William Clarke Quantrill was known as a leader of a pro Confederate band of guerrillas during the Civil War. He was born in Ohio in 1837. By the age of sixteen, he had become employed as a school teacher in Ohio. He was from a large family the father of which was reportedly abusive, but who died when Quantrill was still a young adult. Quantrill left home when he was still under twenty and moved to Illinois where he was working in a rail yard. He was involved in an altercation in which a man was killed, with Quantrill claiming self defense, but Quantrill was not charged with the killing due to a lack of evidence. During the rest of the 1850s, Quantrill drifted between jobs and locations winding up in the state of Kansas by the end of the decade. One of his jobs was to capture runaway slaves for bounties, which he was likely doing at the outset of the Civil War. He formed a pro Confederate band of raiders having learned guerrilla tactics in other outfits. His band included Frank and Jesse James, brothers Jim, Bob and Cole Younger, Archie Clement, William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson and other individuals.
By 1863, Quantrill’s Raiders, also called bushwhackers, had bedevilled civilians and Union forces alike. At the same time, a somewhat similar Union group known as jayhawkers had done the same to the Confederate side. Both groups operated primarily in and around the buffer states between the north and the south. Each side had committed ruthless acts, including the killing of civilians (armed and unarmed) along with the looting and plundering of property. Well known was a Quantrill slaughter of about two hundred individuals in Lawrence, Kansas, supposedly in retaliation for one on the Union side in Missouri. Both Union and Confederate forces would often cease or greatly reduce activities in the winter months. In the winter of 1863, Quantrill’s forces, then numbering 300 to 400, were passing the winter in North Texas, making their camp north of Sherman. This came to the attention of Brig. General Henry McCulloch, brother of the late Ben McCulloch. Henry was opposed to the Quantrill tactics but was ordered to let them be. As well as we can determine, the Raiders were not a regular Confederate outfit, but were tacitly tolerated and/or approved by Confederate authorities.
However, the Raiders quickly wore out whatever welcome they might have ever had in Texas. On December 31, 1863, there was a melee at a Sherman dance hall that set off later hostilities involving Quantrill’s men. In the following months, there were a number of crimes, including the murders of residents who were branded as Unionists and/or Confederate deserters, that were attributed to the Raider group. The Raider group was also undergoing its own internal split with some individuals following Anderson rather than Quantrill. Their local activities did not cease, and Raiders and a local magistrate were suspected of being involved in the lynching of Collin County Sheriff James L. Read, Collin County Judge James McReynolds and Sheriff Read’s brother in law James Holcomb in May, 1864. The three killings were apparently in retaliation for the deaths of two Raiders, the Calhoun brothers, who were killed in a gunfight with a posse trying to apprehend them for the torture and murder of a Collin County farmer and for the beating of the farmer’s wife. The local magistrate was tried and acquitted of the lynching, but was later murdered, presumably by adult children of the slain McReynolds and Read families, which seemed to end this particular chain of violence.
Henry McCulloch again petitioned his superiors to pursue the Raiders as criminals and had Quantrill arrested when he was spotted in Bonham, Texas. However, Quantrill escaped and left the area with his forces, now greatly diminished in number. Quantrill continued his guerilla activities until after the official end of the war in early April. Quantrill died much as he had lived, as a result of a bullet wound suffered in a Union ambush in May, 1865. He was twenty-seven.
“Bloody Bill” Anderson was killed in the fall of 1864 in a Missouri battle with Union soldiers led by Lt. Col. Samuel P. Cox who had been assigned to pursue and kill Anderson. Cox and his Union forces engaged Anderson’s and in the battle, Anderson was fatally wounded.
After the war, Cole Younger and his associates had been part of the James Gang and also part of a gang that included Clement. Cole, along with his brothers Jim and Bob were captured after an attempted bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota in 1876. The gang was pursued and captured after a gun battle with a large posse. The brothers pleaded guilty to various crimes and were sentenced to prison in Minnesota. Cole claimed to have only been involved in one crime, the attempted bank robbery in Northfield. Bob Younger died of tuberculosis while still in the Stillwater, Minnesota prison in the fall of 1889. Jim and Cole were paroled in 1901. Jim Younger was thought to have committed suicide in a hotel a year later. Cole professed to have become a Christian, lived peacefully thereafter and died in his early 70s in Missouri.
For about fifteen years after the end of the Civil War, brothers Frank and Jesse James roamed as outlaws. Some of the deeds attributed to them were the robbery in 1866 of a the Commercial Bank in Liberty, Missouri, a bank robbery in Russellville, Kentucky in 1868, a bank robbery in Gallatin, Missouri in 1868, a bank robbery in 1872 in Columbia, Kentucky, a bank robbery in 1873 in Corydon, Iowa, causing a train wreck and robbery of a Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific train near Council Bluffs, Iowa, robbery of the box office at the fairgrounds in Kansas City, Missouri. There were numerous fatalities connected to the above robberies.
Jesse James was killed in 1882 reportedly by an associate named Robert Ford who is thought to have done it for the posted $50,000 reward. Frank James surrendered to authorities later that year. He was held in jail, tried and acquitted of at least two robberies of which he was accused of having been a participant. Afterward, Frank had a number of jobs and lived peacefully in various places including Sherman and Dallas, Texas, the latter being where he worked as a shoe salesman at a Sanger Brothers store before moving back to Missouri. It is unknown how Frank may have come to the attention of the Sanger brothers, but at least Isaac and brother Lehman Sanger had been Confederate soldiers. After retiring and falling into ill health for a while, Frank James died in his early 70s on his farm in Missouri.
Jesse and Frank had other relatives in Texas including a sister named Susan Lavenia James Parmer. During the Civil War, she was believed to have been jailed at the age of fourteen along with her mother for failing to reveal the whereabouts of Quantrill’s Raiders and her brothers. She married a man named Allen Parmer, also thought to have formerly been a Raider, after the war. Her brothers Frank and Jesse are rumored to have hid out with her family in Archer City from time to time, though all we have found are vague references to this. The couple eventually moved to Archer City, Texas and later to Wichita Falls, Texas. She was living in Wichita Falls at the time of her death in 1889. Her husband Allen Parmer died in the late 1920s.
(Paul Mosley narrates this post here.)
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