william clarke quantrill

 Summer 1968 (Vol. 34, No. 2), pages 143 to 149
Transcribed by Tod Roberts; digitized with permission of
the Kansas Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets refer to endnotes for this text.

A FRONTIER ballad emerged in mythological fashion from the smouldering ashes of Lawrence in which William Clarke Quantrill was portrayed as the Robin Hood of the Civil War:

Come all you bold robbers and open your ears,
Of Quantrell the Lion heart you quickly shall hear.
With his band of bold raiders in double quick time,
He came to lay Lawrence low, over the line.

Oh, Quantrell’s a fighter, a bold-hearted boy,
A brave man or woman he’d never annoy.
He’d take from the wealthy and give to the poor
For brave men there’s never a bolt to his door. [1]

Quantrill’s famous or infamous raid upon the sleeping town of Lawrence in the predawn hours of August 21, 1863, has been the subject of endless discourse and debate. As the foregoing ballad suggests there were those who regarded Quantrill as a hero and the burning of Lawrence as a good thing. The fact remains, however, that by noon of that fateful day Lawrence resembled a smoking funeral pyre beside the muddy Kaw. Nearly 150 male inhabitants were dead or dying, a large portion of the town’s business and residential districts were in ashes and the faces of those who survived the slaughter bore mute testimony to the tragic scene.