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Lawrence massacre

Coordinates: 38°58′N 95°14′W / 38.967°N 95.233°W / 38.967; -95.233
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Lawrence massacre
Part of the American Civil War

A drawing by Sherman Enderton showing the Lawrence Massacre. Enderton was in Lawrence during the massacre.
DateAugust 21, 1863
38°58′N 95°14′W / 38.967°N 95.233°W / 38.967; -95.233

Confederate victory

People involved

 United States (Union)

 Confederate States

Commanders and leaders
Nobody[a] William C. Quantrill
Units involved
The people of Lawrence
Untrained recruits
Quantrill's Raiders
0 300–400
Casualties and losses
164 civilians 40

The Lawrence Massacre (also known as Quantrill's Raid) was an attack on the town of Lawrence, Kansas on August 21, 1863. The attack was a battle in the U.S. Civil War. The Confederates won the battle. They won because groups of guerillas led by William Quantrill rode into town and shot every man they saw.[1] They killed about 150 people.

The guerrillas attacked Lawrence because the city supported abolition and because it was a center for the Jayhawkers. The Jayhawkers were free-state militia groups known for attacking plantations in the pro-slavery western counties of Missouri.


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By 1863, there had been a lot of violence in Kansas.[2] This is because people disagreed about whether Kansas should allow slavery or not.

In the summer of 1856, the first sacking of Lawrence started a guerrilla war in Kansas that lasted for years. John Brown might be the most famous person involved in the violence of the late 1850s that fought on the abolitionist or Jayhawker side. However, there were many groups on each side that fought during the "Bleeding Kansas" period.[2]

By the beginning of the American Civil War, Lawrence was already a target for pro-slavery violence. This is because Lawrence was the biggest anti-slavery city in the state. It was also where the Union and Jayhawkers started attacks into Missouri. At first, the town and area around it were very prepared. They reacted strongly to any rumors that pro-slavery people might be coming to Lawrence. However, by the summer of 1863, this never happened, so the people did not fear much, and they forgot about their defenses.[3]

Reasons for the attack

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Revenge for Jayhawker attacks

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Lawrence was a headquarters for a group of Jayhawkers (sometimes called "Red Legs"). They had started a campaign in late March 1863. They had a goal to end support from the people for the Confederate guerillas. Union General Blunt said the actions of the soldiers were as if "a reign of terror started, and no man's property was safe, nor was his life worth much if he fought them in their plans to rob and steal."[4] Many Jayhawker leaders like Charles "Doc" Jennison, James Montgomery, and George Henry Hoyt attacked Western Missouri. This made both pro-southern and pro-Union civilians and politicians angry.[5] The historian Albert Castel says that the bushwhackers under Quantrill also wanted to steal, but revenge was their main reason.[6]

Survivors confirmed the feeling of revenge in the attack on Lawrence. Albert Castel wrote, "all the ladies and others who talked with the butchers of the 21st ult." said that "they were here to revenge the wrongs done their families by our men under Lane, Jennison, Anthony and Co."[7] Charles L. Robinson, the first Governor of Kansas, was an eyewitness to the attack. He said the attack happened for revenge: "Before this raid the entire border counties of Missouri had experienced more terrible outrages (events) than ever the Quantrill raid at Lawrence... There was no burning of feet and torture by hanging in Lawrence as there was in Missouri, neither were women and children outraged."[8] Robinson explained that Quantrill chose Lawrence because Jayhawkers had attacked Missouri "as soon as [started]," and Lawrence was the "headquarters for the thieves and their plunder."[8]

Quantrill said that his reason for the attack was "to steal and destroy the town as revenge for Osceola."[6] He was talking about the Union's attack on Osceola, Missouri in September 1861. Senator James H. Lane led it. His forces plundered Osceola, gave nine men a drumhead court-martial trial, and executed them.[9][10]

Destruction of the Women's Prison in Kansas City

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The collapse of the Women's Prison in Kansas City is also often believed to have made some people want to join in on the attack.[11] To try to stop the Missouri guerrillas from being in Kansas, General Thomas Ewing, Jr. issued "General Order No. 10" in April 1863. This ordered anyone helping or comforting the Confederate guerrillas to be arrested.[12] This mostly meant women or girls who were relatives of the guerrillas. Ewing sent the arrested people to some makeshift prisons in Kansas City. The women were then kept in two buildings which were either too small or too dirty. Then they were moved to an empty building at 1425 Grand Boulevard.[13] This building was part of the estate[disambiguation needed] of Robert S. Thomas, George Caleb Bingham's father-in-law. In 1861, Bingham and his family were living in the building. However, in early 1862, he and his family moved to Jefferson City when he was chosen to be the treasurer of Missouri. Bingham had added a third level to the building to use as a studio.[14]

At least ten women or girls, all under the age of 20, were prisoners in the building when it collapsed on August 13, 1863, killing four: Charity McCorkle Kerr, Susan Crawford Vandever, Armenia Crawford Selvey, and Josephine Anderson—the 15-year-old sister of William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson. A few days later, Nannie Harris died from her wounds. The people who did not die from the collapse were Jenny Anderson (injured by the accident), Susan Anne Mundy Womacks, Martha "Mattie" Mundy, Lucinda "Lou" Mundy Gray, Elizabeth Harris (later married to Deal), and Mollie Grindstaff.[15][16] Anderson's 13-year-old sister, who was stuck to a ball-and-chain inside the jail, got many injuries, including two broken legs.[17]

Even before the jail fell, the arrest and planned deportation of the girls had made Quantrill's guerrillas angry; George Todd left a note for General Ewing threatening to burn Kansas City unless the girls were freed.[18] Quantrill's raid on Lawrence was planned before the jail collapse, and even before General Ewing issued "General Order No. 10".[6] However, the deaths of the guerrillas' female relatives made the raiders want to kill people even more during the attack.[19]

A man from Hesper named Henry Thompson tried to run to Lawrence to tell the people there that an attack was coming.[20] He was able to run all the way to Eudora before he was too tired. An unknown man riding a chaise came across Thompson to ask if he needed help. Thompson told him that he ran all the way from Hester, and that he needed to warn Lawrence. Thompson and the man were able to get some people from Eudora to go to Lawrence to warn of an attack. They were too late.[21][20]

Painting of the Lawrence Massacre by Lauretta Louise Fox Fisk.

Around 450 guerrillas came near Lawrence shortly after 5 a.m. One of the first deaths was a pastor, Samuel S. Snyder. He was outside milking his cows when the guerillas shot him.[22][23] Their first goal was to get to the Eldridge House, a big brick hotel in the middle of Lawrence. They gained control of the building (which became Quantrill's headquarters during the raid). After that, Quantrill's men went into smaller groups that spread throughout Lawrence. For the next four hours, the raiders pillaged and burned 25% of the buildings in Lawrence. They burned all businesses except for two. They looted most of the banks and stores in town. They killed more than 150 people. All of the victims were men and boys.[24] Some sources say 183 people were killed.[25] An 1897 source says that among the dead were 18 of 23 untrained army recruits.[26] By 9 a.m., the raiders were leaving Lawrence.

Mayor George W. Collamore hid in his family's well so that the guerillas would not find him. However, they set his house on fire, and he died from breathing in smoke.[22][23] After the massacre, a friend of Collamore's named Lowe went into the well to find him. The rope he was holding onto broke, and he also died in the well.[23]

Several groups of guerillas came to judge Louis Carpenter's house. They took everything he owned, but he persuaded them to not kill him nor burn his house. Another group of guerillas came and asked him where he was from. He said he was from New York. One of the guerillas said, "It's you New York [people] that are doing all of the mischief". When the guerilla took out his revolver to shoot Carpenter, Carpenter ran back into his house. The guerillas chased him into his house, upstairs, and then back downstairs, shooting at him. Carpenter ran into the basement, but he was bleeding. They found him, and the guerillas chased him outside and shot him. His wife Mary used her body to protect him. A guerilla walked around her to find a place to shoot under her. He lifted her arm and aimed his revolver under it. He fired his gun so that she could see the bullet enter Carpenter's head. Then, the guerillas set the house on fire. His wife's sister was able to stop the fire however.[23][27]

George Burt was standing near a fence when a guerilla came to him. The guerilla asked for all of his money. When Burt gave the guerilla his pocket book, the guerilla took it with one hand and shot Burt with the other.[23]

A German man named Phillip Albach was sick, laying in bed. Guerillas demanded the family clear the house so they could burn it. The family carried Albach outside on a mattress and laid him in the yard. When the guerillas came out of the house, they killed him on his bed.[23]

Reverend Hugh Dunn Fisher tried to run away from his home with his two sons. Fisher was sick, so he was unable to run. He went back into his house and hid under the stairs in his basement. When some guerillas came into the house, they demanded his wife Elizabeth let them look in the basement. They could not see Fisher in the darkness. When they left, they set the house on fire and watched it burn. They hoped that if Fisher was hiding inside, he would run outside so they could kill him. Elizabeth covered Fisher in an old dress and a carpet, and carried him out of the house. She covered him in the carpet and dress so that it would look like she was simply trying to save her belongings from the fire. Fisher hid under the carpet until the guerillas left, and all of the family lived.[22][28][29]

The raiders wanted revenge, so they had a list of people they wanted to kill and buildings they wanted to burn. James H. Lane was at the top of the list. Lane was a military leader and a supporter of the Jayhawkers.[30] Lane escaped by running through a cornfield while wearing his nightshirt. John Speer was one of Lane's biggest political supporters. Lane had put Speer into the newspaper business. Speer was also on the list.[31] Charles L. Robinson, first governor of Kansas and an abolitionist, may also have been on the list. However, he was not killed.[25]

Many said that Quantrill's decision to kill young boys was a very bad part of the attack.[32] Bobbie Martin is generally said to be the youngest person who died. Some stories of the raid say he may have been as young as ten to twelve years old,[33] but others say he was fourteen years old.[34] Most sources say he was wearing a Union soldier uniform or clothing made from his father's uniform, but others say he was holding a musket and cartridges.[35] Most of Quantrill's guerrilla fighters were teenagers. One of the youngest was Riley Crawford. He was thirteen years old when his mother took him to Quantrill after Union soldiers shot her husband and burned her home.[36]

The Kansas State Journal was the first newspaper in Lawrence to continue publishing after the attack. They released their first copy on October 1, 1863. In it, it said that every business in Lawrence had been sacked; every business except five had been burned; every house in Lawrence had been plundered; 160 men and boys had been killed.[37][38] The Leavenworth Daily Conservative, on August 23, 1863, said that the guerrillas caused $2,000,000 worth of damage, and stole $250,000 worth of money.[38]


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The aftermath of the attack as shown in Harper's Weekly. The burned ruins of the Eldridge House are in the front.

The Lawrence massacre was one of the bloodiest events in the history of Kansas. The Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence wasn't destroyed, but many of its members were killed. Also, many of its records were destroyed.[39]

A day after the attack, some of the people of Lawrence lynched Thomas Corlew, a member of Quantrill's raiders who was still in Lawrence. They believed he was a spy. They hanged him in a barn on Massachusetts Street.[40]

After the attack, Quantrill brought his men south to Texas for the winter. By the next year, however, the raiders broke up as a group. They were unable to get similar successes. Quantrill died of wounds he got in Kentucky in 1865. By that point, he had only a few supporters left. Frank James and his younger brother, Jesse James were some of his supporters.[41]

After Quantrill's attack, the Union built multiple military posts on Mount Oread. They built these to help guard the rebuilt city. However, no more attacks happened in Lawrence, and these forts were removed.[42][43]

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  1. No union commander present


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  1. "William Quantrill and the Lawrence Massacre". xroads.virginia.edu.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Bleeding Kansas". National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  3. Castel, Albert (1997). Civil War Kansas. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. pp. 124–6.
  4. Blunt, James G. (May 1932). "General Blunt's Account of His Civil War Experiences". Kansas Historical Quarterly. 1 (3): 239.
  5. Goodrich, Thomas (1992). Bloody Dawn: The Story of the Lawrence Massacre. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. pp. 4–6. ISBN 9780873384766.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Castel, Albert E. (1999). William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 142.
  7. Castel, Albert (1997). Civil War Kansas. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 136.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Governor Robinson's Speech". Lawrence Daily Journal and Evening Tribune. August 23, 1892. p. 4. Archived from the original on July 3, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2018. The article provided a synopsis of the speech that Robninson had given in Lawrence on the twenty-ninth anniversary of the raid. Despite being a truncated paraphrase of the original speech, the article had been approved by Robinson for publication (p. 2).
  9. Spurgeon, Ian (2009). Man of Douglas, Man of Lincoln: The Political Odyssey of James Henry Lane. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. pp. 185–8. ISBN 9780826218148.
  10. Petersen, Paul R. (2003). Quantrill of Missouri: The Making of a Guerrilla Warrior—The Man, the Myth, the Soldier. Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House Publishing. p. 61.
  11. Epps, Kristen (2014). "Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence". Civil War on the Western Border. Kansas City Public Library. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  12. Frazier, Harriet C. (2004). Runaway and Freed Missouri Slaves and Those Who Helped Them, 1763–1865. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 214.
  13. Harris, Charles F. (April 1995). "Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of the Women's Prison In Kansas City". Missouri Historical Review: 294, 295.
  14. Harris, Charles F. (April 1995). "Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of the Women's Prison In Kansas City". Missouri Historical Review: 296, 297.
  15. Paul R. Petersen (April 26, 2011). "Knee Deep in Blood". Quantrill at Lawrence: The Untold Story. New Orleans, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company. pp. 24, 30. ... Guerrilla Bill Anderson had just removed his sisters from Kansas where for a year they had lived at various places, stopping finally with the Mundy family on the Missouri side of the line near Little Santa Fe. The parents of the Mundy family were dead. One of their sons was in General Sterling Price's Southern army, and three daughters were at home: Susan Mundy Womacks, Martha Mundy, and Mrs. Lou Mundy Gray, whose husband was probably with the guerrillas. The Mundy girls and the three Anderson sisters were arrested as spies. They were confined in a building that served as a jail. ... Guerrilla Nathan Kerr's wife Charity was killed. Brothers William, Marshall, Marion, and Riley Crawford lost two sisters killed. Guerrilla Thomas Harris's sister Nannie was mangled in the jail collapse. Guerrilla James E. Mundy's sisters Susan and Martha, and his married sister Mrs. Lou Mundy Gray, were imprisoned along with William Grindstaff's sister Mollie, but somehow each of them miraculously survived.
  16. LeeAnn Whites (March 2011). "Forty Shirts and a Wagonload of Wheat: Women, the Domestic Supply Line, and the Civil War on the Western Border". The Journal of the Civil War Era. 1 (1). Archived from the original on February 22, 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  17. Nichols, Bruce (2004). Guerrilla Warfare in Western Missouri, 1861. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 210.
  18. Nichols, Bruce (2004). Guerrilla Warfare in Western Missouri, 1861. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 209.
  19. Leslie, Edward E. (1998). The Devil Knows How to Ride. Boston, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. pp. 193–5.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Cindy Higgins (1997). "Civil War and Quantrill". Eudora, KS. Archived from the original on August 27, 2018. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  21. Mach, Tom. "Little-known facts about Quantrill's Raid". Lawrence Journal-World. Archived from the original on September 10, 2018. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Kristen Epps. "Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence". The Kansas City Public Library. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 Alec Miller (June 30, 1994). "The Lawrence Massacre, Part One". University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  24. Pringle, Heather (April 2010). "Digging the Scorched Earth". Archaeology. 63 (2): 21.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Robinson, Charles (1892). The Kansas Conflict. New York City, NY: Harper and Brother. p. 447.
  26. Fisher, H.D. (1902). The Gun and the Gospel: Early Kansas and Chaplain Fisher. Kansas City, MO: Hudson-Kimberly Publishing Company. p. 194. Archived from the original on October 20, 2008.
  27. Kerry Altenbernd (July 24, 2003). "Judge Louis Carpenter". Douglas County Law Library. Archived from the original on October 23, 2016. Retrieved July 11, 2009.
  28. Alec Miller (June 30, 1994). "The Lawrence Massacre, Part Two". University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  29. Hugh Dunn Fisher (1897). The gun and the gospel; early Kansas and Chaplain Fisher : Fisher, H. D. (Hugh Dunn), 1824-1905. Chicago, New York, Medical century company. p. 194-201.
  30. Castel, Albert (1959). "Kansas Jayhawking Raids into Western Missouri in 1861". Archived from the original on March 14, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  31. Castel, Albert (1997). Civil War Kansas. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 28.
  32. Schultz, Duane (1997). Quantrill's War: The Life and Times of William Clarke Quantrill, 1837–1865. New York City, NY: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312147105. Chapter 9 is entitled, "Kill Every Man Big Enough to Carry a Gun", an alleged Quantrill quote.
  33. Connelley, William Elsey (1910). Quantrill and the Border Wars. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: The Torch Press. pp. 362–3. Archived from the original on September 22, 2016. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  34. Leslie, Edward E. (1996). The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and his Confederate Raiders. Boston, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. p. 226.
  35. Goodrich, Thomas (1991). Blood Dawn: The Story of the Lawrence Massacre. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. p. 104.
  36. Petersen, Paul R. (2003). Quantrill of Missouri: The Making of a Guerrilla Warrior—The Man, the Myth, the Soldier. Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House Publishing. p. 226.
  37. H.E. Lowman (October 1, 1863). "A Voice from the Ashes". Kansas State Journal. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Burton J. Williams (Summer 1968). "Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence: A Question of Complicity". Kansas Historical Society. p. 143-149. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  39. Sellen, Al. "A Brief Outline of Plymouth's History". Plymouth Congregational Church. Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  40. Genevieve Yost (May 1933). "History of Lynchings in Kansas". Kansas Historical Society. p. 182-219. Archived from the original on August 8, 2020. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  41. Wellman, Paul I. (1961). A Dynasty of Western Outlaws. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. p. 61.
  42. Pollard, Jr, William C. (1992). "Kansas Forts During the Civil War". Kansas History. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  43. Bisel, Debra Goodrich; Martin, Michelle M. (2013). "Camp Ewing: 1864–1865". Kansas Forts & Bases: Sentinels on the Prairie. Charleston, SC: The History Press. ISBN 9781614238683.

More reading

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  • Albert E. Castel. Civil War Kansas: Reaping the Whirlwind (1997)
  • Albert E. Castel. William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times (1999) excerpt and text search
  • Thomas Goodrich, Bloody Dawn: The Story of the Lawrence Massacre (1992)
  • Paul I. Wellman. A Dynasty of Western Outlaws (1961). (On the formative background of the Kansas-Missouri border wars on the post-war western outlaws, notably the James-Younger gang.)
  • Richard F. Sunderwirth, "The Burning" Of Osceola Missouri" (2007)

Other websites

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