Leader of the most savage
fighting band in the
Kansas/Missouri Border War, William Quantrill will long be known as the most ruthless bushwhacker
during these turbulent times.
Born on July 31, 1837
to Thomas Henry and Caroline Cornelia (Clarke) Quantrill, the boy displayed his cruel tendencies even as a child. Purportedly, this bad seed would shoot pigs through the ears just to
hear them squeal, nail snakes to trees, and tie cats’ tails together
for the pure joy of watching them claw each other to death.
He wasn’t to change
much as he grew older. After teaching school briefly in Ohio and
Illinois he fled to
in 1857 to escape a horse theft charge. His initial stay in
was short lived, when he accompanied an army provision train to
1858. Along the trail to
the man who had grown up in a Unionist family, met numerous
pro-slavery Southerners who deeply affected his beliefs. Once in
he began to use the alias of Charles Hart, lived his life as a gambler
and was quickly associated with a number of murders and thefts at Fort
Bridger and elsewhere in the territory. Fleeing yet again, under
a warrant for his arrest, he returned to
In December 1860,
he joined a group of
Free-State men who were intent upon freeing the slaves of a
man by the name of Morgan Walker. But Quantrill's participation was only a ruse. As the Jayhawkers
hid in the bush, Quantrill volunteered to "scout the area.” Soon, Quantrill,
along with Walker, returned to ambush the four
men, killing three of them.
the Civil War broke out in April, 1861, Quantrill joined the Confederate side with enthusiasm. He
fought with Confederate forces at the battle of
in August 1861. This battle marked the beginning of the Civil
Missouri, where the state would become the scene of savage and
fierce fighting, primarily from guerilla warfare.
By late in the year,
Quantrill became unhappy with the Confederates’ reluctance to
aggressively prosecute the Union troops. As a result, the
young man took it upon himself to take a more antagonistic course with
his own-guerilla warfare, becoming the leader of Quantrill's Raiders. Starting with a small force of no more
than a dozen men, the pro-slavery guerrilla band began to make
independent attacks upon Union camps, patrols and settlements.