Re-enactors live-tweet Quantrill’s raid events
To sort through the social media chatter, follow the project’s curated Twitter list.
One hundred fifty years ago on Aug. 20, Lawrence residents gathered for a concert in the park. As they were greeting neighbors and enjoying music, William Quantrill announced to his followers in Missouri, “We remember! We ride!” and started his journey to Lawrence.
Last night, he made that same exclamation … on Twitter. Other historical figures are making their own statements regarding the start of Quantrill’s raid via social media.
“Getting ready to take our picnic down the hill,” said Annie Bell, the wife of the Douglas County Clerk, George Bell, just before 7 p.m.
A few minutes later, a Missourian tweeted.
“Nothing can stop us from our vengeance,” said John McCorkle, who was a border ruffian and scout for Quantrill.
Several dozen area residents signed up to “re-enact” Quantrill’s raid on Twitter using the hashtag #QR1863. Individuals have taken on the roles of both Lawrence residents and raiders, and are tweeting their actions as if they are happening in real time.
The project is meant to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the massacre and educate both locals and a larger audience on what was happening 150 years ago.
At about 6 a.m., the time that Quantrill’s raiders would arrive in Lawrence, the tweeting picked up pace. More than 30 characters from Missouri and Kansas were beginning to tell their stories on Twitter.
Lawrence residents and Twitter followers began to take note of the trending hashtag and tweets, some even making rogue Quantrill’s Raid reenactment accounts. By about 8 a.m. Christine Metz, the communications manager for the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, noticed it was no longer a community event for Lawrence – the hashtag was trending worldwide.
“People are excited,” Metz said. “They’re proud of their town. It’s a very quirky thing to do and Lawrence is known for being quirky. The people here love social media and history so it was a good fit.”
Although comical rogue tweeters are participating in the re-enactment, like a horse who claims his rider is mistreating him or a corn field helping to hide Jim Lane, the preparation and research to accurately portray the raid has taken months. The tweeters have been studying and learning about their characters the entire summer.
Dawn Shew has tweeted as Annie Bell. “It’s very real,” she said. “I can imagine some of the things that Annie would have gone through.”
In real life, Dawn Shew’s husband is the current county clerk, Jamie Shew, who also serves on the county’s emergency management team. He’s also tweeting as George Bell, who was one of the first to face the raiders and eventually was killed.
“It was easy to get into [George’s] mindset,” Jamie Shew said. He said he and Dawn had a discussion about what he would do if Quantrill’s raid happened today.
“I could see the argument,” he said. “We could really put ourselves in their position.”
Jamie Shew said his office is about a block away from where George Bell was killed. The Twitter re-enactment makes it connective, relatable and about the people, he said.
Abby Magariel, the Watkins Museum education and programming coordinator, plays Jetta Dix.
I coax and beg of two guerillas to not kill Mr. Dix. They agree, but the third says “No, I’m going to kill every damn one of them.” #QR1863 –Abby Magariel as Jetta Dix
“I knew Jetta had an interesting and hectic story,” Magariel said. “I wanted to treat Jetta with as much sensitivity as could be had on Twitter.” Dix’s husband was shot in front of her.
“It really shines a spotlight on this part of the country,” said Julie McPike, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area Project Coordinator. “This place is kind of the spark that lit the powder keg that began the Civil War.”
“I think it’s a new way to look at history,” Magariel said. Some events have been live-tweeted but haven’t been done this way, she said. “We can see it from the perspective of the individuals who lived it.”
The actors behind the Quantrill characters revealed themselves on Twitter at 3 p.m. today by either changing the photo of the character’s account to their own picture or by tweeting out who they are. At midnight, the names of those who died in the raid will be listed on Twitter as well, but that isn’t the end of the re-enactment. Many characters will continue to tweet for at least the next couple of days to tell more about the aftermath and the rebuilding of Lawrence.
“There’s more action to come so stay tuned,” McPike said.