William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 10] [part 8] [Cutler's History]


The destruction of Lawrence had no doubt been long contemplated by the rebels of the border. Ever since the war was commenced, rumors had been constantly circulating of the maturing of such a purpose. Each rumor called forth efforts for defense. The people had become so accustomed to alarms, as to 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 never felt more secure than for a few months preceding the raid of last August. The power of the rebellion was broken in Missouri and the Federal force on the border, while it could prevent depredations by small gangs, seemed to be sufficiently vigilant to prevent the gathering of any large force. No rumors of danger had been received in 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 command of Lieut. Hadley, a very efficient officer. Lieut. Hadley had a brother on Gen. Ewing's staff. About the 1st 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, 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 his prisoners. Lieut. Hadley showed this letter to Mayor Collamore, who at once set about the work of putting the town in a state of defense. The militia 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 been "welcomed with bloody hands to hospital 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 intention? The city and military authorities made the fatal mistake of keeping the grounds of their apprehension a profound secret. Nobody knew the reason for the preparation. 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 Ft. Leavenworth for cannon and troops. They were at once sent over, but were met at Lawrence by a dispatch from headquarters at Kansas City, ordering them back. A few days after, the squad of soldiers under Lieut, Hadley were 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 loyal country without their being informed of the approach of danger. The people never felt more secure, and never were less prepared than the night before the raid.

Quantrell assembled his gang about noon on the day before the raid, and started toward Kansas about 2 o'clock. They crossed the border between 5 and 6 o'clock and struck directly across the prairie toward Lawrence. He passed through Gardner on the Santa Fe road, about 11 o'clock at night. Here they burned a few houses and killed one or two citizens. They passed through Hesper, ten miles southeast of Lawrence, between 2 and 3 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 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 a possible. The command, however, was distinctly heard - "rush on boys, it will be daylight before we are there. We ought to have been there an hour ago." From here it began to grow light, and they traveled faster. When they first came in sight of the town they stopped. Many were inclined to waver. They said "they would be cut in 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 in ahead to see that all was quiet in town. These horsemen rode through the town and back without attracting attention. They were seen going through the main street, but their appearance there at that hour was nothing unusual. At the house of Rev. S. S. Snyder, a gang turned aside from the main body, entered his yard and shot him. Mr. Snyder was a prominent minister among the United Brethren. he held a commission as Lieutenant in the Second Colored regiment, which, probably accounts for their malignity.

Their progress from here was quite rapid, but cautious. Every now and then they checked up their horses, as if fearful to proceed. They were seen approaching by several persons in the outskirts of town, but in the dimness of the morning and the distance, they were supposed to be Union troops. As they passed the house of Mr. Joseph Savage, half a mile from town, one of them entered the yard and called at the door. When he opened the door the rebel was just going out of the gate, His eyes doubtless saved his life, as he did not suspect the character of the visitor.

They passed on in a body till they came to the high ground, facing main street when the command was given - "Rush on to the town!" Instantly they rushed forward with the yells of demons. The attack was perfectly planned. Every man knew his place. Detachments scattered to every section of the town and it was done with such promptness and speed that before people could gather the meaning of the first yell, every part of town was full of them. They flowed into every street and lane, like water dashed against a rock. Eleven rushed up to Mt. Oread from which all roads leading into town could be seen for several miles out. There were to keep watch of the country round about, lest the people should gather and come in upon then unawares. Another and larger squad struck for the west part of the town, while the main body, by two or three converging streets made for the hotel. The first came upon a camp of recruits for the Kansas Fourteenth. On these they fired as they passed, killing seventeen out of twenty-two. This attack did not in the least check the speed of the general advance, A few turned aside to run down and shoot fugitive soldiers, but the company rushed on at the command. "To the hotel" which could be heard all over town. In all the bloody scenes which followed, nothing equaled in wildness and terror, that which now presented itself. The horsemanship of the guerrillas was perfect. They rode with that ease and abandon which are acquired only by a life spent in the saddle, amid desperate scenes. Their horses scarcely seemed to touch the ground and the riders sat with bodies and arms perfectly free, with revolvers on full cock, shooting at every house and man they passed, and yelling like demons at every bound. On each side of the stream of fire, as it poured in toward the street, were men falling dead and wounded and women and children half dressed, running and screaming - some trying to escape from danger, and some rushing to the side of their murdered friends.

They dashed along the main street shooting at every straggler on the sidewalk and into almost every window. They halted in front of the Eldridge House. The firing had ceased and all was silence for a few minutes. They evidently expected resistance here and sat gazing at the rows of windows above them, apparently in fearful suspense. In a few moments, Capt. Banks, Provost Marshall of the State, opened a window and displayed a white flag and called for Quantrell. Quantrell rode forward and Banks, as Provost Marshal surrendered the house, stipulating for the safety of the inmates. At this moment the big gong of the hotel began to sound through the halls to arouse the sleepers. At this the whole column fell back, evidently thinking this was a signal for an attack from the hotel. In a few moments meeting with no resistance, they pressed forward again, and commenced the work of plunder and destruction. they ransacked the hotel, robbing the rooms and their inmates. These inmates they gathered together at the head of the stairs, and when the plundering was done, marched them across the street on to Winthrop street under a guard. When they had proceeded a little distance, a ruffian rode up and ordered a young man out the ranks and fired two shots at him, but with no effect. One of the guards at once interposed and threatened to kill the ruffian if one of the prisoners was molested. Quantrell now rode up and told then of the City Hotel, on the river bank would be protected because he had boarded there some years ago and was well treated. He order the prisoners to go and stay in and they would be safe. The prisoners were as obedient to orders as any of Quantrell's own men and lost no time in gaining the house of refuge. This treatment of the prisoners of the Eldridge House shows that they expected resistance from that point and were relieved by the order of the surrender. They not only promised protection but were as good as their word. other hotels received no such favors and had no such experience of rebel honor.

At the Johnson House, they shot at all that showed themselves and the prisoners that were finally taken and marched off were shot a few rods from the house, some of them among the fires of the burning buildings. Such was the common fate of those who surrendered themselves as prisoners. Mr. R. C. Dix was one of these. his house was next door to the Johnson House and being fired at in his own house, he escaped to the Johnson House. All the men were ordered to surrender. "All we want" said a rebel, "is for the men to give themselves up and we will spare them and burn the house." Mr. Dix and others gave themselves up. They marched them toward town and when they had gone about 200 feet, the guards shot them all, one after another. Mr. Hampson one of the number, fell wounded and lay as if dead til he could escape unseen. A brother of Mr. Dix remained in the shop and was shot four times through the window and fell almost helpless. The building was burning over his head and he was compelled to drag himself out into the next building which fortunately was not burned., The air was so still that one building did not catch fire from another.

After the Eldridge House surrendered, and all fears of resistance were removed, the ruffians scattered in small gangs to all parts of the town in search of plunder and blood. The order was "to burn every house and kill every man." Almost every house was visited and robbed and the men found in them killed or left, according to the whim or character of the captors. Some of these seemed completely brutalized, while others showed some signs of remaining humanity. One lady said, that as gang after gang came to her house, she always met them herself and tried to get them talking, If she only got them to talking, she could get what little humanity was left in them. Those ladies who faced them boldly fared the best.

It is doubtful whether the world has ever witnessed such a scene of horror - certainly not outside the annals of savage warfare. History gives no parallel, where an equal number of desperate men, so heavily armed were let perfectly loose in an unsuspecting community., The carnage was much worse from the fact that the citizens could not believe men could be such fiends. No one expected indiscriminate slaughter. When it was known that the town was in their possession, everybody expected they would rob and burn the town, kill all military men they could find, and a few marked characters. But few expected a wholesale murder., Many who could have escaped, therefore remained and were slain. For this reason the colored people fared better than the whites. They knew the men which slavery had made, and they ran to the brush at the first alarm. A gentleman who was concealed where he could see the whole, said the scene presented was the most perfect realization of the slang phrase, "hell let loose" that ever could be imagined. Most of the men had the look of wild beasts; they were dressed roughly and swore terribly. They were mostly armed with a carbine and with from two to six revolvers strapped around them. It is doubtful whether 300 such men were ever let perfectly loose before.

The surprise was so complete that no organized resistance was possible. Before people could full 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 not 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. By some fatal mistake the authorities had kept the arms of the city in the public armory, instead of each man's house. There could be no general resistance therefore from the houses. When the rebels gained possession of the main street, the armory was inaccessable to the citizens, and the judicious disposition of squads of rebels in other parts of town, prevented even a partial rally at any point. there was no time nor opportunity for consultation or concert of action, an every man had to do the best he could for himself. A large number however saw at once that the street could not be reached and turned back. Some went forward and perished. Mr. Levi Gattes lived about a mile in the country in the opposite direction from that by which the rebels entered.

As soon as he heard the firing in town, he started with his rifle, supposing that a stand could 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 the rebel jump in the saddle but did not kill him. He loaded again and fired one more shot, when the rebels came upon him and killed him and after he was dead, brutally beat his head to pieces.

Mr. G. W. Bell, County Clerk, lived on the side hill, overlooking the town. He saw the rebels before they made their charge. He seized his musket and cartridge box, with the hope of reaching the main street before them. His family endeavored to dissuade him, telling him he would certainly be killed. "They may kill me but they cannot kill the principles I fight for. If they take Lawrence, they must do it over my dead body." With a prayer for courage and help he started. But he was too late; the street was occupied before he could reach it. He endeavored then to get around by a back way and come to the ravine west of the street. Here he met other citizens. he asked: "Where shall we meet?" They assured him it was too late to meet anywhere and urged him to save himself. He turned back apparently intending to get home again. The rebels were now scattered in all directions, and he was in the midst of them. A friend urged him to throw his musket away, which he did. Finding escape impossible he went into an unfinished brick house and got up on the joists above, together with another man. A rebel came in and began shooting at them. He interceded for his friend and soon found that the rebel was an old acquaintance who had often eaten at his table. He appealed to him in such a way that he promised to save both their lives for old acquaintance sake, if he would come down. they came down and the rebel took him out to about twenty of his companions outside. "Shoot him! shoot him ! was the cry at once. he asked for a moment to pray, which they granted and then shot him The treacherous rebel who deceived and afterward murdered him, afterward went to his house and said to his wife, who was ignorant of her husband's fate: "We have killed your husband and we have come to burn his house" They fired it but the family saved it. Mr. Bell was a man of excellent character and leaves a wife and six children to miss and mourn him,

What little resistance was offered to the rebels developed their cowardice as much as the general license given them developed their brutality. On the opposite bank of the river, twelve soldiers were stationed. When the rebels first came into town, they filled Massachusetts street clear to the river bank, firing into every house, and robbing every stable. They even attempted to cut the rope of the ferry; but these brave boys on the opposite side made free use of their rifles firing at every Butternut that came in sight. Their minnie balls went screaming up the street and it was not many minutes before that section of the town was pretty much deserted; and if one of the ruffians by chance passed along that way, he was very careful not to expose himself to the bullets across the river. The result was all that section of the town which stretched along the riverbank was saved. In this section stood Gov. Robinson's house which was the first inquired for; here was the armory, which they took possession of early, but left it with the most of its guns unharmed.

Another evidence of their cowardice was shown in the fact that very few stone houses were molested. They shunned almost all houses which were closed tightly, so that they could not see in, when the inmates did not show themselves. There is a deep ravine, wooded, but narrow, which runs almost through the center of the town. Into this many citizen escaped.

They often chased men into the ravine, shooting at them all the way; but they never followed one into the ravine itself, and seldom followed up to the brink; whenever they came near to it, they would shy off as if expecting stray shot. The corn-field west of the town was full of refuges; the rebels rode up to the edge often, as if longing to go in and butcher those who had escaped them, but a wholesome fear that it might be a double game restrained them. a Mrs. Hindman lives on the edge of this corn-field; they came repeatedly to her house for water; the gang insisted on knowing what "was in that corn-field" The brave woman replied, "Go in and see. You will find it the hottest place you have been in today." Having been to carry drink to the refuges, she could testify to the heat. The rebels took her word and left. So every little ravine and thicket round the outskirts of the town was shunned as if a viper had been in it. Thus scores of lives were saved that would otherwise have been destroyed.

In almost every case where a determined resistance was offered, the rebels withdrew. A Mr. A. K. Allen lives in a large brick house. A gang came to his door and ordered him out. "No" replied the old gentleman:"if you want anything of me, come where I am; I am good for five of you," They took his word for it and he and his house were thenceforth unmolested. The two Messrs. Rankin were out in the street trying to gain a certain house, when they were overtaken by six of the ruffians; they at once turned and faced their foes drew their revolvers and began to fire, when the whole six broke and fled. The cowards evidently did not come to fight, but to murder and steal.

We can only give a few of the incidents of the massacre as specimens of the whole. The scenes of horror we describe must be multiplied till the amount reaches 180, the number of killed and wounded.

Gen Collamore, Mayor of this city, was awakened by their shouts around his house. His house was evidently well known and they struck for it first to prevent his taking measure for defense. When he looked out, the house was surrounded; escape was impossible; there was but one hiding place, the well; he at once went into the well; the enemy entered the house and searched for the owner, swearing and threatening all the while; failing to find him, they fired the house, and waited round to see it burn. Mrs. Collamore went out and spoke to her husband while the fire was burning; but the house was so near the well that when the flames burst out they shot over the well and the fire fell in. When the flames subsided, so that the well could be approached, nothing could be seen of Mr. Collamore or the man who descended into the well with him. After the rebels had gone, Mr. Lowe, an intimate friend of Gen Collamore, went at once down the well to seek for him; the rope supporting him broke and he also died in the well, and three bodies were drawn from its cold water.

At Dr. Griswold's there were four families; the Doctor and his lady had just returned the evening before, from a visit East; Hon. S. M. Thorp, State Senator; Mr. J. C. Trask, editor of the State Journal; Mr. G. W. Baker, grocer, with their ladies, were boarding with Dr. Griswold's family. the house was attacked about the same time as Gen. Collamore's. They called for the men to come out; when they did not obey very readily, they assured them "they should not be harmed; if the citizens quietly surrendered it might save the town." This idea brought them out at once. Mr. Trask said, "if it will help to save the town, let us go." They went down stairs and out of doors; the ruffians ordered them to get into line and to march before them, toward the town. they had scarcely gone twenty feet from the yard, before the whole four were shot down. Dr. Griswold and Mr. Trask were killed at once'; Mr. Thorp and Mr. Baker wounded but apparently dead. The ladies attempted to come to their husbands from the house but were driven back. A guard stationed just below and every time any of the ladies attempted to go from the house to their dying friends, this guard would dash up at full speed and with oaths and threats, drive them back. After the bodies had lain about half an hour, a gang rode up, rolled them over and shot them again. Mr. Baker received his only dangerous wound at this shot; after shooting the men, the ruffians went in and robbed the house; they demanded even the personal jewelry of the ladies. Mrs. Trask begged for the privilege of retaining her wedding ring. "You have killed my husband; let me keep his ring?" "no matter," replied the heartless fiend, and snatched the relic from her hand. Dr. Griswold was one of the principle druggists of the place; Mr. Thorp was State Senator; Mr. Trask, editor of the State Journal and Mr. Baker one of the leading grocers of the place. Mr. Thorp lingered in great pain til the next day when he died. Mr. Baker, after long suspense recovered. He was shot through the neck, through the arm and through the lungs.

The most brutal murder was that of Judge Carpenter. Several gangs called at his house and robbed him of all he had, but his genial manner was too much for them, and they all left him alive and his house standing. Toward the last, another gang came, more brutal than the rest. They asked him where he was from. he replied,"New York" "It is you New York fellows that are doing the mischief in Missouri, " one replied, and drew his revolver to shoot him. Mr Carpenter ran into the house, up stairs, then down again, the ruffian after him, and firing at every turn. he finally eluded them and slipped into the cellar. He was already badly wounded, so that the blood lay in pools in the cellar where he stood for a few minutes. His hiding place was soon discovered and he was driven out of the cellar into the yard and shot again, he fell mortally wounded. His wife threw herself onto him, and covered him with her person to shield him from further violence. The ruffian deliberately walked around her, to find a place to shoot under her, and finally raised her arm and put his revolver under it and fired so that she could see the ball enter his head. They then fired the house, but through the energy of the wife's sister, the fire was extinguished. This sister is the wife of Rev. G. C. Morse, of Emporia, who was making her first visit to her sister's house.

The Judge had been married less than a year. He was a young man, but had already won considerable distinction in his profession. He had held the office of Probate Judge for Douglas County, and a year ago was candidate for Attorney General of the State.

Mr. Fitch was called downstairs and instantly shot. Although the second ball was probably fatal, they continued to fire until they lodged six or eight balls in his lifeless body. then they began to fire the house. Mrs. Fitch endeavored to drag the remains of her husband from the house, but was forbidden. She then endeavored to save his miniature, but was forbidden to do this. Stupefied by the scene and the brutality exhibited toward her, she stood there gazing at the strange work going on around her, utterly unconscious of her position or danger. Finally one of the ruffians compelled her to leave the house or she would have been probably consumed with the rest. Driven out, she went and sat down with her three little ones in front, and watched the house consumed over the remains of her husband. Mr. Fitch was a young man of excellent character and spirit. He was one of the "first settlers" of Lawrence and taught the first school in the place.

James Perine and James Eldridge were clerks in the "Country Store." They were sleeping in the store when the attack was made, and could not escape. The rebels came into the store and ordered them to open the safe, promising to spare their lives. The moment the safe door flew open they shot both of them dead and left them on the floor. They were both very promising young men, about seventeen years of age.

Mr. Burt was standing by a fence, when one of the rebels rode up to him and demanded his money. he handed up his pocket-book and as the rebel took the pocket-book with one hand he shot Mr. Burt with the other. Mr. Murphy, a short distance up the same street, was asked for a drink of water. He brought out the water, and as the fiend took the cup with his left hand, he shot his benefactor with his right hand. Mr. Murphy was over sixty years of age. Mr. Ellis, a German blacksmith, ran into the corn in the park, taking his little child with him. For some time he remained concealed, but the child growing weary began to cry. The rebels outside hearing the cries, ran in and killed the father, leaving the child in its dead father's arms. Mr. Allbranch, a German, was sick in bed. They ordered the house cleared that they might burn it. The family carried out the sick man on a mattress and laid him in the yard, when the rebels came out and killed him on his bed, unable to rise. This was a species of cruelty to which savages have never yet attained.

As the scene at their entrance was one of the wildest, the scene after their departure was one of the saddest that ever met mortal gaze. Massachusetts street was one bed of embers. On this one street, seventy-five buildings, containing at least twice that number of places of business and offices were destroyed. the dead lay all along the sidewalk, many of them so burned they could not be recognized, and could scarcely be taken up. Here and there among the embers, could be seen the bones of those who had perished in the buildings and been consumed. On two sides of the another block lay seventeen bodies. Almost the first sight that met our gaze was a father, almost frantic, looking for the remains of his son among the embers of his office. The work of gathering and burying the dead soon began. From every quarter they were being brought in, until the floor of the Methodist Church, which was taken as sort of hospital, was covered with dead and wound. In almost every house could be heard the wail of the widow and orphan. The work of burial was sad and wearying. Coffins could not be procured. Many carpenters were killed, and most of the living had lost their tools. But they rallied nobly, and worked day and night, making pine and walnut boxes, fastening them together with the burnt nails gathered from the ruins of the stores. It sounded rather harsh to the ear of the owner, to have the lid nailed over the bodies of their loved ones, but it was the best that could be done.

Thus the work went on for three days, till 122 were deposited in the cemetery, and many others in their own yards. Fifty-three were buried in one long grave. Early in the morning after the massacre, our attention was attracted by loud wailing. We went in the direction of the sound, and among the ashes of a large building, sat a woman, holding in her hands the blackened skull of her husband, who was shot and burned in that place. Her cries could be heard over the whole desolated town, and added much to the feeling of sadness and horror which filled every heart.

The whole number of persons to be killed, or who died from wounds was 143. it is probable that others were killed and burned and never found. There were about twenty-five wounded, most of them severely. Only two of the wounded have since died; the rest are recovering. Several men are now walking the streets who had balls through their heads or lungs.

The loss of property has been variously estimated; some putting it as low as $750,000 and others as high as $2,500,000. We think it cannot fall below $1,500,000.

The business of the place was mainly on Massachusetts street, between Winthrop and Warren, a space of about 1800 feet. This was one continued line of stores on both sides. In this space, about seventy-five buildings were destroyed. Only one block, containing two stores, remained, and those two stores were robbed. On the lower end of the street, there also remain one or two or three small buildings and one grocery store. In other parts of the town more were fired, but saved by the women. The loss in buildings and goods could be very nearly estimated. But these by no means constitute the whole. All the rooms over the stores were occupied as offices, or by families. The loss in the Eldridge Hotel alone was beyond all the estimates yet made. The original cost of the house is said to have been $70,000. In the lower story were five stores and a law office. In these stores were doubtless $60,000 in goods. There were sixty inmates in the hotel, with their personal baggage. Many of these were families boarding permanently., with all their personal and household goods there. Estimating the building at its original cost, the loss in that house would not fall much short of $150,000. Then almost every house in town was robbed, and every man, woman and child that could be found. On their way out of town, also, the rebels burned a large share of the farm houses along their route, for about ten miles, when they were overtaken by citizens in pursuit.

In this narrative we have not pretended to give all the details but only a part of those that have come to our knowledge in the regular performance of duty. Every house was a story almost as thrilling as any to which we have referred.

From the effects of the raid, Lawrence is recovering with unparalleled rapidity. Before the fire was out, rebuilding commenced. Five large brick stores, commenced before the raid, were pushed at once to completion. Every burnt store, whose walls were left standing, was at once repaired. A large number of new stores were commenced. Some one hundred and fifty buildings have been built, rebuilt, or moved in since the raid. The building of the bridge was scarcely interrupted. it is now completed. The telegraph line has also been extended to this place, and for some time has been in operation, two of the newspapers existing before the raid have been resumed one of them daily. The Union Pacific Railroad has been graded to a point opposite the town. Churches and schools have been kept open without interruption. One year will almost obliterate the real marks of Quantrell's steps--

"Freedom's battle once begun
Bequeathed by bleeding sire to son
Though baffled oft, is always won."

[TOC] [part 10] [part 8] [Cutler's History]