A band of 400 proslavery ruffians–many teenagers–led by a madman named Quantrill conducted the Lawrence Massacre in 1863 in Kansas on this day. Most of the the town’s men were off fighting for the Union. As a result, 180 died and the town became ashes.
Daniel Read Anthony knew the town of Lawrence like his own child because he helped to establish it. Therefore, he suffered its loss. In this excerpt from The Truth About Daniel, he visits just a few days after the attack:
Early on their fourth day in Lawrence, D.R. and Chas rode by the homestead of Martin Townsend, a farmer from Vermont who had settled in ’fifty-four. They found him pouring water from a bucket into a stone trough for a pair of oxen.
“Marty!” D.R. hailed him before swinging down from the saddle.
As the man turned, D.R. took in his friend’s face covered with grime and a four-day stubble. He asked Townsend how he had escaped.
“The day before the raid, I took my team a few miles outside of town to help my cousin. On my way home, I saw the town on fire and heard that Quantrill was singling out men old enough to bear arms. So I hid in the ravine where raiders wouldn’t go.
“I felt like a coward leaving my wife and children inside, but how would they have farmed if I turned up dead?” His house was ablaze, he said, but he was relieved to see his family out front. He gestured to a crude tent partially supported by a scorched tree. “We all survived, thank God, but this is all I have left of my home.”
D.R. wanted something to do, but there were no tools, not even an extra bucket. “Apparently Quantrill’s raiders didn’t come to fight, but to murder and steal.”
“They never would’ve gotten away with it if so many of our men weren’t off to war.”
“So what happened when the army finally did come?” asked Chas.
Townsend leaned on his shovel and gestured toward the road. “The ruffians turned tail and ran south. Cavalry followed them right through town and out again.”
D.R. pictured how he would’ve handled the operation. The Jayhawkers and the Seventh Kansas were trained to grip their horses with their knees and shoot with both hands at once. Having faced Quantrill’s raiders in Missouri, he knew many of them to be teenagers with no training at all. At least the army will have extracted its toll on them, he consoled himself. Hopeful of a good report, he asked, “How many did Quantrill lose?”
Townsend sighed deeply. The anger blazing from his eyes contrasted with his dusty face. “One,” he replied.
“One!” roared D.R. “They caused all this damage and got away with only one casualty? What the hell was the army doing?”
Next time: Read how the Lawrence Massacre of 1863 fueled a Union retaliation.
Read more about this fateful day in Lawrence at History.com.