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Parent Category: Kansas State History Articles
Category: Kansas Military History

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Beginning of the Civil War 

Just before Kansas was admitted several of the southern states seceded from the Union. The trouble between the North and the South had reached the point where it could no longer be compromised. Other states seceded, and when, on April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter was fired upon, the Civil War had begun.

 

Part Taken by Kansas in the Civil War 

A state that had just passed through nearly seven years of Territorial struggle closing with a famine would hardly be expected to take an active part in a great war, but the Kansas people had been battling over the slavery question, and, being deeply interested in the outcome, were ready to take up arms in defense of the principle of freedom. Every call for soldiers to defend the Union was liberally responded to in Kansas. This State furnished more soldiers in proportion to its population than did any other State. During the four years of the war Kansas furnished a few more than twenty thousand men, nearly four thousand more than were asked for, and all of them were volunteers. The poverty in the Kansas homes made it especially hard for families to be left unprovided for, and as much honor is due the women who stayed at home to work as is due the men who marched away to fight. The Kansas soldiers did duty on many battle-fields, and so conducted themselves as to bring much credit to their State. During the war Kansas was exposed to three lines of danger; invasions by the regular Confederate army, attacks by the unorganized border troops, and Indian raids on the frontier.

The Quantrill Raid, August 21, 1863 

For Kansas people the Civil War meant a continuation of the border troubles. Gangs of ruffians plundered and destroyed property, and frequently committed worse crimes. These acts reached a climax in the destruction of Lawrence on August 21, 1863. The raid on Lawrence was led by Quantrill, a border ruffian who had taken an active part in the guerrilla warfare, and who with his men had sacked several smaller towns along the border. With about four hundred and fifty mounted men Quantrill crossed the border in the late afternoon of August 20, and proceeded toward Lawrence. Just before sunrise the raiders reached a hill only a mile from the town. It is strange that they could have made the ride of forty miles through Kansas settlements without a word of warning reaching Lawrence, but such was the case. When Quantrill and his men halted within pistol shot of the houses of Lawrence to plan their attack, the people suspected no danger. There was no armed organization within the city, and all firearms were locked in the arsenal.

The attack began with a wild charge on the town. Horsemen rode through the streets at top speed, shooting in every direction. Then they divided into small gangs and scattered over the town under orders to "burn every house and kill every man." The horror of what followed has seldom been equaled in the warfare of civilized people. When the people of Lawrence realized that their town was in the possession of Quantrill's band they expected that it would be burned and a few prominent citizens killed, but wholesale murder was not looked for, and many who might have escaped remained and were killed. For four hours the ruffians robbed buildings, shot the occupants, and applied the torch. Every house was a scene of brutality or of remarkable escape. When the work of butchery and destruction was finished, Quantrill and his men retreated toward Missouri, mounted on stolen horses and heavily laden with plunder. They kept up their work of destruction by burning farmhouses as they passed. A few troops followed them, but the raiders escaped across the border.

Loss from the Raid 

The number of lives lost can never be known with certainty, but it was about one hundred and fifty. Many were seriously wounded. The loss of property was variously estimated from one to two million dollars. The work of rebuilding the town was immediately begun, and with all their poverty the people of the State gave generously to the stricken citizens of Lawrence.

General Price Threatens Kansas 

Kansas was too far away from the center of conflict of the Civil War to become the scene of great battles, but it was from time to time threatened with invasion by the regular Confederate army. During the last year of the war, General Price, with a large Confederate force, marched northward.through Arkansas into Missouri. When it was reported that he was moving westward, Kansas issued a call for more soldiers. The response was immediate. More than 16,000 men appeared for service. A force of Kansas troops marched into Missouri and met Price's army in battle at Lexington. As the armies moved westward other battles were fought at the Little Blue and at the Big Blue, and again at Kansas City and Westport, after which Price was forced to retreat southward. He was followed by the Union army. He crossed into Kansas in Linn County, and skirmishes took place at Trading Post Ford, at the Mounds, and at Mine Creek. Price was then forced into Missouri again, where he was soon defeated.

End of the Civil War, 1865 

In April, 1865, the great war came to a close, after lasting almost exactly four years. The questions of slavery and disunion were finally settled. The whole nation was thankful to lay down its arms and go back home, "to drop the sword and grasp the plow," but this was especially true of Kansas, where the people had been doing battle over the slavery question for eleven years. The Territorial period and the Civil War period made one continuous conflict. With the heavy drain on

The Counties of Kansas at the Close of the Civil, War.

 

resources and population, it was not to be expected that Kansas would make much growth or progress during the Civil War. Development could little more than equal waste and loss. The population of Kansas numbered about 100,000 at the beginning of the war, and about 136,000 at the close. There had been little improvement in the manner of living during the four years.

Summary

The Civil War began within three months after Kansas became a state. Although Kansas had had no opportunity to recover from the Territorial struggle, it took an active part in the war. General Price threatened to invade Kansas with a large Confederate force, but did not succeed. The Indians committed depredations on the western frontier. The worst feature of the war was the border trouble, of which the Quantrill raid was the climax. During the four years of the Civil War Kansas did not make a large gain in population or in progress.

References

Andreas, History of Kansas, pp. 179-215.

Blackmar, Life of Robinson.

Crawford, Kansas in the Sixties.

Cordley, History of Lawrence.

Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars.

Historical Collections, vol. viii, pp. 271, 352; vol. ix, pp. 430,

455; vol. XI, p. 217; vol. v, p. 116; vol. vi, pp. 305, 317.

Prentis, History of Kansas, pp. 143-168.

Spring, Kansas, chap. xiii.

Questions

1. When did the Civil War begin? How long was this after Kansas had become a state? 

2. What part did Kansas take in the war? Explain. 

3. What were the three classes of danger to which Kansas was exposed? Discuss each. 

4. To which of these does the Price campaign belong? 

5. Who was General Price? Give an account of his threatened invasion of Kansas. 

6. Who was Quantrill? Give an account of his raid on Lawrence. 

7. How long did the Civil War last? 

8. How long had it been since Kansas was opened for settlement? What progress had been made? 

9. What was the population of Kansas in 1865?

 

Source: A History of Kansas / Anna E. Arnold. pp.109-114

 

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