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Lawrence Massacre

The Lawrence Massacre, also known as Quantrills

raid, was a rebel guerrilla attack during the American Civil War by Quantrills Raiders, led by William
Quantrill, on the Union town of Lawrence, Kansas.

is that these demons claimed they were here to revenge

the wrongs done their families by our men under Lane,
Jennison, Anthony and Co.[7]
Lawrence was also a headquarters for a band of redlegs
that had initiated a particularly vicious jayhawking campaign in late March 1863. The purported objective of
this group was to eliminate civilian support for the Confederate guerillas, but their tactics (executions, arson, and
plundering) were employed rather indiscriminately. As
one observer noted (apparently a member of the Fifth
Kansas Cavalry), I believe the Red Legs will kill any
man in this country for a good horse; and they have
gloried themselves considerably over nishing some unarmed sympathizers.[8] In describing the activities of the
redlegs, Union General Blunt stated, A reign of terror
was inaugurated, and no mans property was safe, nor was
his life worth much if he opposed them in their schemes of
plunder and robbery.[9] It is dicult to quantify the number of civilians killed by the redlegs, but a letter written
from the Lexington area early in the redlegs campaign
(April 1863) stated that the redlegs had killed at least
fty men, who were unarmed and heretofore lived in peace
and quiet [10]

The attack on August 21, 1863 targeted Lawrence due

to the towns long support of abolition and its reputation
as a center for Jayhawkers and Redlegs, which were freestate militia and vigilante groups known for attacking and
destroying farms and plantations in Missouri's pro-slavery
western counties.


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 rst 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

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 surround- 2.1 Collapse of the Womens Prison in
ing area were extremely vigilant and reacted strongly to
Kansas City
any rumors that enemy forces might be advancing on the
town. However, by the summer of 1863, none of the
In a bid to put down the Missouri guerrilla raiders opthreats had materialized, so citizen fears had declined and
erating in Kansas, General Thomas Ewing, Jr. issued
defense preparations were relaxed.[2]
in April 1863 General Order No. 10, which ordered
the arrest of anyone giving aid or comfort to Confederate guerrillas.[11] This meant chiey women or girls who
were relatives of the guerrillas. Ewing conned those ar2 Motivations
rested in a series of makeshift prisons in Kansas City. The
Quantrill himself said that his motivation for the at- women were sequentially housed in two buildings which
tack was to plunder, and destroy the town in retalia- were considered either too small or too unsanitary, be[12]
tion for Osceola.[3] That was a reference to the Unions fore being moved to an empty property at 1425 Grand.
attack on Osceola, Missouri in September 1861, led by This structure was part of the estate of the deceased
Senator James H. Lane. Osceola was plundered and Robert S. Thomas, George Caleb Bingham's father-innine men were given a drumhead court-martial trial and law. In 1861 Bingham and his family were living in the
executed.[4][5] Several other Missouri towns and large structure, but in early 1862 after being appointed treaswaths of the Missouri countryside had been similarly surer of the state of Missouri, he and his family relocated
a third story to the
plundered and burned by Unionist forces from Kansas. to Jeerson City. Bingham had added
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 conrmed by
the survivors. The universal testimony of all the ladies
and others who talked with the butchers of the 21st ult.

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

Andersonthe 15-year-old sister of William T. Bloody
Bill Anderson. Andersons 13-year-old sister, who was
shackled to a ball-and-chain inside the jail, suered multiple injuries including two broken legs.[14] Rumors circulated (later promulgated by Bingham who held a personal
grudge against Ewing and who would seek nancial compensation for the loss of the building) that the structure
was undermined by the guards to cause its collapse.[15]
However, a 1995 study of the events and adavits surrounding the collapse concludes this is the least plausible
of the theories. Instead, testimony indicated that alterations to the rst oor 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.[16]


re to the town and killed most of its male population.

Quantrills 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.[19] 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 unied column.
The raid was less a battle than a mass execution. Two
weeks prior to the raid, a Lawrence newspaper boasted,
"Lawrence has ready for any emergency over ve hundred ghting men...every one of who would like to see
[Quantrills raiders]" .[20] However, a squad of soldiers
temporarily stationed in Lawrence had returned to Fort
Leavenworth, and due to the surprise, swiftness, and fury
of the initial assault, the local militia was unable to assemble and mount a defense. Most of the victims of the
raid were unarmed when gunned down.

Even before the collapse of the jail, the arrest and planned
deportation of the girls had enraged Quantrills guerillas;
George Todd left a note for General Ewing threatening
to burn Kansas City unless the girls were freed.[17] While
Quantrills raid on Lawrence was planned prior to the collapse of the jail, the deaths of the guerrillas female rel- With revenge a principal motive, Quantrills raiders enatives undoubtedly added to their thirst for revenge and tered Lawrence with lists of men to be killed and buildblood lust during the raid.[18]
ings to be burned. Senator James H. Lane was at the
top of the list. Lane was a military leader and chief political proponent of the jayhawking raids that had cut a
swath of death, plundering, and arson through western
3 Attack
Missouri (including the destruction of Osceola) in the
The attack was the product of careful planning. Quantrill early months of the Civil War. Lane escaped death by
had been able to gain the condence of many of the lead- racing through a corneld in his nightshirt. John Speer
ers of independent Bushwhacker groups, and chose the had been put into the newspaper business by Lane, was
of Lanes chief political backers, and was also on the
day and time of the attack well in advance. The dierent one[22]
Speer likewise escaped execution, but two of his
groups of Missouri riders approached Lawrence from the
killed in the raid. (One of Speers sons may
east in several independent columns, and converged with
same John L. Speer that appeared on a list
well-timed precision in the nal miles before Lawrence
issued by the Union military.[23] )
during the pre-dawn hours of the chosen day. Many of
the men had been riding for over 24 hours to make the Speers youngest son, fteen-year-old Billy, may have
rendezvous and had lashed themselves to their saddles to been included on the death lists, but he was released
keep riding if they fell asleep. Almost all were armed by Quantrills men after giving them a false name. The
Speer boy later shot one of the raiders during their exit
with multiple six-shot revolvers.
from Lawrence, causing one of the few casualties among
Quantrills command while in Lawrence.[24] Charles L.
Robinson, rst governor of Kansas and a prominent abolitionist, may also have been on the list, though he maintained he was spared because Quantrill respected his efforts to keep peace on the border at the start of the war.[25]
While many of the victims of the raid had been specifically targeted beforehand, executions were more indiscriminate among segments of the raiders, particularly Todds band that operated in the western part of
Lawrence.[26] The men and boys riding with Bloody Bill
Anderson also accounted for a disproportionate number
of the Lawrence dead. The raid devolved into extreme
brutality. The survivors reported that one man was shot
Lawrence in ruins as illustrated in Harpers Weekly
while in the arms of his pleading wife, that another was
Between three and four hundred riders arrived at the killed with a toddler in his arms, that a group of men who
summit of Mount Oread, then descended on Lawrence had surrendered under assurances of safety were then
in a fury. Over four hours, the raiders pillaged and set gunned down, and that a pair of men were bound and

forced into a burning building where they died in horrible
agony.[27] Another dramatic story was told in a letter written on September 7, 1863 by H.M. Simpson, whose entire family narrowly escaped death by hiding in a nearby
corneld as the massacre raged all around them: My father was very slow to get into the corneld. He was so
indignant at the ruans that he was unwilling to retreat
before them. My little children were in the eld three
hours. They seemed to know that if they cried the noise
would betray their parents whereabouts, & so they kept
as still as mice. The baby was very hungry & I gave her
an ear of raw green corn which she ate ravenously.[28]
The youth of some of the victims is often characterized
as a particularly reprehensible aspect of the raid.[29] Bobbie Martin is generally cited as being the youngest victim; some histories of the raid state he was twelve years
old,[30] while others state he was fourteen.[31] Most accounts state he was wearing a Union soldier uniform or
clothing made from his fathers uniform; some state he
was carrying a musket and cartridges.[32] (For perspective on the age of participants in the conict, it has been
estimated that about 800,000 Union soldiers were seventeen years of age or younger, with about 100,000 of those
being fteen or younger.[33] ) Most of Quantrills guerrilla ghters were teenagers. One of the youngest was
Riley Crawford, who was thirteen when brought by his
mother to Quantrill after her husband was shot and her
home burned by Union soldiers.[34]


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 o 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 Quantrills attack with its depiction of a Phoenix rising from the ashes
of the burnt city.

The Lawrence Massacre was one of the bloodiest events

For his part, Quantrill led his men south to Texas for the
in the history of Kansas. The Plymouth Congregational
winter. By the next year, the raiders had disintegrated
Church in Lawrence survived the attack, but a number of
as a unied force, so were unable to achieve similar suc[35]
its members were killed and records destroyed.
cesses. William Clarke Quantrill died of wounds received
A day after the attack, the surviving citizens of Lawrence in Kentucky in 1865, with only a few staunch supporters
lynched a member of Quantrills Raiders caught in the left. Among these appear to have been Frank James and
town. On August 25, General Ewing authorized General his younger brother, Jesse James.[37]
Order No. 11 (not to be confused with Grants famous
General Order of the same name) evicting thousands of
Missourians in four counties from their homes near the 5 In popular media
Kansas border. Virtually everything in these counties was
then systematically burned to the ground. The action was
The Lawrence Massacre is a central episode in Wildcarried out by the infamous Jayhawker, Charles Doc
wood Boys (William Morrow: New York, 2000), a
Jennison. Jennisons raids into Missouri were thorough
biographical novel about Bloody Bill Anderson by
and indiscriminate, and left ve counties in western MisJames Carlos Blake.
souri wasted, save for the standing brick chimneys of the
two-storey period houses, which are still called Jennison
In the USA Network dramedy Psych, the ctional
Monuments in those parts.
Battle of Pipers Cove reenacted in the 2006
A Missouri abolitionist and preacher described the role
of the Lawrence Massacre in the regions descent into the
horror of total war on the civilian population of Kansas
and Missouri:[36]
Viewed in any light, the Lawrence Raid will
continue to be held, as the most infamous event

episode "Weekend Warriors" seems to be based on

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

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


[8] Letter signed by Fifth Cavalry, Western Journal of Commerce (Kansas City, MO), April 1863.
[9] James G. Blunt, General Blunts Account of His Civil
War Experiences, Kansas Historical Quarterly, May
1932, (Vol. 1, No. 3), p. 239.

The 1979 TV movie The Legend of the Golden Gun

[10] Appleton Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin), April 25,
was about chasing down Quantrill and had some c1863.
tion in about Custer.
The 2010 Coen Brothers lm, True Grit, includes a
scene in which the characters played by Je Bridges
and Matt Damon argue about Quantrill. Damons
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 rst in
Charles Portis' book of the same name published
in 1968. The same exchange existed in the original
1969 lm.

See also
Sacking of Lawrence, a dierent incident
Bushwhacking a form of guerrilla warfare common
during the American Revolutionary War, American
Civil War
List of battles fought in Kansas
List of massacres in Kansas

[11] Harriet C. Frazier (2004). Runaway and Freed Missouri

Slaves and Those Who Helped Them, 17631865. McFarland. p. 214.
[12] Harris, Charles F. Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of
the Womens Prison In Kansas City, Missouri Historical
Review, April 1995, pp. 294,295
[13] Harris, Charles F. Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of
the Womens Prison In Kansas City, Missouri Historical
Review, April 1995, pp. 296,297
[14] Nichols, Bruce, Guerila Warfare in Western Missouri,
1861, McFarland and Company, 2004, page 210.
[15] Bingham, George Caleb, The Washington Sentinel, article,
March 9, 1878.
[16] Harris, Charles F. Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of
the Womens Prison In Kansas City, Missouri Historical
Review, April 1995, pp. 302, 303
[17] Nichols, Bruce, Guerilla Warfare in Western Missouri,
1861, McFarland and Company, 2004, page 209.
[18] Leslie, Edward E. The Devil Knows How to Ride. De
Capo Press, 1998. Pages 193195.
[19] The Gun and the Gospel : early Kansas and Chaplain
Fisher. p. 194.


[1] No union commander present

[2] Albert Castel, Civil War Kansas (University Press of
Kansas 1997) pp. 124126
[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 18588
[5] Paul R. Petersen, Quantrill of Missouri: The Making of a
Guerrilla WarriorThe Man, the Myth, the Soldier (2003)
p. 61

[20] Goodrich, Thomas, Blood Dawn: The Story of the

Lawrence Massacre, The Kent State University Press,
1991, pages 4345.
[21] Castel, Albert, Kansas Jayhawking Raids into
Western Missouri in 1861, Copyright 1959 Albert
casteljayhawking.htm, accessed August 3, 2013.
[22] Albert Castel, Civil War Kansas (University Press of
Kansas 1997) p. 28.
[23] Blunt, General Orders-No. 1., Headquarter District
of Kansas, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, November 15,

[6] Castel, William Clarke Quantrill: his life and times (1999)
p 142

[24] Leslie, Edward E., The Devil Knows How to Ride: The
True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and his Confederate Raiders, Da Capo Press, 1996, pages 224234.

[7] Albert Castel, Civil War Kansas (University Press of

Kansas 1997) p. 136.

[25] Robinson, Charles, The Kansas Conict, Harper and

Brother, 1892, page 447.

[26] Albert Castel, Civil War Kansas (University Press of

Kansas 1997) p. 130.
[27] Castel, Albert, William Clakre Quantrill: His Life and
Times, New York, Copyright 1962 by Albert Castel. University of Oklahoma Press, 1999, pages 129131.
[28] Simpson, H.M. (September 7, 1863). H.M. Simpson to
Hiram Hill. Kansas Memory. Kansas Historical Society.
Retrieved February 19, 2014.
[29] Schultz, Duane, Quantrills war: the life and times of
William Clarke Quantrill, 18371865, St. Martins Press,
1997. Chapter 9 is entitled, Kill Every Man Big Enough
to Carry a Gun, an alleged Quantrill quote.
[30] Connelley, William Elsey, Quantrill and the border wars,
The Torch Press, 1910, pp 362363.
[31] Leslie, Edward E., The Devil Knows How to Ride: The
True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and his Confederate Raiders, Da Capo Press, 1996, page 226.
[32] Goodrich, Thomas, Bloody Dawn: The Story of the
Lawrence Massacre, Kent State University Press, 1992.
Page 104.
cessed July 20, 2013.


[34] Petersen, Paul, Quantrill of Missouri: The Making of a

Guerilla Warrior, Cumberland House Publishing, 2003,
page 226.
[35] Sellen, Al. A Brief Outline of Plymouths History. Plymouth Congregational Church. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
[36] Miller, George Missouris Memorable Decade, 1860
1870. E.W. Stephens, Columbia, MO., 1898. Pages
[37] Wellman, 1961; 1986.

Further reading
Albert E. Castel. Civil War Kansas: Reaping the
Whirlwind (1997)
Albert E. Castel. William Clarke Quantrill: His Life
and Times (1999) excerpt and text search
Thomas Goodrich, Bloody Dawn: The Story of the
Lawrence Massacre (1992)
Paul I. Wellman. A Dynasty of Western Outlaws
(1961). (On the formative background of the
Kansas-Missouri border wars on the post-war western outlaws, notably the James-Younger gang.)

9 External links
National Park Service battle description
Tour and photos of Lawrence Quantrills Raid sites
Other reports that mention Quantrills Raid and the
Lawrence Massacre
Civil War history site article on Quantrill
R. Cordleys Description of the Massacre (published in 1865) {Partial list of
1897 account Guns and the Gospel with listing of
Lawrence Massacre Victims at the end of Chapter
Monument to victims of William C. Quantrill
Coordinates: 385751N 951409W / 38.96427N




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