At our dinner meeting on August 27th, Round Table member Chris Edwards gave a very interesting presentation about William Clarke Quantrill's raid on Lawrence KS on August 21, 1863. Some of the main points of Chris' talk are as follows:
- Chris said he got interested in Quantrill by reading William E. Connelley's book titled: Quantrill & the Border Wars. However, Connelley's father fought for the Union and his book is extremely biased against Quantrill. Chris decided to do more research regarding Quantrill's raid to try and find out the truth.
- Chris said there are three sides to every argument: your side, my side, and the truth. The truth is whatever you want it to be. The first casualty of war is the truth.
- Lawrence was defended by Union troops and a series of forts, block houses, and entrenchments. However, Quantrill's Raid was a surprise attack and the defenders could not get to their guns, which were stored in the armory. Many of the troops and local militia were killed on Massachusetts Street.
- The total population of Lawrence was about 2,000. Lawrence was defended by up to 550 local militia and 52 Union soldiers. The Union soldiers consisted of the 14th Kansas Cavalry (22), the 2nd Kansas Colored (20), and the 12th Kansas Regiment (10). In addition, there were officers staying at the Eldridge Hotel.
- Quantrill had a list of men that he wanted to kill during the raid. He primarily targeted well-known abolitionists, militia, and Union troops, especially the "Red Legs."
- Chris believes one of the most accurate accounts of the raid is from Private Cosma Colman of the 14th Kansas Cavalry. Colman reported: "Not one person was shot or killed after the first rush. At least a dozen could have been shot down had the patrol desired."
- There was no indiscriminate killing during the raid. There was no killing of women or children. Quantrill spared the lives of 60 guests that were staying at the Eldridge Hotel.
- The owner of the Eldridge Hotel wanted all guns kept under lock and key. Confiscation of weapons contributed to the massacre at Lawrence.
- The killing was done by less than 50 of the 300 guerillas that took part in the raid. Three fourths of the guerillas probably never fired a shot. Then intent was to burn Lawrence and not to murder. The total number of men killed during the raid was about 180. However, were all of them innocent?
- The former governor of Kansas, Charles Robinson, was spared during the raid. Kansas senator James H. Lane escaped being killed by fleeing through a cornfield.
From left to right, Harold Delinger, Jim Beckner, and Chris Edwards, on the Perdee Farm walking toward location of Quantrill's camp on the Blackwater River in Johnson County, Missouri (photo by theCivilWarMuse)