Most people who've ever watched a Western movie are familiar with the name Quantrill. This Confederate guerilla and his men have been the subject of many movies and as far as I know, there has never been a sympathetic portrayal of them (as a group) yet. They fought during the War Between the States under the command of William Clarke Quantrill, a former Ohio schoolteacher, who led his men on raids throughout the state of Missouri.

Although Quantrill wasn't the only Confederate guerilla in Missouri, he was undoubtedly the most infamous. His men's job was to halt Union activities in a state which had been taken over by Federal forces and they did so with a vengeance, firing on army supply patrols, disrupting the mails and eventually attacking towns on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri border. Most of their attacks were against Union sympathizers although even Confederates might get killed if they got in the way. At that time, their opposite number was the Jayhawkers, a Union group which was equally bloody and undisciplined.

Receiving the commission of Captain in the Confederate army, Quantrill rationalized the brutality and devastation his men caused by citing the Partisan Ranger Act which allowed guerilla activities within certain limits. Most of the time, however, he and his men operated outside the law of even the Confederate forces, and he was declared an outlaw by the Union. Ranging from Missouri as far as Texas, their greatest moment of lawlessness was the attack upon Lawrence, Kansas in 1863 when they massacred 200 men and boys. Though that act alone--often called "Bloody Kansas"--brought severe censure from the Confederacy, Quantrill's forces were still allowed a free hand because of their effectiveness against the Union.

Eventually--as to be expected with such a bloodthirsty group--there was dissention among Quantrill's men and he began to lose what hold he had over them. The band began to split up, forming smaller groups who independently attacked Texas and Missouri towns. After Quantrill was killed by Union troops, these groups became more and more lawless, eventually becoming nothing more than highwaymen and bank robbers out for their own interests. Among the men who rode with Quantrill were Frank and Jesse James. After the War, during the terrorist days of Reconstruction, they formed the James-Younger Gang, consisting of brothers Frank and Jesse, brothers Cole, Jim, John, and Bob Younger, Clell Miller, Arthur McCoy, Charlie Pitts, John Jarrette (Cole's brother-in-law), Bill Chadwell, and Ace Nelson. The gang ranged from West Virginia to Texas, but eventually disbanded when Jesse and Frank decided to "go straight," and ended with Jesse being shot in the back by Bob Ford, "that sniveling little coward who shot Mr. Howard and laid poor Jesse in his grave"--as the song goes.

This was the group of men after whom I patterned the guerillas Hobbs' Raiders in my book Vengeance from Eden--lawless individuals who may have started out with the best intentions but who eventually let their baser instincts of cruelty and enjoyment of pain inflicted on the helpless take over, placing themselves outside the laws of decency in the process.

It is this band which the racist Race Jago led and it is Jago whom rancher Luke Brennan tracks from Nebraska to the little border town of Rosarita, Texas, for a final showdown with the man who destroyed his life.


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6 comments

  1. Scarlet Pumpernickel // April 11, 2009 at 3:45 PM  

    Toni,
    Being a student of history, I really enjoyed this post Quantrall was always one of my favorite topics. Interesting info. You plot sounds good as well.

    Scarlet-who should be writing, but isn't

  2. Mary Ricksen // April 11, 2009 at 5:22 PM  

    Leave it to men and war is the answer. Leave it to women and they will figure it out.
    Sounds like a good story Toni.

  3. Edie // April 11, 2009 at 7:01 PM  

    Great video! And thanks for the real life story that gave you the inspiration. Mary is right about men and war.

  4. Mary Marvella // April 11, 2009 at 9:24 PM  

    Toni, you never cease to amaze me with the things you remember. What a natural story teller!

  5. Toni V.S. // April 12, 2009 at 11:29 AM  

    Thanx for the kind words, all! Yes, MM I remember a lot. After all, I was there, wasn't I? At least, it seems like it!

  6. Judy // April 13, 2009 at 8:15 AM  

    Enjoyed the read and the video. Love the history behind the story. Like some have said, it makes the story come alive. Good job!