"They gathered in what is now known as South Park...and they divided into three groups and headed up the three main streets in Lawrence: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, really into the heart of the business district."
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT THE WATKINS MUSEUM OF HISTORY STEVE NOwACK, C-SPAN, 18 Dec. 2018
The unexpected attack was the biggest attack on civilians in the Civil War and the greatest tragedy Lawrence has ever faced. The raiders arrived around 5 AM and awoke many of the residents with gunshots and screams.
"This is a story of how the state’s second-largest city was wiped off the earth and a black mushroom cloud that rose up like Hiroshima from all the burning buildings could be seen in seven counties around Lawrence. Nearly 200 of the state’s most prominent citizens were murdered that day,”
Thomas Goodrich, a Kansas Historian, The Wichita Eagle, 2013
Harper's Weekly drawing of Quantrill's Raid, 5 Sept. 1863, Watkins Museum of History.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
"NO telegraph, no pen, no language, can fitly describe the awful scene."
Robert steven, Watkins museum of History
There was little ability for Lawrence to call for help because they did not have a railroad or a telegraph system.
"At the time of the Quantrill raid, mr. and mrs. john gill were boarding with us and on the morning of the raid both mr. john gill and [mr.] coat were at home. quantrill's men rode up to the gate and ordered them to give up all their money which they did and then quantrill's men shot and killed both...and then set fire to my home, the house was set fire twice but was put out both times. Quantrill's men then went into the house and took what valuables they wanted, also taking a fine racehorse from the barn..."
Edward P. Fitch, Watkins Museum of History.
"I was almost beside myself with terror for edward—I knew his doom was sealed—they were firing all about us constantly...without a word the deadly aim was taken—shot after shot in rapid succession— emptying his revolver, then taking the weapon from the hand of his companion, and using all its load to make sure work of death."
Charles F. Taylor letter to W. W. Scott, 18 Jan. 1879, KU Libraries.
"I followed his banner for a number of years, and fought to the last advantage, and the warfare that was waged against us was placed upon us first-and we met our foes and we treated them as they would have treated us, only not so bad, as we sometimes spared, and they never.”
Mary Barber Carpenter, 1863, Watkins Museum of History. Click to enlarge
"MR. carpenter ran into the house, upstairs, then down again, the ruffians after him, firing at him at every turn. he finally eluded them and slipped into the cellar.... his hiding place was soon discovered and he was driven out of the cellar into the yard and shot again. he fell mortally wounded. his wife threw herself on to him and covered him with her body to shield him from further violence. the ruffian deliberately walked around her to find a place to shoot under her, and finally raised her arm and put his revolver under it, and fired so that she could see the ball enter his head."
Andrew Williams describing his experience in Lawrence, Andrew Williams, 1908, Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Click to enlarge
"...he had a Bout 400 men he came write by our house it was a little after day light they had on all Sorts of uniforms Some in their Reed Sheart Sleves wee thought they was union men until one in the crowd Said Brake Ranks then they Scatered in all Directions when we Seen one Bush wacker call out one man and talking a minit to him then shot him down wee left home and went down Kaw River a Bout 4 miles and hide in the Brush..."
"The attack on the place and the massacre of the citizens is unparalleled in history..."
Harpers Weekly, 19 Sept. 1863
This atrocity would forever change the history of the town and the nation.