Today is another “exact” date in military history, and one with a Fort Leavenworth connection. Sort of.
Today is another "exact" date in military history, and one with a Fort Leavenworth connection. Sort of.
We are in the midst of "celebrating" the Civil War sesquicentennial, which means it was raging 150 years ago. One of the blackest days in U.S. history happened 150 years ago today near Leavenworth.
It goes by several names. Perhaps the most common one is the Quantrill Raid on Lawrence, Kansas. It is also called the Sack of Lawrence.
But, even after the passage of a century and a half, there are still unknown events about the raid.
Hardly anyone but historians know Quantrill's whole name, but for the record it was William Clarke Quantrill.
One unanswered question is why was Lawrence chosen for one of the blackest days for civilians in U.S. history?
Quantrill was a school teacher there for a couple of years before the war, and some surmise he just didn't like the anti-slavery beliefs of the citizens there. That is probably as good a reason as one will find.
Last weekend Lawrence celebrated the raid with all sorts of events including bus rides along the route the raiders took in 1863.
Unfortunately, the first I heard about the activities was in an article in a large daily newspaper published near Leavenworth.
After every mention of an upcoming event was a parenthesis and the words (this event is sold out). So much for my experiencing whatever the event was.
Another big unknown, which it seems should be known, is how many Lawrence citizens were killed during the raid.
A CGSC history professor, Tony R. Mullis, was quoted in a Star Magazine article saying "Nobody knows for sure. I've seen numbers as low as 142, and as high as 200."
Almost all historians agree on the number of raiders killed. That would be one.
But then a bit of mystery begins concerning who he was and just what happened.
An article many years ago identified him as Larkin Skaggs, son of a Baptist preacher in Missouri. A recent Star Magazine identified him as Larkin Skaggs, but said he was a former Baptist preacher.
The earlier account said he was shot off his horse and fell down a steep ravine, where the townspeople left him until the spring of 1864, when only his skeleton remained.
A recent Star Magazine said he "…was shot, scalped, then thrown into a ravine and left to rot." It didn't say what happened to his skeleton.
Another point about the unknown civilians who were murdered. Men's names were on Quantrill's list, and almost all of them were sought out and killed. Quantrill later said that no women or children were killed, but some casualty lists have women on them.
The Watkins Community Museum in Lawrence has always had a small display of artifacts from the raid, and I saw them many years ago.
Current news articles say the museum has undergone a big renovation preparing for the sesquicentennial, and there is now much more to see.
Sounds like another road trip to Lawrence soon.
The estimate of the number of raiders varies widely. I've seen as low as 200, and as high as 400.
Frank James and the Younger brothers were among them, but Jesse wasn't.
Quantrill was 26 years old, but did not survive the war.
He was shot and killed in Kentucky near the end of the war. But his bloody legacy remains, and is 150 years old today. end