Archive for Sunday, May 21, 2006

Today marks 150th anniversary of 1st raid on city - not Quantrill’s

May 21, 2006


Most Lawrencians are familiar with William Quantrill's murderous raid on abolitionist Lawrence in 1863.

Not so well-known is that infamous raid was the second - not the first - sacking of Lawrence.

"The first sacking was on May 21, 1856 - 150 years ago," said Lawrence historian Karl Gridley.

The sesquicentennial coincides with graduation weekend and will not be the subject of a ceremony. "I don't know that it should be commemorated," Gridley said. "But it ought to be acknowledged."

The attack was led by Sheriff Sam Jones and militia leader David Rice Atchison, both pro-slavery Missourians.

"A lot of things were going on," Gridley said. "Some warrants for Free State men hadn't been carried out and someone had taken a shot at Jones when he was camped outside of town. He was sure it was someone from Lawrence."

It wasn't the Missourians' finest hour.

"Supposedly, Atchison had been drinking and had trouble aiming the cannon," Gridley said.

Although William Quantrill's raid on Lawrence in 1863 had more devastating results, pro-slavery forces attacked the city on May 21, 1856, resulting in the destruction of the Free State Hotel, pictured above.

Although William Quantrill's raid on Lawrence in 1863 had more devastating results, pro-slavery forces attacked the city on May 21, 1856, resulting in the destruction of the Free State Hotel, pictured above.

The errant cannonballs, he said, sailed over the then-Free State Hotel and were later found in what's now Old West Lawrence.

"After that, they decided to burn it down instead," Gridley said.

The raid resulted in one casualty: "A brick fell from the Free State Hotel and hit one of the Missourians in the head," Gridley explained.

The Free State Hotel later became the Eldrige Hotel, 701 Mass.

Joined by the Palmetto Guards, a pro-slavery militia from South Carolina, the ruffians also trashed the town's two newspapers: Kansas Free State and Herald of Freedom.

"They smashed the presses and dumped the type in the Kansas River," Gridley said.

The sacking marked the first time the Missourians had tried to muzzle the abolitionist press and enforce pro-slavery laws.

It also set the stage for the bloody, John Brown-led Pottawatomie Massacre on May 24-25, 1856.

Brown and six followers were racing toward Lawrence when they learned the sacking was complete. Seeking revenge, they brutally executed five pro-slavery settlers after pulling them from their cabins along Pottawatomie Creek near Lane, Kan.

The Pottawatomie Massacre, in turn, led to the Battle of Black Jack, which will be commemorated June 2-3 at the battle site three miles east of Baldwin.

Ten weeks later, Free State forces attacked Fort Titus, a pro-slavery fort south of Lecompton.

"Some of the Free State had gone to the river and collected the type and made it into cannon balls," Gridley said. "When they fired the cannon at Fort Titus, they shouted 'Here comes another edition of the Herald of Freedom.'"

The Herald of Freedom later became the Journal-World.


Fatty_McButterpants 12 years ago

Well, this place just gets more and more intriguing...

erhoover 12 years ago

Well I see that the reported territorial history of lawrence again falls short of giving all the facts of the 1856 legal action by the territorial government against the community of lawrence. Samuel L Jones was a KANSAS buisnessman and Sheriff of Douglas county KT. He was from Virginia spent time in Missouri , helped found the community of Lecompton , settled there owned and ran a saw mill and built several buildings one of which is now a State Historic Site . As sherriff he was shot in the back by candlelight while inside a military officers tent when in lawrence trying to serve warrents . Thus a short time later bringing about the need for the territorial government to send in it's federal marshal , sheriff ( Sam Jones had now recovered well enought to go along ) and kansas territorial militia back up and also a posse made up of missourians . Warrents were served arrests made .No casualtys or injurys were reported during this action .Lawrence was in "Insurrection" as far as the Federal government and Territorial government were concered and needed to be dealt with . There Was property damage and looting but the individual citizen was not a target . The Free Sate Hotel was also a target because of the sales of Jayhawked ( stolen ) goods from missouri were held at it's location . The people of todays Lawrence must remember that there were two sides to the story and both had the bad and good included in them , history should be reported as how it happened not as how we would have liked it to have happened . I am not being critical of the author but just filling in the missing parts of the story .

Calliope877 12 years ago

Rapper thugs from Topeka sacking Lawrence in 1856 -- that would be a good comedy skit.:)

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