Pursuit of Quantrill after the Massacre

Lieutenant Colonel Seymour D. Carpenter, M. D.

We had scarcely got back to Kansas City, and comfortably settled down, before we were again unceremoniously stirred up by the notorious "Quantrill," who broke through the General's line of posts on the border, burned Lawrence, and murdered more than a hundred of her citizens. As hurriedly as possible the General concentrated about five hundred men and started in pursuit. Quantrill was so rapid in his march, and displayed so much sagacity in his retreat, that he was always able to keep a mile or two ahead of us. Men will ride harder to prevent being killed, than you can force men to ride to kill them. For ten hours we were right at his heels, but he had stolen all the horses within his reach, and each of his men had a led-horse, loaded with the plunder of the stores in Lawrence.

Our forces were joined by great numbers of citizens from Kansas, armed with shot guns, and rifles, burning with revenge. Their horses were fresher than ours, and they got in the lead of the column. They pressed so hard that Quantrill's men began to throw away some of their plunder, so that the road was strewn with bolts of muslin, calico, boots and other goods. This was too great a temptation for our citizen recruits, who gathered up the goods as they went along, but they pressed ahead more eagerly than ever, those in the rear being fearful that they would not get their share. They were very near the rebels as they passed over a small rise in the prairie, which would conceal them until they struck the next rise. Quantrill thinking that they were getting dangerously near, as soon as he passed over the rise, and was out of sight, formed a rear-guard of thirty or forty men, and as our granger friends reached the rise, he charged them with revolvers. We were at least half a mile in the rear, but in plain sight; when in such a stampede as was never before seen, three or four men were killed, and many more wounded. They scattered in every direction, throwing down their plunder as they fled. The "Rebs" did not pursue them, but fell back to the rear of their column, which had kept steadily on the march. By night they reached the timber, divided into small squads, and escaped into their old haunts.

We were without provision or tents, and had to forage on the surrounding country. Further pursuit would have been fruitless. General "Jim Lane," of Kansas, had escaped from the massacre at Lawrence, and joined us. The next morning he, and General Ewing, issued the famous order No. 11, compelling all the inhabitants of three border counties of Missouri, to leave their homes. These counties were haunts of the guerillas, where they were hidden, and supported by the people. The order worked great hardship, but it was a military necessity. When we started to return, and had proceeded a few miles, the command halted at a house. Some of the soldiers went in, searching for something to eat, and found a wounded man, under the bed. He was one of the Quantrill men, who had been shot in the leg. They dragged him into the yard, he begged piteously, to be treated as a prisoner of war, said he had two companions, also hidden in the woods near by, and he had with great difficulty hobbled to the house, in search of assistance.

I was kneeling by his side, examining his wound, when a Kansas man, whose brother had been killed at Lawrence, came up behind us, and with a shot gun, blew out his brains. His gun was so close, that I was spattered with brains, and blood. It gave me a greater shock than any other occurrence that I had met with. His two companions were found, and similarly shot, meeting a fate they richly deserved, for the atrocities which they had perpetrated at Lawrence.

Walker, Edwin S. Genealogy of the Carpenter Family, Illinois State Journal Co., Springfield 1907


Hit Counter visits since 02/07/2004.
Page updated 05/25/2006