Following in Quantrill’s Footsteps
Lawrence Raid Article
On August 17th, dust kicked up throughout western Missouri into Kansas, only this time it wasn’t from Quantrill’s guerrillas riding into Lawrence. Instead, it was from two tour buses making their way along the route believed to be once taken by William Clarke Quantrill on his way to carry out one of the bloodiest massacres in Civil War history. Just as dawn approached on August 21, 1863, Quantrill and his men charged into Lawrence, Kansas and within only a few short hours they managed to destroy almost the entire town, leaving behind approximately 200 dead men and boys. In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas, a two-day bus tour gave the public the opportunity to see the route believed to be taken by Quantrill and to understand the terrain, heat, and obstacles the guerrillas had to overcome to get to Lawrence. Quantrill’s incredibly dangerous trek into Kansas was the result of a two and a half year continuous attack on Missourians by Kansas Jayhawkers and Redlegs. Women and children watched as their men were killed, heirlooms taken, houses burned, and on occasion they even fell victim to physical attacks. The Kansas City women’s prison collapse that occurred on August 13, 1863, killing five female relatives of the guerrillas, only made the attack on Lawrence bloodier. Neutrality wasn’t an option and if you were of Southern blood, you were targeted. The border war between Kansas and Missouri is much more than a rivalry between the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri, it was full of bloodshed.
At 8:00 a.m. on August 17, 2013, the tour began in Harrisonville, Missouri located in Cass County, one of the four counties destroyed by Brigadier General Thomas Ewing’s Order No. 11.
On August 25, 1863, in response to the Lawrence raid and at the demand of Kansas Senator General James Henry Lane, Ewing issued Order No. 11 which mandated an evacuation of all persons currently residing in Jackson, Cass, and Bates Counties, and part of Vernon County. Families were forced to leave their homes in 100 degree heat and most had to walk to the next county while watching the sick and elderly dying along the side of the road. Homes were immediately torched, animals were stolen or slaughtered, and anything of value was looted. In many cases homes were set on fire before families had time to gather their belongings. The Order destroyed 2,200 square miles which included approximately 280 farms and barns, 3,000 miles of rail fencing and eleven towns and villages. Nothing but black smoke hovered over the four counties, giving rise to the area later called the Burnt District. During the Civil War, the Burnt District had a population of approximately 20,000 people which dwindled to less than 5,000 after the Order was issued. All that is left of this terrible time period is the Burnt District Monument which was dedicated by the Cass County Historical Society on April 26, 2009.
This picture was taken at the Order No. 11 exhibit being displayed at the Kansas City Box Gallery.
The monument takes the form of a stone chimney representing the only part of the houses still left standing after being set on fire.
After our introduction at the Burnt District Monument, approximately 100 people boarded two coach buses with Jay Roberts and Tom Rafiner serving as our tour guides. On our way to our first stop, the tour guides gave a detailed account of Quantrill’s time in Missouri and the background of his trusted Captains. Through various highways and back roads we arrived a short distance from Captain James Perdee’s Farm located on the Blackwater River near Columbus, Missouri in Johnson County. Getting to the Perdee Farm would have required a long trek in the brush covered with snakes, so the tour guides wisely chose to keep us on the bus. The Perdee Farm served as a rendezvous and campsite for Quantrill and his men the night before their long journey to Lawrence. At approximately 9:00 a.m. on the 19th of August, Quantrill and 300 of his men left the Perdee Farm and began traveling towards Kansas. At the time, only Quantrill and his Captains knew the true location of their destination. After riding at an easy pace in 92 degree heat and dusty conditions, the men arrived around 5:00 p.m. at Benjamin Potter’s Farm located near Lone Jack where Quantrill finally revealed his plan to attack and raid Lawrence, Kansas. Each man was ordered to feed his horse and get supper. Our buses headed to the Potter Farm where our group roamed around the farm envisioning Quantrill and his men preparing for the long night ahead of them. A short distance from the Potter Farm is where six men, including Potter, were shot down by Union soldiers while upholding Order No. 11. Potter was immediately targeted by Union soldiers for feeding Quantrill and his men. The Lone Jack Historical Society helped preserve the monument and gravesites of these six men. For more information, please visit the Lone Jack Battlefield Museum.
At dusk on the 19th, Quantrill and his men saddled up and headed west towards Kansas. They arrived at the headwaters of the Grand River in Cass County 4-5 miles east of the Kansas state line shortly before dawn where they camped in a dense forest until late afternoon. Our buses drove us through a section of the wooded area where Quantrill and his men had camped. Sometime after leaving their campsite, Quantrill and his men ran into Confederate Colonel John Holt and 100 unarmed new recruits who were subsequently invited to tag along. An additional 50 men from Cass and Bates Counties also joined Quantrill for his impending raid. By that afternoon, Quantrill and his men, now 450 strong, began their travels along the creek and tree lines towards Kansas, arriving at the state line at 6:00 p.m.
The first day of the tour made its final stop at the Dye Farm located in Lamar, a few miles east of the Kansas state line.
The beautiful Dye farmhouse
In 1863, the farmhouse on the Dye Farm had been targeted and set on fire by Union troops, but one room survived. In 1971, it was discovered that President Truman lived on this farm for the first two years of his life. His first memories were of the backyard of the farmhouse. While enjoying some homemade barbecue and drinking iced tea out of tin cups, we watched a short reenactment which began with several distressed women discussing the attack on Missourians followed by Quantrill’s council meeting where Quantrill’s Captains unanimously voted to attack Lawrence. At 3:00 p.m. sharp, our buses headed back to Harrisonville marking the conclusion of the tour’s first day.
Quantrill’s council meeting was held on August 10, 1863. The reenactors belong to Elliott’s Scouts Civil War Reenactment Unit including Larry Yeatman, standing, who played Quantrill.
The second day of our tour also began in Harrisonville, Missouri with Ross Marshall as the tour guide for approximately 50 sightseers. As we headed towards Quantrill’s final stop before Lawrence, we passed through Squiresville, Kansas. Today, Squiresville is nothing more than vacant land with grass and trees, but during the Civil War Squiresville was the home of the infamous Colonel C.R. “Doc” Jennison, leader of the Kansas Jayhawkers. Squiresville also held auctions where stolen goods from Missouri would be sold. Approximately two and a half miles from Squiresville, Quantrill and his men made their final stop before Lawrence, where they rested, ate, and fed their horses. After nightfall, the men slowly made their way in columns of four to Gardner where they arrived approximately around 11:00 p.m. The lack of moon or stars made their trek into Kansas rather difficult; therefore, kidnapping a farmer near or around Gardner was deemed necessary to guide them in the proper direction. Quantrill and his men continued to kidnap farmers every mile or so until Quantrill recognized the area. From Gardner, Quantrill and his men followed the Santa Fe Trail and then headed north to Lawrence. It must have been a sight to see these men make their way to Lawrence. With 450 riders and four men to a column, the line of raiders easily stretched to a half-mile long.
Like Quantrill, we entered Lawrence from the southeast through Franklin. Our tour bus headed directly to the Watkins Community Museum of History located on Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. The Watkins museum recently opened its new $300,000 permanent exhibit illustrating Quantrill’s 1863 raid. The museum displayed several items that miraculously survived the raid. Such items include a spinning wheel which Quantrill allowed to be saved from a burning house and a side chair from the Eldridge Hotel that survived the 1856 and 1863 Lawrence raids. In the center of the exhibit is an interactive touch screen that provides explanations for the areas targeted by the raiders, houses burned, and Quantrill’s calculated route in and out of Lawrence. On the walls of the exhibit, one can find information surrounding John Brown, General James Henry Lane and even quotes from the raid survivors. The exhibit also displays modern art depicting personal views on the raid. Although the exhibit only occupied one floor of the museum, there is enough information to keep visitors interested for awhile.
After a quick lunch at the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area building, our guide walked us down and around Lawrence’s downtown main street, Massachusetts Street. We tried to envision the scene as Quantrill’s raiders stormed down Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont Streets. Lawrence was flooded with raiders within minutes. Prior to the raid, Lawrence Mayor George Washington Collamore required all military weapons be stored at the Massachusetts Street armory. With the weapons locked up, Federal troops and Lawrence residents were completely defenseless. Because most of the buildings located on Massachusetts Street were built with wood frames, they were destroyed quickly after Quantrill’s raiders set them on fire. In fact, it only took a few hours for Quantrill and his men to nearly level the entire town. Today, a few brick buildings remain; including a three story building located on Massachusetts and 8th Ave where Quantrill had burglarized it in 1860.
In 1860, Douglas County attorney Samuel A. Riggs indicted Quantrill for, among other things, burglarizing Ridenour & Baker’s warehouse.
After walking down Massachusetts Street, we found ourselves at the Eldridge Hotel which was the prize possession for Quantrill during his raid. Almost immediately after the raid began, Quantrill and his raiders headed directly to the Eldridge Hotel. Quantrill anticipated resistance from the guests staying at the large luxurious hotel, which included Federal soldiers on furlough, but instead found the hotel had quickly surrendered. The hotel was built by the New England Emigrant Aid Society in 1855 and was once named the Free State Hotel during a time when Kansas was not yet a free state. The Eldridge Hotel has had quite a tumultuous past, having been attacked and burned down in the 1856 raid by pro-slavery activists and again during Quantrill’s raid. The hotel still exists and currently displays in its lobby four hotel models illustrating its transformation since 1855. After a short drive through Lawrence where we were shown a few houses once belonging to key Lawrence residents during the time of the raid, we headed to the Oakhill Cemetery. On the south side of the cemetery there is a monument dedicated to the individuals lost during the raid.
Most of the raid victims were buried in the Oread Cemetery in Lawrence but were later moved to the Oak Hill Cemetery in 1871. The monument sits close to many of their graves.
A short distance from the monument is where Senator General James Henry Lane lies. Although he escaped Quantrill’s death grip on August 21, 1863, he eventually committed suicide in 1866. After a long afternoon in Lawrence, the bus headed back to Harrisonville.
The 150th Anniversary of Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence brought mixed emotions for Lawrence residents. Many Lawrencians struggle with wanting to remember those lost in the raid but are filled with anger at the idea of remembering Quantrill and his raiders through various tours and the Watkins museum exhibit. But the fact remains that Missourians were also victims of the border war and didn’t escape unscathed. Western Missouri will never forget the pain and suffering they encountered throughout the Civil War, and because of Quantrill, neither will Lawrence.
Written by Catherine Floyd and photos taken by Bob Capps.