Year
1865

William Quantrill killed by Union soldiers

William Quantrill, the man who gave Frank and Jesse James their first education in killing, dies from wounds sustained in a skirmish with Union soldiers in Kentucky.

Born and raised in Ohio, Quantrill was involved in a number of shady enterprises in Utah and Kansas during his teens. In his early 20s, he fled to Missouri, where he became a strong supporter of pro-slavery settlers in their sometimes-violent conflict with their antislavery neighbors. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the 24-year-old Quantrill became the leader of an irregular force of Confederate soldiers that became known as Quantrill’s Raiders.

By 1862, Union forces had established control over Missouri, but Quantrill’s Raiders continued to harass the northern army and unguarded pro-Union towns over the next three years. Quantrill and other guerrilla leaders recruited their soldiers from Confederate sympathizers who resented what they saw as the unfairly harsh Union rule of their state. Among those who joined him was a 20-year-old farm kid named Frank James. His younger brother, Jesse, joined an allied guerrilla force a year later.

In August 1863, Frank James was with Quantrill when he led a savage attack on the largely defenseless town of Lawrence, Kansas. Angered that the townspeople had allowed Lawrence to be used as a sporadic base for Union soldiers, Quantrill and his guerrillas shot every man and boy they saw. After killing at least 150 male civilians, the raiders set the town on fire.

In May 1865, Quantrill was badly wounded in a skirmish with Union forces, and he died on this day in 1865. Since Quantrill’s men were guerillas rather than legitimate soldiers, they were denied the general amnesty given to the Confederate army after the war ended. Some, like Frank and Jesse James, took this as an excuse to become criminals and bank robbers.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The Ashmolean opens

The Ashmolean, the world’s first university museum, opens in Oxford, England. At the time of the English Restoration, Oxford was the center of scientific activity in England. In 1677, English archaeologist Elias Ashmole donated his collection of curiosities to Oxford University, ...read more

James Meredith shot

James H. Meredith, who in 1962 became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi, is shot by a sniper shortly after beginning a lone civil rights march through the South. Known as the “March Against Fear,” Meredith had been walking from Memphis, Tennessee, ...read more

Indian army storms Golden Temple

In a bloody climax to two years of fighting between the Indian government and Sikh separatists, Indian army troops fight their way into the besieged Golden Temple compound in Amritsar–the holiest shrine of Sikhism–and kill at least 500 Sikh rebels. More than 100 Indian soldiers ...read more

Battle of Belleau Wood begins

The first large-scale battle fought by American soldiers in World War I begins in Belleau Wood, northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. In late May 1918, the third German offensive of the year penetrated the Western Front to within 45 miles of Paris. U.S. forces under General John ...read more

D-Day

Although the term D-Day is used routinely as military lingo for the day an operation or event will take place, for many it is also synonymous with June 6, 1944, the day the Allied powers crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, beginning the ...read more

The Ed Sullivan Show airs for the very last time

Sunday nights, 8:00 pm, CBS. Ask almost any American born in the 1950s or earlier what television program ran in that timeslot on that network, and they’ll probably know the answer: The Ed Sullivan Show. For more than two decades, Sullivan’s variety show was the premiere ...read more

Sex and the City premieres on HBO

On this day in 1998, the cable network HBO airs the pilot episode of Sex and the City, a new comedy series chronicling the lives and loves of four single women living in New York City. The show’s creator, Darren Star, was best known at the time for producing the long-running Fox ...read more

Train avoids cow, but kills 600

More than 500 passengers are killed when their train plunges into the Baghmati River in India on this day in 1981. The rail accident—the worst in India to that date—was caused by an engineer who was reverential of cows. The nine-car train, filled with approximately 1,000 ...read more

Union claims Memphis in naval battle

On this day, the Union claims Memphis, Tennessee, the Confederacy’s fifth-largest city, a naval manufacturing yard, and a key Southern industrial center. One of the top priorities for Union commanders at the start of the war was to sever the Confederacy along the Mississippi. In ...read more