Wednesday, August 28, 2013

#1: #QR1863 Finale

Last week, I participated in a commemoration of Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence, Kansas. The main feature of the commemoration was regular people assuming identities of people involved in the Raid and tweeting as them using the hashtag #QR1863. People portrayed ranged from regular townspeople of Lawrence to riders with Quantrill to important political and military figures to Native Americans and even a horse. The project went off without a hitch and was a huge hit even among people who were initially hesitant to portray the Raid in this way. I was very proud that I was able to contribute something to this and that the lives of these people, either perpetrator or victim, will be remembered in this way for years to come. You can read the tweets here although the main tweets focusing on the Raid, before, during and after, will be saved on Storify which I will link to on my Twitter when it becomes available.

I played the character of Cosma Torrienta "C.T." Colman who was only a lad of 18 when Quantrill rode through town. C.T. and his family moved to Lawrence from Massachusetts in 1854 and claimed a parcel of land west of Lawrence in the Kanwaka area. C.T.'s father, Ezekiel was a staunch abolitionist especially after his neighbor, David Buffam, was murdered while working on his farm. Ezekiel's house was even a stop on the Underground Railroad. C.T. volunteered for the 14th Kansas Cavalry on June 1, 1863 and was stationed in Lawrence near 9th and New Hampshire Streets. The Cavalry was unarmed because it was decided that all guns be keep in the armory so all of them would be readily accessible as it was thought there would be plenty of time to run and get a gun before an attack would happen. Quantrill used an element of surprise by arriving in Lawrence before sunrise and not attacking until he and his men were inside the city.

It was C.T.'s week to awake early for mess so he could see and hear the shots being fired and attempted to rouse his fellow volunteers who tried to run for their lives. C.T. personally saw 18 of his regiment killed out of 22. He spent about an hour hiding in a house with several other people before finally being robbed and forced out into the street by a raider setting the house on fire. Luckily, by the time C.T. was sent outside, the raiders were nearing the end of their raid but C.T. still saw at least four more people murdered in front of him and one suffocate trying to save the mayor.

C.T. married Elizabeth Sowash in February of 1867 and built a house on the southeast quarter of his family's land before moving to Osage County, Kansas and then to Oklahoma when the Cherokee Strip opened in 1893. C.T. often returned to Lawrence to visit family and talk about the Raid and was even featured in the 1913 commemoration where he wrote about his memories of the Raid. In 1915, C.T. retired and spent most of his time in Long Beach, California until his failing health caused him to move back to Oklahoma with his daughter in 1928. C.T. passed away December 5, 1931 and is buried in Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Some interesting facts I learned about C.T.:
  • C.T.'s brother Charles Jackson was a lieutenant in the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers when Quantrill attacked. Charles, along with several other men, chased Quantrill out of town to the south toward Paola and ultimately back into Missouri but they never got their revenge. Charles would be killed in action during the Battle of Poison Springs in 1864.
  • C.T.'s commanding officer, Lt. Leroy Beam was in Leavenworth acquiring weapons for his command. Lt. Beam, later Major Beam, would always feel guilty about not being in Lawrence to lead his men. Maj. Beam would later move to Richland, Kansas near the Douglas-Shawnee County line. Beam would pass away in 1901 and the ruins of his stone house still stand.
  • C.T. would meet Cole Younger, a rider with Quantrill, in Oklahoma. C.T. and Cole would talk about the raid never divulging incriminating evidence like who Cole actually killed or who killed fellow raider Larkin Skaggs. After meeting C.T., Cole would remark that he was glad now that C.T. wasn't killed.
  • C.T. and Elizabeth had two children, Rose and Mary. Descendants of the Colman family still live in the Stull and Kanwaka areas of Douglas County.