Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1863

Guerillas massacre residents of Lawrence, Kansas

The vicious guerilla war in Missouri spills over into Kansas and precipitates one of the most appalling acts of violence during the war when 150 men in the abolitionist town of Lawrence are murdered in a raid by Southern partisans.

The Civil War took a very different form in Kansas and Missouri than it did throughout the rest of the nation. There were few regular armies operating there; instead, partisan bands attacked civilians and each other. The roots of conflict in the region dated back to 1854, when the Kansas-Missouri border became ground zero for tension over slavery. While residents of Kansas Territory were trying to decide the issue of slavery, bands from Missouri, a slave state, began attacking abolitionist settlements in the territory. Abolitionists reacted with equal vigor.

When the war began, the long heritage of hatred between partisans created unparalleled violence in the area. In August 1863, the Union commander along the border, General Thomas Ewing, arrested several wives and sisters of members of a notorious band led by William Quantrill. This gang of outlaws had scorched the region, terrorizing and murdering Union sympathizers. On August 14, the building in Kansas City, Missouri, where the women were being held collapsed, killing five.

Quantrill assembled 450 men to exact revenge. The army, which included such future western outlaws as the Younger brothers and Frank and Jesse James, headed for Lawrence, Kansas, long known as the center of abolitionism in Kansas. After kidnapping 10 farmers in order to guide them to Lawrence, the gang murdered each of them. Quantrill’s men rode into Lawrence and dragged 182 men from their homes, many in front of their families, and killed them in cold blood. They burned 185 buildings in Lawrence, then rode back to Missouri with Union cavalry in hot pursuit.

This incident incited the North and led to even more killing by both sides along the Kansas-Missouri border.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Bloody Ban Tarleton born in Britain

On this day in 1754, Banastre Tarleton is born as the fourth child of John Tarleton, the former lord mayor of Liverpool, and a money lender, merchant and slave trader. After completing his education at Oxford, Tarleton became the most feared officer in the British army during the ...read more

Kenyatta freed

Jomo Kenyatta, leader of the Kenyan independence movement, is released by British colonial authorities after nearly nine years of imprisonment and detention. Two years later, Kenya achieved independence and Kenyatta became prime minister. Once portrayed as a menacing symbol of ...read more

Slave revolt erupts in Virginia

Believing himself chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, Nat Turner launches a bloody slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner, a slave and educated minister, planned to capture the county armory at Jerusalem, Virginia, and then march 30 miles to ...read more

Lincoln-Douglas debates begin

Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky-born lawyer and one-time U.S. representative from Illinois, begin a series of famous public encounters on the issue of slavery. The two politicians, the former a Northern Democrat and the latter a Republican, ...read more

Hawaii becomes 50th state

The modern United States receives its crowning star when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as the 50th state. The president also issued an order for an American flag featuring 50 stars arranged in staggered rows: five six-star ...read more

Michael Phelps wins eighth medal

On this day in 2004, American swimmer Michael Phelps wins his eighth medal of the 2004 Athens Olympics in spite of sitting out his eighth scheduled event, the final of the 4 x 100-meter medley relay. Phelps left Athens with six gold and two bronze medals. His eight total medals ...read more

Theft of Mona Lisa is discovered

An amateur painter sets up his easel nearLeonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, only to discover that the masterpiece is missing. The day before, in perhaps the most brazen art theft of all time, Vincenzo Perugia had walked into the Louvre, removedthe famed ...read more

Coup attempt against Gorbachev collapses

Just three days after it began, the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev collapses. Despite his success in avoiding removal from office, Gorbachev’s days in power were numbered. The Soviet Union would soon cease to exist as a nation and as a Cold War threat to the United ...read more

Olds Motor Works founded

Ransom Eli Olds of Lansing, Michigan, founds Olds Motors Works–which will later become Oldsmobile–on August 21, 1897. Born in Geneva, Ohio, in 1864, Olds went to work for his family’s machine-repair and engine-building business in 1883. In 1896, Olds completed his first ...read more