Sunday, August 21, 2011

No. 26: Brooklyn

1. Hundreds of men on horseback left the burning city, their torches held high in the air. They crossed the river at Blanton’s, continuing south along the Fort Scott Road. Yells from the rebels echoed in the quiet morning. No one was around as most of anyone living out here would’ve seen the flames in Lawrence and gone to their aid. The men set bales of hay on fire and burned all buildings they passed. The men were loud and raucous and they swiped their torches at the dry ground. As the men continued along the Fort Scott Road, every building, every outbuilding and every field was maliciously burned.

Their mission had been successful. Well planned. Luck had also been on their side. They were a mile from the Santa Fe Trail and only three miles to their next destination. William Quantrill, who had led the massacre, slowed up his men. An old man was lifting hay onto a cart and didn’t seem to notice the three hundred or so men on horseback that arrived on his farm.

Abraham Rothrock was an old man but he was tough and ornery. He had been a Dunkard minister for most of his life and was very active in the Washington Creek Church since coming to Kansas in 1858. All the men but Quantrill rode toward the house, hollering. Rothrock saw the men torching his house where his wife, Mary, was. Rothrock ran toward the house but was stopped by Quantrill who pointed his gun and shot Rothrock three times—once in the neck, once in the shoulder and once in the chin. Rothrock then fell into the cellar.

Quantrill and his men hooted in celebration and proceeded to burn Rothrock’s barn and other outbuildings and continued on their way to the Santa Fe Trail where they came to the small village of Brooklyn.

Brooklyn had been incorporated in 1858 as a small trail town between Palmyra and Willow Springs. It was about two days out from the trail’s beginning in Independence, Missouri. There was not much of a town: a general store, livery stable, an inn and about five or six families.

Ann Moore, from her porch, saw the smoke and a young boy—no more than fifteen--rushing through town. “What’s going on?” Ann asked.

“Bushwhackers, ma’am. They’ve burned Lawrence and their heading to Prairie City and Baldwin,” the boy said. Baldwin, or Baldwin City, was a new town on the Santa Fe that had been fortunate enough to start a university. Prairie City was co-founded by Jim Lane.

“You keep going to Prairie City, boy! We will warn the men here and meet you in Prairie City!” The boy kept on riding. Ann paused before rushing back inside the house. “Amelia! Amelia?”

Amelia Moore, Ann’s 18-year-old sister, sleepily came down the stairs. “What’s wrong, Ann?” Amelia noticed the look of horror on her sister’s face. “You’re as pale as a ghost!”

“We don’t have much time. Bushwhackers are headed toward Prairie City and Baldwin. They’ve already burned Lawrence.”

“What?” Amelia was in shock.

“Get on a horse and warn the men. They need to get down there quickly to help out!”

Amelia ran out the door to warn the men. The few men in town rode to Prairie City. The men were long gone and the remaining townspeople didn’t know what to do. They meandered around and made small talk with each other. Then, someone pointed north, toward the smoke that was from Lawrence eleven miles away. A large group of men riding horses, screaming and hollering, carrying guns and torches quickly approached.

The rebels tore through Brooklyn. Houses, wagons, hay, crops, businesses were all torched. Quantrill rode up to the store and tossed his torch in front of the door on the wooden boardwalk. The wood began to heat and turn black but after a few seconds, the torch went out.

Quantrill swore loudly then shouted. “Men! Burn this store to the ground!” A group of 30 or so men rode over and proceeded to hold their torches against the building. The wood heated and turned black but their torches also went out. “Damn it!” Quantrill exclaimed. He angrily grabbed another man’s torch and got off his horse, Old Charley. He kicked in the front door and found a barrel of liquor. He shot the barrel and let the alchoholic liquor pour onto the floor. Quantrill then dropped the torch in the liquid.

The alcohol erupted into flames and Quantrill smiled but soon the fire evaporated the alcohol and extinguished itself.

“What kind of Devil’s work…?” Quantrill whispered.

“Will! Will, we need to get going!” someone said from outside.

Quantrill angrily stormed out of the store but looked back, giving the store’s interior a dirty look. He got back on his horse and he and his men continued riding southeast toward Prairie City and Baldwin.

Near Prairie City, Union soldiers swarmed in, keeping the raiders from the two towns. The Union soldiers and Quantrill’s men fought to the county line but the Bushwhackers were still able to escape into Missouri.

Back at Brooklyn, the women and children cried among the smoldering ruins of their town. Only the store still stood and no one knew why. There was nowhere the women could go, all buildings in Brooklyn had been destroyed, horses and other animals had been shot or burned and the men were fighting to protect Prairie City and Baldwin.

The men returned to Brooklyn in the early afternoon. They were shocked at the destruction and saw that the destruction went north all the way to Lawrence and was at least a mile wide. The families began picking up what little possessions they had and prepared to move. Brooklyn was no more.

2. Quantrill met with a man named Ely Shadey at a saloon in Nevada, Missouri. Nevada was a decent sized town in Vernon County and one of the few not affected by General Order No. 11 ordered by Union General Thomas Ewing. It was also relatively close to the Kansas border and Fort Scott. It was only a couple days after the Lawrence massacre and the rebels were all heading down to Texas but Quantrill only had one thing on his mind right now.

“So did you find out the name of the store’s owner?” Quantrill asked.

“Yes. But why do you care? Unlike Lawrence, which is rebuilding, Brooklyn, or whatever it is called, is just a field now,” Shadey said.

“First we can’t find Jim Lane then we couldn’t burn down a simple store then we can’t even get within a mile of Prairie City…” Quantrill growled.

“So it’s a pride thing” Shadey asked. “Will, you were able to flatten a free state stronghold and escape with your whole regiment. How many of your men were killed during the raid?”


“One? God damn. If only everything the Confederacy did was as flawless this war’d be over!” Shadey slapped the table and guffawed.

“Just give me the name,” Quantrill said.

“His name is John Moore from Indiana. He was in the Army when you came through. I wasn’t able to get his recent whereabouts,” Shadey said. “Why is finding this guy so important?”

“I don’t really know yet but I’m going to find out,” Quantrill finished his whisky and left the saloon.

Quantrill and his men, which had grown since the successful burning of Lawrence, were heading south toward Fort Blair near Baxter Springs. A few weeks earlier, the Confederate army, backed by Rebels, launched an attack to recapture Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was a hard fought, seesaw battle with the Confederacy winning. Quantrill was on his way to help strike another blow for the South.

Fort Blair was established earlier in the year and consisted of some huts and half-completed earthworks. There were about a hundred soldiers from a couple of Kansas regiments stationed at the fort. The men were just sitting down for a noonday meal when almost four hundred raiders, led by Quantrill, came over the hill.

At that same moment, a wagon train, led by General James G. Blunt, who was moving his headquarters south to Fort Smith in Arkansas, believed he was receiving a warm welcome by the men at Fort Blair. The guerillas began firing at Blunt and his men, who scrambled to safety. The raiders killed most of Blunts’ men and Blunt quickly turned and ran away on his horse. The massacre didn’t stop. The rest of Blunts’ caravan were unarmed and unable to quickly escape. Musicians were brutally murdered and inside Fort Blair, most of the soldiers were dead or wounded.

Quantrill saw a man trying to crawl away on his elbows. Quantrill quickly rode his horse over to him, trampling and crushing the man’s legs.

The man screamed in pain and rolled over enough to look at Quantrill. “Who are you? What’s your name?”

“John,” the man breathed heavily and sucked air through his teeth. “John Moore.”

Quantrill’s eyes widened. “John Moore…from near Lawrence?” Quantrill had forgotten Brooklyn’s name.

“Yes. A town called Brooklyn. On the Santa Fe,” John couldn’t catch his breath.

“I tried to burn your little store. It wouldn’t light—even doused in alcohol! Why couldn’t I burn it!” Quantrill stared hard at John who was sweaty and white as a sheet.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” John coughed then winced in pain.

“Is it magic? A curse? Tell me you son of a bitch!” Quantrill snarled.

John coughed again. “Go to Hell,” John forced a laugh.

Quantrill pulled out his gun and shot John in the head. Quantrill called all of his men together. “Another victory for the Confederacy,” he announced. “And we even defeated Kansas’ most successful general!” he hollered, referring to Blunt.

Quantrill and his men rode further south into Texas for the upcoming winter months. Quantrill put the store in Brooklyn in the back of his mind but never truly forgotten.

3. Quantrill and his men spent the winter along Mineral Creek in Texas about fifteen miles northwest of Sherman. The men all got on each other’s nerves and a few left. One night a group of men, drunk, rode out to Sherman and proceeded to fire their guns and yell. They shot at church steeples and generally terrorized the Sherman folk. A hotel owner named Ben Christian rode out to Quantrill’s camp. Quantrill, along with George Todd and other men in the camp, rounded up the troublemakers and the next day sent them back to apologize and pay for damages.

As the winter wore on, patience grew thinner. Some said their good-byes and went off back to Missouri or joined the regular army. Quantrill was also becoming bored. He sent a letter to Missouri Governor Thomas Reynolds asking to be allowed to join any forward movements in Missouri. Reynolds wrote back that Quantrill’s brand of warfare was “played out”. After reading the letter, Quantrill had an odd suspicion that things were going to get worse.

The body of a Confederate major was found along the Red River. He had been shot and his watch and pocketbook were missing. His horse stood, tied to a tree, starving to death. It was revealed to Quantrill that four of his own men had killed the Major. Quantrill had the men arrested but sympathetic guards allowed them to escape.

“Men,” Quantrill began as he walked slowly in front of the men he had led for the last couple of years, “if any of you are guilty of robbing a man—any man—while in Texas under my command you had better step forward right now.”

No one moved.

Quantrill spoke louder. “If any of you have robbed a man while in Texas under my command, then acknowledge your guilt and apologize. If you’re sorry for it then you can remain in the command the same as ever.”

No one moved.

“If any one of you men are guilty of committing any depredations on the property of the citizens of Texas then I will not shelter you and I will see to it that you are punished to the fullest extent of the law!”

William “Bloody Bill” Anderson stepped forward. “I won’t belong to any such a damned outfit!” Anderson and about twenty other men rode out of camp toward Bonham. Quantrill was now left with only about a hundred men.

In early April 1864, Quantrill headed back north to Missouri. He and his men moved cautiously through the Missouri counties. They were originally planning to settle in Jackson County but found a couple cavalry units already searching for them so they rendezvoused in Lafayette County where Quantrill and Todd immediately got into a fight during a card game.

To Todd, he was just biding his time until he got an opportunity to usurp Quantrill’s position. Todd had been cheating during the card game and when Quantrill accused him of it, Todd drew his revolver.

“Call me a ‘cheater’ again, I dare you,” Todd hollered. “I’m not afraid of any man on this planet!”

“I thought you were scared of me,” Quantrill spoke gruffly but softly.

“And look at’cha now,” Todd growled. “Go on. Reach for yer guns—and I’ll fill you full of lead.”

Quantrill looked at Todd like a neglected puppy dog.

“Get out of here,” Todd threatened.

Quantrill rose from his chair and walked outside, saddled Old Charley and rode off with eight of his faithful men. Quantrill went to Bone Hill to pick up his wife, Kate King and moved to Howard County along with his men.

Quantrill remained in Howard County throughout the summer and fall of 1864. Quantrill had met Kate back in 1861 while Quantrill and his men were camped on her father’s land outside of Blue Springs. She was strongly attracted to him and they soon married. For most of their marriage she lived with him and his men on the road. They became separated shortly before the massacre at Lawrence.

Quantrill was preparing to leave. He had sent Kate to St. Louis to pass word along for a rendezvous. Kate had gotten back and was watching Quantrill gather his things. “Why are you going?” she asked.

“Lee’s going to surrender any day now,” Quantrill said and sighed. “If we surrender in Virgina with Lee, no one will notice us. If we surrender here in Missouri, we’ll be strung up on the nearest tree.”

“You don’t have to surrender,” Kate said. “The war could go on.”

“But for how long? General Price has been defeated and the South is losing,” Quantrill said, referring to Major General Sterling Price’s defeat near Pleasanton, Kansas against General Blunt. “It’s time to go.”

In mid-December 1864, Quantrill and only 33 men met in Lafayette County. They donned Yankee uniforms and rode to Tuscumbria, Missouri where a Federal militia was staying. Quantrill forced the Federal officer to have his men surrender and Quantrill’s men took the militia’s blankets, clothes, food, arms and ammunition. It was an unremarkable raid except that it was bloodless and Quantrill’s last in Missouri.

4. The men spent the night of January 1, 1865 ferrying themselves across the Mississippi River into Tennessee. They then turned north into Kentucky. The men happened upon a farmhouse, the six Yankees inside opened fire. A bullet struck Jim Little in the thigh. Quantrill ordered the house burned but the Yankees surrendered. Little was one of the early members of Quantrill’s band and, after lingering for several days, died of his wounds.

After getting deeper into Kentucky, Quantrill aligned himself with other guerilla groups. On January 29, Quantrill and his men entered Hutonville and began looking for horses. Their ruse was found out and they were run out of town. They rode to Harrodsburg where they stopped at farmhouses to get supper. Captain James H. Bridgewater found the house that twelve of Quantrill’s men were in. The Missourians burst out of the house hoping to break the circle. Four men were killed and the rest were captured. Quantrill had lost a third of his men.

Quantrill met Jerome Clarke and with Clark carried out several successful raids on Midway and New Market. At 2:00 A.M. on February 9, Captain Bridgewater attacked Quantrill’s camp, killing another four. Seven managed to escape on horseback and the rest fled into the woods. Quantrill then went into hiding in Spencer County, often staying in Taylorsville or other towns with many Southern sympathizers.

In early May, a bushwhacker, Jack Graham, was trying to reshoe Quantrill’s horse, Old Charley, who had been with Quantrill since the beginning. Old Charley suddenly jerked his leg and pulled a muscle.

“That means my work is done…” Quantrill said hauntingly.

James Wakefield owned a farm five miles south of Taylorsville. Quantrill began occasionally staying there in March. On the morning of May 10, Quantrill and his men turned down the lane that led to the Wakefield farm. At about the same time, Edwin Terrell, who had been effectively hired to find and/or kill Quantrill, and his scouts, came upon their horse tracks.

Most of the band had climbed into the hayloft to sleep while the others played cards and talked. Clark Hockensmith saw Terrell and his riders bearing down on them.

“Here they come!” he cried as the rifles began to go off.

Quantrill was unable to mount his new horse and as he tried climbing onto Dick Glasscock’s horse, it was shot in the hip and rendered useless. As Quantrill tried to mount Hockensmith’s horse, he was shot in the back, the bullet lodging against his spine, paralyzing him below the shoulders. One of Terrell’s scouts shot at Quantrill’s body and wound up shooting off his right index finger.

Interrogated by Terrell, Quantrill insisted he was Captain William Clarke of the 4th Missouri Confederate Cavalry. Terrell permitted “Clarke” to remain at the farmhouse and wait for death while he went back out in search for Quantrill.

After dark, some of his men came to visit him. “Frank,” Quantrill groaned, speaking to Frank James, brother to Jesse James. “I have run a long time, but they have got me at last.”

“It doesn’t have to be over Will,” Frank said. “We can take you to a rough and broken section of the country near Samuels Depot. The Yankees would never be able to find you.”

“No, I will die and it is no use,” Quantrill said.

“There’s other places we could take you and…” another of his men began but Quantrill interrupted.

“No! I promised I wouldn’t leave here. If I do then the house will be torched and Wakefield will be punished. Besides, I shall die soon and wish not to be dragged around.”

The next morning, Terrell had been told the real identity of this prisoner and returned to the Wakefield farm with a wagon. Terrell and his men loaded Quantrill onto the wagon and left. Progress was slow as Terrell didn’t want Quantrill to die en route. They arrived in Louisville the morning of May 13 and Quantrill was taken to the military prison’s infirmary.

Kate King, in St. Louis, was told by a priest that her husband was wounded in battle and not expected to live. Kate hopped the next train out to Louisville and arrived on June 3. She stayed by her husband’s side.

Early in the afternoon on June 6, Ely Shadey came into Quantrill’s room. Shadey chuckled at the once-powerful and feared man. He smiled at Kate. “May we kindly have the room, ma’am?” he asked.

Kate looked at Shadey then at Quantrill who nodded slightly. Kate stood up and left the room.

“I see you never found out the secret,” Shadey said in a booming voice.

“What are you talking about?” Quantrill strained.

“Remember? In Brooklyn when you tried to burn that store?”

Quantrill remained blank.

“After you raided Lawrence?” Shadey rolled his eyes.

“Oh!” Quantrill recalled. “Yes. No, I never discovered the secret. I even met John Moore and he didn’t tell me anything. Even with his life on the line,” Quantrill said.

Shadey pulled open his suit jacket and pulled a solid black pocket out of his pocket. “This,” Shadey held the rock in front of Quantrill’s face. “It’s called John Brown’s Rock. John Brown found it and kept it with him at all times. It’s said that this rock drove him insane. At Harpers Ferry, Brown gave the rock to someone else who managed to escape. Had John Brown kept it, he might still be alive. Anyway, the rock has made the rounds through different people, including John Moore, who gave it to someone else who I killed to get it,” Shadey revealed.

“That’s what I was looking for?” Quantrill asked. “And you knew about it?”

“Not at first but I did more researching. Followed John Moore’s steps before leaving with the army. Had you found this then you probably wouldn’t be lying there in that bed weaker than a newborn babe,” Shadey said.

“Can…can it heal me?” Quantrill asked.

“Probably,” Shadey tossed the rock into the air and caught it. “You let this rock get to you. You became distracted. That’s why you are in that bed. You could’ve done even better things than the Lawrence massacre. What have you done since then anyway? A bunch of piddly raids that really did nothing to help the South.”

“Give me that rock and I will show you what I can do!” Quantrill struggled to sit up.

“See you in Hell, Quantrill,” Shadey said then left the room. Kate came back in and rejoined her husband at his side.

“Who was that?” Kate asked.

Quantrill thought for a moment. Had this been Shadey’s plan all along? To distract himself during his other raids? Quantrill smiled big and looked at Kate, his eyes welled up. “He’s just a son of a bitch. Just an old son of a bitch.”