Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Civil War Caused Many to Go Wrong

To preface my article I need to say I am not taking either side, because the war is over and my ancestors fought on both sides beyond my control.

Today, I would like to address that during the rebellion between the states many good men were forced to change in an effort to protect their own. In the case of some they became enemies of right and what was good.

Since I wrote about some of the Missouri battles last week, I wanted to add that some of the most infamous men fought at Wilson’s Creek. Namely Quantrell, called by most but his real name was Quantrill whose beginning was a normal one. Research showed me
William Clarke Quantrill was born July 3, 1837 in Dover, Ohio. The oldest of 8 children. William’s father was a tin smith and was involved in several scandals that included theft and fraud. His father often beat him but his mother doted on him. After William’s father died, he tried to supplement the income of his family by becoming a schoolteacher. He taught in Dover, Illinois and Indiana. He was never satisfied with the amount of money he made teaching. He returned home to Dover where his mother made arrangements for two neighboring men to buy a claim for him in Kansas and hold it until he reached the age of 21. He was to work off his debt by working on their farms. After a year, William became restless and wanted to sell his claim. A dispute arose over the claim and had to be settled in court. He was paid only ½ of what the court awarded him.

During Quantrill’s early years in Kansas, he had northern views and often talked against slavery. His viewpoint began to change once he was hired as a teamster in Fort Leavenworth where he enlisted under the name of Charley Hart. It was there that he met up and befriended some southern sympathizers.

When the Civil War broke out in April, 1861, William Clarke Quantrill joined the Confederate side with enthusiasm. He fought with Confederate forces at the battle of Wilson's Creek in Oakhills, Missouri, in August 1861.

By late in the year, Quantrill became unhappy with the Confederates’ reluctance to aggressively prosecute the Union troops. When the defeated Southern forces left the state, he stayed behind and formed his own band of guerrillas. Starting with a small force of no more than a dozen men, the pro-slavery guerrilla band began to make independent attacks upon Union camps, patrols and settlements.

Without any ties to the South or to slavery, he chose the Confederacy apparently because in Missouri this allowed him to attack all symbols of authority. He attracted to his gang some of the most psychopathic killers in American history.

His band of marauders quickly grew to more than one hundred in 1862, with both regular pro-slavery citizens and Confederate soldiers, until he became the most powerful leader of the many bands of Border Ruffians that pillaged the area. Several famous would-be outlaws joined his ruffian group including Frank and Jesse James and the Younger Brothers.

The James brothers were son of Reverend Robert and Zerelda James. Rev. James had been one of the co-founders of William Jewell Baptist College, which still is very active today and has the book collection of noted English preacher Charles Spurgeon, who at his time in history had nearly every book that had been printed in English. (Having visited the church of the famous Baptist preacher in London, I have plans to visit there soon.)

Rev. James heeded a called for California to preach to gold miners, but contracted cholera there and died. This left the mother with two small boys when a role model was needed. When Jesse was eight she married another man who had a number of children.

Record reveals Jesse as a youth went to church, sang in the choir, wanted to become a Baptist preacher like his father. Later, Zerelda married a third time to a country doctor whose farm connected with hers. Zerelda recorded a conversation with Jesse shortly after her last husband was tortured, etc, "After the Home Guards had gone, Jesse said to me, 'Ma, look how those soldiers have beaten me.' "I took off his shirt and his back was striped from the rawhides the soldiers had used on him because he could and would not tell where Frank was. But Jesse did not whimper. He saw me crying, and said:’ Never mind, Ma, I'm going to join Quantrell.' Jesse joined Quantrell in the spring of 1863 to avenge the treatment of his stepfather and himself. My son, Frank had already joined the guerrillas.”

Zerelda, Jesse, Frank and their step siblings are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery at Kearney, Missouri.

Henry Younger, who reportedly was pro-Union, and wealty farmer with 3500 acres in cultivation, was killed by a detachment of Union militiamen whose Captain Walley was said to have been soundly beaten by Cole for a remark he had made to Cole's sister. Walley was a married man at the time and the Younger daughter refused his advances. The killing of his father is believed to have been what drove Cole Younger to become a pro-Confederate soldier.

While in Stillwater prison, Cole Younger was interviewed by a writer doing a book on the Younger brothers recorded Cole’s answer when he was asked what he did in prison: “I occupy much of my time in theological studies for which I have a natural inclination. It was the earliest desire of my parents to prepare me for the ministry, but the horrors of war, the murder of my father, and the outrages perpetrated upon my poor old mother, my sisters and brothers, destroyed our hopes so effectually that none of us could be prepared for any duty in life except revenge. The tear which stole into Cole's eye told how much he suffered in the remembrance of those sorrow-laden days when war, drove happiness eternally from the Younger household. Out of deference to that honorable feeling, I could not question him further upon such an extremely unpleasant subject.”

The three Younger brothers are also buried at Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery, Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Justifying their actions for perceived wrongs done to them by Kansas Jayhawkers and the Federal Authorities, the band robbed Union mail, ambushed federal patrols, and attacked boats on the Missouri River throughout the year.

On August 11, 1862, Colonel J.T. Hughes’s Confederate force, including William Quantrill, attacked Independence, Missouri at dawn. They drove through the town to the Union Army camp, capturing, killing and scattering the soldiers. During the melee, Colonel Hughes was killed, but the Confederates took Independence which led to a Confederate dominance in the Kansas City area for a short time. Quantrill's role in the capture of Independence led to his being commissioned a captain in the Confederate Army. The Confederate Army suffered their biggest defeat in Missouri during this battle and Quantrill and his men disbanded and fled for safety. Later, they promoted him to the rank of colonel in November, 1862.

In May, of 1863, Quantrill and his band moved closer to the Missouri-Kansas border. Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr. (Who had sought to protect Fort Davidson, near Pilot Knob, Mo.) now commanded the district border, was not happy with Quantrill’s presence. Soon, he issued a General Order, which stated that any person - man, woman or child, who was directly involved with aiding a band of guerrillas would be jailed.

Months later, early in 1865, with a group of thirty-three men, Quantrill entered Kentucky. In May, a Unionist irregular force surprised his group near Taylorsville, Kentucky, and in the ensuing battle Quantrill was shot through the spine. He died at the military prison at Louisville, Kentucky, on June 6, 1865 at age 27. Part of his body is buried at the Missouri Confederate Soldier’s Memorial in Higginsville, Missouri, but another portion of his remains is buried in the Quantrill plot at the Fourth Street Cemetery, Dover, Ohio.

War is tragic and sometimes makes good men make bad decisions sometimes becoming more evil then the enemy.

The same can be said of life. Good men can live and die knowing they are doing wrong and not realizing we have a God who will forgive our sins and give us a new life and a better ending.

”Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

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