by Edward E. Leslie ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1996
One of two action-packed works about the notorious border ruffian and Confederate guerrilla to be published this season (see Duane Schultz's Quantrill's War: The Life and Times of William Clarke Quantrill, p. 1134). Little has survived in Quantrill's hand, writes freelance historian Leslie (Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls, 1988): a few letters home, a couple of commemorative verses, an eight-paragraph military report. It is thus not easy to determine what motivated the man who terrorized the abolitionists of Kansas before and during the Civil War. Born in Ohio to a Unionist family who opposed slavery, he seems to have been converted to the Southern cause while working as a freighter in Utah Territory during the Mormon War, and he embraced the cause with ferocious energy. A part-time cattle rustler when the Civil War broke out, Quantrill, writes Leslie, seems to have had a streak of cruelty--a wartime associate recalls that he once shot a pig just to make it squeal--that served him well in his campaign of terror. Many thousands of deaths can be attributed to his guerrilla command, including the 150 civilians slain during his infamous 1863 raid on Lawrence, Kan. ""I would cover the armies of the Confederacy all over with blood,"" he wrote to a superior. ""I would invade. I would reward audacity. I would exterminate. . . . I would win the independence of my people or I would find them graves."" Quantrill rode into infamy, dying at the age of 27 near the war's end; his notoriety was assured both because of his own depredations and because among his soldiers were Frank and Jesse James and the Cole brothers, who were to become famous outlaws. Leslie does a remarkably thorough job of telling Quantrills bloody story, and especially of relating the grisly fate of his remains, which the author traces as they traveled over the next century from one burial site to another, with an intermediate stop at an Ohio fraternity house. Highly recommended for Civil War buffs and students of frontier history.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996
Page Count: 447
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996
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