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William Clarke Quantrill

The massacre and widespread devastation of Lawrence, Kansas, on August 21, 1863, was carried out by a gang of bushwhackers led by nortorious Confederate guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill, a former resident of the town who had been forced to leave as an undesirable.

The son of an Ohio school teacher, Quantrill drifted around the West until the war came along. According to James McPherson, "Without any ties to the South or to slavery, he chose the Confederacy apparently because in Missouri this allowed him to attack all symbols of authority. He attracted to his gang some of the most psychopathic killers in American history." Frank and Jesse James, the Younger brothers, and "Bloody" Bill Anderson found kindred spirits under Quantrill's command.

After becoming involved in the border disturbances between Kansas and Missouri, Quantrill used the conditions of turmoil for his own purposes. He robbed and sacked various communities known to be sympathetic to the Union. Having fought at Wilson's Creek, Quantrill then began his guerrilla activities in Missouri, capturing Independence, Missouri, on August 11, 1862. Four days later he was commissioned a captain in the Confederate army, with 150 men under him. In November, he traveled to Richmond hoping to receive a partisan command, but had to settle for a promotion to colonel. Quantrill showed ability as a leader, but his style of warfare, "little removed from that of the wildest savage," and his very unsavory life-style caused most Rebel leaders to consider his activities counterproductive.

By far, Quantrill's most devastating act was the three hour burning and slaughter that he and a band of 400 men carried out in Lawrence. More than 150 men and boys wre killed.

On May 10, 1865, Quantrill was raiding in Kentucky when he was paralyzed by a Union bullet. He survived as a prisoner for less than a month, and died on June 6, 1865.