Kansas in the American Civil War
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American Civil War
|Territories and D.C.|
At the outbreak of war, Kansas was a newly-admitted state, which had formally rejected slavery, and would fight on the side of the Union, although it still harboured much pro-slavery sentiment. These divisions led to the Lawrence Massacre by Confederate “bushwhackers” under W.C. Quantrill in August 1863. Later the state witnessed the defeat of Confederate General Sterling Price by Union General Alfred Pleasonton at Mine Creek, the second-biggest cavalry action of the war.
Kansas territory had been admitted as a state of the Union in January 1861, just before the outbreak of war. Following the guerrilla activity between pro-slavery and anti-slavery groups, known as Bleeding Kansas, the vote had gone against slavery, so Kansas would fight with the North.
As the local military organizations had fallen into disuse, the state's government had no well-organized militia, no arms, accoutrements or supplies, nothing with which to meet the demands, except the united will of officials and citizens.
The first Kansas regiment was called on June 3, 1861, and the seventeenth, the last raised during the Civil War, July 28, 1864. The entire quota assigned to the Kansas was 16,654, and the number raised was 20,097, leaving a surplus of 3,443 to the credit of Kansas. About 1,000 Kansans joined Confederate forces, since a number of people from the nation's south had settled in Kansas. There are no statistics on those serving the Confederacy, since some joined guerrilla units. Statistics indicated that losses of Kansas regiments killed in battle and from disease are greater per thousand than those of any other State. This led to a 19th Century nickname for Kansans: the Spartan State.
The first action in Kansas was not between the rival armies; it was a guerrilla raid in August 1863 by pro-slavery “bushwhackers” led by W.C. Quantrill, who descended on the city of Lawrence, a centre of anti-slavery sentiment, murdering about 180 men and boys, and destroying buildings. As the raiders could be heard shouting “Remember Osceola!”, the attack was taken to be a reprisal for an earlier raid by anti-slavery “jayhawkers” on Osceola, Missouri. Some believed that it was also a response to the recent deaths of some of the raiders’ imprisoned womenfolk, when their jailhouse collapsed, perhaps by design. (Recent research shows that the collapse was almost certainly accidental.) The massacre outraged the Confederate government, which had granted recognition to Quantrill under the Partisan Ranger Act, but now withdrew support from irregular forces.
On October 25, 1864, a series of three battles occurred, the first two in Linn County, Kansas, with the final in Vernon County, Missouri. The first was the Battle of Marais des Cygnes (also called the "Battle of Trading Post"), the second, a cavalry battle, was the Battle of Mine Creek, a significant battle between mounted cavalry for Confederate forces and several brigades of Union cavalry that were pursuing General Price. They were between Major General Sterling Price, leading the Missouri expedition, against Union forces under Major General Alfred Pleasonton. Price, after going south from Kansas City, was initially met by Pleasonton at Marais des Cygnes. At the end of the day, the Confederate army as an effective fighting force was decimated and forced to withdraw into Arkansas.
- Harris, Charles F. "Catalyst for Terror: The Collapse of the Women's Prison In Kansas City", Missouri Historical Review, April 1995, pp. 302, 303
- Access documents, photographs, and other primary sources on Kansas Memory, the Kansas State Historical Society's digital portal
- Online Exhibit - Keep the Flag to the Front, Kansas Historical Society
- Cool Things - Civil War Battle Flags, Kansas Historical Society
- The Civil War in Kansas: A Bibliography, Kansas Historical Society