Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence
By Kristen Epps, University of Central Arkansas
William Quantrill’s raid on the Free-State town of Lawrence, Kansas (also known as the Lawrence Massacre) was a defining moment in the border conflict. At dawn on August 21, 1863, Quantrill and his guerrillas rode into Lawrence, where they burned much of the town and killed between 160 and 190 men and boys. This raid was the culmination of an ongoing conflict between the Free-State forces who controlled Lawrence and the proslavery partisans who lived in nearby Missouri. Although Kansas entered the Union as a free state in 1861, ending the period called “Bleeding Kansas,” the animosities of the territorial period lived on with the outbreak of civil war that same year.
On that fateful August morning, a group of roughly 400 Confederate guerrillas entered the sleeping town. They immediately began to ransack homes, shoot civilians, loot stores, and set fire to buildings (including the prominent Eldridge Hotel, although Quantrill allowed its inhabitants to evacuate safely). One of the first casualties was Reverend Snyder, shot as he was milking his cow outside his home along present-day East 19th Street. Mayor George Collamore, upon hearing the commotion, hid in his family’s well, where he died of smoke inhalation. The rest of his family survived, although they had lost their home and the raiders severely wounded his 18-year-old son.
George Ellis, a free black man, had risen early to finish some work on his family’s farm. The raiders killed George’s father, but George, his brother Ben, and his mother Jane managed to survive. George hid in a dense thicket near the Kansas River, and after Quantrill’s men set the house afire, Jane successfully dragged Ben out of the flames and concealed him underneath a feather bed. In addition to targeting African Americans, the raiders also inquired about the whereabouts of notorious Free-State leaders like James H. Lane, who was able to hide in a West Lawrence cornfield to escape detection, along with several of his neighbors.
The state governor and a leader of the Free-State movement, Charles Robinson, was lucky enough to escape with his life as well.
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~ It was called the Quantrill Raid, but truth is they targeted African Americans in Lawrence and the Massacre included Blacks and Whites because Lawrence was a Free-State
… Things we didn’t learn in History Class! ~Nativegrl77