William Quantrill is normally not closely associated with the Ozarks, and the Kansas City area was, in fact, his main field of operations. However, the notorious Confederate guerrilla leader did make several excursions through our region. In a previous post, I've already mentioned one such foray, the Cedar County raid in the spring of 1863 as Quantrill was returning from his trip to Richmond. Quantrill's most notable action in this region, however, was the battle and massacre that occurred at the edge of the Ozarks in Baxter Springs, Kansas, on October 6, 1863.
The action is sometimes loosely referred to as the Baxter Springs Massacre, but it actually involved both a battle and a massacre. As Quantrill and his men crossed into Kansas on their way south to spend the winter in Texas, they came upon a Federal fort that was still under construction, and they launched two or three attacks on the rampart before withdrawing to the edge of the Spring River timber north of the fort. Those attacks constituted the battle part of the action.
But even the massacre part of the action started out as a battle. After withdrawing to the edge of the timber, the guerrillas discovered a body of about a hundred Union troops, who later proved to be General James Blunt and his escort, drawn up in a line facing them from across the prairie. Quantrill ordered a charge, and the Federals put up a feckless resistance. Some in Blunt's escort had no arms, and many of those who did prematurely fired out their ammunition, while others turned to run without firing a shot. The guerrillas quickly chased them down, and many of the soldiers were reportedly killed as they tried to surrender, pleading for their lives. The action was therefore dubbed the Baxter Springs Massacre. Only a handful from the Federal detail, including Blunt himself, managed to escape.
Speaking of Quantrill, some readers may not be aware that there is such a thing as the William Clarke Quantrill Society (www.wcqsociety.com
) comprised of people who are interested in the Civil War in general, the guerrilla and border warfare in Missouri in particular, and Quantrill and his men even more especially. I'm not a member of the group, but I'm acquainted with a few people who are, including Harold Dellinger, owner and operator of an online bookstore (www.haroldsbookstore.com
) that specializes in books about the Civil War in Missouri and Kansas and about the outlaw era after the war. Harold's is one of several online bookstores that carries my books, including my new novel.
Labels: Baxter Springs, William Quantrill