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Lawrence Massacre
IN the spring of 1863, Quantrell issued a proclamation to the Federal forces of Kansas that if they did not stop burning and robbing houses, killing old men and women, he would in return come to Lawrence at some unexpected time and paint the city blacker than hades and make its streets run with blood.
On Blackwater, in Johnson County, and at the house of Captain Purdee, Quantrell called the Guerrillas together for the Lawrence massacre. Todd, Jarrette, Blunt, Gregg, Trow, Anderson, Yager, Younger, Estes and Holt, all were there, and when the roll was called three hundred and ten answered promptly to their names. Up to the mustering hour Quantrell had probably not let his left hand know what his right hand had intended. Secrecy necessarily was to be the salvation of the expedition, if indeed there was any salvation for it. The rendezvous night was an August night—a blessed, balmy, mid-summer night—just such a night as would be chosen to give force to reflections and permit the secrets of the soul to escape. The sultry summer day had lain swarthily in the sun and panting; the sultry summer winds had whispered nothing of the shadowy woods, nothing of the babble of unseen brooks. Birds spoke goodbye to birds in the tree tops, and the foliage was filled with twilight. Quantrell sat grave and calm in the midst of his chieftains142 who were grouped about him. Further away where the shadows were, the men massed themselves in silent companies or spoke low to one another, and briefly. Something of a foreboding, occult though it was, and undefinable, made itself manifest. The shadow of a great tragedy was impending.
Without in the least degree minimizing or magnifying the difficulties of the undertaking, Quantrell laid before his officers his plans for attacking Lawrence. For a week a man of the command—a cool, bold, plausible, desperate man—had been in the city—thought it, over it, about it and around it—and he was here in their midst to speak. Would they listen to him?
“Let him speak,” said Todd, sententiously.
Lieutenant Fletcher Taylor came out from the shadow, bowed gravely to the group, and with the brevity of a soldier who knew better how to fight than to talk, laid bare the situation. Disguised as a stock trader, or rather, assuming the role of a speculating man, he had boldly entered Lawrence. Liberal, for he was bountifully supplied with money; keeping open rooms at the Eldridge House, and agreeable in every way and upon every occasion, he had seen all that it was necessary to see, and learned all that could be of any possible advantage to the Guerrillas. The city proper was but weakly garrisoned; the camp beyond the river was not strong; the idea of a raid by Quantrell143 was honestly derided; the streets were broad and good for charging horsemen, and the hour for the venture was near at hand.
“You have heard the report,” Quantrell said with a deep voice, “but before you decide it is proper that you should know it all. The march to Lawrence is a long one; in every little town there are soldiers; we leave soldiers behind us; we march through soldiers; we attack the town garrisoned by soldiers; we retreat through soldiers; and when we would rest and refit after the exhaustive expedition, we have to do the best we can in the midst of a multitude of soldiers. Come, speak out, somebody. What is it, Anderson?”
“Lawrence or hell, but with one proviso, that we kill every male thing.”
“Lawrence, if I knew not a man would get back alive.”
“Lawrence, it is the home of Jim Lane; the foster mother of the Red Legs; the nurse of the Jayhawkers.”
“Lawrence. I know it of old; ‘niggers’ and white men are just the same there; its a Boston colony and it should be wiped out.”
“Lawrence, by all means. I’ve had my eye on it for a long time. The head devil of all this killing144 and burning in Jackson County; I vote to fight it with fire—to burn it before we leave it.”
“Dick Maddox?”
“Lawrence; and an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; God understands better than we do the equilibrium of Civil War.”
“Lawrence, and be quick about it.”
“Where my house once stood there is a heap of ruins. I haven’t a neighbor that’s got a house—Lawrence and the torch.”
“Count me whenever there is killing. Lawrence first and then some other Kansas town; the name is nothing.”
“Have you all voted?”
“Then Lawrence it is; saddle up, men!”
Thus was the Lawrence Massacre inaugurated.
Was it justifiable? Is there much of anything that is justifiable in Civil War? Originally, the Jayhawkers in Kansas had been very poor. They coveted the goods of their Missouri neighbors, made wealthy or well-to-do by prosperous years of peace and African slavery. Before they became soldiers they had been brigands, and before they destroyed houses in the name of retaliation they had plundered them at the instance of personal145 greed. The first Federal officers operating in Kansas; that is to say, those who belonged to the state, were land pirates or pilferers. Lane was a wholesale plunderer; Jennison, in the scaly gradation, stood next to Lane; Anthony next to Jennison; Montgomery next to Anthony; Ransom next to Montgomery, and so on down until it reached to the turn of captains, lieutenants, sergeants, corporals and privates. Stock in herds, droves and multitudes were driven from Missouri into Kansas. Houses gave up their furniture; women, their jewels; children, their wearing apparel; store-rooms, their contents; the land, their crops, and the banks, their deposits. To robbery was added murder; to murder, arson, and to arson depopulation. Is it any wonder, then, that the Missourian whose father was killed should kill in return, whose house was burnt should burn in return, whose property was plundered, should pillage in return, whose life was made miserable, should hunt as a wild beast and rend accordingly? Many such were in Quantrell’s command—many whose lives were blighted; who in a night were made orphans and paupers; who saw the labor and accumulation of years swept away in an hour of wanton destruction; who for no reason on earth save that they were Missourians, were hunted from hiding place to hiding place; who were preyed upon while not a single cow remained or a single shock of grain; who were shot at, bedeviled and proscribed, and who, no matter whether146 union or disunion, were permitted to have neither flag nor country.
It was the summer night of August 16, 1863, that the Guerilla column, having at its head its ominous banner, marched west from Purdee’s place on Blackwater. With its simple soldiers, or rather volunteers for the expedition, were Colonels Joseph Holt and Boaz Roberts. Officers of the regular Confederate army, who were in Missouri on recruiting service when the march began, fell into line as much from habit as from inclination.
The first camp was made upon a stream midway between Pleasant Hill and Lone Jack, where the grazing was good and the hiding places excellent. All day Quantrell concealed himself there, getting to saddle just at dark and ordering Todd up from the rear to the advance. Passing Pleasant Hill to the north and marching on rapidly fifteen miles, the second camp was at Harrelson’s, twenty-five miles from the place of starting. At three o’clock in the afternoon of the second day, the route was resumed and followed due west to Aubrey, a pleasant Kansas stream, abounding in grass and timber. Here Quantrell halted until darkness set in, feeding the horses well and permitting the men to cook and eat heartily. At eight o’clock the march began again and continued on throughout the night, in the direction of Lawrence. Three pilots were pressed into service, carried with the command as far147 as they knew anything of the road or the country, and then shot down remorselessly in the nearest timber.
On the morning of the 21st, Lawrence was in sight. An old man a short distance upon the right of the road was feeding his hogs in the gray dawn, the first person seen to stir about the doomed place. Quantrell sent Cole Younger over to the hog-pen to catechize the industr............
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