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A Word For Quantrill

June 2024
1min read

I read with great interest Edward E. Leslie’s article “Quantrill’s Bones” in your July/August issue. As a participant in some of the matters he discussed, I write to offer a few comments and corrections. The least of these is that in October of 1992, at the time of Quantrill’s burial at Higginsville, Missouri, I was not the “commander in chief of the Missouri division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans” but rather the commander in chief of the entire organization, which is international in scope, enjoys a membership of just over twenty-three thousand and operates from its headquarters at historic Elm Springs in Columbia, Tennessee.

Most discussions of Quantrill center on his famous raid against Lawrence, Kansas, in 1863. Quantrill’s men killed an estimated 150 men—no women or children as is often charged—it being their intention to kill every man of gun-bearing age in that town.

It is worth noting that discussions of the Lawrence raid seldom mention the Camp Jackson Massacre, the Palmyra Massacre, the burning of Osceola, Missouri, or even Order No. 11, the brutal depopulation of three and a half western Missouri counties following the Lawrence raid to punish citizens there for harboring Quantrill’s Raiders. For Missourians laboring under the brutal occupation of their state by Union troops, and particularly those suffering the effects of raids by Kansas Jayhawkers and Redlegs, Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence was the equivalent of Jimmy Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo in 1942.

Most of the persons attending Quantrill’s burial at Higginsville, Missouri, came out of loyalty and admiration rather than curiosity. (One elderly gentleman approached me and told me he was there out of gratitude, as his grandfather had told him that Quantrill “killed the Redleg that burned our farm.”)

I was sorry that the folks in Dover, Ohio, were not willing to permit the skull to be buried with the rest of the remains. Nevertheless, we are well satisfied. Quantrill’s skull rests by his mother rather than in a museum, and the rest of him lies in a cemetery near the final resting place of at least six of his men, as opposed to lying in a box in the Kansas State Historical Society. The Kansans, who were perfect gentlemen and most gracious throughout this process, were impressed by the solemnity of the Higginsville burial ceremony. I still believe that had the Dover folks been present, they might have relented and permitted all of the old warrior to rest in the presence of his comrades.

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