The Lawrence Massacre
The bloodiest tragedy of the war took place just after daylight on the morning of the 20th of August, 1863, when that guerrilla chief, Quantrill, and his cutthroat band, numbering about 300, suddenly and secretly stole into Lawrence, murdered many of its peaceful and unarmed inhabitants, and after satiating their thirst for plunder and blood, applied the torch and destroyed a great portion of this young and flourishing city. From the accounts of various witnesses, we give the soul-harrowing details: and yet there are men―many calling themselves Christians―all through the north, who would like to preserve an institution which alone could produce such horrible fiends as the Lawrence murderers. One who visited the scene of blood just after the occurrence, writes:
We arrived in Lawrence at 7 o'clock. Flying rumors had painted a terrible picture, but the reality exceeded the report. We found Massachusetts street one mass of smoldering ruins and crumbling walls, the light from which cast a sickening glare upon the little knots of excited men and distracted women, gazing upon the ruins of their once happy homes and prosperous business.
Only two business houses were left upon the street, one known as the armory and the other as the old "Miller block." And only one or two houses in the place escaped being burned or ransacked, and everything valuable being carried away or destroyed. Six or eight soldiers camped upon the side of the river, and who fired across at every rebel who appeared upon the bank, deterred the cowards from destroying some of the houses near the ferry and from cutting down the flag-pole.
Their every act during their stay in the city was characterized by the most cowardly barbarism. They entered the town on the gallop firing into every house, and when the occupants appeared at the door they were shot down like dogs.
Five bodies burned to a crisp lay near the ruins of the Eldridge house. They could not be recognized. Judge Carpenter was wounded in his yard, and fell, when his wife and sister threw themselves upon his body, begging for mercy, but to no avail.
The fiends dismounted, stuck their pistols between the persons of his protectors and fired.
Gen. Collamore went into his well to hide, and the bad air killed him. His son and Pat Keefe lost their lives trying to get the father out.
The life of District Attorney Riggs was saved by the heroism of his wife, who seized the bridle of the rebel's horse who attempted to shoot him as he ran. Several cases of remarkable bravery of women were related to us. The wife of Sheriff Brown, three successive times put out the fire kindled to burn the house–her husband was hidden under the floor.
The offices of the Journal, Tribune and Republican were, of course, leveled to the ground. John Speer, jr., of the Tribune, started from his home for the office, after the rebels came in. Mr. Murdock, a printer in the office, tried to induce him to accompany him into a well near by for safety, but he would do nothing but go home to defend the house, which he did and was killed. Murdock went into the well and was saved. A younger son of John Speer, sr., killed a rebel and left. Guests at the Eldridge were ordered out, their rooms pillaged and some of the people shot down. All the hotels were destroyed except the City Hotel. The loss in cash is estimated at $250,000, and in property and all, at $2,000,000.
We have seen battle-fields and scenes of carnage and bloodshed, but have never witnessed a spectacle so horrible as that seen among the smoldering ruins at Lawrence. No fighting, no resistance, but cold-blooded murder was there. The whole number killed was over 200. We give below a list of 76 killed and several wounded. The fiends finished their murderous work in nearly every case. This list contains no names but those of white persons. A few negroes were killed, but we did not get their names:
John Fromley, J. C. Trask, of the State Journal, Gen. G. W. Collamore and son, James Eldridge, James Perrine, Joseph Eldridge, Joseph Lowe, Dr. Griswold, druggist, Wm. Williamson, deputy marshal, S. M. Thorp, state senator, Judge Lewis Carpenter, John Speer, jr., of Kansas Tribune, Nathan-Stone, city hotel, Mr. Brant, Mr. West, Thos. Murphy, Mr. Twitch, bookbinder at Journal office, E. P. Fitch, bookseller, Chas. Palmer, of the Journal, Lemuel Fillmore, James O'Neill, John Dagle, D. C. Allison, firm of Duncan & Allison, J. Z. Evans, Levi Gates, George Burt, Samuel Jones, George Coates, John B. Gill, Ralph E. Dix, Stephen Dix, Capt. George W. Bell, county clerk, John C. Cornell, A. Kridmiller, George Albrecht, S. Dullinski, Robert Martin, Otis Lengley, John W. Lawrie, Wm. Lawrie, James Roach, Michael Meekey, Louis Wise and infant, Joseph Bretchelbaner, August Ellis, Dennis Murphy, John K. Zimmerman, Carl Enzler, George Range, Samuel Range, Jacob Pollock, Fred. Klaus, Fred. Kimball, Dwight Coleman, Mr. Earle, Daniel McClellan, Rev. S.S. Snyder, Samuel Reynolds, Goo. Gerrard, A. W. Griswold, Pat. Keefe, Chas. Allen, James Wilson, Charles Riggs, A. J. Woods, Chas. Anderson, W. B. Griswold, A. J. Cooper, Asbury Markle, David Markle, Lewis Markle, Aaron Hallderman and Addison Waugh.
Wounded.-H. W. Baker, Dennis Berryman, G. H. Sargeant, mortally; G. Smith, H. Hayes, M. Hampson, Mr. Livingston.
At one house they had entered, the rebels were told there was a negro baby still there, but they said, " We will burn the G-d d-d little brat up," and they did. We saw its charred remains, burned black as the hearts of its murderers.
The books of the county and district clerks were burned, but those of the register of deeds were in the safe, and are supposed to have been saved. Every safe in the city but two was robbed. In the Eldridge store, James Eldridge and James Perrine gave the rebels all the money in the safe, and were immediately shot.
The last account we have of Quantrill and his men is up to Saturday night, at which time he was being pressed closely by Lane, who had been skirmishing with him constantly since he left Lawrence. Lane's force was being increased rapidly by farmers, who were flocking to him with their arms, and it was their determination to follow him into Missouri, and, if he disbanded his gang, they would hunt them down, like wolves, and shoot them.
One of their number was captured near Olathe, and he gave the names of fifty of Quantrill's gang, who are citizens of Jackson county, Missouri, and are well known here and have always been considered union men.
The best-informed citizens of Lawrence are of the opinion that Quantrill's troops are mainly composed of paroled prisoners from Pemberton's army, and some of them from Price's command, from the fact that, they are much sunburned and have the appearance of being long in the service.
After they had accomplished the destruction of Lawrence, some of them became much intoxicated, but, being strapped to their horses, there was none left behind to give information as to who they were or where they were from.
A resident near the town writes to his brother some additional particulars.
DEAR BROTHER: You have doubtless heard before this will reach you, of the dreadful calamity that has befallen Lawrence and vicinity, by the sacking and burning of the town. and other indiscriminate slaughter of its citizens on Friday the 21st instant, by Quantrill and his band of incarnate demons.
Language fails me to depict the scenes enacted on last Friday. May I never behold the like again. But I must give you some idea of the raid and its dire results.
About sunrise or a little before, on the 21st instant, four men forcibly entered the house of a Rev. Mr. Snyder, living about a mile southeast of Lawrence, and pierced him through and through with balls from their revolvers, while lying in bed by the side of his wife. At the same time, a body of about 300 well-mounted beings in the shape of men, armed to the teeth, dashed into town and spread themselves instantly over the whole business part of the place, shooting down every man who dared to show himself.
In this dash two small camps of recruits, on Massachusetts-street (one of white, and the other colored) were surrounded, and the poor, defenseless fellows, with out a gun in camp, and begging most piteously for their lives, were pierced through and through with bullets, and all but four of the two unfilled companies left mangled corpses on the ground. One of the poor fellows thus barbarously murdered for daring to become a union soldier, was a nephew of mine, the sight of whose bleeding, mangled body I shall never forget.
The armory was cutoff from the citizens, pickets stationed around the town, and no chance whatever of concentrating even twenty men with arms. The people were completely paralyzed by this sudden and audacious dash; indeed, the most of them were still in their beds when the work of murder commenced. The banks were robbed, safes broken open, stores ransacked, the best of everything, taken, and then the buildings fired. Every man that was encountered was met with, "Your money or your life; " and, with few exceptions, the poor victim would be shot dead, after handing over his purse, and answering what questions they chose to put to him.
In several instances, they ordered men to get water for them and wait upon them in various ways, pledging themselves, if they would do so, their lives should, be spared, and as soon as they had done with them, would turn around and shoot them down like mad dogs. One little child they shot dead, because it cried. There were those with them who, evidently, were well-acquainted with the town, as the places and persons of active and prominent union men were made the special marks of vengeance.
General Lane's fine residence was among the first, and he himself had a narrow escape. The editors of the several papers were objects of especial vengeance and two of them were caught and murdered. I shall not attempt to give you a list of the precious lives taken. I believe, however, that half our business men were either shot down or burnt alive in their houses; and out of the fine blocks of stores of every description only two solitary buildings remain, and they were sacked. The rest is a mass of blackened ruins, under which lies, I fear, many a charred body, as many were shot down while attempting to escape from the burning buildings. Nearly every house was sacked, and the best ones fired; but, owing to the very stillness of the air at the time, the flames were extinguished in many, as soon as the rebels would leave, and as they had so large a program before them, they could not repeat any of the performance. The work of murder, arson and robbery lasted about two hours and a half, in which time they had sent over one hundred innocent men to the eternal world-deprived a large number of families of food, raiment, house and home, and destroyed about $2,000,000 worth of property. They then took up their line of march due south, detailing squads of men on each side of the road to burn every house and murder every man. Family after family would slip out into their corn-fields, to watch their houses burned up by these invaders, without being able to offer the least resistance; and woe be to any man who had the hardihood to remain at his house and offer remonstrance.
I live but two miles south of Lawrence, and three men were shot between Lawrence and my place, for daring to remain in sight―all of them quiet, peaceable men, and two of them too old to be called upon to do military duty. And now comes the practical application to my own case. A squad of six men are sent from the main body to visit my house. With guns cocked, and eyes glaring more ferociously than a tiger's, they dash up to the buildings, apply a match to a large stack of Hungarian, then to the outbuildings, the barn and sheds, and while these are rolling up their volumes of smoke and flames, the house is visited, trunks burst open, drawers and shelves ransacked, all valuables that could be crammed into pockets, or strapped on their horses, taken, and the rest enveloped in flames.
By the time the flames began to recede, the next house south of mine is rolling up dense volumes of smoke, and soon the next: and now they visit the house of an old gray-headed Dunkard, who, alas, thought that his age and religion would protect him, but the infuriated demons thirsted for blood, shot him down, regardless of the poor old man's cries and entreaties to spare his life. The track, by fire and sword, of these murderous villains, was made through the valleys and over the hills as far as the eye could reach.
In a little longer than it has taken me to write this, everything inflammable was consumed-houses, furniture, bedding, clothing, books, provisions, outbuildings-all, all utterly destroyed. The work of eight years' hard toil gone in as many minutes, and another family thrown out of house and shelter.
I can not refrain from giving you an instance or two of the savage barbarity practiced by these demons. They brought Mr. Trask to the door of his house and told him if he would give up his money they would not shoot him, but as soon as he had given it up he was instantly shot; he then tried to escape by running, but they followed and shot him dead.
Dr. Griswold was in his house when they attacked him. His wife ran and put her arms around him, and begged most piteously for his life, when one of them passed his hand, holding a revolver, around her, and shot the doctor through the heart.
Mr. Fitch was shot in his house, and his wife, while running to his rescue, was dragged away, the house fired, and poor Mr. Fitch burned up, it may be, alive.
A gunsmith, by the name of Palmer, and his son, were burned up in their shop before dying of their wounds. Mr. Allison, of the firm of Duncan & Allison, crawled out from under the burning ruins, and they threw him back again into the ruins.
But the heart sickens. I can write no more. Oh, God! who shall avenge?
Your brother, S. R.
Incidents.- Mr. Stone was killed by one of a party which remained in town after the main body had gone. They remained with the avowed purpose of killing Miss Lydia Stone, her father and brother; and. for that purpose, ordered all in the house to form a line outside. Hearing this, Mr. Stevens went up stairs and informed Miss Stone that she, as well as himself, was marked for a victim, and asked if she would not try to escape. The brave girl replied that it would be useless; that they would probably kill some of them, and that she would share the danger, "it might as well be her as any of the others."
During the confusion which ensued in front of the house, Mr. Stevens and Mr. Stone, jr.. escaped by a back door and secreted themselves on the bank of the river. Finally, the house was cleared, and the citizens formed in a line outside, when the villains commenced questioning them, asking their names, where they were born, etc. A gentleman answered, "central Ohio," when one of the party remarked, "that is worse than Kansas," and shot him, the wound, however, not being fatal. A lady in the house was then fired at, when Mr. Stone commenced to remonstrate with them, was immediately shot, the ball entering the left side of the head, killing him instantly.
We are indebted to Mr. Wm. Kempf's account for the following facts:
Citizens without arms, who came to the door, in obedience to their call, would be shot at sight. Several were shot down on the sidewalk, and when the buildings burned, their bodies would roast. Others could be seen in the burning buildings.
One of the first persons out, was Colonel Dietzler. The sight that met us when coming out, I can not describe. I have read of outrages committed in the so called dark ages, and horrible as they appeared to me, they sink into insignificance in comparison with what I was then compelled to witness. Well-known citizens were lying, in front of the spot where there stores or residences had been, completely roasted. They were crisped and nearly black. We thought, at first, that they were all negroes. till we recognized some of them. In handling the dead bodies pieces of roasted flesh would remain in our hands.
Soon our strength failed us in this horrible and sickening work. Many could not help crying like children. Women and little children were all over town hunting for their husbands and fathers, and sad indeed was the scene when they did finally find them among the corpses laid out for recognition. I can not describe the horrors; language fails me, and the recollection of scenes I witnessed makes me sick, when I am compelled to repeat them.
Captain Banks surrendered the Eldridge House, by waving a white flag from the window, and was promised that the ladies should be treated with respect, and that the men should be regarded as prisoners. The party was then sent to the Whitney House under escort, being followed all the way by three or four of the gang, crazed with drink, and totally regardless of the decencies of modesty in their remarks to the prisoners. One man was shot while the prisoners were passing toward the Whitney House, but, upon the interposition of Quantrill's authority, they were not further injured.
The Eldridge House was ransacked form cellar to garret, and plundered of everything which could tempt the cupidity of the guerrillas. Trunks were cut open, clothing taken, ladies' wardrobes seized or ruined, and the house fired, in the drug store below, whence the flames rapidly spread, and in a short time the noble structure was only a heap of ruins―the second destruction upon the site.
Plunder was carried off on pack-horses, and each private of the rebel gang must have been greatly elated by his share of the pure money, as all the safes in the city were cut open, or blown up by filling the key-holes with powder. In some instances the keys were demanded, and a refusal, in every case, was a death warrant, and compliance hardly better. The amount carried away by the gang will probably exceed $75,000.
Eighteen soldiers, out of twenty-two, belonging to the 14th regiment, were killed, with a number of the 2d colored.
The ladies exhibited, in many instances, the greatest degree of calmness and courage. Among the noble women of the second sacking of Lawrence, Miss Lydia Stone will always be remembered as a "ministering angel," moving with quiet grace among the throng of sufferers, attending to their wants and speaking words of comfort and cheer.
The search was particularly directed-for Governor Carney and General Lane, the rebels having heard that both were in the city. Lane's lucky star and a neighboring corn field saved him, and the governor was in Leavenworth.
Rev. H. D. Fisher, a well-known minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, gives a thrilling description of his escape from death during the massacre. He says:
Many miraculous escapes from the assassin's hand were made―none, perhaps, more so than in my own case. For the last eighteen months I have been marked by rebels for death, because I have been ordered by various generals to provide "homes for refugees," and find work for them to do, to support themselves and families. Now, three times I have signally escaped their hands. God has saved my life as by fire. When Quantrill and his gang came into our town, almost all were yet in their beds. My wife and second boy were up, and I in bed, because I had been sick of quinsy. The enemy yelled and fired a signal. I sprang out, and my other children, and we clothed ourselves as quickly as possible.
I took the two oldest boys and started to run for the hill, as we were completely defenseless and unguarded. I ran a short distance, and felt I would be killed. I returned to my house, where I had left my wife with Joel, seven years, and Frank, six months old, and thought to hide in our cellar. I told Willie, twelve years old, and Eddie, ten years old, to run for life, and I would hide. I had scarcely found a spot in which to secrete myself. when four murderers entered my house and demanded of my wife, with horrid oaths, where that husband of hers was, who was hid in the cellar? She replied, "The cellar is open; you can go and see for yourselves. My husband started over the hill with the children." They demanded a light to search. My wife gave them a lighted lamp, and they came, light and revolvers in hand, swearing to kill at first sight. They came within eight feet of where I lay, but my wife's self-possession in giving the light had disconcerted them, and they left without seeing me. They fired our house in four places; but my wife, by almost superhuman efforts, and with baby in arms, extinguished the fire. Soon after, three others came and asked for me. But she said: "Do you think he is such a fool as to stay here? They have already hunted for him, but, thank God! they did not find him." They then completed their work of pillage and robbery, and fired the house in five places, threatening to kill her if she attempted to extinguish it again. One stood, revolver in hand, to execute the threat if it was attempted. The fire burned furiously. The roof fell in, then the upper story, and then the lower floor; but a space about six by twelve feet was, by great effort, kept perfectly deluged by water, by my wife, to save me from burning alive. I remained thus concealed as long as I could live in such peril. At length, and while the murderers were still at my front door and all around my lot, watching for their prey, my wife succeeded, thank God, in covering me with an old dress and a piece of old carpet, and thus getting me out into the garden and to the refuge of a little weeping-willow covered with "morning-glory" vines, where I was secured from their fiendish gaze and saved from their hellish thirst for my blood. I still expected to be discovered and shot dead. But a neighbor woman who had come to our help aided my wife in throwing a few things, saved from the fire, over and around the little tree where I lay, so as to cover me more securely. Our house and all our clothes―except a few old and broken garments, (not a full suit of anything for one of us,) and some carpet ―with beds, books, and everything we had to eat or read, were consumed over us, or before our eyes. But what of that? I live! Through God's mercy I live!
A few days later, it is stated:
One hundred and eighty-two buildings were burned, eighty of them were brick; sixty-five of them were on Massachusetts-street. There are eighty-five widows and two hundred and forty orphans made by Quantrill's raid. Three men have subscribed one hundred thousand dollars to rebuild the Free State Hotel, known as the Eldridge Hotel.
Several merchants have commenced rebuilding. All the laboring men in town will be set to work immediately to clear off the ruins. In spite of the terrible calamity, the people are in good spirits. All the towns in the state have sent in large sums of money. Even the men burned out on Quantrill's retreat have sent in loads of vegetables and provisions.
Quantrill.-The infamous monster who perpetrated the inhuman massacre, was, it is said, a native of Maryland. He once lived in Cumberland, in that state, where he attempted to kill his wife. For this, he was placed in jail, where he raged and roared like a wild beast. He, finally, made his escape to Kansas, where, for a time, he was known as a free state man, and, as such, took part in the Kansas war in 1855-6, and also in the border fights in 1861. For some reason, he became estranged from the union cause, espoused that of the rebellion, and became a skillful partisan leader, bold, daring, and as merciless as a hyena. Some time in the year previous ――, he was surprised at night, with a small band of followers, by a squad of federal troops, near Independence, Missouri. His companions were either killed or captured, but he managed to escape in the darkness, by plunging into the Missouri and swimming to the opposite shore, stopping at times to heap the savagest curses upon his pursuers.
It was subsequently ascertained that Quantrill's force was composed of 300 selected men from the border counties of Missouri. Gen. Ewing in his report stated: With one exception, citizens along the route, who could well have given the alarm, did not even attempt it. One man excused himself for his neglect on the plea that his horses had been working hard the day before. A boy, living ten or twelve miles from Lawrence, begged his father to let him mount his pony, and, going a by-road, alarm the town, and he was not allowed to go. Mr. J. Reed, living in the Hesper neighborhood, near Eudora, started ahead of Quantrill from that place, to carry the warning to Lawrence; his horse felling he was killed.
The guerrillas, reaching the town at sunrise, caught most of the inhabitants asleep, and scattered to the various houses so promptly as to prevent the concentration of any considerable number of the men. After the massacre, Gen. Ewing ordered all the residents of Jackson, Cass, Bates, and part of Vernon counties, Mo., to remove from their residences within fifteen days. The loyal people had been previously driven away. As his reason for this, Gen. Ewing said: " None remain on their farms but rebel or neutral families; and, practically, the condition of their tenure is, that they shall feed, clothe and shelter the guerrillas, furnish them information and deceive or withhold information from us."
In the pursuit which was made, but few of the robbers were killed, most of them escaping with their blood-bought plunder.
Nothing more brutally and wantonly bloody was ever perpetrated in any civilized or uncivilized country. The massacre at Wyoming by the Indians, the massacre of Glencoe by English soldiers, the murder of Mamalukes by Napoleon, the massacre of the Janissaries by Sultan Mohammed, the smothering of the English in the Black-hole by Surajah Dowlah, all acts which have left an ineffaceable stain on the page of history, and upon the reputations of the nations committing them, was less cruel, causeless, and infamous than the massacre of Lawrence. It will go down to future ages as one of those acts which are made memorable solely by their monstrous character.
Barber, John, The Loyal West in the Times of the Rebellion..., 1865, F. A. Howe, Cincinnati
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