quantrill-william-portrait

William C. Quantrill was a Confederate irregular whose band of raiders employed guerrilla tactics in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the Civil War to harass Union troops and terrorize Northern sympathizers. [Wikimedia Commons]

William Clarke Quantrill - Facts

July 31, 1837 - June 6, 1865

Key facts about William C. Quantrill, a Confederate irregular whose band of raiders employed guerrilla tactics in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the Civil War to harass Union troops and terrorize Northern sympathizers.

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Full Name:

  • William Clarke Quantrill

Birth Date:

  • July 31, 1837

Birth Location:

  • Canal Dover (now Dover), Ohio

Parents:

  • Thomas Henry and Caroline Cornelia (Clarke)

Education:

  • Canal Dover Union School

Occupation:

  • Schoolteacher
  • Gambler

Career Summary:

  • Leader of Quantrill’s Raiders
  • May have been commissioned as a captain in the Confederate Army

Spouse:

  • Sarah Katherine King (1862)

Place of Death:

  • Spencer County, Kentucky

Date of Death:

  • June 6, 1865

Place of Burial:

  • St. Mary’s Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Fourth Street Cemetery, Dover, Ohio
  • Old Confederate Veteran’s Home Cemetery, Higginsville, Missouri

Significance:

  • William Clarke Quantrill was the oldest of Thomas Henry and Caroline Cornelia (Clarke) Quantrill’s twelve children (eight of whom survived infancy).
  • Thomas Quantrill was a coppersmith who later became a schoolteacher and the first principal of the Canal Dover Union School.
  • William C. Quantrill attended his father’s school and graduated in 1853.
  • After Thomas Quantrill died in December 1854, William C. Quantrill took a position as a teacher at Union School to help support his family.
  • William C. Quantrill travelled west in 1855 seeking greater opportunities.
  • After holding various jobs in Mendota, Illinois, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, William C. Quantrill returned to Canal Dover in 1856 with little to show for his efforts.
  • In February 1857, William C. Quantrill relocated to Kansas.
  • In the spring of 1858, William C. Quantrill traveled to Utah, under the alias Charley Hart, as a teamster, or perhaps just as a hanger-on, with an army wagon train.
  • William C. Quantrill returned to Kansas in 1859 where he resumed teaching before becoming somewhat of a vagrant, sometimes living with the Delaware Indians on their reservation north of the Kansas River.
  • In 1859, William C. Quantrill fell in with a gang of border ruffians, adopting a life of crime, again under the alias of Charley Hart.
  • By 1861, William C. Quantrill was in jail under indictment in Lawrence, Kansas, for horse theft and other crimes. After being released on bail, Quantrill left the state on April 3, 1861, to avoid standing trial.
  • In 1861, William C. Quantrill travelled to Texas with a slaveholder named Mark Gill.
  • In 1861, William C. Quantrill lived with American Indians in the Cherokee Nation, where he perfected his guerrilla skills by adopting Indian warfare tactics.
  • When the Civil War erupted, William C. Quantrill enlisted and served as a private in Company A of the 1st Cherokee Regiment in the Confederate Army.
  • William C. Quantrill participated in the Confederate victories at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (August 10, 1861) and the First Battle of Lexington (September 12-20, 1861).
  • By December 1861, William C. Quantrill had become either disillusioned with General Sterling Price’s leadership or disenchanted with army life, prompting him to desert from the Confederate Army.
  • In 1862, William C. Quantrill began assembling Quantrill’s Raiders, a band of renegades that used guerilla tactics to ambush Yankee patrols and terrorize Northern sympathizers.
  • Quantrill’s Raiders included infamous figures such as William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson and the James and Younger brothers who led a notorious gang of outlaws after the war.
  • In 1862, William C. Quantrill may have married Sarah Katherine King.
  • On August 11, 1862, William C. Quantrill joined forces with Colonel J.T. Hughes’s regular Confederate soldiers to subdue a small Federal force at the First Battle of Independence, Missouri.
  • William C. Quantrill’s role in the Rebel victory at the First Battle of Independence may have led to him receiving an appointment as captain in the Confederate army, however the contention that Quantrill was ever a commissioned Confederate officer is still uncertain.
  • On September 7, 1862, William C. Quantrill’s force of roughly 140 men stormed Olathe, Kansas. While holding the citizenry captive, they proceeded to loot the town’s businesses and homes, after killing six men.
  • On October 17, 1862, after killing thirteen Union soldiers, Quantrill’s Raiders rode unmolested into Shawneetown, Kansas, where they murdered several citizens, pillaged and burned the community’s businesses and homes, and then rode out with seven prisoners who they later executed.
  • William C. Quantrill’s most notable raid occurred on August 21, 1863, at Lawrence, Kansas.
  • During the Lawrence Massacre, Quantrill’s Raiders burned nearly one-quarter of the buildings in Lawrence, Kansas (including all but two businesses), robbed the bank, and looted every home. Adding to the barbarity of their deeds, the Raiders murdered between 160 and 190 men and boys, many of whom were unarmed.
  • On October 6, 1863, Quantrill’s Raiders murdered about 80 men accompanying a wagon train led by Major General James G. Blunt near Baxter Springs, Kansas.
  • On March 28, 1864, Confederate authorities arrested William C. Quantrill in Texas for murdering a Confederate officer. Before he could be tried, Quantrill escaped into Indian Territory.
  • In late 1864, William C. Quantrill reassembled some of his raiders and reportedly hatched a plot to travel to Washington to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.
  • On May 10, 1865, a Federal irregular shot William C. Quantrill in the back as he tried to elude capture in Spencer County, Kentucky. A paralyzed William C. Quantrill died in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 6, 1865, at the age of twenty-seven.
  • Today, there are three gravesites that reputedly contain parts of William C. Quantrill’s remains: St. Mary’s Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky; the Fourth Street Cemetery, Dover, Ohio; and the Old Confederate Veteran’s Home Cemetery, Higginsville, Missouri.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title William Clarke Quantrill - Facts
  • Coverage July 31, 1837 - June 6, 1865
  • Author
  • Keywords William Clarke Quantrill
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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