Cowboy Biography William Clarke Quantrill Part 1

About the famous cowboy William Clarke Quantrill, history and biography including some of his crimes.


Name: WILLIAM CLARKE QUANTRILL (occasional alias, Charles or Charley Hart), born in Canal Dover, O., on July 31, 1837, and died on June 6, 1865, in Louisville, Ky.

Description: Hardly fulfilling the popular conception of the gunfighter, William Clarke Quantrill more closely resembled the schoolteacher he actually was before devoting all his energies to murder. Of slender build and delicate features, his studious appearance thoroughly belied his bloodlust. Quantrill was blue-eyed and had light-colored hair, and unlike the other members of his guerrilla band, he kept himself neat, well dressed, and clean-shaven. In fact, he was something of a dandy, wearing a fancily embroidered shirt and a soft black hat with a gold cord around it as he led nearly 450 killers to loot and almost eradicate the male population of Lawrence, Kans., in 1863. The only hint of Quantrill's inner homicidal character resided in his peculiar eyes. The upper lids were so heavy that they distorted the otherwise handsome face and helped create a truly menacing visage whenever Quantrill flew into one of his frequent rages.

Resume: Quantrill spent the first three fourths of his almost 28-year life in a relatively peaceful fashion. The son of a school principal, young William developed into a well-read schoolteacher, writing in a clear and legible hand and even turning out an occasional poem. But the lure of the West proved too enticing, and in 1857 Quantrill moved to Kansas, thirsting for great adventure. Discovering that the life of a Kansas farmer was precisely what he did not want, he joined an army provision train in 1858 and went to Utah. There in Mormon country, Quantrill first took the alias of Charley Hart, establishing a reputation as a gambler and lawbreaker in Fort Bridger and Salt Lake City. After returning to Kansas in 1859, the former schoolteacher went back to the classroom, but punctuated his academic activities with frequent thefts and assaults.

Then, to Quantrill's great good fortune, the Civil War erupted, providing a guise of legitimacy to his penchant for bloodletting and allowing him to collect other killers along the Kansas-Missouri border into a pro-Confederate guerrilla band. The Union army commander in Missouri declared Quantrill and his cohorts to be outlaws in 1862 and authorized their immediate execution upon capture. Undeterred, Quantrill continued to train his followers--some of whom, such as Cole Younger and Frank James, went on to establish criminal records that eclipsed their service with Quantrill--in the art of guerrilla warfare. Although his men defeated Union detachments with regularity, Quantrill's raiders preyed on both sides of the violent border. Horses stolen in Missouri could be marketed profitably in Kansas, while free blacks kidnapped in Kansas, while free blacks kidnapped in Kansas brought good prices as slaves in Missouri.

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