Monday, December 22, 2014

Deadly events linked to statehood

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 1/27/2014

Before it was the Sunflower State, Kansas was known as the “Soldier State,” Randy Durbin said.

That’s because as many as 30,000 Civil War veterans settled in Kansas after the war, Durbin, a rural Overbrook war re-enactor, said. But while the state was a haven when the dust of battle settled, much of Franklin County’s Civil War notoriety comes from the bloody days before North-South violence split the nation.

Before it was the Sunflower State, Kansas was known as the “Soldier State,” Randy Durbin said.

That’s because as many as 30,000 Civil War veterans settled in Kansas after the war, Durbin, a rural Overbrook war re-enactor, said. But while the state was a haven when the dust of battle settled, much of Franklin County’s Civil War notoriety comes from the bloody days before North-South violence split the nation.

Back then, it was east-west fighting that put Kansans on alert.

As the state celebrates Kansas Day Wednesday, historians continue to look back at the famed events of “Bleeding Kansas” and even a gruesome event in Franklin County that shed light on the state’s earliest days.

“It is interesting because not many states have things like [Kansas Day],” Deborah Barker, Franklin County Historical Society executive director, said. “Kansas struggled so long to get into the Union that they wanted to remember the date [of proclamation as a state].”

Appanoose Massacre

Kansas joined the Union Jan. 29, 1861, as a free state opposing slavery in the U.S. It wasn’t long before the nation was embroiled in war.

But by that time, Franklin County already had seen its share of the carnage to come. One of the bloodiest events, known as the Appanoose Massacre, occurred sometime in 1856, Durbin, a Civil War re-enactor, said, pitting Kansas Free Staters and pro-slavery Missouri Bushwackers in guerrilla warfare.

“There is very little known about this because all of the men on the Bushwacker/Missouri side were killed,” he said. “They called themselves Shannon’s Guards because Gov. [Wilson] Shannon [2nd Territorial Governor of Kansas] was a pro-slavery governor, and they were trying to keep Missouri a pro-slavery state.”

According to the known story, 22 Missourians came into Kansas shooting free soil farmers in 1856, Durbin said. One night, they made camp near Appanoose Creek, the exact spot being just southwest of the junction of Reno and Georgia roads, about 10 miles northwest of Ottawa. A group of free soilers, who called themselves Danites, then banded together to take out the camp.

“The Danites were led by Charles Leonhardt,” Durbin said. “They were from Lawrence and they came down from Lawrence to make this raid. There were about 30 of them, and they split into two groups. I would guess they probably formed up around midnight. Fifteen went down one side [of Appanoose creek] and 15 went down the other side until they got to the camp of Shannon’s Guards. It was almost daylight, and they could see by the fire the Missourians were camping. They arrived on each side of the Missourians at the same time and started firing. They killed [all] 22 of them. Half of [the free-soilers] stayed behind to bury the dead. That is basically all we know that happened because nobody ever fessed up or caught them.”

The identities of the men involved weren’t known until 40 years after the massacre, Durbin said, and even then information was incomplete since news surrounding the killings left out the names of the Danites, who had sworn each other to secrecy.

“This man named Richard Hinton came back and he was one of the Danites,” Durbin said. “He was either the last surviving Danite or one of the last surviving Danites. He came back in the 1890s and wanted to see this article N. He saw it and started filling in some of the names.”

Though information about the Appanoose Massacre originally was kept silent, it remains one of the area’s most gruesome events leading up to the Civil War.

“It was quite a significant event,” Durbin said. “It was more killing than what happened at Black Jack or the Pottawatomie Massacre or the Marais des Cygnes Massacre or a lot of the those events that happened.”

But because Hinton is the only source who gave information about the massacre, Durbin said, it’s difficult for historians to acknowledge the story presented as completely true.

“It doesn’t fall into the typical standards of historical proof,” Barker said. “Kansas historians would really like to see another source. It would be highly significant if it did happen.”

Outdated tactics

By the war’s beginning in 1861, mass killings had become the norm. By war’s end, there were more than 600,000 dead.

“I think it was up until Vietnam, that [the Civil War] had more casualties than all of the other wars combined,” Durbin said. “For every soldier that was killed in battle, two died of diseases like typhoid, smallpox or something like that.”

It wasn’t just disease that caused the monumental level of deaths during the war. During his time as a re-enactor, Durbin said, he learned the tactics used during the war didn’t match the weaponry used.

“[The armies would line up] one man and one man behind [with] two ranks,” he said. “ [They would] line up about a 100 yards away from each other and fire their 40 to 80 rounds and then they’d fix their bayonets and charge. That was basically what Napoleon devised in the early 1800s. That worked well as long as they had smoothbore rifles, but these rifles by the time the Civil War came around were truly rifles. ... So when they lined up at 100 yards, they were just mowing each other down ...

“At the beginning of the war, it was considered very cowardly to put up a trench, hide behind a wall or anything like that,” he said. “After a while, they got smart and started hiding behind walls or going up to higher ground. They also used flanking maneuvers and would go around to the end of the line and try to attack down the line instead of meeting face on.

“To win the battle, the key was to drive the enemy off of the battle field. Whoever controlled the land at the end of the battle was considered the winner. They may have lost more men, but they held the land.”

Quantrill’s Raid

One of the state’s most well-known “Bleeding Kansas” events came amid the Civil War.

Dubbed “Quantrill’s Raid,” the 1863 mass killing in Lawrence saw William Clarke Quantrill, who had once lived in Lawrence before becoming a pro-slavery Missourian, gather about 300 men to burn the city, which at the time was considered a center for Free Staters, Durbin said.

“The people of Lawrence were afraid of a raid like this because the war had been going on for two or three years and they had a lot of alarms,” he said. “It was kind of like the boy who cried wolf too many times, and pretty soon nobody paid attention to these alarms. That is why Lawrence wasn’t guarded very well when Quantrill was coming toward them. He came up through Gardner and crossed what was called Captain’s Creek, which is east of Lawrence in the Eudora area. There they took a young farm boy hostage to be a guide for them, which I find it kind of unusual that Quantrill needed a guide. He was very familiar with the area. They crossed Blue Jacket Crossing southeast of Lawrence and went through a little town called Franklin, and arrived in Lawrence at about 5 a.m. Aug. 21, 1863.”

Along the way, several people had seen Quantrill and his men, and they attempted to warn the people of Lawrence, but a lack of communication sealed the city’s fate, Barker said.

“No one really thought Missourians would come that far west,” she said. “Lawrence was the center for Free Staters and was just stacked with stuff that had been stolen from Missouri and brought back to Lawrence.”

Upon arrival, Quantrill’s men burned down nearly every building in the town, Durbin said. The raiders also shot and killed about 150 men in Lawrence.

“One claim was that Quantrill never shot anything when he went into Lawrence,” Durbin said. “He sat at the City Hotel [which was spared] and talked with friends.”

While Quantrill’s group continued to burn down most of the city, Lawrence residents were left defenseless during the four-hour raid, Durbin said.

“There was a small group of Union recruits in town who didn’t have any weapons. They were immediately gunned down,” he said. “One of the big factors was the mayor [of Lawrence at the time] was in charge of the safety of Lawrence, and he had all the guns in town locked up in the armory because he didn’t want these guns around town. Well, Quantrill showed up and none of the people could defend themselves. They were unarmed and they couldn’t get the armory unlocked to get the guns.”

Even more than 150 years later, the effects of “Bleeding Kansas” and the Civil War are still evident, Barker said.

“The Quantrill raid had a huge impact in the entire region,” she said. “[The Kansas-Missouri] border still attracts bitterness. All that stuff didn’t just happen and people got over it.”

comments powered by Disqus