Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence isn't easily forgotten. On Monday, however, it was remembered for an entirely different reason.
"We're studying guerrilla war tactics of the Civil War period," said Jay Jackson, an amateur historian of the era. "One of the best examples is right here in Lawrence."
Nearly 50 faculty members from Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College - a military school for army officers about a decade into their career - traveled here Monday to learn about the Civil War raid that left about 200 dead and most of the city in ashes. Traveling to locations throughout town linked to scenes of the attack, the military leaders alternatively listened to historians lecture and participated in discussions about what they described as a tragic, albeit misunderstood occurrence.
As Jackson contended, the attack on Lawrence wasn't an isolated event, but rather one that spawned from a series of attacks in the other direction.
"It was tit for tat. The Kansas people had come to Missouri and burnt and killed, and the Missourians were now coming to Kansas to do the same thing," he said.
But beyond exposing the flip side of the Quantrill coin, faculty members said understanding the past is crucial to managing contemporary U.S. military endeavors.
"Looking at what occurred on the border between Kansas and Missouri during the Civil War has great relevance to what we're doing today in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Col. William Raymond, director for the Center for Army Tactics at the college.
"The terrorists or the guerrilla fighters, the insurgents (in the Middle East) - whatever you want to call them - appear out of nowhere, do damage and then run," Jackson said. "It's hard to deal with that with a standard military force, so we're studying this in history, hoping that we learn something and that we get some reflection on what we're dealing with in modern times."
Raymond said the knowledge gleaned from the event does not come in the form of adopted strategy or a tidy history-repeats-itself lesson. Instead, he said, the exercise is intended to "develop leaders to be able to adapt to changing situations," such as those in the Middle East.
In addition, he said, the tour provokes questions.
"How do you win the hearts and minds of the people? Brute force is one way. ... It might work in the short term, but in the long term, it has the opposite effect of what you're trying to do," Raymond said.
In the case of Quantrill's Raid, Raymond's words serve as a reminder that there are two sides to everything.
"There's many ways to tell a story," he said. "How do you decide to tell a story?"
More about Quantrill's Raid
- 6News video: Ft. Leavenworth officers in town studying Quantrill's Raid
- Quantrill's legacy differs on each side of border (08-21-05)
- History buffs shown slice of life on the Civil War front (08-21-05)
- Raid letters finally see print (08-06-05)
- Eyewitness reports of Quantrill's Raid (.pdf)
- Civil War on the Western Frontier