Most people in Kansas know of William Quantrill’s raid and burning of Lawrence as his most famous and only attempt to burn and raid a town, but there is actually another town where he started. In Shawnee Kansas Quantrill seized an opportunity to practice raiding and burning a town. This historical marker in Shawnee Kansas commemorates the second raid and burning of the town by William Quantrill in preparation for his similar act on the town of Lawrence. That’s correct, Quantrill burned and raided the little town of Shawnee twice. The fist burning occurred on October 17, 1862, and the second burning occurred in the summer of 1863. Shawnee is located just 35 miles away from Lawrence and this marker sits in front of the Shawnee Town Hall.
First, a little overview on William Quantrill. William
Quantrill was a name feared throughout the free-state of Kansas. He and his
posse of bushwhackers from Missouri are the ones who performed several raids,
most ending in the murdering of the people and the burning of the buildings
throughout the towns. Quantrill’s most famous raid took place in Lawrence where
his posse murdered 183 men and boys aged 14 to 90, and burned the entire
free-state city to the ground. Quantrill performed these raids in order to
scare and intimidate the people of the free-state of Kansas, as his native
Missouri was pro-slavery. The attacks between the Kansas Jayhawkers and the
Missouri Bushwhackers occurred mostly during the period known as “Bleeding
Kansas”, but acts such as the burnings of Shawnee and Lawrence occurred during
the Civil War.
The first raid took place on October 17th, 1862.
Quantrill and his gang of roughly 140 bushwhackers stormed into town and
corralled the residents into the town square, next to where the present-day
City Hall is. It is said that in the first raid the bushwhackers performed was
in order to get clothing (all clothing was handmade back then) and horses.
There were only two Shawnee residents murdered in Quantrill’s first raid. Once
Quantrill had everything he desired, his band of bushwhackers set fire to the
town and burned all of the fewer than twenty buildings Shawnee had at the time.
The second raid took place during the summer of 1863. This
raid was entirely in preparation for the raid on Lawrence that would take place
in August of 1863. The raid was to scout for an escape route for the planned
attack on Lawrence. The route had to be devoid of Union soldiers, as the
bushwhackers would be executed immediately if they encountered any Union
troops. The town of Shawnee was small and unimportant at the time so no Union
soldiers were there, giving the bushwhacker group their best escape route. Although
the second raid did not include as much stealing as burning, thirteen people
were injured. A small side note, the second raid included two future outlaws
and widely known stage-coach robbers Frank and Jesse James as part of Quantrill’s
Overall, while many residents of Shawnee have never heard of
the burning of Shawnee, myself included, the memory still lives on today. The
memory of this event will no longer only be tied to the small historical
marker, it will be taught in the seventh-grade curriculum throughout USD 232
(Johnson County School District), as part of the “Bleeding Kansas” and Civil
War time period.