Bleeding Kansas & the Missouri Border War

When news of the collapse reached the families of the dead and injured, they went wild. Soon crowds began to gather around the ruins as the dead and wounded were carried off, shouting “Murder!” at the Union forces. Just four days later on August 18, 1863, General Ewing issued General Order Number 10, which “officially” stated that any person – man, woman or child, who was directly involved with aiding a band of guerrillas would be jailed.

Later, Quantrill and his men would claim that the building was deliberately weakened, giving them ammunition for the infamous attack on Lawrence that was about to come.

Lawrence was a town long hated by Quantrill and his men. Home of the demagogic anti-slavery Senator, Jim Lane, it was also a stronghold of the Red Legs, Union guerrillas who had sacked much of western Missouri An attack on this citadel of abolition would bring revenge for any wrongs, real or imagined, that the Southerners had suffered.

Lawrence, Kansas Raid during the Bleeding Kansas Affair

The Lawrence, Kansas Raid as illustrated in Harper’s Weekly, September 1863.

Early on the morning of August 21, 1863, Quantrill, along with his murderous force of about 400, descended on the still sleeping town of Lawrence. Incensed by the Free-State headquarters town, Quantrill set out on his revenge against the Jayhawker community. In this carefully orchestrated early morning raid he and his band, in four terrible hours, turned the town into a bloody and blazing inferno unparallel in its brutality.

Quantrill and his bushwhacker mob of raiders began their reign of terror at 5:00 a.m., looting and burning as they went, bent on total destruction of the town, then less than 3,000 residents. By the time it was over, they had killed approximately 180 men and boys, and left Lawrence nothing more than smoldering ruins.

In response to the Lawrence Massacre, Union Brigadier General Thomas Ewing signed General Order No. 11 on August 25, 1863, which required all persons living more than one mile from Independence, Hickman’s Mill, Pleasant Hill, and Kansas City to leave their farms unless they took an oath of loyalty to the Union. The cities that were excluded were already under Union control This order included Cass, Jackson, Bates, and portions of Vernon Counties. Some did take the oath, but many others fled to other areas never to return. The remaining homes, building, and crops were burned by the Union Army and the entire area became known as “No Mans Land.”

Jackson County Evacuation

Evacuation of Missouri Counties under General Order No. 11, painting by George Caleb Bingham, 1870.

By denying Quantrill and his guerillas the support of the populace, the Union hoped to force them out in the open where they could be destroyed. The enforcement of Order No. 11 resulted in terrible hardships for the people of Jackson County. Many Union and Southern families alike were killed in the ensuing melee.

By October, Quantrill and his men were riding south towards Texas to spend the winter. Along the way, his men attacked a column of Union cavalry and wagons near Baxter Springs, Kansas. Then they went on to capture nearby Fort Blair commanded by Union Major General James Blunt. Blunt escaped to nearby Fort Scott, but more than 80 his soldiers (60 of whom were black) were captured and massacred. Blunt was relieved of command as a result. Later a drunken Quantrill boasted that he had accomplished in one day what Confederate Colonel Jo Shelby and Major General John Marmaduke had failed for years to do — beat Blunt.

Upon his arrival in Texas, Quantrill reported at Bonham on October 26, 1863, to General Henry E. McCulloch. Quantrill and his men were ordered to help round up the increasing number of deserters and conscription-dodgers in North Texas. The band captured a few but killed even more, whereupon McCulloch pulled them off this duty. The General then sent them to track down retreating Comanche from a recent raid on the northwest frontier, which they did without success.

During this time, Quantrill’s behavior had become too bizarre for many of his own men and he was beginning to lose control over them. Some wanted to join the regular Confederate army. Anderson’s quarrels with Quantrill led him to form a fierce band of his own, including Frank James and his 16-year-old brother, Jesse James. During their winter in Texas“Bloody Bill” Anderson, took his group and began to terrorize the area. With two such groups in the neighborhood, Texas residents became targets for so many raids and acts of violence that regular Confederate forces had to be assigned to protect residents from the activities of the irregular Confederate forces.

Finally, General McCulloch determined to rid North Texas of Quantrill’s influence and on March 28, 1864, Quantrill was arrested on the charge of ordering the murder of a Confederate Major. However, Quantrill escaped, returning to his camp near Sherman, Texas, pursued by over 300 state and Confederate troops. His band then crossed the Red River into Indian Territory, where they re-supplied from Confederate stores and started the journey back to Missouri.

Soon, his guerrilla band began to break up into several smaller units and his vicious lieutenant, “Bloody Bill” Anderson, known for wearing a necklace of Yankee scalps into battle, would continue with his own band to terrorize the state of Missouri. As Quantrill’s authority over his followers disintegrated they elected George Todd, a former lieutenant to Quantrill, to lead them.

"Bloody Bill" Anderson

“Bloody Bill” Anderson

Anderson’s greatest fame came as a result of a massacre and battle with Union soldiers at Centralia, Missouri, when on September 27, 1864, he led a band of about seventy men into the town. Wearing Confederate uniforms, the ruffians showed no mercy to the Centralia residents as they systematically raided homes and stores, raped, and murdered. In their final act of wanton destruction, the entire town was reduced to a burning ruin.

After the Centralia Massacre, a Union detachment chased the fleeing guerrillas, who turned on them killing 114 of their pursuers. On October 11, Anderson’s Bushwhackers sacked Boonville, while their leader joined Quantrill to capture Glasgow. Todd, riding with Jo Shelby’s cavalry division, was killed in battle near Independence on October 21, 1864, and Anderson fell 5 days later in a skirmish near Orrick.

In mid-September of 1864 Confederate General Sterling Price made a last-gasp raid across the state hoping to capture Missouri for the South. The Civil War had raged for nearly 3 1/2 years, and Price, a former Missouri governor, had been actively engaged throughout. Leading pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard troops at the Battles of Lexington, Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge, Price was a favorite of his troops and was affectionately known as “Old Pap.”

Forced to bypass St. Louis because of its overwhelming Federal strength, Price’s troops struggled past Hermann, Boonville, Glasgow, Lexington and Independence filling his ranks along the way with fresh volunteers in preparation of an invasion of Westport (now part of Kansas City.) On October 23, 1864, his troops suffered the worst Confederate defeat in Missouri at Westport, which allowed the Union to finally gain control of the state. Westport was the last major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River.

Exhausted, the fleeing wagon train, retired south down the state line. However, hot on the Price trail was Union General Samuel R. Curtis.

After crossing into Kansas, Price and his weary troops camped near a trading post on the night of October 24th. The next day the Rebels, stalled by their wagons crossing the ford, had formed a line on the north side of Mine Creek. The Federals, although outnumbered, commenced the attack as additional troops arrived during the fight.

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