William Clarke Quantrill

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William Clarke Quantrill

Taken from the book "The Story of Barton County" by Marvin L. VanGilder.

Submitted by Jill Adami on May 24, 2001.

William Clarke Quantrill, guerrilla chief who managed to obtain a commission as captain in the Confederate army, twice raided Lamar.  Moving south after being routed by the 6th Mo. Cavalry near Harrisonville, Quantrill and his men met Nov. 5, 1862, in the Drywood area with Col. Warner Lewis, CSA, who led 300 recruits.  The two 
leaders  made plans for an encircling attack upon Lamar, with their men approaching the courthouse garrison of Capt. Breeden from opposite directions.   Acting quickly upon the plan, Quantrill attacked about 10 p.m. but Lewis failed to appear.  After an exchange of blazing gunfire which continued nearly two hours, the attackers moved back, taking a considerable number of wounded with them and setting fire to about one-third of the houses in Lamar as they fled.  Breeden was a successful defender.  According to some accounts, two guerrillas Peter Burton and James Donohoe were killed.  Others count six dead raiders and describe the number of wounded as "many."  Citizens present late declared the dirt streets around the Lamar square ran red with the blood of dead and wounded attackers, while Breeden's men, protected by the brick walls of the courthouse, escaped harm.  Quantrill fled to Arkansas, where he next was reported heading a unit of 150 men as part of a brigade stationed at Cross Hollow under command of then Col. Jo Shelby.

In 1863, the courthouse and most other buildings on the Lamar square were burned by unidentified raiders.  At that time the county records disappeared under circumstances which remain a matter of dispute.  Most reliable report indicates the records were removed by Bill Wells, Bill Duke and John Goss, Confederate sympathizers who resided southeast of the site of Milford, who are charged by some with having burned the courthouse to prevent its further use by Union troops.  The trio reportedly took the records to the home of Wells' father southeast of the Milford site and buried them under a smokehouse.  After the war, Walls went to Arkansas and found Edward G. Ward and told him of the location of the records, it is said.  Record A and the school mortgage record were lost but the rest eventually were recovered, in poor condition, and transcribed.  Ward supposedly shared the secret, as a protective measure, with a Dr. Guthrie of Vernon County, who in turn told Wash Petty, a Jasper County Confederate.  It is  said to have been Petty who helped recover the records by reaching an agreement with the post-war County Court that a $100 school fund mortgage on property he owned in Barton County be canceled in return for his aid.  Another account says the records were not buried but were tossed into a well and later recovered under unknown circumstances and transcribed.

Quantrill with his cohort George Todd and some 100 men returned to Lamar May 20, 1864.  A rumor circulated that the band planned to attack Neosho caused removal of most of a company of Union soldiers stationed at Lamar to Newton County.  A small contingent of the 7th Mo. Provisional Cavalry remained at Lamar.  They numbered about 40, some of whom were Lamar residents and were quartered in their own homes.  At dawn, while the men of the garrison were having breakfast or feeding their horses, all, including the commander Lt. George N. Adler, at ease, Quantrill attacked.  The Union troopers scattered in all directions.  Those who could reach their horses fled to Ft. Scott or Greenfield, while others found hiding places in the timber along Muddy Creek.  One man was shot while attempting escape.  Only nine of the cavalrymen reached their rifles which were stacked in the center of the square behind the walls of the gutted courthouse.  Their ranking officer was Orderly Sgt. Jeff Cavender.  After the first volley, Quantrill called for surrender of the garrison.  A Sgt. Montgomery went out to parley with the raiders while his comrades reloaded their guns.  He refused surrender.  After twice more attacking the bullet-scarred walls, Quantrill, according to some accounts, left 30 dead and wounded behind.  Of the nine defenders, all survived.  Quantrill's days of fame were nearing an end and he never again approached Lamar.

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