Rural Missouri - August 2013 - (Page 28)

Blood-stained dawn Lawrence Massacre ~ Aug. 21, 1863 Quantrill leads horrific attack across the border by Jim Denny info@ruralmissouri.coop border region. He already had looted and burned the Kansas towns of Aubry, Shawneetown and Olathe, executing citizens as well as soldiers. One of the worst Union setbacks occurred on y August 1863, the Civil War effort was June 16, 1863, near Westport. Here, 30 to 50 guergoing badly for the Confederacy in both the rillas ambushed a 68-man Kansas cavalry unit and eastern and western theaters. Lee was defeatfollowed with a furious charge against the panicked ed at Gettysburg, while Grant was victorious soldiers. Some 20 soldiers were killed and four at Vicksburg. West of the Mississippi River, Confedwounded, with only three losses to the guerrilla side. erate armies were trying desperately to hold on to No small patrol or escort was safe from a surprise Little Rock and the lower Arkansas River valley. attack of guerrilla horsemen erupting from the bush, The only victory of note for the Southern side pistols blazing, no prisoners taken. Every militia purcame on Aug. 21, 1863, when a bold attack on Lawsuit of guerrillas ended with inferior rence, Kan., left between 150 and 200 horses giving out, or the guerrilla quar“enemy” dead. Considerable military ry scattering along countless trails into ingenuity was required to pull off this the brush country only to reassemble attack 50 miles deep into hostile terrisomewhere else and strike again. tory. A band of 450 men — the largest An exasperated captain lamented, force of its kind in the Civil War — had “We do not believe that guerrillas can to cross from Missouri into Kansas, ever be taken by pursuit; we must take escaping detection, slipping past a them by strategy.” Unfortunately, they defensive chain of border military never really developed such a strategy; posts. The commander of this expedithe guerrillas outgunned, out-maneution needed to understand and exploit vered and out-killed their Union foes the weaknesses of his enemy, who almost every time. greatly outnumbered him. While failing to win the war against The attack came off brilliantly; only Quantrill’s guerrillas, the Union one man was lost. Only trouble was authorities stepped up their that this victory was not won war against the civilians who against a Federal army. The slain Jim Denny, a Co-Mo Electric member sustained them. By the sumenemies were unarmed civilfrom Lupus, brings the state’s Civil War mer of 1863, it was abundantly ians — not soldiers — and the history to life in Rural Missouri as we clear that guerrillas could not be attackers were William Quantcommemorate the sesquicentennial of driven out without first cutting rill’s guerrillas, not Confederate this time in our nation’s history. Order soldiers come to redeem the Jim’s book, “The Civil War’s First Blood,” off their source of supplies and succor — the disloyal Southern Missouri-Kansas border from its online at www.ruralmissouri.coop. inhabitants of the Missouri endless war against itself. counties along the border. About the only places in the Union where the By mid-summer, Gen. Thomas Ewing took charge Civil War didn’t seem to be going well were in Misof the District of the Border and inaugurated a new souri and eastern Kansas. Here, despite the absence get-tough policy. Since some two-thirds of the popuof Confederate armies, the guerrillas seemed to be lation of his district seemed actively disloyal, he winning the war within a war that was going on far determined to expel several hundred families of the from the real theaters of action. “worst guerrillas” from Missouri. His troops already One of the most skilled slayers of Union men had rounded up several wives and sisters of some of was William Quantrill, leader of a fearsome band the most deadly guerrillas. of hardened guerrillas. By the summer of 1863, his In one of the most fatal Union missteps, some of name inspired dread in Union folk throughout the B these young women were housed in a structurally unsound building in Kansas City, which collapsed on Aug. 13, 1863. Five were killed. This tragedy sent the guerrillas into a murderous rage that would soon lead to deeds that would mortify the whole nation. Guerrilla chieftain Bill Anderson’s sister, Josephine, was killed and another sister, Mary, was crippled. From that day forward, his rage grew to maniacal proportions, and he commenced his terrible career as “Bloody Bill,” one of Missouri’s most pitiless mass killers. What distinguished Quantrill from other skilled and ruthless guerrilla leaders was his ability to think big. It took all of his persuasive powers to convince his fellow guerrillas that an attack on Lawrence could be pulled off. They all knew that Gen. Ewing had fortified the border and that a cordon of thousands of Union soldiers protected the frontier. But Quantrill had a peculiar genius or luck, and he somehow sensed that the time for the raid was now. He was right. His foes cooperated perfectly and dropped their guard at the precise moment Quantrill decided to attack. His band had no trouble crossing the border. They rode to Lawrence virtually undetected. The one outpost that noted their passing did not bother sending word that a large group of unknown horsemen was riding west into Kansas. Three weeks earlier, military units had guarded Lawrence, and sentries had been posted around the clock. But after a false alarm, the units were sent away and the sentries disbanded. The appearance of Quantrill and his men at dawn on Aug. 21, 1863, was a complete surprise. After a four-hour orgy of looting, burning and the slaughter of almost every male they encountered, Quantrill’s band headed back to Missouri, leaving an inconceivable scene of carnage in its wake. Union forces picked up the trail and began a pursuit, but a vigorous rear action by a company of guerrillas kept them at a respectful distance. These troops almost served as an escort, merely following Quantrill’s band to the Missouri border where, as usual, his guerrillas dissolved into the brush with virtually no casualties. After Lawrence, Quantrill’s star was almost as bright as it ever got. His daring deed had certainly riveted the attention — and horror — of the entire nation. Quantrill had promised his Missouri boys that at Lawrence, “We can get more revenge and more money there than anywhere else in the state.” Sweet revenge could be savored amongst the Southern folk along the western border, but they must have also felt a dread and foreboding. They knew that despite the presence of Quantrill, enraged Kansans and Missouri militia would shortly be heading to their neighborhoods to collect their own revenge. The horror was far from over. The other shoe was about to drop. In his painting, “Blood Stained Dawn,” Ernst Ulmer captured the bedlam of Quantrill’s horrific attack on Lawrence. Art courtesy of the Ernst Ulmer estate, www.ernstulmer.com. http://www.ruralmissouri.coop http://www.ernstulmer.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2013

Rural Missouri - August 2013
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Hideout heaven
Mining a lead-lined history
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Outdoors
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Hearth and Home
Blood-stained dawn
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