New Perspectives on THE WEST
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The People
Empire Upon The Trails
Speck of the Future
Death Runs Riot
The Grandest Enterprise Under God
Fight No More Forever
The Geography of Hope
One Sky Above Us
Death Runs Riot


Free Soil

Mountain meadows

The Republic of the Rio Grande

This Guilty Land


Preachers and Jackass Rabbits

Who is the Savage?

The Everywhere Spirit

THE WEST Death Runs Riots


Richard White"The Civil War does create more of a vacuum in the West. And the result is there's gonna be far more violence. It's gonna be far harder to mediate things. Things are going to be much more out of control in the 1860s than they ever would have been otherwise."
Richard White

By the summer of 1863, the North seemed to be winning the Civil War. Robert E. Lee's advance into Pennsylvania had been stopped at Gettysburg, and Ulysses S. Grant had split the Confederacy in two by taking the Mississippi River town of Vicksburg. Yet for all the fighting back east, there had been few civilian casualties. In the West, it was a very different war.

Guerrilla parties are making dreadful slaughter upon the Union men in Missouri and stealing and destroying their property... The entire route across the State... bears the marks of the ravages of war... Anarchy reigns in Missouri.
Julia Louisa Lovejoy

James H. LaneIn Kansas and Missouri, both sides waged relentless guerilla warfare on innocent civilians, as well as rival armies. Union forces were led by James H. Lane, a cadaverous former senator from Kansas who wanted to see pro-slavery Missourians "cast into a burning hell." He did his best to do just that, haunting the trail of rebel armies, ravaging the homes of anyone who dared help them, then sacking and burning whole towns.

William QuantrillConfederate guerrillas responded in kind. Their most celebrated leader was a former schoolteacher from Ohio with limitless enthusiasm for looting and killing, named William Quantrill. Union farmers, he warned, should not bother to plant crops; they would not live to harvest them. And he swore he would burn Jim Lane at the stake.

Martin Ridge"And of course, if you're a guerilla fighter and you fight under the flag of the Confederacy, they impart to you legitimacy. From the Union point of view, these were sheer criminals."
Martin Ridge

One of Quantrill's raiders was an accused horse thief known as "Bloody Bill"Anderson. He wore a necklace of Yankee scalps into battle, laughed as unarmed prisoners were gunned down, then ordered his men to mutilate their corpses. "I will kill you," he wrote to the readers of one anti-slavery newspaper. "I will hunt you down like wolves and murder you."

On the morning of August 21st, 1863, Quantrill, Anderson, and 450 men rode towards the anti-slavery stronghold of Lawrence Kansas -- home of Jim Lane. With her husband serving in the Union army, Julia Louisa Lovejoy and her children now lived in a little house just outside of town.

At an early hour Friday morning... I rushed out and... I could then see every house this side of Lawrence, with a volume of dense smoke arising from them as they advanced, firing every house in their march of death.
Julia Louisa Lovejoy

The raiders surrounded a downtown hotel. A guest hung a white sheet from the window and asked Quantrill what he wanted. "Plunder!" he answered. The guests were ordered out and robbed. The hotel was set afire.

Quantrill, waving two of the six pistols he carried, rose in his stirrups and shouted, "Kill! Kill! Lawrence must be cleansed, and the only way to cleanse it is to kill!"

Then, while Quantrill demanded that the terrified staff of another hotel cook him a big breakfast, Anderson and his men began to carry out Quantrill's orders.

All the business houses, banks, stores, etc., in the city were robbed and burned save one, and... most of the businessmen killed.... Mrs. Reed put out the fire six times to save her house, and they would fire it anew, but she by almost superhuman exertions saved it.... One lady threw her arms around her husband, and begged of them to spare his life. They rested the pistol on her arm as it was around his body, and shot him dead, and the fire from the pistol burnt the sleeve of her dress.
Julia Louisa Lovejoy

Detail From a Photo of Border RuffiansOne hundred and eighty-three men and boys were killed -- fewer than twenty had been soldiers -- and one hundred and eighty-five homes were burned before Quantrill and his men rode out of Lawrence, leaving behind 80 widows, 250 fatherless children. Jim Lane, the principal target of the raid, had managed to escape through a cornfield in his nightshirt.

The fires were still glowing in the cellars... Here and there among the embers could be seen the bones of those who had perished.... The sickening odor of burned flesh was oppressive.

To avenge the Lawrence Massacre, Federal troops forced from their homes every man, woman and child living in three Missouri border counties, and half of a fourth. They drove thousands of people onto the open prairie, while Union guerillas followed in their wake, burning and looting the empty houses they left behind, raiding the refugee columns, stealing even wedding rings.

The very air seems charged with blood and death... Pandemonium itself seems to have broken loose... and death runs riot over the country.

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