\Many causes united in embittering the people on both sides of the border between Missouri and Kansas.
Those Missourians who were for slavery wanted Kansas admitted as a slave state, and sought to accomplish it by the most strenuous efforts. Abolitionists on the other hand determined that Kansas should be free and one of the plans for inviting immigration from the Eastern Northern states where slavery was in disrepute, was the organization of an Immigrant Aid Society, in which many of the leading men were interested. Neither the earnestness of their purpose nor the enthusiasm of their fight for liberty is for me to question now.
But many of those who came to Kansas under the auspices of this society were undesirable neighbors, looked at from any standpoint. Their ideas on property rights were very hazy, in many cases. Some of them were let out of Eastern prisons to live down a “past” in a new country. They looked upon a slave owner as legitimate prey, and later when lines became more closely drawn a secessionist was fit game, whether he had owned slaves or not.
These new neighbors ran off with the horses and negroes of Missouri people without compunctions of conscience and some Missourians grew to have similarly lax notions about the property rights of Kansans. These raiders on both sides, if interfered with, would kill, and ultimately they developed into what was known during the war as “Freebooters,” who, when they found a stable of horses or anything easily transportable, would take it whether the owner be abolitionist or secessionist in sympathy.
It was a robbery and murder by one of these bands of Kansas Jayhawkers, that gave to the Civil war Quantrell, the Chief of the Guerrillas.
A boy of 20, William Clarke Quantrell, had joined his brother in Kansas in 1855 and they were on their way to California overland when a band of Jayhawkers in command of Capt. Pickens, as was afterwards learned, raided their camp near the Cottonwood river; killed the older boy, left the younger one for dead, and carried off their valuables.
But under the care of friendly Indians, Charles Quantrell lived.
Changing his name to Charley Hart, he sought the Jayhawkers, joined Pickens’ company, and confided in no one.
Quantrell and three others were sent out to meet an “underground railroad” train of negroes from Missouri. One of the party did not come back.
Between October, 1857, and March, 1858, Pickens’ company lost 13 men. Promotion was rapid. Charley “Hart” was made a lieutenant.
No one had recognized in him the boy who had been left for dead two summers before, else Capt. Pickens had been more careful in his confidences. One night he told the young lieutenant the story of a raid on an emigrant camp on the Cottonwood river; how the dead man had been left no shroud; the wounded one no blanket; how the mules were sold and the proceeds gambled for.
But Lieut. “Hart’s” mask revealed nothing.
Three days later Pickens and two of his friends were found dead on Bull Creek.
Col. Jim Lane’s orderly boasted of the Cottonwood affair in his cups at a banquet one night.
The orderly was found dead soon after.
Quantrell told a friend that of the 32 who were concerned in the killing of his brother, only two remained alive, and they had moved to California.
The fight at Carthage in July 1861, found Quantrell in Capt. Stewart’s company of cavalry. I was there as a private in the state guard, fighting under Price. Then came Gen. Lyon’s fatal charge at Wilson’s creek, and Gen. Price’s march on Lexington to dislodge Col. Mulligan and his command.
Here Quantrell came into the public eye for the first time. His red shirt stood out in the first rank in every advance; he was one of the last when the men fell back.
After Lexington, Quantrell went with the command as far as the Osage river, and then, with the consent of his officers, came up the Kansas line again to settle some old scores with the Jayhawkers.