Another Account of William Clarke Quantrill
Most individuals are acquainted with William Clarke Quantrill and the border wars through repeated stories derived through historical research. John Newman Edwards who served as General Joseph O. Shelby's adjutant did the first major work in 1898. Quantrill's guerrillas often rode with Shelby and many had served under him when they first enlisted in the Missouri State Guards at the beginning of the war. Coming 40 years after the Civil War Edward's work was acclaimed as the first major history of the western border's guerrilla warfare. All those who fought for the lost cause greeted his book with enthusiasm.
Vengeful and incensed by the overwhelming appeal of Edward's book an unknown Kansas opportunist William Elsey Connelley whose father had lost his health and fortune fighting for the Union devised a plan to propel himself into the society of Quantrill's enemies. Seeking the coveted position of Secretary of the Kansas Historical Society Connelley began his research into Quantrill gathering all the information he could glean from Quantrill's former comrades. At the same time the survivors of Quantrill's old band began gathering for annual reunions in Jackson County. In an attempt to gather information for his book Connelley feigned friendship with the former guerrillas and sought out their accounts.
After enticing and even paying the former guerrillas for their stories Connelley took their accounts and twisted them to fit a description of Quantrill that would make him popular with Quantrill's enemies in Kansas. Succeeding in his endeavor Connelley's book Quantrill and the Border Wars written in 1909 took the opposite view of Edward's earlier work. Realizing that they had been deceived into talking about their former leader and having their accounts twisted and sensationalized Quantrill's former guerrillas kept silent afterwards. As a result no other major work about the border war was written for another 50 years and those were done by northern writers trying to capitalize on the spurious accounts of Connelley.
Connelley made many spurious charges about Quantrill that were simply based on his personal opinion and in his aftermath many irresponsible and unqualified writers have repeated his charges.
What has captured the imagination about Quantrill was not the truthful accounts that would amaze any military historian but rather the repeating of outright lies perpetrated in early dime store novels and even by later modern day writers who chose to repeat the untruthful accounts without doing any actual research. Quantrill's adjutant during the war, Captain William Gregg was quoted as saying after the war: 'Quantrill and his men have been unjustly slandered by the people of the North, a people who, even to this day, know nothing of them, except what they have read in irresponsible books and newspapers."
For example, Quantrill is often referred to as a psychopathic killer. Research by those who knew him personally all state Quantrill was of a retiring nature and evidence shows him to actually having an aversion to bloodshed. Even the words of another Northern writer, Albert Castel who recently called Quantrill 'The bloodiest man in America' the truth shows that Quantrill was magnanimous to his prisoners in granting mercy and there are not over 3 to 4 accounts that state that Quantrill actually took a life outside of an actual battle. His enemies have conveniently omitted any complimentary accounts that would paint him other than the devil incarnate.
In fact during the raid on Lawrence Quantrill was credited with saving a number of lives. Mr. Savage a survivor of the Lawrence raid was quoted as saying that, 'It would have been much worse for Lawrence if Quantrill had not been along.' Another eyewitness to the raid the Reverend Richard Cordley said that, 'In some instances they advised men to get out of the way. They burned houses but were not unnecessarily harsh.' Even Quantrill's words have been twisted by his enemies in order to paint their own picture. Northern writers have said that Quantrill told him men on entering Lawrence to 'kill every man in Lawrence.' Quantrill's own words to his men before entering the town were actually to 'shoot every soldier they saw but in no way harm a woman or child.' This was verified by many of Quantrill's men after the war. The statement that Quantrill ordered his men to kill every man in Lawrence refutes the historical fact by many Lawrence citizens that the guerrillas carried 'death lists' with only the names of the men they were after.
Because the victors in history are afforded the privilege to write their own brand of history much of the truth about the Civil War is seldom told. The number of slain at Lawrence was accepted at around 148 with the actual number of buildings destroyed at 87. This is contrary to writers who inflate the number slain to as high as 200 and usually stating that 300 buildings were destroyed when in fact there were only 300 existing building in town during the raid.
The most ignored fact is that there were over 200 Jackson County, Missouri citizens murdered in the three months preceding the Lawrence raid. Most of the murdered non-combatants were old men and boys as young as 10 years old killed because their relatives served the Confederacy. This and the fact that two weeks prior to the raid Kansas Jayhawkers arrested female relatives of Quantrill's men and brutally murdered five of them by brutally collapsing a brick three story building in which they were being housed. The Lawrence raid is perceived as an atrocity by Quantrill's guerrilla but little notice is given that Missouri towns like Butler, Chapel Hill, Dayton, Kingsville, Morristown, Osceola, Papinsville, Pleasant Hill and West Point were completely destroyed by Kansas Jayhawkers with few of them being able to be rebuilt afterwards.
Quantrill chose Lawrence because it was the hotbed of Abolitionism. Newspapers there spewed forth a tirade of hatred and encouragement for Kansans to raid into Missouri to murder, rape and plunder. Besides the Kansas soldiers who were in Lawrence the day of the raid the citizens of Lawrence benefited, acquiesced and supported the Kansas Jayhawkers in selling their stolen goods from Missouri openly on the streets on Lawrence.
As the hostilities were coming to a close Quantrill took his closest followers east in the hopes of joining forces with Robert E. Lee and gaining honorable terms once the war was over since Federal authorities in Missouri didn't recognize his forces as regular Confederate soldiers. All of Quantrill's men stated that this was his avowed purpose for traveling east. Only the incompetent writing of modern writers claim that Quantrill's purpose was to travel to Washington D. C. to assassinate President Lincoln and the repeating of this account in irresponsible articles continue to perpetrate this myth.
Refused permission to travel through Tennessee Quantrill diverted his forces through Kentucky where many of his followers had relatives still living. Quantrill's travels can be tracked on an eastward path through Kentucky until Petersburg, Virginia was surrounded by Federal forces signaling the imminent fall of nearby Richmond.
April 9, 1865 Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Virginia. Seventeen days later, Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee laid down their arms. The Confederate Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana under General Richard Taylor surrendered on May 4. Three weeks later, General Edmund Kirby Smith surrendered the Trans-Mississippi Department. The guerrillas dropped out of sight for a while and were not heard of again until April 13, 1865. On that date the Federals made contact with the guerrillas Bloomfield, Nelson County, Kentucky.
After the news of Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865 the guerrillas held a conference and decided to separate and make the best terms of surrender they could. Since Quantrill's command was not recognized in Kentucky as being in the regular Confederate army his men planned on joining local commands and surrender as new recruits. Quantrill's last act was a noble jester in protecting those who had supported him and whom he had come to know so well. A local citizen, an old man by the name of Jones claimed that one of Quantrill's men had robbed him. Quantrill was in the act of taking this man to Jones' house and if it turned out to be the man described Quantrill was going to have him shot. As he entered the road leading from Taylorsville to Bloomfield a heavy rain commenced falling. Quantrill turned in at a farmer's house that he had previously stayed with, James Heady Wakefield. The guerrillas settled in the barn to wait out the rainstorm. A Federal scouting party led by Captain Edwin Terrill under orders from General John M. Palmer to drive Quantrill from Kentucky followed their tracks.
Along the Taylorsville Pike leading from Bardstown, Terrill's men stopped at a blacksmith shop run by a free black man named Almsted Jacobs to get their horses shod. One trooper recalled that Jacobs hollered out: 'Great God! Geminy! Don't stop here to get yo horses shod, for' de guerrilla Quantrill and twenty men went by here not half an hour ago and are over dah in de ba'n now.' As soon as he heard this Terrell wheeled his men down the lane for an immediate attack on the barn. When the pickets cried out, 'The bluecoats are coming!? Quantrill's men reached for their pistols and scrambled for their horses. William Hulse, Henry Porter and Allen Parmer were the only guerrillas to mount their horses and get away by leaping a fence in the corner of the barn lot. The other guerrillas, John Ross, Bud Pence, Thomas Harris, Randolph Venable, Lee McMurtry, Robert Hall, Payne Jones, Andy McGuire, Dave Hilton and James Lilly managed to escape on foot to the nearby timber. Quantrill held the Federal pursuers at bay until his men made it to safety then with the aid of Richard Glasscock and Clark Hockingsmith tried to escape themselves. With Quantrill and Hockingsmith riding double a Federal volley killed Hockingsmith and mortally wounded Quantrill pinning Quantrill under the horse. Private John Langford of Company B, 15th Kentucky infantry, fired the mortal shot. Glasscock was killed as he turned back to guard the body of his fallen leader.
The Federals put Quantrill on a blanket and carried him back into Wakefield's house, plundered the premises then quickly left. Suffering immensely Quantrill refused all entreaties by his men to carry him away to safety. In a few days Terrill's men returned and transported him to the military hospital in Louisville where Quantrill passed away on June 6, 1865. Before he died he was visited in the hospital by Mrs. Neville Ross of Independence, Missouri. She was the mother of John Ross one of Quantrill's men and carried messages to Quantrill's friends back in Missouri and respected his wish that his identity not be revealed and that he be given a quiet burial.
Admiration for Quantrill began immediately following his death in stories carried by the men who rode with him and eyewitnesses who supported him and his men. Simultaneously the Northern press carried sensationalized accounts trying to sell newspapers and books. Many of the accounts turned into legend and the legend became myth.
After all these years a new book called "Quantrill of Missouri" finally gives a truthful account about Quantrill following 10 years of research by the author.
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Date: 27 February 2005
Signed: Paul R. Petersen
Author - Quantrill of Missouri
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