Pioneer days in Kansas

Chapter 12

Incidents of the Raid

The surprise was so complete that no organized resistance was possible. Before people could fully comprehend the real state of the case, every part of the town was full of rebels, and there was no possibility of rallying. Even the recruits in camp were so taken by surprise that they were shot in their places. The attack could scarcely have been made at a worse. hour. The soldiers had just taken in their camp guard, and people were just waking from sleep. There was no time or opportunity for consultation or concert of action, and every man had to do the best he could for himself. A large number, however, did actually start with what arms they had toward the street. Most of these saw at once that the street could not be reached, and turned back. Some went forward and perished. Mr. Levi Gates lived about a mile in the country, in the opposite direction from that by which the rebels entered. He started with his rifle, supposing that a stand would be made by the citizens. When he got to town he saw at once that the rebels had possession. He was an excellent marksman and could not leave without trying his rifle. The first shot made a rebel jump in his saddle, but did not kill him. He loaded again and fired one more shot, when the rebels came on him and killed him.

Mr. G. W. Bell, county clerk, lived on the side of the hill overlooking the town. He saw the rebels before they made their charge. He seized his musket and cartridge box with a hope of reaching the main street before them. But he was too late and was killed as he was trying to return home. Other attempts at resistance were equally futile.

It would be impossible to give all the scenes of horror which were witnessed that morning. Every house had its story and every man, and woman had their tale. I can only sketch briefly a few of the scenes, and they must serve as specimens of the scores and scores of thrilling tales which might be told.

General George W. Collamore was mayor of the city. He was a man of ability and experience, and had taken great pains to prepare Lawrence for defense. But his preparations, like all other arrangements in the same line, failed of their purpose. He lived in the western section of the town, yet his house was attacked at once. The raiders evidently knew his house and wished to forestall anything he might do toward resistance. He was awakened by their shots, and looking out, found the house was entirely surrounded. Escape was impossible, and there was but one hiding-place. That was the well in the rear, and close to the house. He and his man at once descended into the well as the rebels entered in front. They searched the house from top to bottom, swearing and threatening all the while. Failing to find him, they set fire to the house, and waited around it till it was consumed. Mrs. Collamore went out while the house was burning, and spoke to her husband in the well, and he answered her. She felt sure that he was safe. After the flames bad subsided, and the ground was clear, she went again and spoke but received no response. As soon as the rebel were gone, Captain J. G. Lowe an intimate friend of General Collamore, went down into the well to seek him : but he also lost his life and the three bodies were drawn out together.

At Dr. Griswold's house, a block away from Mayor Collamore's, there were four families. The doctor and his wife had returned the evening before from a visit at the East. Hon. S. W. Thorpe, state senator, Mr. Josiah C. Trask, editor of the State Journal, and Mr. Harlow W. Baker, grocer, with their wives, were boarding in Dr. Griswold's family. The house was attacked about the same time as Mayor Collamore's. They called for the men to come out. As the four men were well armed, and were young and vigorous, they were disposed to remain in the house and defend themselves. But the raiders assured them "they would not be harmed; we have come to burn Lawrence, but we do not want to hurt anybody if we can help it. If the citizens make us no trouble they will receive no harm. We want you to go over to town where we can keep you under guard until we do what we came for, and then you can all go free. It will be all be better for everybody if you quietly go with us.'' This seemed plausible. Mr. Trask said to his companions, "If it is going to help the town, we had better go with them." So they went down-stairs and out-of-doors. The ruffians ordered them into line, and then marched them toward the town, they themselves following behind on horse. They had scarcely marched a dozen yard the gate before they were shot. All four fell as if dead. The four wives were on the balcony looking out, but were not permitted to come and minister to their husbands, or even to whether they were dead or alive. A guard was stationed near by, and if the ladies made a move to come out to their dying friends, they driven back into the house with oaths and threats. After the bodies had lain some half an hour, a gang rode up to them, rolled them over and shot them again. Mr. Baker received his only dangerous wound at this second shooting. Shooting the men, the ruffians went in and robbed the house. They demanded even the personal jewelry of the ladies. Mrs. Trask begged to be allowed to retain her wedding ring. "You killed my husband ; let me keep his ring." the ruffians snatched it from her hand with a brutal oath. The wounded men outside lay, in the hot sun some four hours. Only after the rebels were gone could the friends know who was dead who was alive. It was found that Mr. Trask and Dr. Griswold had been killed instantly. Mr. Thorpe was fatally wounded and lingered in great agony until the next day, when he died. Mr. Baker was shot first through the neck and then through the lungs. He had also one or two other slight wounds. For many days his case was very doubtful, but having a strong constitution, he finally recovered, and is yet a member of the firm of Ridenour & Baker, leading grocers in Kansas City.

One of the most shocking murders was that of Judge Louis Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter was a young lawyer of marked ability, and had won considerable distinction. He had been judge of the probate court of Douglas County, and the year before had been a candidate for attorney-general of the state. He had been married less than a year, and had a delightful home in the eastern part of the town. Several gangs called at his house and robbed him of his valuables, and took from the house whatever they fancied. But his genial manner every time diverted them, and they left him unharmed. Toward the last another gang came who were harder to divert than the others had been. He accosted them in his usual pleasant way, hoping to engage them in conversation as he had the others. One of them asked him where he was from. He replied, "New York." "Oh, it is you New York fellows who are doing all the mischief," replied one of them. The fellow at once drew his revolver, and Judge Carpenter ran into the house. The man dismounted and followed. Mr. Carpenter ran first up-stairs, then down again through the house. Finally he eluded his pursuer and slipped into the cellar. He was already badly wounded, and his blood lay in pools on the cellar floor where he stood. His hiding-place was at last discovered, and he ran out into the yard, and the man shot him again. He fell mortally wounded. His wife ran to him and threw herself over him to shield him from further violence. The brute deliberately walked around her to find a place to shoot once more. He finally raised her arm, and thrust his revolver under it and fired so that she saw the charge enter her husband's head. They then set fire to the house, but through the energy of Mrs. Carpenter's sister, the fire was extinguished and the house saved. There was nothing in the judge's character or life that gave any reason for the hate with which he was pursued. He was a moderate man in his views, and had no special part in any of the early conflicts. There is no evidence that they even knew who he was or anything about him but the fact that he lived in Lawrence.

Another case of singular brutality was the murder of Mr. E. P. Fitch, who lived only a couple of blocks from Judge Carpenter's. He was up-stairs when they came to his door. They called him down and as soon as he appeared they shot him, and he fell in his own doorway. Although he was evidently dead, they continued to shoot until they had lodged six or eight bullets in his lifeless body. They then came in and set fire to the house. Mrs. Fitch endeavored to drag her husband out from the house, but they forbade her. She then endeavored to take his picture from the wall, but she was forbidden to do even this. Stupefied by the horrors of the morning and the strange brutality exhibited toward her, she stood in a half dazed condition, looking at what was going on around her. As the fire progressed one of the ruffians came and drove her out of the house; otherwise she might have been consumed with the rest. She then took her three little ones a short distance away and sat down on the grass and watched the flames consume her husband who still lay in the doorway of his own house. While she sat looking, one of the ruffians went up to the door and drew the boots off of Mr. Fitch's feet, put them on his own, and walked away. Mr. Fitch was a young man of excellent character and was highly esteemed by everybody. He was one of the early settlers and taught the first school started in Lawrence or in Kansas. He was an earnest Christian man and was secretary of the Congregational Sunday-school. He was quiet in his habits, and mild and gentle in his spirit. He was not extreme in any of his views, and was always a friend of order and justice and peace.

Mr. Longley lived about a mile from town. He was a fine old gentleman of sixty. He was a peaceable man, taking no special part in public affairs. He and his wife lived by themselves on a small farm and were both worthy members of the Congregational church. Some of the pickets stationed outside of the town came to the house. Mrs. Longley begged them "to be merciful; they were old people and could not live long at best." But her entreaties had no effect. They hunted the old gentleman around the house and shot him in the yard. The first

-------------------------------------------------------------

page 199

shot not doing its work they shot him again and again. They then set fire to the house, but through the energies of the old lady the fire was put out and the house saved.

Mr. D. W. Palmer was a native of Andover, Massachusetts. He had a gun-shop on the main street, just south of the business portion. Being in the heart of the town he had no chance to escape. He and his man were standing in the door of his little wooden shop, as a gang of drunken rebels went by. They fired upon them, wounding them both: They then set fire to the shop, and threw the two wounded men into the burning building, and kept them in the flames till they died.

There were many hairbreadth escapes. Many ran to the corn- fields near the town; others fled to the "friendly brush" by the river-bank. The ravine which runs almost through the center of the town proved a safe refuge to scores. The corn-field west of the town and the woods east were all alive with refugees. Many hid in the "Park" which was planted with corn. Many others who could get no further, hid among the weeds and plants in their gardens. Mr. Strode, a colored blacksmith, had a little patch of toma-

-------------------------------------------------------------

page 200

toes, no more than ten feet square. He took his money and buried himself among the vines. The rebels came up and burned his shop, not more than ten feet off, but did not discover him.

Hon. S. A. Riggs, district attorney, was set upon by the vilest ruffian in the lot. His wife rushed to his side at once. After a short parley the man drew his revolver and took aim. Mr. Riggs pushed the revolver aside and ran. The man started after him, but Mrs. Riggs seized the bridle-rein and clung to it till she was dragged round a house, over a wood-pile, and through the yard back to the street again. But she clung to the horse until Mr. Riggs was out of sight and in a place of safety. All this time the man was swearing and striking at her with his revolver and threatening to shoat her.

Old Mr. Miner hid among the corn in the "Park." Hearing the racket around Mr. Fisher's house near by, he ventured to the edge of the corn to gratify his curiosity. He was seen and immediately shot at. He ran back into the corn but had not proceeded far before he heard them breaking down the fence. The corn-field was evidently to be searched. He ran, therefore,

------------------------------------------------------------

page 201

through the corn, and lay down among the weeds beyond. The weeds only partially covered him, but it was the best he could do. He had scarcely lain down when the rebels came dashing through the corn, and stationing a picket at each corner of the field to prevent escape, they searched the field through but found no one. They did not happen to look among the grass almost at their feet.

Near the center of the town was a sort of out-door cellar with a very obscure entrance. woman, whose name we have been unable to obtain, but who ought to be put on record as one of the heroines of that day, took her station at a convenient distance from this cellar. Every poor fugitive that came into the region she directed into this hidden cellar. Thus eight or ten escaped from the murderers. Finally, the rebels, noticing that their victims always disappeared when they came into this locality, suspected this woman of aiding in their escape. They demanded of her that she should show their hiding-place. She refused. One of them drew his revolver, and pointing it at her said, "Tell us, or I will shoot you." "You may shoot me," answered the brave woman, "but you will

-----------------------------------------------------------

page 202

not find the men." Finding they could not intimidate her they left.

Several saved themselves by their ready wit. An officer in the camp of recruits, when the attack was made, ran away at full speed. ge was followed by several horsemen, who were firing at him continually. Finding escape impossible, he dashed into the house of a colored family, and, in the twinkling of an eye, slipped on a dress and shaker bonnet, passed out at the back door, and walked deliberately away. The rebels surrounded the house, and then some of them entered and searched, but found no prey.

A son of John Speer hid for some time under the sidewalk. The fire soon drove him into the street, which was full of rebels. He went boldly up to them and offered his services in holding horses. They asked his name, and thinking that the name Speer would be his death warrant, he answered, "John Smith," and he remained among them unharmed to the last.

One man was shot as he was running away, and fell into a gutter. His wife, thinking# him killed, began to wring her bands and scream. The rebel, thinking from this that her husband was dead, left. As soon as he was gone, the

-----------------------------------------------------------

page 2-3

man said, "Don't take on so, wife, I don't know as I am hit at all." And so it proved.

Mr. Winchell, being hard pressed, ran into the house of Rev. Charles Reynolds, rector of the Episcopal church. Mrs. Reynolds at once arrayed him in female attire, shaved off his mustache with a knife, and set him in a rocking chair with a baby in his arms, and christened him "Aunt Betsy." The rebels searched the. house, but did not disturb "Aunt Betsy."

Mr. Gordon Grovenor had a narrow and providential escape. He lived on the corner of Berkley and New Hampshire Streets. While standing on his porch a rebel rode up within ten feet of him, and snapped his pistol at him, but it missed fire. It failed a second time and at that instant another gang rode up and the leader said, "Don't shoot that man," and told Mr. Grovenor to go to the cellar or somewhere. The house was now in flames, but he secreted himself in the cellar under the back kitchen until the danger had passed. One gang ordered Mrs. Grovenor to draw water for themselves and horses. A young man, more humane than the others, alighted from his horse and told her he would draw the water. This young man said he

------------------------------------------------------------

page 204

had no idea that any such murderous work was contemplated. He was told they were going to recapture some horses which had been stolen. He had not killed any one nor set fire to any houses and was not going to.

General Lane was one of the first men sought for. They seemed to know he was in town, and determined to get him. But he also knew they were in town, and that they would be looking for him. His first act, when he learned of their attack, was to wrench the door-plate from his front door. His next act was to flee out of the back door into the corn-field which lay just back of his house. Passing through this he fled over the hill and concealed himself in a ravine until the raiders had gone. They came to his house immediately after he had left it. Not finding him they burned the house, and Quantrill told Mrs. Lane to "give the general his compliments, and to say he should be glad to meet him." Mrs. Lane replied that "Mr. Lane would be very glad to meet him under more favorable circumstances."

Mr. Joseph Savage lived just outside the limits of the town, on one of the roads to the southeast. He had just risen and was making

-------------------------------------------------------------

page 205

his morning toilet in the back part of the house, when the troop passed as they were coming in, He heard the tramp of horses' feet, but did not see them. In a little #while there came a loud knock at the front door. When he opened the door a horseman was just going out of the gate, and joining his companions, who were on their way to the town. The single horseman had left the ranks to come to his door and murder him, but could not wait for him to finish his toilet. But his perils did not end with this. He knew they were liable to call again on the way back. His own farm was two miles to the southwest. He thought they would be safe there, so he harnessed up his team as quickly as possible, and with his wife and hired man, drove out toward the farm. When almost there they came upon the gang that were shooting old Mr. Longley. It was too late to turn back, as they were right upon them. Mr. Savage leaped from the wagon, jumped the fence, and lay down in the corn, so near to the ruffians that he could hear them talking. His wife drove on as though nothing had happened and in a moment was stopped by one of the brutes. He questioned her closely, but never suspected that her husband

-------------------------------------------------------------

page 206

was so near. He was about to shoot the hired man, but as he found he was a German, he let him go with a kick or two. Mr. Savage was a musician and played the bass horn in the band. Among the few precious things he had thrown into the wagon was his horn. This caught the attention of the ruffians at once. They thought it had some military significance, and took it out and beat it over the wagon tire, and doubled it up, and threw it into the corn-field. They then allowed Mrs. Savage to proceed. Soon after the ruffians left, Mr. Savage crept from his hiding place, and made his way to the house, where his wife had preceded him. He afterward picked up the "crumpled horn " from the field and sent it to the manufacturers, who repaired it and sent it back to him. He ever after kept this old horn as one of his choice relics. He would not have exchanged it for a horn of solid silver.

The courage and persistence of the women saved a great many houses and a great many lives. Quantrill said, "The ladies of Lawrence were brave and plucky, but the men of Lawrence were a pack of cowards." While his compliments to the ladies were fully deserved, his judgment of the men would hardly be borne out. I have

---------------------------------------------------------

page 207

noticed that it makes a great difference in any man's courage whether he expects to be shot or not. But the ladies were wonderfully brave and efficient that morning. Some of them, by their shrewdness and suavity, turned the raiders from their purpose when they came to their houses. Sometimes they outwitted them, and at other times they boldly confronted and resisted them. In scores of cases they put the fires out as soon as those who kindled them left the house. In some cases they defiantly followed the raiders around, and extinguished the flames as they were kindled.

The number left wounded was very small. In battle the wounded usually outnumbered the killed three to one. In the Lawrence massacre the killed outnumbered the wounded five to one. There were only about thirty left wounded, while there were about one hundred and fifty left dead. Those who were wounded were in most cases desperately hurt. The raiders in tended to kill every one they shot. In many cases they would shoot a man repeatedly, even after he was dead, as if to make doubly sure. Wherever they suspected a man was still living, they would shoot him again. Harlow W. Baker

-----------------------------------------------------------

page 208

fell at the first shot, with his three companions. He was not severely wounded, but thought his only chance was to feign death. After a while some of them thought he showed signs of life, and shot him again, the ball passing through his lungs. It was the last shot which came so near proving fatal.

It was said that Quantrill's orders to his men were "to kill every man and burn every house." Whether these were his orders or not, the slaughter was so entirely indiscriminate that it was evident they came to kill. The men killed were almost without exception, quiet, inoffensive citizens. They were loyal men, but not partisans. Very few had been in the army or had taken any part in the conflict. Most of them were entirely unknown to their murderers. There was no provocation in any case. There was no reason for this wholesale massacre except that the raiders came to kill, and it was a matter of little moment whom they slew.

The guerrillas differed very much in their spirit and conduct. Some of them were as human as they well could be in the work they were ordered to do. In some instances they advised men to get out of the way. They burned

-----------------------------------------------------------

page 209

houses, but were not unnecessarily harsh. They said they were obeying orders and doing a work that they hated, and sometimes helped to save some of the furniture and things especially prized in houses they burned. In one or two instances they helped women take up the carpets and throw them out. But this was not the common experience, or the common spirit. Most of the men seemed to be in their natural element. They sought to destroy everything they came to, and had no mercy and no compunction, adding needless cruelty to destruction. In one case, as already stated, they refused to allow a wife to take the picture of her husband who lay dead on the doorstep, and who was consumed in his own house as his wife and children looked on. Mrs. F. W. Read begged them to leave her a little bracelet which had belonged to her baby who had died a short time before. Their only reply was: "Your dead baby will not need it."

These are only a few of the tales that might be told. I knew all the people personally, and the stories were told me by friends at the time. Many of the persons referred to were members of my church and congregation. Other examples could be given by the score no less thrilling.

-------------------------------------------------------------

page 210

There were one hundred and eighty killed and wounded, and every one involved an experience of savage brutality equal to those I have been describing. Many of those who escaped could tell as thrilling stories as could be told of the dead. One will hardly read such accounts outside the history of savage warfare.

The Lawrence massacre was unique. It will always stand among the marked massacres of the world. It had features of its own which distinguished it from any other that ever occurred. There were other raids during the War of the Rebellion which have passed into history. Morgan's raid into Ohio is a notable example. The sacking of towns is no uncommon thing among the horrors of war. War itself is a terrible condition and it lets loose all the worst passions and all the worst men. Over and above the slaughter and suffering of what is called "legitimate warfare," there are always outrages committed under the cover of war which could not be tolerated even by the cruel code of war itself. Private wrongs are avenged and private enmities gratified, in the name of the public defense. In the War of the Rebellion there were doubtless many cruel wrongs committed by individuals, and by com-

-----------------------------------------------------------

page 211

panies of men on both sides, which had no justification even in the condition of the times. Thus at Olathe, Shawneetown, Aubrey, and other points, farmhouses were burned, crops destroyed, and horses and cattle were stolen all along the line from Kansas City to Fort Scott. During the summer of 1863 most of the farmers along the border hid their horses in the corn-fields or in the woods every night, and slept themselves in the fields. These raids were mostly for pillage and plunder, and for the sake of keeping the country disturbed. The marauders would dash into a town at night - usually about midnight - and create a tremendous panic by their yells; then they would burn a few houses, carry off what they wished, and dash away again before morning. Usually some persons were killed, sometimes quite a number; but generally they were persons who were obnoxious to the raiders or who resisted them. This was the usual way in which these raids were conducted and the guerilla warfare of the border carried on.

The Lawrence raid was altogether of another kind, and showed that there was back of it altogether a different animus. It was a general and indiscriminate slaughter. The murdering and

-------------------------------------------------------------

page 212

burning began with the first charge, and continued to the end. It was not the shooting of a few obnoxious persons. There were several of these in town who were intended for destruction. We might name Jim Lane, General Deitzler, Rev. H. D. Fisher, and others; but none of these were found. The killing was indiscriminate and mostly in cold blood, the victims being quiet, peaceable citizens. None of them, as far as I know, had taken any part in the early disturbances, and none of them were connected with the border troubles during the war. I do not now recall a single military man among the killed, except the seventeen unarmed recruits who were shot in their camp, almost in their beds, at the first onset. The guerrillas shot the men they found, without knowing who they were or caring what they were. In other raids plunder had been the prominent thing; in the Lawrence raid it was destruction and slaughter. The amount of property they carried off was small compared with what they destroyed.

That Lawrence was not warned of Quantrill's coming is one of the strangest fatalities connected with this fearful event. Quantrill passed into Kansas five miles from Aubrey, where a

-----------------------------------------------------------

page 213

a small cavalry force was stationed under Captain Pike. Instead of following them or sending word to Lawrence, Captain Pike sent word to Kansas City, which delayed all pursuit until too late to avail. People along the line of march who saw them either did not know who they were or did not know where they were going. Two or three efforts were made to get some word to Lawrence people, but they all miscarried. Not a whisper of their coming reached the doomed town. The surprise was as complete as it could be. When they came, the people were either asleep or just rising from their beds.