The Act of “No Quarter” was first enacted by the Union

Quantrill is often given credit for enacting the use of “No Quarter” during the Civil War.  No Quarter was a term used for taking no prisoners. This is one of the many ways that many revisionist have used to destort the true history of Quantrill and his partisans. But the following article correctly gives credit to Union General Halleck for the act of “No Quarter” against Southerners.

From the Something about Everything Military website…

Halleck declared all guerrillas outlaws:

As in other border states the Civil War fragmented Missourians into Unionists, Secessionists, and a large number of people who simply wanted to be left alone. The pro-Confederate governor plotted secession, but quick action by the Unionists forestalled him. The Secessionist forces under Major General Sterling Price retreated to the Arkansas border, linked up with Ben McCulloch’s Confederate army, then launched a counteroffensive. On August 10 Price and McCulloch defeated the Federals at Wilson’s Creek, after which Price swung northward and captured Lexington on the Missouri River. However, the advance of a superior Union army compelled him to fall back again to Arkansas. Not until three years later would he again seriously challenge Union domination of Missouri.

Meanwhile guerrilla war had begun, and it would continue until it reached a scale and ferocity unequalled anywhere else. In the southeast corner of the state Colonel M. Jeff Thompson, “The Swamp Fox of the Confederacy,” so annoyed the Federals with his raids and ambuscades that they threatened to execute his men when captured – whereupon he announced that should this happen, any Yankee falling into his hands would be “hanged, drawn, and quartered”! North of the Missouri River bands acting on Price’s orders tried to halt rail traffic by firing on trains, destroying culverts, burning bridges, and ripping up tracks. During the fall and winter they demolished over 100 miles of the North Missouri Railroad, and on September 3 some of them so weakened the Platte River Bridge that it collapsed beneath a Hannibal & St. Joseph train, killing twenty and injuring sixty passengers.

But the most violent conditions existed along the western border. Here guerrilla fighting had raged since the 1850’s, as virtual armies of Missouri “Border Ruffians” repeatedly invaded “Bleeding Kansas” and Kansas “Jayhawkers” raided into Missouri. With the outbreak of full-fledged civil war the Jayhawkers swarmed across the border behind such leaders as Charles Jennison, Dan Anthony, Marshall Cleveland, and the “Grim Chieftain” Jim Lane. There, in the name of suppressing rebellion, they stole horses and cattle, plundered and burned farms, sacked entire towns, liberated hundreds of slaves, and in general “played hell.”

These incursions caused the younger men of west Missouri, particularly around Kansas City, to form bands, which fought the Jayhawkers, attacked Federal troops, and terrorized Unionists. They also made retaliatory raids into Kansas, burning Humboldt, sacking Mound City, and gutting Potosi.

Efforts by Union troops and militia, who numbered 10,000 in north Missouri alone, to suppress the bushwhackers proved futile. They would strike, wrote a Northern officer, then scatter to secret hideaways or else resume their normal occupations, so that the pursuing soldiers “found only men quietly working in the field or sitting in their office.” Finally, in exasperation, on December 22 Major General Henry W. Halleck, then the departmental commander, declared all guerrillas “outlaws” who were to be “immediately shot” whenever captured.

Halleck’s order remained in effect in Missouri until the war ended. As will be noted, other generals, Southern as well as Northern, followed the same course. It was a natural reaction on the part of regular soldiers, who always have regarded guerrilla warfare as illegitimate. Also, as Halleck pointed out, centuries of military practice sanctioned the death penalty for partisans.

Nevertheless, by outlawing guerrillas Halleck raised the black flag. Their response was to do the same. Henceforth in Missouri it would be “war to the knife, and the knife to the hilt.” On March 7, 1862 forty Missouri bushwhackers made an unusually brutal raid on the village of Aubry, Kansas. Not only did they steal and burn – they gunned down five helpless civilians. Their leader had a strange, sinister name: Quantrill.

William Clarke Quantrill was born, curiously enough for a Southern guerrilla chieftain, in the Northern state of Ohio in 1837. The son of a school principal, he secured a good education by the standard of the day and while still in his teens taught school in Illinois, Indiana, and his hometown of Canal Dover. At the age of 20 he migrated to Kansas where he made a halfhearted attempt at farming and got into trouble with his neighbors for stealing. Next he accompanied an army expedition to Utah as a teamster, prospected for gold in Colorado, and returned to Kansas for another stint of school teaching. In 1860, under the alias of Charley Hart, he joined a gang of Jayhawkers at Lawrence. When the Kansans outlawed him he switched over to the Missourians, gaining their confidence by betraying three Jayhawker associates into a deadly trap.

Following the outbreak of the war he served with Price’s army, then when it retreated to Arkansas he left it and went to the Blue Springs area of Jackson County, east of Kansas City. Late in 1861 he joined a small local band, which had been formed to guard against Jayhawkers. He soon became its leader. A good shot and skilled rider, he was also crafty, courageous, and cool in moments of crisis. Physically he was somewhat above medium height, slender, and had a rather mild looking face. Only his cold blue eyes, half-covered by drooping lids, bespoke the killer.

During the early months of 1862 Quantrill’s gang was increasingly active in Jackson County, ambushing Union scouts, waylaying mail carriers, holding up stagecoaches, driving Unionists from their homes, and skirmishing with Federal militia. All the while his band grew steadily in size and reputation, adding to its ranks among others a stalwart 18-year-old farmer named Coleman Younger.

After the Aubry raid and another on Liberty, Missouri, the Federals made an all-out effort to destroy “the notorious Quantrill.” Three times within one month they managed to corner his band, but each time it fought its way free. These narrow escapes caused the bushwhackers to become more wary and clever. As a rule of they operated in small groups, coming together for a major enterprise, then scattering into the countryside, which they knew intimately and where friends and relatives provided shelter, food, fresh horses, and timely warning in case of pursuit.

They also developed highly effective “hit and run” tactics based on the horse and revolver. Lying in ambush beside a road along which a Union patrol approached, they would gallop suddenly out of the brush screaming and firing their Colt six-shooters, of which they carried anywhere from two to a dozen. The Federals, usually armed with single-shot muskets or carbines, simply were no match for them in such fighting.

At first Quantrill generally spared prisoners other than Jayhawkers. But when he learned of General Halleck’s order outlawing guerrillas he adopted a “no quarter” policy. The majority of his followers were young farm boys who “took to the bush” out of Southern sympathies, a desire for vengeance against Missouri Unionists and Kansas raiders, and a yearning for adventure. But as time went by many of them, hunted like animals, degenerated into savage beasts driven by a lust for plunder and blood.

In the early summer of 1862 Major General Thomas C. Hindman, Confederate commander in Arkansas, sent into Missouri Joseph Porter, J. A. Poindexter, John T. Hughes, Gideon W. Thompson, and Upton Hayes. All bore commissions as colonels of partisan rangers, all were prominent Missourians, and all had missions to gather recruits, attack Federal posts and communication lines, and, if possible, foment a mass uprising which would prepare the way for Hindman to invade the state and reverse the tide of war in the West in favor of the South.

By July partisan activity so alarmed Brigadier General John M. Schofield, Union commander in Missouri, that he ordered every able-bodied man in the state to enlist in the militia “for the purpose of exterminating the guerrillas.” The immediate effect of this policy was to strengthen the partisans, as hundreds of Pro-Southern Missourians joined them rather than fight them. However it achieved Schofield’s main object of mobilizing Missouri’s Unionists. Heavily reinforced militia combined with regular forces to disperse the large bodies of irregulars under Porter and Poindexter, killing the former and capturing the latter. By September they had re-established Federal control over north Missouri.

Meanwhile Hayes, Thompson, and Hughes, with about 400 men, moved into west Missouri where they linked up with Quantrill and captured the Union garrison at Independence on August 11. Four days later Thompson, acting on authority from Hindman, officially mustered Quantrill’s band into the Confederate Army, at the same time commissioning Quantrill a captain of partisan rangers.

The next day, August 16, Hayes and Thompson, who had been joined by a thousand recruits under Colonels Vard Cockrell and John T. Coffee, defeated an 800 man Union force in a bitter battle at Lone Jack in which some of Quantrill’s men participated. However, they suffered heavy losses and nearly exhausted their ammunition. Consequently they were unable to exploit their victories, and when a large Kansas army pressed them they retreated back to Arkansas. Thus Hyndman’s campaign of large-scale partisan warfare shook but did not break the Union hold on Missouri, and in December his army was routed at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

Quantrill alone remained to challenge Yankee domination along the border. In September and October he thrice raided Kansas towns, but with the advent of cold weather, which stripped the bushes and trees of their concealing leaves, he assembled his men and headed south to Arkansas where they temporarily joined Colonel Jo Shelby’s regiment, an outfit also made up of west Missouri boys.

Soon afterward Quantrill traveled to Richmond where he solicited a commission as colonel of partisan rangers. Probably he did not get it, although henceforth he claimed to be a colonel and many of his followers believed he was one. In any case he had risen fast and high during 1862 – and the climax, the bloody climax, was yet to come.

The Union commander at Lexington, Missouri reported early in May 1863, “Quantrill is here.” He was right. With the budding of the sheltering foliage of spring, the bushwhackers left Arkansas and filtered back into west Missouri, where they at once resumed their ambushes and raids. First Dick Yeager, one of Quantrill’s sub-chieftains, rampaged 130 miles westward into Kansas. Then Quantrill himself waylaid a militia patrol at Independence and sacked Shawneetown, Kansas. And on June 16 his main lieutenant, fearless but brutal George Todd, routed 150 Kansas cavalry outside of Westport, Missouri.

Frightened Kansans clamored for protection against guerrilla forays, and a correspondent of the Kansas City Journal of Commercereported that Unionists in west Missouri “are very discouraged, as it is impossible for them to raise a crop this season. They dare not show their faces outside of our military lines. . . . It is a fact beyond doubt that … Quantrill & Co. do rule in this section of the state.”

The commander of the District of the Border was Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr., brother-in-law of General William T. Sherman. Concluding that unless his 2,500 troops were tripled he could never suppress the guerrillas by purely military means, Ewing decided to strike at the very roots of their power-the support given them by the civilian population. Hence on August 14, after receiving permission from General Schofield, he issued Order No. 10, which directed the arrest and deportation from Missouri of all men, and women “not heads of families,” who willfully aided bushwhackers.

Even before this order the Federals had arrested a number of wives, sisters, and other female relatives of prominent guerrillas, and imprisoned them in a dilapidated building in Kansas City. On August 13 the structure collapsed. Five of the women were killed, another crippled for life.

Three days prior to this tragedy Quantrill held a meeting of bushwhacker chieftains. There he proposed raiding Lawrence, Kansas. A town of 3,000 forty miles from the Missouri border, Lawrence was the citadel of Kansas abolitionism and the headquarters of the Red Legs, a gang of Jayhawkers so-named because of the red leather leggings they wore. Led by George S. Hoyt, a crony of Jennison, they made frequent raids into Missouri, killing and plundering, then sold their loot at public auctions in Lawrence.

After twenty-four hours of “spirited discussion,” the other guerrilla leaders agreed to hit Lawrence. Although it would be risky they could, as Quantrill pointed out, “get more revenge and more money there than anywhere else” – words which revealed the primary motivations of the bushwhackers. News of Order No. 10 and of the collapse of the women’s prison in Kansas City removed any lingering hesitation.


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