Lawrence Raid 8/21/63 The Attack On The Elridge House


 BONUS VIDEO: Here is the clip of the Lawrence Raid from "Ride with the Devil" All  motion-picture rights belong to UNIVERSAL PICTURES, NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. Donald Gilmore was the technical consultant for the movie, and is a core member of quantrillsguerrillas.com. 

The Lawrence Raid 8/21/63 The Attack On The Elridge House: As the raid continued, some of the guerrillas dismounted and raided the liquor stores along Massachusetts Street. Breaking the necks from bottles, they sent the stinging liquid down their parched throats, which eased their nerves, but made them more bellicose and intractable.

William Bullene, watching the carnage from the upstairs window of his father’s store, watched as one of the partisans rode his horse up to John Speer, the eldest son of the editor of the Kansas Tribune. The guerrilla asked Speer some questions, then pointed his revolver at him and killed him. Dismounting from his horse, the guerrilla rifled Speer’s pockets.         

Next is an image of the elder Speer the who was on the death list, he escaped and hid while two of his sons were killed in his stead.                                                                                                           

Moments later, Billy Wilkins was shot on New Hampshire between Winthrop and Henry. A German returning home with a package of meat was gunned down.

A carpenter, J. W. V. Thornton, who lived on the south side of Winthrop, was shot thrice, once in the shin, a second bullet in his hip joint, and a third in the face. Then, his assailant attempted to maul the man by riding over him with his horse, but Thornton’s wife intervened.

Guerrillas rode up and down the street “at a mad gait, firing at everyone they saw running,” and screaming, “Jennison!” “Osceola!” “Butler!” (1).

Robert Gaston Elliott, who was staying in the Eldridge House at the time analyzed the situation later, saying:It had been held that only an organized army of considerable strength would dare bring its forces within striking distance of Lawrence . . . . . The rapidity of their [the guerrillas’] movements and the extent of their occupancy within so short a time multiplied every estimate of their numbers;and the boldness of the invasion, the confident manner of the leaders, with the abandon of recklessness that everywhere marked their followers, impressed everyone with a sense of a force impossible to resist . . . . . The calamity had burst upon all with such sudden and unconceived force and flashed with such terror that the will was subdued and the emotions paralyzed." (2).

The word that echoed in each man’s mind was: “what were [the enemy’s] numbers? . . . What was this body?” The people of Lawrence had bragged that within fifteen to thirty-minute’s notice, they could resist and defeat any Missouri force. But they had been assaulted precipitately, without warning, and by overwhelming force.

Elliott said, “One glance was enough to reveal the character of the catastrophe . . . . . .Dead bodies could be seen along the sidewalks; men pursued and shot down; any attempt at escape only provoked a fatal shot from a revolver.”

Elliot thought that the "the sudden dash [of the guerrillas in entering the town] cut off all chance of arming or defense, and the falling victims proved that merciless slaughter had been planned as the prelude to the tragedy."

Erastus D. Ladd, another shrewd witness to the raid, said, “When they [the guerrillas] rode into the main street and commenced their hellish work, they immediately broke into squads and rushed through all the streets, killing every man they saw, probably in order to prevent any concentration or organization on our part for defense.” All of these varied circumstances acted to enervate the men of Lawrence. Quantrill’s principal tactic in attacking the town was to strike it hard, violently hard, using his cavalry in its most devastating manifestation--shock!

Elliott said, “What had been conceived as impossible had happened.” The defeat of Lawrence happened, however, by design, not accident. (3).

On the corner of Winthrop and Massachusetts Street stood the Eldridge House, a four-story hotel, and the frontier town’s gem. Inside the hotel, some of its sixty-five occupants had been roused by the gunfire. The night watch or clerk “sounded a gong with a prolonged roll,” alerting the lodgers still slumbering.

Robert Stevens, a lawyer, looked out his window and heard someone shout, “Kill every damned man!” Then, he saw two men shot and killed as they tried to escape from the hotel. Stevens looked across the street where “the two Range boys, & two other Germans, lay asleep on the plank walk, under an awning.”Seconds later, horsemen rode by and shot “all 4 dead.”

Stevens glanced at his watch; it read “15 minutes after five.” Some of the lodgers, strangers to Lawrence, men from the East, thought they were witnessing some sort of Wild West demonstration, but painfully it dawned on them that they were participants in a massacre. A witness said these Eastern men “paced the corridors, upbraiding the authorities for not suppressing the riot, and besought ‘someone to call upon the mayor to surrender the town and stop the butchery.’” They were slow in understanding the situation. (4).

Now, the guerrillas began to congregate around the Eldridge House, milling about on horseback. They knew the hotel was the key to the capture of Lawrence, for the building doubled as a fort.

Finally, one of the partisans rode up to the door of the hotel and screamed: “All you god-damned sons of bitches come in front! Come right out here!”

A feverish conversation developed inside as to what should be done. A few thought that nothing should be done; they should remain silent and see what developed.

Finally, assuming a leadership role, Alexander Banks, the provost marshal of Kansas, with the support of most of the others, concluded they should surrender--but only on condition that their safety was to be guaranteed. Banks pulled a sheet from one of the beds and draped it over the window-sill as a gesture of surrender. Guerrillas soon poured into the hotel.

Robert Stevens, who had stayed the night at the hotel after a railroad meeting, said, “Four bandits came up [stairs] & demanded watches, money, & etc., which generally were given up.” Stevens, cannily, had handed over his valuables to a Mrs. Bancroft, who was not searched.

Some of the holed-up inhabitants, mostly the new visitors to the town, had locked their doors. The guerrillas blasted holes in the locks and burst their way inside and robbed them. The newcomers were beginning to understand the enormity of the situation. Still, there was no sign of Quantrill.   The image to the left is what the Yankees thought Quantrill looked like based upon reports in the raid, note imperial mustache and reddish sideburns.                                                                                                   

The hotel was afire and Robert Stevens became concerned that he and the other inhabitants would be burned alive. He approached one of the guerrilla guards, an older man, and revealed a Masonic sign. When a secret sign was returned, Stevens appealed to the old man to go for Quantrill, which he did.  Soon, Quantrill rode up to the hotel on a magnificent gelding captured from Colonel James T. Buel at the Battle of Independence. Here is an image of William C. Quantrill.

He dismounted, and with several guerrillas at his side, strode into the hotel. The guerrilla chief wore a low-crowned black hat with a gold cord encircling it for a band. His shirt was of brown wool and his gray trousers were stuffed into cavalry boots. His pale blue eyes, calm and steely, looked out from under drooping lids.His hair was sandy, and he sported a dashing imperial mustache and reddish sideburns on a face that was sun-beaten, dirty, and unshaven from his long ride. Four 36-caliber Colt Navy revolvers were stuffed in his waistband.

Stevens, who had previously represented Quantrill in a law case in Lawrence, “took him by the hand, led him aside, & finally got from him a promise of protection for the whole crowd”--a haven at the Whitney House, a nearby hotel. Banks demanded safe passage, which Quantrill readily agreed to.

As the prisoners walked out of the hotel, chemicals in the Prentiss & Griswold drugstore on the first floor of the hotel exploded. The prisoners were marched quickly to a grassy area to the “east,” where some of the guerrillas fired on them, “but did no harm,” according to Robert Elliott, one of the prisoners. Screaming guerrillas surrounded the prisoners, though, and demanded they be killed.                                                                                                                                                                                           

This dangerous commotion caused Stevens to call for Quantrill again. When the somewhat annoyed guerrilla chief returned, he assigned George Todd, an imposing and fiery six-footer, to guard the prisoners and to escort them north and east to the Whitney House (the City Hotel). Todd, about this time, noticed Banks’ resplendent, blue uniform and ordered him to take it off and exchange clothes with him.

Todd, now dressed in a striking Union tunic and smart trousers, marched the prisoners to the Whitney House. Quantrill went along and used the hotel for his headquarters. The hotel was owned and managed by Quantrill’s old friend, hotel-keeper Nathan Stone, and Quantrill wished to protect him from violence.When a general outcry went up by the guerrillas outside the Whitney House to kill the prisoners, Quantrill, according to Robert Elliott, one of the prisoners, “swore that he would do it [protect the prisoners] if he had to kill every man that interfered.” (5)                                                                                                                              

References:(1). Shalor Winchell Eldridge, “The Quantrill Raid as Seen from the Eldridge House” as described by R. G. [Robert Gaston] Elliott. [i] Publications of the Kansas State Historical Society Embracing Recollections of Early Days in Kansas. [/i] Vol. 2 Topeka KS: Kansas State Printing Palnt 1920, 184" (2 ). Topeka, KS: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1920, 184; Connelley, [i] Quantrill and the Border Wars [/i], 285-397; Amos Lawrence’s copy of a letter of Mrs. G. W. Collamore sent in 1863, Amos Lawrence Papers, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas. Eldridge, “The Quantrill Raid as Seen from the Eldridge House,” 185, 188. (3). Ibid., 184-85, 194; “Erastus D. Ladd’s Description of the Lawrence Massacre,” with an introduction by Russell E. Bidlack, [i] The Kansas Historical Quarterly [/i] 29, no. 2 (summer 1963): 117. Ewing in his official report of the Lawrence raid said that the people of Lawrence “had an abundance of arms in their city arsenal, and could have met Quantrill, on half an hour’s notice, with 500 men.” They were not to be given the luxury of a half hour’s notice. [i] War of the Rebellion [/i], ser. 1., vol. 22, pt. 2, 579-85. (4). Robert S. Stevens in a letter addressed to “Friends” dated August 23, 1863.The author received a copy of this letter (in the author’s file) and other information and data through the courtesy of Robert C. Stevens, the great-grandson of Robert S. Stevens, on October 15, 1996; Elliott, “The Quantrill Raid,” 185. (5). Further data contained in letters and other data sent from Robert C. Stevens to the author; “A Look at Early Lawrence: Letters from Robert Gaston Elliott,” ed., Carolyn Berneking, The Kansas Historical Quarterly (Autumn 1977): 291; An account by Sara Robinson in “The Governor’s Wife Recalls the Raid,” in Richard B. Sheridan, Quantrill and the Lawrence Massacre: A Reader (Lawrence, Kansas, n.p., 1997), 208; Elliott, “The Quantrill Raid,” 190; [i] Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars [/i], 341-45. 

Story© Donald L. Gilmore; 2012quantrillsguerrillas.com, Presentation©Patrick Marquis 2012quantrillsguerrillas.com."Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay and or/image."

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