Quantrill, Bandit or Hero?

William Clark Quantrill was born in Canal Dover, Ohio on July 31,1837. His father was Thomas Henry Quantrill of Maryland. His mother was Caroline Cornelia Clark of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Quantrill was the oldest of 12 children four of which died as infants. By the time he was 16 Quantrill was teaching school in Ohio.

In 1854 Quantrill’s father died of tuberculosis leaving the family with a large financial debt. Quantrill’s mother had to turn the home into a boarding house in order to survive. During this time Quantrill continuing to teach school to help support his family, but a year later he left home and headed to Mendota, Illinois where he went to work in a lumberyard.

One night while working the late shift, he killed a man. Authorities briefly arrested him, but Quantrill claimed that he had acted in selfdefense. Since there was no other eyewitnesses and the victim was a stranger who knew no one in town, Quantrill was set free.

The police in Mendota urged Quantrill to leave town and not come back. So Quantrill continued to teach school in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In February 1856, the district was impressed with his teaching abilities, but the wages remained meager.

Quantrill returned to Canal Dover that fall, with no more money in his pockets than he had when he left home.

Quantrill spent that winter in his mother’s diminutive shack in the impoverished town, and he soon became restless. At this time many of the Ohioans were migrating to the Kansas Territory in search of land and opportunity.

Quantrill went to Kansas with Henry Torrey and Harmon Beeson, two local men hoping to to build a large farm for their families out west. But after a while issues between them began and even ended up in court. Although his relationship with Beeson was never the same, Quantrill remained friends with Torrey.

In his early years Quantrill signed on with the US Army as a teamster for an expedition go to Salt Lake City Utah. Very little is known of his time out west. But when he return to Lawrence, Kansas he began to fall in with the wrong kind of people. He learned to play poker and did real well at it. He had complied a good purse of winnings only to lose it in one night.

Initially, before 1860, Quantrill appeared to oppose slavery. He called the Democrats “the worst men we have for they all are rascals”. In February 1860 Quantrill wrote a letter to his mother that expressed his views on the anit-slavery supporters. He said that the hanging of John Brown had been to good for him and that “the devil has got unlimited sway over this territory, and will hold it until we have a better set of man and society generally.”

In 1861, Quantrill went to Texas with the slaveholder Marcus Gill. They met Joel B. Mayes and joined the Cherokee Nations. Mayes was a half Scot-Irish and half Cherokee Confederate sympathizer and a war chief of the Cherokee Nation in Texas.

It was Mayes who taught Quantrill the art of guerrilla warfare and tactics, who would learn the art of ambush fighting tactics used by the Native Americans as well as sneak attacks and camouflage. Quantrill in the company of Mayes and the Cherokee Nations, joined with General Sterling Price and fought at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek and Lexington in August and September 1861.

In the last days of September, Quantrill deserted General Price’s Army and went home to Blue Springs, Missouri, to form his own “Army” of loyal men who had great belief in him and the Confederate Cause, they become known as Quantrill’s Raiders.

By Christmas 1861 he had 10 men who would follow him full time into his pro- confederate guerrilla organization.

Looking at a brief history of the raiders during the war helps to figure out if Quantrill was a Bandit or a Hero. Having been trained in the art of guerrilla warfare helps as well. The art of guerrilla warfare is to work behind the lines and disrupt the war effort of the enemy. Yet when we look at the main battles of Quantrill’s Raiders we don’t see much in the way of true guerrilla warfare.

In March 7, 1862 Quantrill and his men over came a small union outpost at Aubry, Kansas and ransacked the town. Disruption of support for the enemy is a key element of guerrilla warfare. By ransacking the town thy did just that.

On March 11, 1862, Quantrill joined Confederate farces under Colonel John T. Hughes and took part in attack on Independence, Missouri. After what become known as the First Battle of Independence, the Confederate Government decided to secure the loyalty of Quantrill by issuing him a “Formal army commission” to the rank of Captain.

On September 7, 1862, after midnight, Quantrill with 140 of his men captured Olathe, Kansas where they surprised 125 union soldiers who were forced to surrender. Now most true guerrilla would have never captured this many soldiers which would have slowed down their movements. Guerrillas hit and move so at this battle Captain Quantrill acted as a true Army Officer.

On October 5, 1862 Captain Quantrill attacked and destroyed Shawneetown, Kansas, and Bill Anderson soon revisited and torched the rebuilding settlement. This was the act of one man not the entire force.

The last paragraph brings to light the entire events in the life of Quantrill. Yes Quantrill and his Raiders were guerrilla fighters. They operated as such behind the enemy lines disrupting supply lines and taking out command and control in Missouri and Kansas.

But as for a bandit and criminal the last paragraph from history shows that one man from the raiders torched the town. Not the entire group. So history shows us that William Quantrill was a Hero in the Confederate Army and did his job as such.

This writer challenges each of the readers to learn as much history as you can. Because the best way to close the mouth of the world today is to know the TRUTH and use it to prove the facts.