Tag Archives: Lawrence

The Sesquicentennial of the Quantrill Raid of Lawrence

One hundred fifty years ago on August 21, a horde of more than 400 ruffians, led by William Quantrill invaded Lawrence, Kansas, a town of around 1,200 people killing almost 200 men. The raid occurred sometime around 5:15 in the morning when it was just beginning to get light in the eastern horizon. Most of the Lawrence men were still asleep and did not have weapons to fight off these terrorists since the mayor had previously ordered all citizens to store their rifles and revolvers in the armory.

The invaders knew this, thanks to information from their spy, Fletch Taylor, who also said that the men on Quantrill’s death list—Reverend Hugh Fisher, Senator James Lane, and many others—would be in town that day. William Quantrill and his leaders—Todd, Anderson, Yeager, and Cole—planned to attack the town from the southea st, traveling from what is now 19th and Haskell to the Eldridge Hotel. Many reasons were cited as the motive for this attack, including • Sheriff Walker’s expulsion of Quantrill from Lawrence in 1860 • the Kansas City Jail collapse (which killed relatives of some of the guerillas–Bill Anderson’s sister, John McCorkle’s sister, and Cole’s cousin) • General Ewing’s Order Number 10, driving guerilla supporters from their homes.

Having done extensive research of this event for my books, Sissy! and All Parts Together, I came across several interesting vignettes of the raid. For instance, Jesse James (George James’ younger brother) most likely did not participate in the raid because Quantrill may have thought that Jesse was too young, too inexperienced, and too impulsive. The Lawrence City Band gave their very first performance on the evening before the raid. The performance likely took place at 8 pm at a location near the river—presumably just north of present-day 6th and Vermont.

Just past midnight on August 21,, a courier delivered a message from Captain Joshua Pike to General Ewing that a horde of men were spotted crossing the Kansas-Missouri border and heading west. Ewing dismissed the importance of this sighting, saying that Quantrill had gone on many small raids across the border in the past. But a scout named Theodore Bartles urged Ewing to reconsider the importance of what was about to happen. Bartles, surprised that Lawrence had not been warned of a possible imminent attack, didn’t think he’d be successful in outrunning the marauders because he’d have to travel north of the Kansas River and lose valuable time. However, an Indian named Pelathe volunteered to do it because he knew the westward trails quite well.

Later, at around three o’clock in the morning near Hesper, Kansas, Mrs. Jennings, a close neighbor of Joseph Stone (a man Quantrill’s raiders wanted to murder) is awakened by a pounding on her door. After Quantrill’s men searched the house in vain, one of them kidnapped a 13-year-old boy named Jacob Rote and forced him to guide the group through the darkness to Lawrence. Todd, one of Quantrill’s men, found Joseph Stone and beat him to death out of revenge for being responsible for getting Todd arrested in Kansas City.

The town of Lawrence had two chances to be warned of impending disaster. One was the courageous ride of Pelathe toward the town. The mare he rode died, and by the time Pelathe got there on foot it was too late. The other chance occurred when Henry Thompson, a black servant ran eight miles from Hester to Eudora. It was about 4:15 am when he got to the outskirts of Eudora. He stopped a man named Frederick Pila and told him about the murder of Joseph Stone and why he knew Quantrill and his men planned to attack Lawrence. Pila drove through Eudora to find someone on horseback who could gallop to Lawrence to warn the townspeople. Two men volunteered to rush but one was hurt after falling from his horse and the other man stopped to help find a doctor.

There were some interesting details uncovered concerning the raid, which are mentioned in my award-winning book, SISSY! For instance, Quantrill, apparently interested in robbing the sanctuary of St. John the Evangelist Church in Lawrence and burning the building, didn’t follow through after Bishop Miege, who answered the door, spoke to Quantrill. According to the archivist wtih the Archdiocese of Kansas City, there was something Miege said that made Quantrill change his mind. The archivist had no record of what the bishop told him, but I came up with a reasonable explanation in Sissy! The day after the Quantrill raid was also important, and All Parts Together starts with that day and goes forward to the days following a new order from General Ewing. in retaliation for the Quantrill raid, Ewing issued Order Number 11, which ordered residents of several western counties in Missouri to leave their homes by the 9th of September. The horrific Quantrill raid of August 21, 1863, will forever be remembered by Lawrence, which some historians consider a citadel for freedom.

Tom Mach’s three award-winning historical novels—Sissy!, All Parts Together, and Angels at Sunset—follow the life of Jessica Radford who experienced the Civil War, the Quantrill Raid, Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theater, and imprisonment in 1917 for picketing the White House in support of the suffragist movement. More information about these books may be found on TomMach.com

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Does It Pay to be a Good Samaritan?

    Most people are probably familiar with the “Good Samaritan” story in the Bible. It’s the one Jesus told about a traveler who is beaten, robbed, and left to die on the road. A priest comes by, sees the man, but walks on. So too does a Levite who sees the dying man. But a Samaritan sees the man, binds his wounds, and takes him to an inn, asking the innkeeper to take care of him, giving him money for his troubles.

Penelope, a character in my novel, Sissy, takes pity on the men running away from Quantrill’s raiders, who, in 1863, killed nearly 200 men in Lawrence, Kansas.  One of the raiders approaches her.  “Men keep disappearing here,” one of the men growls, looking down at her with black, contemptuous eyes. “Yeah,” says another. “Where’re they hiding?” She glares back at them. “I’m not going to tell you.” Who did they think she was, she thought, a fool? The first man draws his horse nearer to her and pulls out his pistol, aiming it at her face. “Tell me, lady, or I’ll shoot you!” No man, Penelope thought, should ever dare tell her to do the wrong thing. She lived her life believing that. And she’d die—if she had to.“You may shoot me if you will, but you won’t ever find out where the men are.”

On the opposite extreme is a lack of compassion. In my historical novel, All Parts Together, Jessica’s friend Matt asks her to give widows comfort after the 1863 Quantrill raid.  “I am not capable of giving others comfort,” she finally says. “That is the reason I could never be a nurse like my friend Mary helping the wounded in this horrible war. Ask me to drive a team, charge the enemy on a battlefield, or even rescue negroes from slave states, and I would gladly do it.” She adds: “I wish I were like other women,” she said, her mouth twitching. “Docile, humble, obedient, and helpless. I wish I had all those qualities you would expect in a lady.”

Even in the 21st century, there is a great shortage of good Samaritans in the world. While part of it may be our preoccupation with ourselves and our busy lives, another part may be due to fear of litigation.  I recently received the following from a Twitter friend named Ruoxu from China. Here’s his story:

Hello, I want to tell you about a situation involving compassion in China. A few years ago, a famous lawsuit was started by an elderly lady. She was struck by a car and plummeted to the street. A young man came to her aid and took her to a hospital. However, instead of thanking him she sued him, claiming he was the one responsible for her injuries.

Since there were no witnesses or other evidence conflicting with her testimony, the court rules that the young man must compensate for her injury because ‘generally speaking, people in China have rarely helped someone in situations like this.’

This ruling all but killed any compassion people may have felt for others. After the lawsuit, most people were convinced that helping someone in desperate need was dangerous. A few days after this happened, a Chinese newspaper reported that another elderly lady fell down in the street, but this time no one came to help. She was left there in the street, severely injured, and died.

Peng Yu is the name of the young man who wanted to be compassionate. His “crime” in helping out the elderly lady was to pay her 45876.6 yuan as compensation.  [Note the photo accompanying this blog is Pena Vu while the other is a caricature of an elderly man who falls down but no one dares to help.]

Fear of getting sued by the victim precipitated Good Samaritan laws in our country. But these laws only protect the rescuer if the rescuer is not compensated monetarily for his or her own actions.  In other words, a policeman or fireman who attempts to rescue someone can still be later sued by the one who was rescued. Also, if the rescuer is later rewarded by anyone (including the person rescued), he or she can still be sued.

While fear of legal retaliation may be one reason some people may feat being a good Samaritan, I believe another major factor is preoccupation with our own selves. Now that we have all kinds of electronic devices and don’t really have to communicate face-to-face or by handwritten letters that require more thought that emails. I hope I don’t sound as if I’m judging anyone. It’s just the way things are these days.

Hard-hitting examples of compassion–or the lack thereof–exist in all of my books…can be found in all of my books. Even in a children’s chapter book called HOMER THE ROAMER. Click the cover on the right-hand of this page to get an idea about this story. You’ll wag your tail as I tell this tale about this lost and loveable little cat.

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