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.
On August 11, 1862, Colonel J.T. Hughes’s Confederate force, including William Quantrill, attacked Independence, Missouri 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.
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 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.
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 onLawrence 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.
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.”