© 2013 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
Today is August 21, 2013. 150 years ago, Major William “Bloody Bill” Anderson led his raiders into Lawrence, Kansas, and committed murder and mayhem on the civilian population although the killing was limited, for the most part, to males of military age—remembering that in 1863, young en as young as twelve were found in the military service of both the United States of America and the Confederate States of America.
About 10 am, William Clark Quantrill, Anderson’s “commander,” arrived in town, ate breakfast, gave orders to spare a hotel where he had once resided, and left. This was an irregular band or conglomeration of bands of raiders and command structure was sometimes confusing, but Bill Anderson had loose command.
What had happened in Lawrence that I find disturbing is that armed resistance was rare and sporadic. A Colonel Bullene and two of his sons were on leave. When raiders rode up to the Bullene residence, they were greeted with gunfire and decided to go elsewhere. There was a farmer named Levi Gates who grabbed his muzzle loader and went hunting and got two or three raiders before being cut down.
Three weeks before the raid the New England contingent among the city fathers had decided that the militia weapons would be “safer” in a central armory than in homes—anyone who thinks this bit of information did not get back to Quantrill and company needs a reality check.
It is not that the city did not know about the possibility of a raid. On 21 May 1856, the Sheriff of Douglas County, Samuel Jones, sacked the city to destroy free state and abolitionist newspapers and the Free State Hotel. However, the lessons of vigilance fade in time.
A personal note: My family were of the New England Puritan culture. When I went to a candlelight vigil some years back, there was a reading of names which included a number of Palmers and Griswolds—not ancestors but probably related.
In September of 1863, the Confederate Congress amended the Partisan Ranger Act to apply only to those partisan units operating also as regular cavalry. Neither Quantrill nor Anderson survived the war but a remnant of Anderson’s men in Western Missouri reconstituted themselves as the James-Younger gang.
On February 13, 1866, a group of about a dozen former members of Anderson’s outfit—including Frank James and Coleman Younger—robbed the Clay County Savings Association. This was the first daytime bank robbery during peacetime and netted $60,000 according to the robberies page of angelfire.com. For the next ten years, the James-Younger gang was unstoppable in Missouri.
On September 7, 1876, the gang ventured into “Yankee” territory again. This time it was Northfield, Minnesota. This time, however, there was armed resistance. Townspeople grabbed weapons and the gunstore handed out new Winchesters. Frank and Jesse James managed to escape through the Dakota territory and got back to Missouri—the armed response and ensuing manhunt resulted in death or incarceration of most of their confederates. The total take was $26.70 because they took the word of the acting cashier that there was a time lock on the safe.