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Friday, September 13, 2013

Three Graves for One Civil War Guerrilla Leader


William Quantrill’s name is synonymous with the Border Wars between Kansas and Missouri. He is best known as the Confederate leader of “Quantrill’s Raiders.”

Quantrill's Grave, Confederate Veterans
Home, Higginsville, MO
The son of a school superintendent in Ohio, he taught school. Acting upon his mother’s wish, he moved to Kansas and purchased land. When the Civil War started, Quantrill joined the Confederate army. He took part in the fierce fighting along the Kansas/Missouri border and throughout Missouri.

The Union defeated the Southern force in Missouri and Quantrill formed his own guerilla band. Cole Younger and Frank James joined him and together they exacted revenge on Lawrence, Kansas (John Brown’s headquarters). It turned into one of the bloodiest encounters in the state. Quantrill and his men killed, looted and burned their way through the town.

After four more years of raids, he died of wounds received when he was captured in Kentucky.

However, there’s a fascinating and strange tidbit of information. Quantrill left this world and was buried in a church cemetery (in Kentucky).

Twenty years later, his mother and Quantrill’s friend wanted his remains. His grave was exhumed and his friend took the skull. Sam, our guide at the Confederate Veteran’s Home Cemetery, said Quantrill’s skull became part of a fraternity hazing ritual for a number of years.

The friend stole all the grave’s contents and gave some of the bones to Quantrill’s mother to be buried in Ohio. Some of the bones ended up years later with the Kansas State Historical Society and now are buried in the Old Confederate Veterans’ Home in Higginsville, MO.

Quantrill died at twenty-seven with a reputation for revengeful violence and he can’t even rest in peace. His skull became a game and scattered bones fill three graves. A sad sort of justice.

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