Category Archives: Kansas

The Missouri Relocation

August 25, 1863 – Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, commanding the Federal District of the Border between Missouri and Kansas, issued repressive orders that threatened to escalate the bitter partisan war in the region even further.

Brig Gen Thomas Ewing | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Following the sack of Lawrence, William C. Quantrill’s Confederate partisans rode back to sanctuary in Missouri. Brigadier General James H. Lane’s Kansas Jayhawkers briefly pursued them but could not track them down. Lane retaliated by murdering over 100 people in western Missouri suspected of helping Quantrill and destroying the property of any alleged Quantrill sympathizers.

Lane also demanded that Ewing, headquartered at Kansas City, exact harsh revenge on anyone not clearly professing Unionist sympathies. Lane drew up a vindictive military order and, as a U.S. senator with strong political connections, threatened to end Ewing’s career if he did not issue and enforce it.

Under General Orders No. 11, Federal troops were to depopulate the four Missouri counties on the Kansas border south of the Missouri River: Jackson, Cass, and Bates, plus part of Vernon County. All people, regardless of age, race, gender, or loyalty, were required to leave their homes within 15 days. Those who proved themselves loyal to the Union could reside in military camps under protection. Those who could not had to leave without protection. Anyone resisting the order would be executed.

Ewing directed the 15th Kansas Cavalry, led by hated Jayhawker Colonel Charles R. Dennison, to enforce the order. Jennison displaced an estimated 20,000 people, many of whom were harassed and robbed by Jayhawkers as they clogged roads hauling wagons filled with all their worldly possessions. Once the counties were emptied, Federals looted and burned all remaining homes, barns, and crops.

Ewing’s order, at Lane’s insistence, was one of the most brutal ever enforced in U.S. history. Predictably, it did little to stop Confederate partisan activity in the area; if anything, it made the raiders even more determined to resist Federal authority. The order also ruined western Missouri’s economy and caused deep resentment for generations. For years, the desolate region was known as the “Burnt District.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 319; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 302-03; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 705; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 343; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 427; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 401; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 786; Schultz, Fred L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 249-50; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 153-54; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363

The Sack of Lawrence

August 21, 1863 – Colonel William C. Quantrill’s Confederate raiders rampaged through Lawrence, the focal point of “Bleeding Kansas” since before the war.

W.C. Quantrill | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Quantrill’s partisans operated against Federal forces around the Missouri-Kansas border. Quantrill had targeted Lawrence for attack in retaliation for Federal depredations in Missouri, including an 1861 raid on Osceola. A recent building collapse that killed several women suspected of aiding the partisans, as well as punitive measures imposed by Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, commanding the Federal District of the Border, also played a role. Moreover, Lawrence was the hated center of the Free State Movement, and it promised to be rich with loot.

Quantrill ordered his 450 men to “kill every man big enough to carry a gun.” The lone exception was Brigadier General James H. Lane, the U.S. senator who led Kansas Jayhawkers in terrorizing Confederate sympathizers throughout western Missouri. Lane was to be captured and brought back to Missouri for hanging. Lane’s men had given the partisans no quarter in the past, and now Quantrill would give none in return.

The partisans rode into town at 5 a.m. Quantrill, waving one of his Colt revolvers, hollered, “Kill! Kill and you will make no mistake! Lawrence must be cleansed, and the only way to cleanse it is to kill! Kill!” An abolitionist minister was the first victim, shot in the head while milking his cow. The raiders kidnapped a woman and forced her to lead them to the homes of men whose names they had written on a “death list.”

Quantrill’s men split up and moved through town in various directions, with one group riding upon the camp of 22 troops from the 14th Kansas. Shouting “Osceola!”, they shot or trampled 17 men to death, while the other five escaped. The partisans rampaged through the streets burning houses and buildings; the thick smoke suffocated the town mayor as he hid in a well.

Quantrill ate breakfast in a hotel as his men robbed the saloons and banks. They killed 183 men and teenage boys, most of whom were unarmed. Some men, such as Lane, escaped the carnage. Lane removed the nameplate from the front of his house and fled into a nearby cornfield in his nightshirt. Quantrill found Lane’s house anyway and had it burned while Lane’s wife watched.

The partisans did not harm any woman physically, but they forced many to watch their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons be killed. One woman watched the raiders kill her husband and then refuse to let her pull his body out of their burning house. The partisans also stole many of the women’s valuables, including their wedding rings. Quantrill later stated that “the ladies of Lawrence were brave and plucky.” A resident recalled:

“The ladies were wonderfully brave and efficient that morning. Some of them, by their shrewdness and suavity, turned raiders from their purpose when they came to their houses. Sometimes they outwitted them, and at other times they boldly confronted and resisted them. In scores of cases they put the fires out as soon as those who kindled them left the house. In some cases they defiantly followed the raiders around, and extinguished the flames as they were kindled.”

The murder and pillage ended around 9 a.m., when word arrived that Federal troops were approaching. The raiders fled back to Missouri. Some 80 widows and 250 fatherless children remained after Quantrill’s men left. About 185 buildings were burned, with property damage assessed at $1.5 million. One partisan was too drunk to leave with the rest; the vengeful survivors shot him, rode his body through town, and then ripped his corpse to pieces.

An observer later said, “The town is a complete ruin. The whole of the business part, and all good private residences are burned down. Everything of value was taken along by the fiends… I cannot describe the horrors.” Another wrote, “The whole business part of the town, except two stores, was in ashes. The bodies of dead men… were laying in all directions.” Kansas Governor Thomas Carney wrote, “No fiend in human shape could have acted with more savage brutality.”

Both Federals and Confederates considered the sack of Lawrence a senseless atrocity that did nothing to advance any cause in the war. Lane opted not to pursue Quantrill. Instead, he led his Jayhawkers into Missouri and went on a murder spree of his own. At the same time, Lane demanded that Ewing impose more punitive consequences on those suspected of aiding Quantrill and other guerrillas.

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References

Castel, Albert, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 407; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 532; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 318; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 302-03; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 703-05; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 342; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 427; Jones, Virgil Carrington (Pat), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 606; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 160; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 399-400; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 785-86; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 153; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 245-46; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363

The Border District: Ewing Incites Guerrillas

August 14, 1863 – Brigadier General Thomas Ewing incurred the wrath of Confederate raiders operating along the Missouri-Kansas border by targeting their relatives, including women and children.

Brig Gen Thomas Ewing | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The border conflict between Missouri and Kansas, which had begun before the war, continued raging as the war progressed. Ewing (brother-in-law of William T. Sherman), commanding the Federal District of the Border, had just 2,500 men spread out across Missouri, Kansas, and the Colorado Territory. There were no concentrated enemy forces, but the Federals had to deal with pro-Confederate partisans operating mainly in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.

These partisans, mostly based in Missouri, crossed the border, launched quick attacks, and then disappeared among the population. Since the Federals could not track them down, Ewing authorized the arrest of anyone suspected of aiding or abetting them, including their mothers, wives, and daughters. This infuriated the raiders, who had made it a point not to make war on women.

Ewing’s Federals began rounding up these women and sending them to designated prison camps, including abandoned warehouses and other buildings. One such structure was an old three-story brick building in Kansas City, in which the women were held on the second floor. On the 14th, this building collapsed, killing five and injuring many others.

The partisans believed that Ewing had deliberately sabotaged the building. It was in a dilapidated condition, and Ewing had been warned that it might collapse. Among the women killed was the sister of William Anderson, who became known as “Bloody Bill” following his retaliatory rampage. Other women were related to notorious partisan leader Colonel William C. Quantrill.

Col W.C. Quantrill | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Quantrill had gained notoriety during the fight over “Bleeding Kansas” before the war, making money by charging exorbitant fees to return fugitive slaves to their masters, as well as stealing horses and cattle. When the war began, he raised a group of pro-Confederate raiders that included “Bloody Bill,” Cole Younger, and Frank and Jesse James. Quantrill became a captain under the Confederate Partisan Ranger Act, but when the Confederate government denied him a colonelship, he bestowed the title upon himself anyway.

Four days after the Kansas City building collapse, Ewing exacerbated the partisans’ rage further by issuing General Order No. 10. This declared that the arrests would continue, and furthermore, “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… to remove out of this district and out of the State of Missouri forthwith.”

Quantrill and his raiders received word of the tragedy at Kansas City and Ewing’s punitive response while camped in western Missouri. Quantrill had been planning to raid Lawrence, the abolitionist headquarters of Kansas that had been sacked by pro-slavery forces in 1856. Ever since James H. Lane, a U.S. senator who led Unionist Kansas forces, sacked Osceola, Missouri, in 1861, Quantrill had sought revenge.

The raiders, who had spies in Lawrence, prepared a “death list” of prominent Unionist residents, including Lane. Scouts informed Quantrill that an attack might fail because large bodies of Federal troops often passed through on their way to other posts. But Quantrill argued, “Lawrence is the great hotbed of abolitionism in Kansas, and we can get more revenge and more money there than anywhere else in the state.” And now, after learning of Ewing’s depredations, Quantrill resolved to attack no matter what.

On the 19th, Quantrill and about 300 Missouri partisans began heading toward Kansas. As they reached the border, Quantrill announced, “This is a hazardous ride, and there is a chance we will all be annihilated. Any man who feels he is not equal to the task can quit, and no one will call him a coward.” Some left, but most remained. In fact, they gained new recruits along the way, boosting their total to around 450.

The partisans rode through the night, stopping at farms to get directions to Lawrence in the dark. The raiders killed any civilian who recognized Quantrill, spoke German (German immigrants were largely pro-Republican), or was a known abolitionist. In all, 10 farmers were forced to serve as guides and then murdered by the time Quantrill and his men approached Lawrence before dawn on the 21st.

Quantrill had planned to attack at night, but now dawn was approaching, so the attack would have to take place in broad daylight. Lawrence was a large town of about 2,000 people, and some partisans began having second thoughts about attacking. Quantrill told them, “You can do as you please. I am going to Lawrence.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 302-03; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), p. 703-04; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 340-41; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 399; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 785; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 152; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363