Confederate Raid on Lawrence, Kansas One of War’s Worst Atrocities

August 16, 1863/2013
Volume 4, Issue 33 (149 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Confederate Raid on Lawrence, Kansas One of War’s Worst Atrocities

August 21, 1863. Historian A. P. Murray writes, “During the second half of 1863 the Confederates occupied Texas and carried on guerrilla warfare in Arkansas and Missouri. Some of their leaders attempted to assemble forces numbering several thousand, especially in Arkansas, but they were defeated by Union troops. Guerrilla bands, however, caused trouble for the Federals. [On August 21, 1863] at Lawrence, Kansas, a band led by Colonel William C. Quantrill committed one of the war’s worst atrocities.

“Quantrill’s raiders dashed into the defenseless town, home to free-state abolitionists since the 1850s, and began to pillage and slaughter. One hundred and fifty men and boys were killed, and the town was burned to the ground, with charred bodies lying everywhere. [One citizen wrote,] ‘I have read of outrages committed in the so-called dark ages, and, horrible as they appeared to me, they sink into insignificance in comparison with what I was then compelled to witness . . . Our strength failed us [and] many could not help crying like children. Women and little children were all over town, hunting for their husbands and fathers, and sad indeed was the scene when the did finally find them among the corpses laid out for recognition.'”

The destruction of the city of Lawrence, Kansas, and the massacre of its inhabitants by the Rebel guerrillas, August 21, 1863. From Harper's Weekly, September 5, 1863, courtesy Library of Congress.

The destruction of the city of Lawrence, Kansas, and the massacre of its inhabitants by the Rebel guerrillas, August 21, 1863. From Harper’s Weekly, September 5, 1863, courtesy Library of Congress.

The ruins of Lawrence, Kansas. From Harper's Weekly, September 5, 1863, courtesy, Library of Congress.

The ruins of Lawrence, Kansas. From Harper’s Weekly, September 5, 1863, courtesy, Library of Congress.

– Submitted by Peter A. Gilbert, executive director, Vermont Humanities Council

SOURCE

Witness to the Civil War: First-Hand Accounts from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Stuart A. P. Murray, ed. p. 145.

INTERESTING LINKS

“Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence, A Question of Complicity” by Burton J. Williams, Kansas Historical Quarterly

“Quantrill’s Raiders,” Oklahoma Historical Society

“Quantrill, William Clarke,” Texas Historical Association

“The Massacre at Lawrence, Kansas,” Harper’s Weekly

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1863

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