayhawkers. His home was burned to the ground.

Dick, James, and Isaac Berry-Their sisters aged 20, 14, and 11 raped, and father killed.

Frank Dalton-Cousin to the James brothers, witnessed Jennison`s men strip Frank and Jesse`s mother and sisters to the waist, tie them to a tree, and beat them into unconsciousness in retaliation for Quantrill`s raiding. The slaves had to take them down and tend them for months. Dalton rode with Quantrill after that.

Coleman and James Younger-Their father was murdered, sister arrested, and their mother forced to burn down their house at bayonette point.

So, you see, these men sought vengeance, and were willing to ride under the Black Flag. They were desperate men, men who had lost the things they loved. These were furious men, hardened by rage and suffering. They were prepared to spill blood.


If vengeance is a dish best served cold, then Charlie Hart was the executive chef of Antenorra. Born not of woman but of violence; the result of a Jayhawker attack on two quiet cowboys returning from a drive to Utah. One of the cowboys was a mild, thoughtful young man from Ohio who had been a schoolteacher but couldn`t find work, while the other was a Southerner trying to return home to Missouri. Lane`s Jayhawkers, flushed from their most recent conquest, fell upon the two furiously, killing the Southerner and leaving the second man for dead along the banks of a Kansas river. Across the river was an Indian reservation, and a kindly Native American who had been fishing along the shore came to the rescue, taking the wounded man into his home and sheltering him for close to a year. The injured man was one of the settlers who had come to keep Kansas a free state, but he had become friendly with Missourians on his cattle drives and had come to believe that what the Jayhawkers were doing was wrong. This man`s name was William Clark Quantrill, an immigrant from Canal Dover in Ohio, and he had early on given up the hardscrabble life of farming. He was a quiet, intelligent man, always known to be mild of speech and slow to anger.

But anger was kindled in him now, an anger which would lead to a vengeance of breathtaking proportion.

After leaving his host, the young man went to the town of Lawrence under the name Charlie Hart, where he managed to get a job teaching school (thanks, no doubt, to his new radical abolitionism.) Charlie Hart worked his way into the good graces of James Lane and the Jayhawkers, who came to trust him and took him along on a number of raids. Hart was a fine horseman, a crack shot, and an able man whose behavior on these raids was without reproach. The trouble was, strange things seemed to happen on these raids; men often disappeared not to be found or, if they would happen to turn up, with a bullet in their heads. Eventually the Jayhawkers began to put the pieces together; the dead men all had been on the raid in Missouri, the one where they shot those two men on the river.

But before they could deal with Charlie Hart, he lead them into a trap. He planned a raid on a wealthy farmer in Missouri, but had tipped the Missourians off as to the plan. He then went out to scout with a couple of other Jayhawkers, taking them into an ambush. The main body of raiders, hearing that the scouting party had been killed, retreated to Lawrence. Hart, not realizing he had been compromised, went back to his unit-only to be seized and nearly lynched by the enraged Jayhawkers. A Judge had him removed from Lane`s hands, and helped spirit him out of Kansas to avoid mob justice.

Charlie Hart had successfully killed every member of the squad which had attacked him.

Years later Quantrill would refer to his murdered companion as his brother when telling this story. Why he did this (except to make himself look less vengeful) is a mystery to this day. Suffice it to say that this began the long and terrible career of the greatest guerilla fighter of the Civil War-a man of whom Gen. Lee would claim that if he had 5 Quantrills the War would be over in 6 months.

Quantrill went on to join Gen. Sterling Price at the Confederate victory at Lafayette, Mo. (where Lincoln`s point man in the West-Nathanial Lyon-would fall), making a name for himself by racing up and down the lines on horseback, daring the Union Army to shoot him. Quantrill wore a red ruffled shirt, marking himself plainly; this would be his attire through his entire career. He gained the attention of Price, who had just received orders authorizing the creation of a Partisan Ranger company. This dashing and brave young man seemed a good choice to head up the first of these companies.

Most of these partisan outfits elected their commanders, but Quantrill actually held a Confederate commission; he was a full Colonel in the Confederate army, probably conferred on him by Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon when he met with Quantrill in 1862. It is also possible that Gen. Price gave him a field commission before that. At any rate, Quantrill was a rare case, since he had the right to requisition men and supplies from Confederate stores. His critics (of whom there are many) often ignore this fact, which bolsters their argument that the Partisans were merely a gang of thieves and murderers. This was not so, and Quantrill was always careful in the way he conducted the war. Women and children were not to be molested, nor were noncombatants who did not resist. Furthermore, they never harmed a prisoner until after March of 1862 when Union General Halleck issued orders placing them under the ``black flag``-meaning they would not be allowed to surrender, but would be killed. Quantrill did charge for returning stolen cattle and horses to their owners, but this was done out of necessity for operating costs, and, given their spartan lifestyle hiding in the woods, it was obvious that, unlike the Jayhawkers who could live well in Lawrence on their plunder, these men were not personally profiting from their raids.

And raid they did; they stopped stagecoach traffic, cut telegraph and rail lines, raided barge docks and warehouses, and generally made it impossible for the Union to secure the State of Missouri. They raided Olathe, Kansas, Shawneetown, Baxter Springs, Mo., Lone Jack, Mo., Fayette, Wellington, Liberty, Lamar, and Carthage, Mo. In a spectacular raid they captured the Union garrison at Independence, Mo., holding the town for several hours before Union reinforcements could chase his band out.

There were a number of factors which made Quantrill`s band so successful; they were outstanding horsemen who knew the country and, more importantly, the citizens, they were all personally instructed in marksmanship by Quantrill himself, they planned their attacks extraordinarily carefully, and they employed strategies which would be used in the Indian Wars to come, and are still used today in similar circumstances by the United States military. Quantrill seemed to have picked up some tactics which were employed by a number of the more successful Indian tribes-such as the Comanche and Kiowa. He taught his men how to ``knee rein`` their horses-guide their animals with their legs while holding the reins in their teeth. This allowed the raiders to hold pistols in both hands. Often they would hang on one side of the animals and shoot around them (an old Comanche trick). The use of pistols is what made the Bushwackers so effective; they would raise a trilling, Indian style rebel yell and charge at full gallop. (I often wonder if Quantrill`s friend and nurse, the Indian who saved him after he was attacked, perhaps did more for him than tend his wounds? Quantrill had to get these tactics from somewhere.) The Union troops would fire their single-shot rifles while Quantrill`s band was out of range, and they would not have time to reload before the Bushwackers were on them, firing repeatedly with their 6 shot Navy Colts pistols. Each of Quantrill`s men carried a minimum of 4 pistols into action, and some had as many as 8 available.

(It must have been a terrifying sight; Quantrill`s band emerging like ghosts from the woods, screaming like banshees while riding at full gallop; moonlight glinting off their pistols while their customary scarlet shirts rustled in the breeze and the horses pounded the damp Missouri soil. The flare of their pistols discharging in the night, and the knowledge that you only have perhaps two minutes to live...)

The raid on Independence was an embarrassment to the Union forces in Missouri, and it illustrated their impotence in the face of this small (400 man or less) Confederate force. The time had come to take severe measures.

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horses bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlong.



General Thomas Ewing, commander of the military occupation of Western Missouri, at the urging of James Lane, ordered the arrest of anyone who had any association with the Bushwackers, or who even expressed Southern sympathies. His infamous General Order 10 reads in part:

Such officers will arrest, and send to the District Provost-Marshall for punishment, all men and all women, not heads of families, who willfully aid and encourage guerrillas with a written statement of the names and residence of such persons and of the proof against them. They will discriminate as carefully as possible between those who were compelled, by threats or fears, to aid the Rebels and those who aid them from disloyal motives. The wives and children of known guerrillas, and also women who are heads of families and are willfully engaged in aiding guerrillas, will be notified by such officers to move out of this district forthwith. They will be permitted to take, unmolested, their stock, provisions, and household goods. If they fail to remove promptly, they will be sent by such officers, under escort, to Kansas City for shipment south, with their clothes and such necessary household furniture and provisions as may be worth removing.

(From Quantrill of Missouri by Paul R. Peterson)

Union troops quickly began rounding up the families of Quantrill`s men, and shipped them to a concentration camp in Kansas City.

While the lion`s share of the civilians were herded into a dirty camp along the banks of the Missouri river, one group was singled out for special imprisonment; close relatives of Quantrill`s men were place under guard on the second floor of a retired Union General`s building. This structure (only 5 years old, contrary to published accounts claiming the building was decrepit) had a dry-goods store on the first floor and was unoccupied on the top level, while the Union headquarters occupied the building adjacent. The women were detained on the the second floor, with no means of egress, and nobody making sure they were safe.

What happened next has been the subject of heated argument; the building collapsed, killing a couple of the women. The Union argued that a strong wind collapsed the structure, but this flies in the face of the structural engineers report five years later, as well as the insistence by the retired general that the building had been purposely destroyed. The women all claimed to hear people sawing and pickaxing in the basement, and the dry-goods company packed up their stuff and left the night before the collapse. In short, it looks as though the Union army murdered the Bushwacker`s women.

This, along with the great bitterness leftover from the burning of the Missouri town of Osceola a year or so before, set Quantrill`s men into a fury! (I visited Osceola this summer, and there was a plaque with a vague reference to a Civil War battle-the winners definitely write history!) ``Bloody`` Bill Anderson, one of Quantrill`s ablest (and most violent) Captains, argued for an immediate attack. The air was thick with vengeance.

Men at war never war with women, but women from the South
they take,
to an ancient cell which killed as it fell, with the aid of
the Union`s weight
We`re gonna ride and track you down. We`re gonna burn Lawrence
to the ground.

James Edwards

Quantrill unveiled his plan.

For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, And the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts.



``Carthago delenda est``

Marcius Porcius Cato

No one else could have done it. He was going up against a wary enemy, and enemy who had troops stationed along each mile of the Missouri-Kansas border, and enemy who was actively hunting him. His plan was so daring it smacked of folly, yet he had always been a cautious and meticulous leader who never lead his men into unnecessary danger. His plan was so bold that nobody believed-especially after Gen. Lee`s defeat at Gettysburg-that anyone would be daring enough to try such a thing. Only Quantrill could have done it, only William Clark Quantrill could have launched such a raid on the citadel of the Jayhawkers and pulled it off.

Civil War historian Shelby Foote once claimed that the War produced one true military genius-Nathan Bedford Forest. Forest, like Quantrill, was a partisan ranger and brilliant guerrilla commander, and he gets all the good press because he fought in the eastern theatre, the places everyone remembers when discussing the Civil War. The fact is, Quantrill was fighting under far more difficult circumstances and he accomplished every bit as much (if not more) than Forrest. I will be generous and agree that the war produced TWO great military geniuses; Quantrill was certainly one of them, and the planning and execution of the Lawrence raid was certainly one of the all-time masterpieces of military action. It was also one of the bloodiest.

The raiders set off from Blue Springs, Mo. on August 19, 1863 with Captains William Gregg and George Todd leading a zig-zag course through the Missouri brush. They crossed the state line just north of Aubrey, Kansas; three hundred men riding silently through the pre-dawn light towards the sleeping town of Lawrence, 45 miles to the west. A Union commander at Warrensburg had learned that Quantrill`s band was on the move, and they had to be dealt with, so Quantrill sent a diversionary party of 16 men to move into Johnson county, successfully drawing the Union troops away from the main body of raiders. Fortune was with the Bushwackers; the telegraph office was closed, so word that Quantrill`s men were on the move did not get out until morning-by then they were well into Kansas.

The plan was to arrive before dawn, but they were tardy and arrived well after daybreak on August 20. Coleman Younger, scouting ahead, reported that he was informed there were 300 Union regulars as well as 300 militia, so the odds were 2 to 1 against the raiders, but Quantrill`s band had faced odds as heavily as 5 to 1 in the past, so they were not overly concerned. Also, some of the regulars were out on patrol (looking for Quantrill), and the remainder-along with the Jayhawker companies-were encamped across the river which bordered Lawrence. Bill Anderson was able to keep these troops pinned down throughout the raid, while the main body of Quantrill`s men extracted their awful vengeance.

They had composed a list of 93 men marked for execution. They had orders to shoot any man who resisted. They had orders to shoot any Union soldier or Jayhawker. They had orders to kill any man using a tombstone for a doorstep. Women and children were not to be hurt, but the town was to be put to the torch.

James Lane was eating breakfast in his nightshirt that morning when he heard Quantrill`s men coming for their vengeance. He did not hesitate; he jumped out of his window and fled into a cornfield. Lane managed to elude his would be executioners, thus denying the raider`s their greatest prize.

But he was one of the few who managed to get away. Quantrill`s men went door to door, dragging out the men on their list and shooting them like dogs in the streets. They shot soldiers and men who resisted, and set fire to the Free State Hotel. In fact, they set so many fires that the parts of the town they hadn`t intended to burn caught fire anyway-including the Eldridge Hotel which was owned by a close personal friend of Quantrill`s and was used by him as his headquarters during the raid.

In all 184 men were killed and 87 buildings burned to the ground. Blood ran in the streets and alleys of Lawrence, and the city was reduced to ashes; it was the worst massacre of civilians in American history. A great black cloud roiled unto the Heavens, a burnt offering to Molok, or the ancient serpent. Lawrence was dead; butchered by Quantrill and his men. When the Bushwackers left it was a silent, empty place.

Quantrill didn`t think they would be able to escape, not after what they had done, but his men had all given their assent to the raid. He knew that Union forces were close and would pursue him like the Furies, so the raiders set out for Missouri with all dispatch. They had a number of wagons loaded with booty which they had taken out of warehouses in Lawrence but which had originally been stolen from Missouri by the Jayhawkers, but they were forced to dump this in order to make their escape.

Bill Anderson fought a rear-guard action against pursuing Federals, who nipped at the raider`s heels throughout the entire flight to Missouri, but the Union forces, exhibiting that fear that can only be understood by those who have looked great evil in the eye, were too frightened to engage Anderson in open combat, preferring to snipe at his troops from a distance. Anderson lost his voice from shouting commands to his men, and had to be replaced before the Bushwackers made it to the state line. Once the band was ``safely`` in Missouri, Quantrill disbanded and his men scattered into the forests.

There was little left of Lawrence; like Sodom, Babylon, or Carthage, it had been reduced to ashes.


General Order 11

First, all persons living in Cass, Jackson, and Bates counties, Missouri, and in that part of Vernon including in this district, except those living within one mile of the limits of Independence, Hickman`s Mill, Pleasant Hill, and Harrisonville, and except those in that part of Kaw Township, Jackson County, north of Brush Creek and west of the Big Blue (river), embracing Kansas City and Westport, are hereby ordered to remove from their present places of residence within fifteen days from the date hereof (Aug. 25, 1863).

Second, all grain and hay in the field , or under shelter, in the district from which the inhabitants are required to remove within reach of military stations, after the 9th day of September next, will be taken to such stations and turned over to the proper officer there, and report of the amount so turned over made to district headquarters, specifying the names of all loyal owners, and the amount of such produce taken from them. All hay and grain found in the district after the 9th day of September next, not convenient to such station, will be destroyed. Third: The provisions of General Order no. 10, from these headquarters, will at once be vigorously executed by officers commanding in the parts of the district, and at the stations not subject to to the operations of paragraph First of this order-and especially in the towns of Independence, Westport, and Kansas City.

Fourth: Paragraph 3, General Order No. 10, is revoked as to all who have borne arms against the government in the district since August 20, 1863.


Gen. Thomas Ewing

With this order the Union military commander of Western Missouri expelled all of the residents of 4 Missouri counties in an effort to break the backs of Quantrill`s Rangers. Throughout the war Missourians aided and abetted the Bushwackers, even many who had supported the Union did so because Quantrill was the only hope for those victimized by the unscrupulous and evil men who came to profit from the war. They gave food, shelter, ammunition, and intelligence freely, because Quantrill would help protect them from the Jayhawkers and looters. Many people who had been pro-Union turned against the Federals after witnessing the terrible things the Union was doing in Missouri. Many Union officers considered everyone in Missouri a traitor which was grossly unfair; a fairly large majority of Missourians had been devoutly loyal to the Union prior to the opening of hostilities.

General order 11 sought to starve the Bushwackers out.

It became obvious that the South was going to lose the war, and Quantrill began thinking about ways to get out with his skin. He considered going to Texas and slipping into Mexico, but the Union was closing that particular pathway and Quantrill didn`t get along with the Confederate commander in that state, anyway. He began speaking to his Captains about ways to avoid the hangman`s noose.

This angered Bill Anderson, who split off to form his own band of partisans. He would go on to become one of the most infamous killers of the war, massacring a Union contingent at Centralia, Mo. on September 27, 1864. He was killed exactly one month later on October 27 following a firefight with Union troops at Orrick, Mo.

Quantrill would go on to capture Maj. Gen James Blunt in a firefight between the Bushwackers and Blunt`s troops at Baxter Springs. This was , in many ways the most important victory Quantrill`s men would have. Read General Blunt`s memoirs here.

He would also lead his men into battle (along with the Confederate army) at Westport, where the Confederates would suffer a crushing defeat

The noose was tightening around Quantrill`s neck, and he knew his days were numbered. His band would act as scouts to Gen. Sterling Price when he launched his final invasion of Missouri. Price would suffer too many losses trying to take the Union fort at Pilot Knob, and would be unable to attack St. Louis, so he headed west to attempt to take the state capital (Jefferson City) with mixed results. Quantrill`s band would continue to operate outside of their traditional area, and would do well, but time was not on their side, and the black flag hung over them like a burial shroud.

Quantrill decided to try to join up with Gen. Lee, hoping he and his men could surrender as Confederate regulars rather than be shot as bandits. He originally planned on heading east through Illinois, but he couldn`t cross the Mississippi so wound up crossing into Kentucky.

He had a new horse, and had been suffering from injuries sustained during his many campaigns. One day his horse kicked him in the chest, breaking a couple of his ribs. A bad rainstorm was coming on, and so he and his men camped in a barn outside of Taylorsville. Quantrill went up into the loft to sleep while his men played cards, and his men failed to post pickets (a mistake Quantrill himself would never have made). A Union force attacked while Quantrill slept. The barn was completely surrounded, but the men shot their way out and were making their escape. Quantrill, suffering from broken ribs, was unable to mount his horse to make his getaway. He was shot several times, and Frank James came to the rescue but Quantrill ordered him to leave rather than be captured. He was taken prisoner by the Federals who placed him in a farmhouse for a couple of days (where Frank James and a couple of his other men snuck in to visit him, but he refused their offer to break him out.) He was taken to a military hospital, where he died. It was June 6, 1865.


While many of the Bushwackers would die in battle, many were allowed to surrender and wound up living respectable lives. A large number of them became sheriffs out west (they were,after all, the toughest of the tough) or entered into respected occupations. Lincoln`s policy of reconciliation was helpful, despite the bitterness of reconstruction.

Some, but not all, were forgiven; young Jesse James was shot nearly to death while trying to surrender, and he went on to form one of the most famous outlaw gangs in history along with his brother Frank and James and Coleman Younger. They would live their entire lives fighting the dark war which had been thrust upon them when they were just boys.

The James` cousin Frank Dalton would become a legendary lawman at Fort Smith, Arkansas. His younger brother Bob Dalton would ride into infamy as leader of the Dalton Gang,one of the most notorious bands of outlaws in the west.

Bitterness over what occurred during the war would last a hundred years, and the name of William Clark Quantrill would be anathema. Any mention of Quantrill would generally be accompanied by a spitting on the floor, so reviled was that man. I really don`t believe that is fair; Quantrill was a hard man in hard times, doing what he believed he had to do. There was plenty of culpability on both sides during the nasty war which was fought throughout America, but especially the violent border regions. Quantrill was protected and aided by the farmers and residence of Missouri, which suggests he was not so despised by those he was protecting. He could hardly have been said to be in it for personal profit; what value would profit have gained him? He spent most of his life in the woods, hiding from those who would kill him.

That he and his men did monstrous things is beyond dispute; why they did them is another matter. Quantrill`s men were mostly well educated, upper-class citizens, contrary to what is often said of them. They were the children of planters and the well-to-do, children who had read the great romantic literature, who believed in honor, who felt it incumbent on them to protect and defend their families. That their vengeance repudiated eveything they came to hold dear never occured to them-but such things never occur to those fighting under such harsh circumstances. They were, as are we all, frail men with faults and deficiencies, as were their enemies.

I hope you all enjoyed this look back on what was a hard and bitter point in American history.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superb! I teach the Civil War to precocious 8th graders and I would like to use some of this material. Most of it I only was vaguely aware of.

My God, the evil that me do!

And I wonder: If I had seen what these rough men had seen, would I not ride with them? Would I not seek vengeance?

1:54 AM  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Thank you, Mike!

I would be GREATLY honored if you would use some of it in your class!

Yep; those men saw far more than anyone should, and most of them were just boys at the time. Quantrill himself was only in his mid-twenties by the time he was killed. It would be very hard to resist joining him, if you saw your father hanged and your home burned down.

5:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although very informative, I have to wonder where one finds the time for writing at such length.
I do however admire your knowledge & committment.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Hi anonymous!

I wonder at that myself; I wanted to write this story, and it took weeks of off and on scribbling to do it-time which I really didn`t have to spare! (I should have been working on my Continuing Education classes-now I`ll have to work my tail off to get those done.)

Thanks for reading, and the kind words.

5:06 AM  
Blogger Aussiegirl said...

I thought I already left a comment on this fantastic post! That must have been in an alternate universe! Thanks a heap, Tim for this wonderful essay. What a lot of work and scholarship went into it, and you present it in your inimitably engaging style that has us grabbing the edges of our seat as we read on to find out how it all came out. You manage to bring these characters from history to life and to make us understand their motivations and their feelings. Top notch history! You should publish more things like this. I'm heading over to Ultima Thule to post a link. Bravo!

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I wish we learned this stuff in history class. This has really helped me in my report on bushwackers. I really like the Christian perspective that you write from. It's nice to see some one else who appreciates the worth of God's Word.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Deacon Dave said...

My grandmother was a child in Vernon County, MO. during the Civil War, but even when whe died at 103, her mind was sharp and her memories vivid. The family was alternately terrrorized by bushwhackers and jayhawkers, but it was Federal soldiers who forcibly evicted them from their own farm, burned all the crops, the house and all outbuildings and forced-marched the family for more than two full days witout food and little water. Then great=grandpa was forced by reconstructionist to buy back his own land after the war.
It should come as no surprise that Grandma claimed that her family often sheltered many ex-Confederate outlaws, including the Dalton, Younger and James brothers.

10:23 AM  
Blogger neko said...

an intriguing tale. but without an equal an amount of detail for the Jayhawkers, it's rather one sided...
I am on the hunt for information regarding Jayhawkers, with especial interest on those out of Vernon Co., Missouri.
I have the dubious "honor" of descending from a leader of one of these groups-or so stories would claim, but finding information regarding him and his people has proved daunting. partly it is the distance factor, I'm half a continent or more away from Missouri, part of it is the lack of available information online.
if you or any of your readers can direct me to further information regarding the Jayhawkers of Vernon and Cedar Co., MO, or the individuals in the group he's claimed to have run, I would appreciate your unbiased direction and guidance. It has always discomfitted me to find out I have such an unpleasant cloud hanging over the family, we are not that way and I suspect he kept it a secret from our branch, as well.
the names of the men in his gang, as far as I've been able to find, were;
Francis Wyruck aka Frank Wyrick/Warrack, Jefferson Moore (his brother-in-law), Miron
Carpenter who was murdered in Kansas after the war, Jeff Denton, Joe Youree, Thomas Whiteside who was captured at Beals line house near Ft. Scott, KS by Rebel bushwackers and shot to death by "Pony" Hill who was alsoone of Francis' men, ("Pony" died a drunkered), Bob Cain/Kane whose gun was left behind at one of the murder scenes, Jim Millender, and several others

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for the great article!


8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mentioned that Silas Soule participated in the Stone Creek Massacre. You couldn’t be more wrong. Captain Silas Soule refused Colonel Chivington’s order to have his men fire on the defenseless Cheyenne. Soule started a letter campaign to bring the atrocities at Sand Creek to light. It was because of his efforts that the Sand Creek Battle was reclassified as a massacre. With threats against his life he testified against Chivington and was assassinated for it. .Do your research please.

8:53 PM  
Blogger 握壽司Stanley said...


5:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, I didnt realize that all of the Southern butchers were driven to do their dastardly deeds by the evil Yankees. you dont think Quantrill was such a bad man?
Damn Yankees were responsible. I bet 187 people of Lawrence would not buy into this revisionist poop.until I read your vision of the way it really was... I thought Jessie James,B.B. Anderson, and the other white trash killers were bad guys.Guess if dont go to school in the South you just dont know the real story.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Anonymous, I didn't say Silus Soule participated in the massacre, I said he was present; you didn't bother to read the link provided.

Thanks for some fascinating personal history, Deacon Dave!

It would have been waaaayyyy too long to have given both sides, Neko; I had to provide the Southern viewpoint, which was enough work. I provided the southern viewpoint because the northern is much better represented.

I hope you have luck in your search. I can't help you overmuch (this isn't my normal line of work).

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for putting so much information in one place. I have heard some of this in scattered places before but you have condensed hours of research into one article. Having been born and raised in Carthage Missouri I can attest to a latent dislike for all things Yankee and all things Kansas that still pervades the area. My personal research has led me to believe that most history of the War of Northern Aggression (Fort Sumter being in SOUTH Carolina)is nothing shy of fiction. To the victor belongs the spoils and the telling of history.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Thanks anonymous; we are neighbors (of sorts)!

While I believe there was plenty of blame to go around, I will say that what happened in western Missouri was a disgrace.

1:20 PM  

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