Who was Turner anyway?

Who was Turner anyway?

Click on this image to find out who Turner was.

Field Musicians Wanted!

A Turner Bugler, 2004

Click on this image to learn about opportunities as a bugler, fifer or drummer with the Turner Brigade.

The Tragedy of Lawrence.


September 1863

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, September 1, 1863.



Thrilling Details of the Massacre

[A Private Letter from a Citizen of Lawrence.]

LAWRENCE, August 23, 1863.

DEAR BROTHER: You have doubtless heard before this will reach you, of the dreadful calamity that has befallen Lawrence and vicinity, by the sacking and burning of the town, and other indiscriminate slaughter of its citizens on Friday, the 21st instant, by Quantril[l] and his band of incarnate demons. The record will make a page in the history of America, alike humiliating to every American, who has a spark of manhood left within him, and disgracing, insulting, and outraging to common humanity. Such a record would degrade the wildest savage tribe of our Western plains, and yet these beings, animals, (for you cannot call them men) are said to be “erring brethren,” whose rights have been invaded, and whose institutions have been trampled upon.

What rights has a murderer, an assassin, a highwayman, but the right to be shot whenever and wherever found. The issue is forced upon us, the people of Kansas. These bushwhackers will kill us, or we must kill them. They have proclaimed this policy for some time, and now they have practically and fully adopted it; and by the blessing of God, the issue shall be met by us, as men and patriots, firmly, quickly, and I hope courageously.

Language fails me to depict the scenes enacted on last Friday. May I never behold the like again. But I must give you some idea of the raid and its dire results.

About sunrise, or a little before, on the 21st inst., four men forcibly entered the house of our Rev. Mr. Snyder, living about a mile southeast of Lawrence, and pierced him through and through with balls from their revolvers, while lying in bed by the side of his wife. At the same time, a body of about three hundred well mounted beings in the shape of men, armed to the teeth, dashed into town and spread themselves instantly over the whole business part of the place, shooting down every man who dared show himself.

In this dash two small camps of recruits, on Massachusetts Street (one of white, and the other colored) were surrounded, and the poor defenseless fellows, without a gun in camp, and begging most piteously for their lives, were pierced through and through with bullets, and all but four of the two unfilled companies left mangled corpses on the ground. One of the poor fellows thus barbarously murdered for daring to become a Union soldier, was a nephew of mine, the sight of whose bleeding, mangled body I shall never forget.

The armory was cut off from the citizens, pickets stationed around the town, and no chance whatever of concentrating even twenty men with arms. The people were completely paralyzed by this sudden and audacious dash; indeed the most of them were still in their beds when the work of murder commenced. The banks were robbed, safes broken open, stores ransacked, the best of everything taken, and then the buildings fired. Every man that was encountered was met by them with, “Your money or your life,” and, with few exceptions, the poor victim would be shot dead, after handing over his first answering what questions they chose to put to him.

In several instances they ordered men to get water for them and wait upon them in various ways, pledging themselves, if they would do so, their lives should be spared, and as soon as they had done with them, would turn around and shoot them down like mad dogs. One little child they shot dead because it cried. There were those with them who evidently were well acquainted with the town, as the places and persons of active and prominent Union men were made the special marks of vengeance.

General Lane’s fine residence was among the first, and he himself had a narrow escape. The editors of the several papers were objects of especial vengeance, and two of them were caught and murdered. I shall not attempt to give you a list of the precious lives taken, nor shall I attempt to make an estimate of the property destroyed. This will be done through the papers more correctly then I can do it. I believe, however, that half of our business men were either shot down or burnt alive in their houses; and out of the fine blocks of stores of every description, only two solitary buildings remain, and they were sacked. The rest is a mass of blackened ruins, under which lies, I fear, many a charred body, as many were shot down while attempting to escape from the burning buildings. I fear the dead will foot up nearly or quite two hundred. Nearly every house was sacked, and the best ones fired; but owing to the very stillness of the air at the time, the flames were extinguished in many of the houses, as soon as the rebels would leave, and they had so large a programme before them, they could not repeat any of their performance. The work of murder, arson and robbery lasted about two hours and a half, in which time they had sent over one hundred innocent men to the eternal world – deprived a large number of families of food, raiment, house and home, and destroyed about two millions dollars’ worth of property. They then took up their line of march due south, detailing squads of men on either side of the road to burn every house and murder every man. Family after family would slip out into their cornfields to watch their houses burned up by these invaders, without being able to offer the least resistance and woe be to any man who had the hardihood to remain at his house and offer remonstrance.

I live but two miles south of Lawrence, and three men were shot between Lawrence and my place for daring to remain in sight – all of them quiet peaceable men, and two of them too old to be called upon to do military duty. And now comes the practical application to my own case. A squad of six men are sent from the main body to visit my house. With guns cocked, and eyes glaring more ferociously than a tiger’s they dash up to the buildings, apply the match to a large stack of Hungarian, then to the outbuildings, the barn and sheds, and while these are rolling up their volumes of smoke and flames, the house is visited, trunks burst open, drawers and shelves ransacked, all valuables that could be crammed into pockets, or strapped on their horses, taken, and the rest enveloped in flames.

By the time the flames begin to [illegible], the next house south of mine is rolling up dense volumes of smoke, and soon the next, and next and next, and now they visit the house of an old grey-headed Dunkard, who, alas, thought that his age and religion would protect him, but the infuriated demons thirsted for blood, shot him down, regardless of the poor old man’s cries and entreaties to spare his life. The track, by fire and sword, of these murderous villains, was made through the valleys, and over the hills as far as the eye could reach.

In a little longer than it had taken me to write this, everything inflammable was consumed – houses, furniture, bedding, clothing, books, provisions, outbuildings – all, all, utterly destroyed. The work of eight years hard toil gone in as many minutes, and another family thrown out of house and shelter.

I cannot refrain from giving you an instance or two of the savage barbarity practiced by these demons. They brought Mr. Trask to the door of his house and told him if he would give up his money they would not shoot him, but as soon as he had given it up he was instantly shot, he then tried to escape by running, but they followed and shot him dead.

Dr. Griswold was in his house when they attacked him. His wife ran and put her arms around him, and begged most piteously for his life, when one of them passed his arm holding a revolver, around her, and shot the doctor through the heart.

Mr. Fitch they shot in his house, and his wife, while running to his rescue was dragged away, the house fired, and for Mr. Fitch, burned up, it may be, alive.

A gunsmith, by the name of Palmer, and his son, were burnt up in their shop before dying from their wounds.

Mr. Allison, the firm Duncan & Allison, crawled out from under the burning ruins, and they threw him back in again into the ruins.

But the heart sickens. I can write no more. Oh, God! who shall avenge?

Your brother, S. H.