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The Lawrence Massacre

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AUGUST 21, 1863





It is a fact not generally known that no complete account of this massacre has ever been published. The letter furnished by Rev. R. Cordley to the "Congressional Record" a few days after the event and before all the facts and incidents had become known, and which was republished in Boughton & McAllister's Directory of Lawrence 1865, is about all the literature we can find in regard to it. Mr. Cordley's letter is made the basis of this history, to which is added the personal experience and observations of a number of residents who providentially escaped the general slaughter and who now recall the terrible events of those few hours as though they occurred yesterday.

We would like to give the personal experience of every one of the survivors and especially record in detail the deeds of heroism enacted by the brave women of Lawrence who in that fearful hour saved many a precious life, and extinguished the flames in nearly a hundred burning dwellings. But volumes would be required for such an undertaking.


The destruction of Lawrence had no doubt been long contemplated by the rebels of the border. ever since the war had commenced rumors had been constantly circulating of the maturing of such a purpose. Each rumor called forth efforts for defence. The people had become so accustomed to alarms as to be almost unaffected by them. At several times the prospect had been absolutely threatening. This was especially the case after the battle of Springfield, and again after the capture of Lexington by the rebels. The people had never felt more secure than for a few months preceding the raid of August, 1863. The power of the rebellion was broken in Missouri, and the Federal force on the border, while it could prevent depravations by small gangs, seemed to be sufficiently vigilant to prevent the gathering of any large force. No rumors of danger had been received for several months .

Still many of the citizens did not feel that the place was entirely safe. Mayor Collamore, early in the summer, prevailed upon the military authorities to station a squad of soldiers in Lawrence. These soldiers were under the command of Lieut. Hadley, a very efficient officer. Lieut. Hadley had a brother on General Ewing's staff. About the first of August this brother wrote him that his spies had been in Quantrell's camp- had mingled freely with his men- and had learned from Quantrell's clerk, that they proposed to make a raid on Lawrence about the full of the moon, (2) which would be three weeks before the actual raid. He told his brother to do all he could for the defense of the town, to fight them to the last, and never be taken prisoner, for Quantrell killed all prisoners. Lieut. Hadley showed the letter to Mayor Collamore, who at once set about the work of putting the town in a state of defense. The milita was called out, pickets detailed, the cannon got in readiness, and the country warned. Had Quantrell's gang come according to promise, they would have ben "welcomed with bloody hands and hospitable graves." Someone asked Quantrell, when in Lawrence, why he did not come before when he said he would. He replied "You were expecting me then- but I have caught you napping now."

It may be asked, why the people of Lawrence relaxed their vigilance so soon after receiving such authentic evidence of Quantrell's intentions? The city and military authorities made the fatal mistake of keeping the ground of apprehension a profound secret. Nobody new the reason of the preparations. Rumors were afloat, but they could not be traced to any reliable source. Companies came in from the country, but could not ascertain why they were sent for, and went home to be laughed at by their neighbors. Unable to find any ground of alarm, people soon began to think that the rumors were like the other false alarms by which they had been periodically disturbed for the last two years. The course of the military authorities tended to strengthen this view.

Mayor Collamore sent to Fort Leavenworth for cannon and troops. They were at once sent over, but were met at Lawrence by a dispatch from Kansas City, ordering them back. A few days after, the squad of soldiers under lieut. Hadley was ordered away. It was evident, therefore, that the military authorities at Kansas City, who ought to know, did not consider the place in danger. The usual sense of security soon returned. Citizens were assured that Quantrell could not penetrate the military line on the border without detection. They felt sure, too, that he could not travel fifty miles through a loyal county without their being informed of the approach of danger. The people never felt more secure, and were never less prepared, than the night before the raid.


Quantrell assembled his gang about noon the day before the raid, and started towards Kansas about two o'clock. They crossed the border between five and six o'clock, and struck directly across the prairie toward Lawrence. He passed through Gardner, on the old Sante Fe wagon road, about 11 o'clock at night. Here they burned a few houses and killed one or two citizens. The passed through Hesper , ten miles southeast of Lawrence, between two and three o'clock. The moon was now down and the night was very dark and the road doubtful. They took a little boy from a house on Captain's Creek, near by, and compelled him to guide them into Lawrence. They kept the boy during their work in Lawrence, and then Quantrell dressed him in a new suit of clothes, gave him a horse and sent him home. they entered Franklin about the first glimmer of day. They passed quietly through, lying upon their horses, so as to attract as little attention as possible. The command, however, was distinctly heard- "Rush on, boys, it will be daylight before we are there! We ought to have been their an hour ago." From here it began to grow light, and they travelled faster. When they first came in sight of the town they stopped. Many were inclined to waver. They said: "They would be cut to pieces and it was madness to go on." Quantrell finally declared that HE was going in, and they might follow who would. Two horsemen were sent ahead to see that all was quiet in town. Those horsemen rode through the town and back without attracting attention. They were



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