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Quantrill's Massacre of Lawrence - Articles Surfing

The Lawrence Massacre took place on August 21, 1863 during the American Civil War. It was perpetrated by William Clarke Quantrill and his guerilla raiders. The target of the attack was the city of Lawrence, Kansas because it was a haven for anti-slavery forces.

The attack was a direct response to suppression aid by the people of Kansas to the Missouri raiders, which were led by Quantrill, a member of the pro-slavery Confederate forces. Lawrence is also where Union and Jayhawker forces get a headstart when they enter into Missouri.

Before the Raid

The raid was partly caused by the issuance of General Thomas Ewing Jr.'s General Order No. 10. The order commanded authorities to arrest anyone who is found sympathetic to Quantrill's cause. Anyone who is caught is then detained automatically in Kansas City.

Unfortunately, the makeshift prison collapsed on August 13, 1863, which caused the deaths of five women who were detained in the prison. There were rumors that the building was intentionally sabotaged to collapse, as one of the inmates there were the 14-year old sister of Bloody Bill Anderson.

The Quantrill raid is also thought to be a response to the Union Jayhawker sacking of the Osceola, Missouri. The sacking was carried out by James H. Lane's forces, who were originally organized to resist an invasion by Sterling Price into Kansas in September 1861. The town of Osceola was pillaged, looted and burned by the Kansans who carried off spoils of the attack.

The Attack

Quantrill had given much thought about the conduct of the attack in order to ensure its success. He enlisted the help of many Bushwhackers, eventually coming up with a large force of over 300 men. Quantrill also carefully selected and set up every detail of the attack, from the day and the time of the day itself.

The groups came east individually for a rendezvous a few miles from Lawrence, which was intended to be in the pre-dawn hours to catch everyone by surprise. The guerilla force converged on Mount Oread. Their objective: to loot and pillage Lawrence like what happened to Osceola, and to kill the now-senator James H. Lane. It is said that the men rode hard to make the rendezvous that they even secured themselves to the saddles so they could sleep while riding.

When all of his forces were assembled, Quantrill gave the order to ride into Lawrence. In the early hours of day, Lawrence's townsfolk were caught in surprise as hundreds of Quantrill's guerilla forces thundered into the town and massacred the town's males. Echoing what happened to Osceola, Quantrilll's men pillaged the town for four hours.


The guerillas concentrated their killing on the town's male population. When the raiders left, over 180 males had been killed. Quantrill was indiscriminate between boys and men, killing both the former and the latter without mercy. They also killed 17 out 23 Army recruits that were living in Lawrence.

Quantrill's men also burned all the business buildings in Lawrence, leaving only two standing. The stores and banks were also rid of their money before the raiders rode out of town.

Successful as they were in their objectives, Quantrill failed to kill Senator Lane. The jayhawker was said to have escaped by running through a cornfield still wearing his nightclothes.

The response was quick and brutal. Barely a day after the raid, a member of Quantrill's Raiders wandered and was caught in Lawrence by the surviving citizens. This raider was then killed through a lynch mob in angry retaliation to the raid.

Following General Order No. 10, General Ewing issued General Order No. 11 which resulted in the eviction of thousands of Missourians who were living by the border of the state of Kansas. Ewing also sent incursions led by Charles 'Doc' Jennison into the four countries inhabited by the Missourian evictees, and burned them to the ground.

Quantrill and his men headed south after the raid into Texas. The Quantrill's Raiders eventually disbanded barely one year following the raid. There were no other successful raids for William Clark Quantrill after Lawrence, as he was left with only few supporters. Frank James and Jesse James were said to be part of this. Two years later, Quantrill died in Kentucky.

Senator Lane survived the raid, but in 1866, he shot himself because of depression. He had been accused of discrepancies in his financial statements, and was also said to be deranged. He survived for 10 more days before dying near Leavenworth, Kansas.

Submitted by:

Attila Jancsina

Attila Z Jancsina is a freelance copy writer. He occasionally writes for Kansas Real Estate FSBO. Website offers Free FSBO advertisement.



Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).


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