Archive for Sunday, August 22, 1999

TRACING THE FOOTSTEPS OF HISTORY

August 22, 1999

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Participants in "Civil War on the Western Frontier" programs Saturday explored both the serious and fun sides of the Civil War era.

A group of three dozen men, women and children crowded around Steve Jansen Saturday morning, straining to hear the tales of William Quantrill's raid upon Lawrence 136 years ago.

Jansen, however, was competing with foes Quantrill didn't have to bother with on Aug. 21, 1863: construction machinery, trucks hauling cargo and stereos booming from cars passing by.

Jansen, director of the Watkins Community Museum of History, patiently waited for the noisy vehicles to pass and resumed the history tour, part of the "Civil War on the Western Frontier" program, which continues today.

Jansen said that although Kansas Jayhawkers, most notably Col. James Lane, aggressively maintained border rivalries over the slavery issue, Quantrill's raid was a shocking and unprecedented massacre of civilians and destruction of property up to that point -- Gen. William T. Sherman had yet to march to the sea.

The deaths of approximately 150 Lawrence residents during the raid, many of them "random acts of drunken individuals," might not seem catastrophic to 20th century sensibilities in light of modern warfare, but news of the Quantrill massacre reached around the globe.

Quantrill was only as strong as his followers, Jansen said.

"I'm not a believer in the great 'bad man theory' of history, or the 'good man theory' of history," he said.

The tour group looped around downtown Lawrence, heading back to the history museum after visiting the Eldridge Hotel, Seventh and Massachusetts, a focal point of the raid. It was there that Quantrill is said to have eaten breakfast the morning of the massacre, before destroying it.

If there was to be any resistance during the morning raid, Quantrill thought it would come from the hotel. As it turned out, resistance was almost nonexistent, and only one of Quantrill's men was killed.

Immediately following the two-hour walking tour, a group of children gathered at Watkins Park, adjacent to the museum in the 1000 block of Massachusetts. They listened to Christine Reinhard, a Lawrence woman who has been studying children's games of the 1800s for about 10 years.

"It started with Civil War re-enactments, but they focus on the military aspects," Reinhard said. "I decided to focus on the social history of the time that was left out."

Reinhard demonstrated how to roll a hoop, spin a top, toss a bean bag and play "graces," a game in which a hoop is caught and thrown with two wooden rods.

Reinhard made it clear that life for children of that era wasn't all fun and games, and that chores and school came first.

"I wouldn't like that," said Michael Penny, 9, stopping a game of shuttlecock and battle door, a precursor to badminton in which a cork ball is batted around.

"They're pretty neat games," said Jeremiah Johnson, 8.

The Civil War activities continue today with "Untold Stories of Quantrill's Raid" at 1:30 p.m. at Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass.; Civil War battle flags, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the museum; and "Douglas County: Birthplace of the Civil War," 3 p.m. at the museum.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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