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Early Life of Quantrell
THE early life of Quantrell was obscure and uneventful. He was born near Hagerstown, Maryland, July 20, 1836, and was reared there until he was sixteen years of age. He remained always an obedient and affectionate son. His mother had been left a widow when he was only a few years old.
For some time preceding 1857, Quantrell’s only brother lived in Kansas. He wrote to his younger brother, Charles, to come there, and after his arrival they decided on a trip to California. About the middle of the summer of 1857 the two started for California with a freight outfit. Upon reaching Little Cottonwood River, Kansas, they decided to camp for the night. This they did. All was going well. After supper twenty-one outlaws, or Redlegs, belonging to Jim Lane at Lawrence, Kansas, rode up and killed the elder brother, wounded Charles, and took everything in sight, money, and even the “nigger” who went with them to do the cooking. They thought more of the d——d “nigger” than they did of all the rest of the loot. They left poor Charles there to die and be eaten later by wolves or some other wild animal that might come that way. Poor Charles lay there for three days before anyone happened by, guarding his dead brother, suffering near death from his wounds. After three days an old Shawnee Indian named Spye Buck came along,16 buried the elder brother and took Charles to his home and nursed him back to life and strength. After six months to a year Charles Quantrell was able to go at ease, and having a good education for those days, got a school and taught until he had earned enough money to pay the old Indian for keeping him while he was sick and to get him to Lawrence. He reached Lawrence and went to where Jim Lane was stationed with his company. He wanted to get into the company that murdered his brother and wounded himself. After a few days he was taken in and, from outward appearance, he became a full-fledged Redleg, but in his heart he was doing this only to seek revenge on those who had killed his brother and wounded him at Cottonwood, Kansas.
Quantrell, now known as Charles Hart, became intimate with Lane and ostensibly attached himself to the fortunes of the anti-slavery party. In order to attain his object and get a step nearer his goal, it became necessary for him to speak of John Brown. He always spoke of him to General Lane, who was at that time Colonel Lane, in command of a regiment at Lawrence, as one for whom he had great admiration. Quantrell became enrolled in a company that held all but two of the men who had done the deadly work at Cottonwood, Kansas. First as a private, then as an orderly and sergeant, Quantrell soon gained the esteem of his officers and the confidence of his men.
17 One day Quantrell and three men were sent down in the neighborhood of Wyandotte to meet a wagon load of “niggers” coming up to Missouri under the pilotage of Jack Winn, a somewhat noted horse thief and abolutionist. One of the three men failed to return with Quantrell, nor could any account be given of his absence until his body was found near a creek several days afterwards. In the center of his forehead was the round, smooth hole of a navy revolver bullet. Those who looked for Jack Winn’s safe arrival were also disappointed. People traveling the road passed the corpse almost daily and the buzzards found it first, and afterwards the curious. There was the same round hole in the forehead and the same sure mark of the navy revolver bullet. This thing went on for several months, scarcely a week passing but that some sentinel was found dead at his post, some advance picket surprised and shot at his outpost watch station.
The men began to whisper, one to another, and to cast about for the cavalry Jonah who was in their midst. One company alone, that of Captain Pickins, the company to which Quantrell belonged, had lost thirteen men between October, 1859 and 1860. Other companies had lost two to three each. A railroad conductor named Rogers had been shot through the forehead. Quantrell and Pickens became intimate, as a captain and lieutenant of the same company should, and confided many things to each other. One night the story of the Cottonwood18 River was told and Pickens dwelt with just a little relish upon it. Three days later Pickens and two of his most reliable men were found dead on Bull Creek, shot like the balance, in the middle of the forehead. For a time after Pickens’ death there was a lull in the constant conscription demanded by the Nemesis. The new lieutenant bought himself a splendid uniform, owned the best horse in the territory and instead of one navy revolver, now had two. Organizations of all sorts now sprang up, Free Soil clubs, Men of Equal Rights, Sons of Liberty, Destroying Angels, Lane’s Loyal Leaguers, and everyone made haste to get his name signed to both constitution and by-laws.
Lawrence especially effected the Liberator Club, whose undivided mission was to found freedom for all the slaves now in Missouri.
Quantrell persevered in his efforts to kill all of the men who had had a hand in the killing of his brother and the wounding of himself. With this in view, he induced seven Liberators to co-operate with him in an attack on Morgan Walker. These seven men whom Quantrell picked were the last except two of the men he had sworn vengeance upon when left to die at Cottonwood River, Kansas. He told them that Morgan Walker had a lot of “niggers,” horses and cattle and money and that the sole purpose was to rob and kill him. Quantrell’s only aim was to get these seven men. Morgan Walker was an old citizen of Jackson County,19 a venerable pioneer who had settled there when buffalo grazed on the prairie beyond Westport and where, in the soft sands beyond the inland streams, there were wolf and moccasin tracks. This man, Morgan Walker, was the man Quantrell had proposed to rob. He lived some five or six miles from Independence and owned about twenty negroes of various ages and sizes. The probabilities were that a skillfully conducted raid might leave him without a “nigger.”
Well mounted and armed, the little detachment left Lawrence quietly, rode two by two, far apart, until the first rendezvous was reached, a clump of timber at a ford on Indian Creek. It was the evening of the second day, and they tarried long enough to rest their horses and eat a hearty supper.
Before daylight the next morning the entire party were hidden in some heavy timber about two miles west of Walker’s house. There these seven men stayed, none of them stirring, except Quantrell. Several times during the day, however, he went backwards and forwards, apparently to the fields where the negroes were at work, and whenever he returned he brought something either for the horses or the men to eat.
Mr. Walker had two sons, and before it was yet night, these boys and their father were seen putting into excellent order their double-barrel shotguns, and a little later three neighbors who likewise carried double-barrel shotguns rode up to the house. Quantrell,20 who brought news of many other things to his comrades, brought no note of this. If he saw it he made no sign. When Quantrell arranged his men for the dangerous venture they were to proceed, first to the house, gain access to it, capture all the male members of the family and put them under guard, assemble all the negroes and make them hitch up the horses to the wagons and then gallop them for Kansas. Fifty yards from the gate the eight men dismounted and fastened their horses, and the march to the house began. Quantrell led. He was very cool and seemed to see everything. The balance of his men had their revolvers in their hands while he had his in his belt. Quantrell knocked loudly at the oaken panel of the door. No answer. He knocked again and stood perceptibly at one side. Suddenly the door flared open and Quantrell leaped into the hall with a bound like a red deer. A livid sheet of flame burst out through the darkness where he had disappeared, followed by another as the second barrels of the guns were discharged and the tragedy was over. Six fell where they stood, riddled with buckshot. One staggered to the garden and died there. The seventh, hard hit and unable to mount his horse, dragged himself to a patch of timber and waited for the dawn. They tracked him by the blood upon the leaves and found him early in the morning. Another volley, and the last Liberator was liberated.
21 Walker and his two sons, assisted by three of the stalwart and obliging neighbors, had done a clean night’s work, and a righteous one. This being the last of the Redlegs, except two, who murdered Quantrell’s brother and wounded him in Cottonwood, Kansas, in 1857, he closed his eyes and ears from ever being a scout for old Jim Lane any more.
In a few days after the ambuscade at Walker’s, Charles W. Quantrell, instead of Charles Hart, as he was known, then was not afraid to tell his name on Missouri soil. He wrote to Jim Lane, telling him what had happened to the scouts sent out by him, and as the war was on then, Quantrell told Lane in his letter that he was going to Richmond, Virginia, to get a commission from under Jeff Davis’ own hand, which he did (as you will read further on in this narrative), to operate on the border at will. So Quantrell, being fully equipped with all credentials, notified Jim Lane of Missouri, telling him he would treat him with the same or better courtesy than he (Lane) had treated him and his brother at Cottonwood River, Kansas, in 1857. This made Jim Lane mad, and he began to send his roving, robbing, and thieving bands into Missouri, and Charles W. Quantrell, having a band of well organized guerrillas of about fifty men, began to play on their golden harps. Every time they came in sight, which was almost every day, they would have a fight to the finish.

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