Missouri Bushwhackers - Attacks Upon Kansas
Prior to and during the
"bushwhacking" was a form of guerrilla warfare particularly prevalent along
border. Though the term "bushwhacker" actually applied to both
Confederate forces, in Kansas,
it was a much feared term applied to pro-slavery guerilla fighters.
Alternatively, guerrilla fighters in Kansas,
who also committed a number of depredations, were called "Jayhawkers"
At this time, the term "bushwhacker" was defined as meaning
"One accustomed to beat about or travel through bushes, one who lives in or
frequents the woods; applied specifically by the Federal troops in the Civil
to irregular troops of the Confederate states engaged in guerrilla warfare.
Although this definition made the words "bushwhacker" and "guerrilla"
synonymous, there was really a distinction between them -- with the true
bushwhacker generally fighting under cover and the guerilla frequently
having sufficient courage to come out into the open.
Bushwhackers were not generally part of the military command and
control of either side. With raids starting years before the
fought to become a
conducted a few well-organized raids, but the vast majority of attacks involved
ambushes of individuals or families in rural areas.
Years before the
began a number of battles were fought between Free-State
advocates and pro-slavery men during the days of
which often included guerilla fighters. These
battles included the Wakarusa War
in December, 1855. An in 1856, a number of skirmishes occurred including the
Battle of Black Jack,
Battle of Franklin,
Battle of Fort Saunders,
Battle of Fort
of Osawatomie, and the
Hickory Point. The final major atrocity committed by Missouri
bushwhackers before the outbreak of the war was the
Marais des Cygnes Massacre
in May, 1858.
During the early years of the
the border line between the Northern and the Confederate states was infested by
guerrillas. In a few instances these irregular soldiers favored the Union cause,
but in a large majority of cases they were secessionists, and sometimes they
cared more for plunder than they did for principle.
was the most well-known of the guerrilla leader in western
Other men included Upton Hays, John Thrailkill, Coon Thornton,
William "Bloody Bill" Anderson,
Cole Younger, Bill Todd,
Dick Yeager, and numerous others. Several of these men were only privates, but by their daring and
blood-thirsty deeds they won notoriety that has carried their names into
Upton Hays was in command of the "Partisan Rangers" in western
until he was succeeded by William Quantrill
in 1862. A number of raids were made by guerrilla gangs into Kansas
over the years. In September, 1861, the town of Humboldt was raided by "Colonel" John Matthews
(aka Mathews, from Little Town Kansas), who sacked nearly every house and
store in the settlement. In October John Mathews Jr. was part of yet another
raid on the town, this time for revenge of his fathers death after the first
raid. About the same time the little town of Gardner, in
Johnson County, was also plundered. On March 7, 1862, Quantrill
raided Aubrey, a small town in the southeast corner of Johnson County, where he
killed three men and destroyed considerable property. In June, Bill Anderson made a foray as far west
Council Grove, killing two men and burning at least one house. On September
6th and 7th, Quantrill
visited Olathe, where he destroyed and carried off a lot of property, and in
October he made a descent upon Shawnee in Johnson county, where seven citizens
were killed. Just before visiting the town he attacked the camp of a Santa Fe
wagon train and killed 15 members of the escort. Humboldt was again visited in
1862 -- this time by "Colonel" Talbot, who burned several buildings, plundered
the town, and killed 4 or 5 citizens who tried to defend their homes.
This image available for photographic
On August 15, 1862,
was commissioned a captain in the Confederate Army and placed in command of a
company of 150 men. William C. Haller was made first lieutenant; George Todd,
second lieutenant, and William H. Gregg, third lieutenant. Whatever the acts of
these men had been prior to that time, after that date they were supposedly
acting under the authority of the Confederate Army.
In May, 1863,
Cole Younger, and other minor
guerrilla leaders united their gangs with Quantrill's
command. In May, 1863, Dick Yeager left
Santa Fe Trail, crossed over into
and on the May 4th encamped near Council Grove. That night he raided the little
village of Diamond Springs, where he killed one man and wounded a woman.
On the return trip he
stopped at Rock Springs, a stage station near the line of Osage and
Counties, where he met and killed George N. Sabin, a soldier of Company K,
Eleventh Kansas, who had been at his home in Pottawatomie County on furlough and
was on his way to rejoin his regiment.
Seven miles farther down the road, Yeager's men shot and seriously wounded
David Hubbard, before passing through Baldwin City and Black Jack, where they robbed the stage, and then returned to
via Gardner, Kansas.
The next event was the worst atrocity committed by the
guerillas. On August 21, 1863, William Quantrill
led some 300 men in the
due to the town's long support of abolition and its reputation as a center
Red Legs and Jayhawkers.
By the time
men rode out of town, more than a quarter of the buildings had been burned
to the ground, the banks and stores looted, some 185-200 men were
Just after the raid on
passed through the old town of Brooklyn, where he did some damage, and on
October 6, 1863, his men ruthlessly massacred some Federal troops in the
Baxter Springs Massacre. Other depredations by
guerrillas were in the vicinity of Mine Creek, where a number of settlers
were driven from their homes, and at the towns of Potosi and Spring Hill.
By the fall of 1863 the
Union troops were so well organized along
the eastern border of the state that guerrilla raids practically ceased. After
the war was over, some of these men, accustomed to violence and angry over the
loss of the war turned to outlawry, including
Frank James, John Jarrette, Cole Younger,
George Shepherd, and others.
as illustrated in
Harper's Weekly, September, 1863.
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
Abolitionists in Kansas
The Issue of Slavery
Kansas Jayhawkers - Terror in the Civil War
Red Legs of Kansas