Bleeding Kansas & the Missouri Border War

St Louis Arsenal

Camp Jackson Massacre

Lyon demanded unconditional surrender, which he received. His force, numbering 7,000 men, marched its prisoners through the city while hostile crowds gathered to shout insults and throw rocks. The troops fired several volleys into the crowd, whose members then drew their own weapons and returned the fire.

When it was said and done twenty-eight lay dead or wounded in the streets. In the melee, a baby, two innocent men, and many other innocent bystanders were wounded. For the next month, St. Louis continued to be subject to chaos and sporadic violent outbreaks.

Yet another skirmish between Missouri State and Federal forces occurred at the Battle of Boonville on June 17th, 1861, when Captain Lyon was intent upon putting down Jacksons’ State Guard. As the guard retreated towards Boonville, Lyon embarked on steamboats, transported his men to below Boonville, marched to the town, and engaged the enemy. In a short fight, Lyon dispersed the Confederates and occupied Boonville. This early victory established Union control of the Missouri River and helped douse attempts to place Missouri in the Confederacy.

In the summer of 1861, Kansas Senator James H. Lane returned to his home state to command what was called “Lane’s Brigade.”  Supposedly composed of Kansas infantry and cavalry, the force was more akin to a ruthless band of Jayhawkers wearing United States uniforms. His antics, as he rampaged through Missouri, would earn him the nickname of the “Grim Chieftain” for the death and destruction he brought on the people of Missouri.

General James H. Lane

General James H. Lane

In September of 1861 Lane’s Brigade descended on the town of Osceola, Missouri. When Lane’s troops found a cache of Confederate military supplies in the town, Lane decided to wipe Osceola from the map.

First, Osceola was stripped of all of its valuable goods which were loaded into wagons taken from the townspeople. Then, nine citizens were given a farcical trial and shot. Finally, Lane’s men brought their frenzy of pillaging and murder to a close by burning the entire town. The settlement suffered more than $1,000,000 worth of damage including that belonging to pro-Union citizens.

In 1862, Quantrill began his infamous raiding career in western Missouri and then across the border into Kansas by plundering the towns of Olathe, Spring Hill, and Shawnee. His raids gained the attention of other desperados. By 1863, Quantrill recruited others who joined his company including “Bloody” Bill Anderson and Frank and Jesse James.

William Clarke Quantrill was the most infamous of the leaders of the Missouri partisan units. A daring and ruthless man, Quantrill directed his men in a series of raids along the KansasMissouri border. His brutal tactics were condemned by many military men on both sides, and one Confederate general even threatened to arrest him and all of his men.

William Clarke Quantrill, an Ohio native, had joined the Confederate forces several years prior but was unhappy with their reluctance in aggressively prosecuting Union troops. Therefore, the young man took it upon himself to take a more forceful course with his own-guerilla warfare.

Independence, Missouri

Independence, Missouri

On August 11, 1862, Colonel J.T. Hughes’s Confederate force, including William Quantrill, attacked IndependenceMissouri at dawn. They drove through the town to the Union Army camp, capturing, killing and scattering the Yankees.

During the melee, Colonel Hughes was killed, but the Confederates took Independence, which led to a Confederate dominance in the Kansas City area for a short time. Quantrill’s role in the capture of Independence led to his being commissioned a captain in the Confederate Army.

On August 15, 1862, Union Major Emory S. Foster led an 800-man combined force from Lexington to Lone Jack. Upon reaching the Lone Jack area, he discovered 1,600 Rebels under Colonel J.T. Coffee and attacked them about 9:00 pm, dispersing the Confederate forces.

Early the next morning, the rebels counter-attacked with a 3,000 man force. After a five hour battle, Foster and Coffee both lay dead and the Union forces retreated. Though resulting in a Confederate victory, the Lone Jack Battle was one of the bloodiest fought on Missouri soil, leaving 200 men dead, dying, or wounded and multiple homes and businesses in ashes.

Quantrill's Raiders sacking a town

Quantrill’s Raiders sacking a town

On October 17, 1862, Quantrill and his band moved to attack Shawnee, Kansas. As they neared their destination, they came upon a Federal supply train, where they captured twelve unarmed men. Later these 12 drivers and Union escorts would be found dead, all but one shot in the head. Continuing on, Quantrill and his men attacked the town, killing several men and burning the settlement to the ground.

In May, of 1863, Quantrill and his band moved to the banks of the Osage River on the Missouri-Kansas border. Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr. from Kansas, who commanded the district border, was not happy with Quantrill’s presence.

In an effort to destroy the guerrillas’ base of support, Union troops began to arrest Kansas City area women in July 1863, who were providing support for the Bushwhackers or suspected of gathering information on the partisans’ behalf. Of particular interest to the Federal Troops were the known relatives of the Border Ruffians, including family members of “Bloody Bill” Anderson and the Younger Brothers. Detaining them in several buildings throughout the Kansas City area, women and children were detained until they could be transported out of the area and tried. Overcrowded and invested with rats and vermin of all kinds, the women and children housed in these buildings suffered inexplicably.

One such dilapidated three-story building in downtown Kansas City was in very poor condition, with a weak foundation and plaster constantly falling from the walls and ceilings. Though signs that it was unstable were taken note of, such as large cracks in the walls and ceilings, and large amounts of mortar dust on the floor, the signs were ignored. On August 13, 1863, the building collapsed killing 5 women and injuring dozens of others.

Among the killed and injured in the collapse were women who were close relatives of prominent Confederate guerrillas. Those killed in the collapse, included Josephine Anderson, sister of “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Susan Crawford Vandever and Armenia Crawford Selvey, Cole Younger’s cousins, Charity McCorkle Kerr, wife to Quantrillian member Nathan Kerr, and a woman named Mrs. Wilson. Many others were injured and scarred. Caroline Younger, sister to Cole and James Younger, would die two years later as a result of her injuries. Another Anderson sister was crippled for life when both of her legs were broken in the incident.

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