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Kansas/Missouri Border War - Page 6

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The Birth of Freedom DVDDuring 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 Quantrilll 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

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.




Westport Missouri in 1890

They soon surrounded the Confederates, resulting in the capture of about 600 men and two generals - Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke and Brigadier General William L. Cabell. Having lost this many men, Price’s army was doomed. Retreat to friendly territory was the only recourse.


Meanwhile, in an attempt to regain his prestige, Quantrill concocted a plan to lead a company of men to Washington and assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. He assembled a group of raiders in Lafayette County, Missouri, in November and December 1864 with the idea of completing this task. However, the strength of Union troops east of the Mississippi River convinced him that his plan could not succeed. Quantrill turned back and resumed his normal pattern of raiding.

On April 8, 1865 General Robert E. Lee formally surrendered at Appomattox, effectively ending the Civil War. However, while peace was brought to the rest of the land the violence in these two states would continue for years to come.


Fearing capture and execution, Quantrill and his men headed east. In May, 1865, a Unionist irregular force surprised his group near Taylorsville, Kentucky, and in the ensuing battle Quantrill was shot through the spine.


He died at the military prison at Louisville, Kentucky, on June 6, 1865.


The divided state of Missouri suffered the third largest number of engagements during the war at 1,162. Only Virginia and Tennessee had more. 40,000 Missourians joined the Confederate ranks, while nearly three times that number joined the Union Army. When it was over Missouri lost 27,000 of its valiant sons.

Kansas contributed 20,097 men to the Union Army, a remarkable record since the population included less than 30,000 men of military age. Furthermore, Kansas suffered the highest mortality rate of any of the Union states. Of the black troops in the Union army, 2,080 were credited to Kansas, though the 1860 census listed fewer than 300 blacks of military age in the state; most of them came from Arkansas and Missouri.


Members of the guerilla bands, having tasted the excitement of gunplay, were in no mood to lay down their arms meekly and become model citizens, and their resolve to continue their outlaw ways was strengthened by the knowledge that surrender meant the hangman’s noose. Men like Jesse and Frank James, and the Younger Brothers merely shifted their field of endeavor from the political to the financial. Continuing to apply their hit-and-run tactics, bank robberies and train holdups now became endemic, effectively beginning advent of the Wild Wild West and its many outlaws.




© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated April, 2017.




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Also See:


Civil War Battles in Kansas

Bleeding Kansas/Missouri Border War Timeline

Battle at Fort Blair

Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence, Kansas

Jesse James - Member of Quantrill's Raiders

Lawrence, Kansas - From Ashes to Imortality

Osceola, Missouri - Surviving All Odds

William Quantrill - Renegade Leader of the Missouri Border War

William Quantrill - The Man, the Myth, the Soldier by Paul R. Petersen



Blackmar, Frank W.; Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912.

Cutler, William; History of the State of Kansas, A.T. Andreas, Chicago, IL, 1883.

The Kansas Collection

Kansas Memory

Kansas State Historical Society

Legends of Kansas: Bleeding Kansas & the Civil War

National Park Service

Territorial Kansas



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