Were The Missouri Confederate Guerrillas Terrorists?

A dear friend of mine recently mentioned how disturbing it was to read "Quantrill's Thieves" by Joseph K. Houts because of his repeated incorrect and defamatory use of the word "gang" in his description of the members of the guerrilla companies and bands during the Border War.

Despite numerous other acceptable word choices, Houts insisted upon replacing the correct military designation "Company" for the guerrillas with the incorrect and censorious word "Gang," as in "Anderson's Gang," instead of "Anderson's Company." This is just one more blatant attempt at blackening the memory of the Missouri guerrillas. One of the more recent, vicious attempts at revising Border War history is the outrageous portrayal, after 150 years of other insults and misrepresentations, of Missouri's Civil War guerrillas as "terrorists."

To the best of my knowledge this phenomenon was first described by Ryan McMaken in his 2002 article "Paul Revere Terrorist." McMaken defines terrorist revisionism as "a phenomenon in which one takes a historical figure and anoints him with the new title of "terrorist" in an effort to prove the truly dastardly and sinister nature of that person." The new title reduces one to a caricature; a symbol of terrible things rather than as a truly historical figure that existed in a specific time and place and [who] reacted to real historical events in specific ways." (1)

This same vile, unorthodox, and reprehensible process is currently being applied in the description of Missouri's guerrillas in an attempt to bolster renewed attempts to demonize these heroic Civil War partisans.Part of the reason for this new, desperate attempt to defame these men is that revisionist historians have begun a counterattack against many of the false assumptions that have survived for the last 150 years concerning the Missouri guerrillas.

These misrepresentations are now under major attack  (See Donald L. Gilmore,Civil War on the Missouri Kansas Border Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2005) and Paul R. Petersen, Quantrill of Missouri; The Making of a Guerrilla Warrior (Cumberland House Publishing, Inc,  2003)

McMaken cites a review of T. J. Stile's Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War;  as a prime example of this new biased assault on the reputation of Missouri's guerrillas. The reviewer of this book, Roger Miller, anoints Jesse James with the title of "Terrorist of the South," and claims the entire South was guilty of romanticizing the exploits of a "terrorist." Because terrorism today is usually defined as the commission of violence to obtain political concessions, it is easy to see that Stiles overreaches himself with this definition and distorts the role of the Missouri guerrillas in the Civil War.

The guerrillas' actions during the Civil War were merely undertaken to protect Western Missouri farmers and to disrupt Federal operations in any way they could in conjunction with the Confederate Army. Stiles totally distorts that real purpose in a crass attempt to defame the guerrillas and their cause.

Quantrill and his men were not terrorists but rather they were elected officers of a sanctioned (albeit deadly) military unit, fighting against invading forces who were waging an illegal and unconstitutional war in their homeland of western Missouri. When Quantrill and his guerrillas raided Lawrence, Kansas, on August 21, 1863, they were not attempting to effect political change by coercing or intimidating the people of Lawrence or the North, they were attempting to eliminate their deadly foes.

The 150-200 "men and boys" they killed during the raid (that is what they have been called in Northern biased histories) have been misnamed for over a century as noncombatants, when it is clear they were virtually all members of a well-armed local militia that through incompetence and poor judgment of their leaders were not armed during the raid because of poor planning and misdistribution of weapons to points unreachable to them in that dire emergency.  

No one should be shocked by this blatant attempt to rewrite history. The conspiracy to tarnish the reputation of Quantrill and his men began long before the last shot that ended his life was fired, and it continues till this very day. A writer, Patrick Brophy, has called it a continuation of the "culture wars," to some reminiscent of the Balkan wars of recent years.

William Gregg, Quantrill's adjutant during the war, wrote: "History after history has been written of Quantrill and his men, none of which can be characterized as true. And that which is not true, is not history." The same misinformation that Gregg was accustomed to concerning the guerrillas continues today with renewed vigor in many of the histories.

Instead of relying on data from Quantrill veterans like Gregg, today most authors continue to rely upon the false and vindictive account published in 1910 by a Kansas historian named William Elsey Connelley and by others using the technique of lying by omission, telling mostly the truth but eliminating all arguments that are contrary to their historical position---such as the attempt to portray the guerrillas as lowlife thugs rather than the sons and daughters of the elite class in Missouri; the attempt to gloss over the lawlessness and treason of Kansas abolitionists during the territorial period, which included an attempt by them to break John Brown out of jail in Charles Town, Virginia; and the refusal to talk about scalping of Missouri guerrillas by Union soldiers in 1863 and 1864; and atrocities committed by James Lane in 1861 near Morristown, Missouri.

The manipulative histories started with William Elsey Connelley's "Quantrill and the Border War" (1910) in which Connelley uncovered and obtained a collection of Quantrill information (which included parts of his physical remains) gathered by a childhood friend of Quantrill named William Scott. Connelley later published a book that portrayed Quantrill and his men as ruthless and psychopathic killers, preying upon the God-fearing and helpless Unionists from Kansas. Enjoy this image of William Connelley, dealer of stolen human body parts.

Much of the current histories of the Border War have this same "Yankee" bias inherent in them, although they now back off from total acceptance of Connelley's "vision" of Quantrill, although they accept it generally in spirit. An unbiased attempt to verify Connelley's research supports the belief that he had no qualms about utilizing undocumented third-hand information about Quantrill whenever it served his purpose.

Apparently he felt no pangs of remorse, either, when he later attempted to sell the remains of Quantrill to a private collector.   Below is an image of Connelley.                        

If one is looking for further evidence that the conspiracy to defame the Missouri guerrillas is still alive today, one need look no farther than the account by Stiles and others about these long-departed American citizens, who are still subjected to more discrimination than any other combatants that ever opposed this country? But to call them terrorists is the ultimate in this folly.

Another example of this continuing conspiracy to misreport the truth about the Border War is the continuing desecration of Quantrill's body. For decades parts of it were displayed in a Kansas museum; others parts were utilized in rituals held by a secret society in Ohio.

Even after the decision was made that it is no longer "politically correct" to display human bones---even those of a Confederate outlaw---the powers that be would not allow his bones to be buried in one location-a continuing desecration of his name and memory.

So at present, in a nasty state of affairs, the mortal remains of Colonel William Clarke Quantrill lie scattered across three states, while, at the same time, his hair is sold on E-Bay one strand at a time! In addition, while Quantrill's original grave site in Kentucky was slated to be marked some time back, the permission was revoked days before the ceremony was to take place. Thanks to Quantrillsguerrilla's.com the Colonel's original grave is finally marked.

In another example of inhuman treatment of the guerrillas, the Smith Cemetery, located in Jackson County Missouri, has not been marked either, although the ground is known to contain the remains of numerous Quantrill men. The current owner callously plowed the site under as if it were a bad crop of seed.Yet the State and Local authorities have refused to take legal action.

Moreover, the relatives of Frank James were prevented from displaying a monument paid for by the U.S. government to further mark his grave because it acknowledged his service as a Confederate Partisan.   

So why does all this matter? Why should anyone care about what occurred 140 years ago to what some historians refer to as "worthless rebels"? Perhaps another Ex-Confederate from Missouri named Samuel Langhorne Clemens said it best:  

"The teacher reminded us that Rome's liberties were not auctioned off in a day, but were bought slowly, gradually, furtively, little by little; first with a little corn and oil for the exceedingly poor and wretched, later with corn and oil for voters who were not quite so poor, later still with corn and oil for pretty much every man that had a vote to sell-exactly our own history over again."
(1) Ryan McMaken October 9, 2002  Copyright © 2002 LewRockwell.com.  © Patrick Marquis.quantrillsguerrillas."Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay and/or image" Below are images of Quantrills bones that were displayed in Kansas, and his skull which is purportedly now lies in the ground in Ohio. But since the Yankees lied before, how do we know for sure?                                                                                                                                   



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