QUANTRILL'S WAR by Duane Schultz


The Life and Times of William Clarke Quantrill: 1837-1865
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 A vivid account of the life and times of a Confederate guerrilla. The second life of Quantrill to appear this season (the other being Edward E. Leslie's The Devil Knows How to Ride, p. TKTK), Schultz's is distinguished by the author's determination to show that Quantrill, the bloody ruffian who savaged the Kansas frontier, took part in the Civil War to suit his own agenda. ``He was a cold-blooded killer,'' writes Schultz (Over the Earth I Come, 1992, etc.), ``gunning down Union soldiers and civilians, showing no mercy or remorse . . . waging his personal war under the protection of the Confederate flag. It was a war against the world, driven by hatred and a desire to avenge himself against everyone he imagined had maligned him.'' Schultz, however, does not plunge deeply into psychobiography, apart from noting that as a youth Quantrill seemed to show a marked, ingenious cruelty toward animals. Instead, the author unfolds a shoot-'em-up narrative long on action and short on speculative analysis, one of the virtues of which is to show that some of the men Quantrill hated most (including Missouri's senator Jim Lane, who championed the Union only because it offered more lucrative possibilities and seemed likeliest to win) were no prizes themselves. Schultz is especially good on examining the internal divisions within Quantrill's mixed group of soldiers and on the power struggles to which these divisions led, especially toward the end of the war, when the guerrillas began one by one to abandon their leader, some because ``they were appalled and ashamed at what they had done at Lawrence, gunning down unarmed men and boys, terrorizing women and children, looting and destroying homes,'' others simply because they knew that defeat lay near. Schultz extends his catalog of richly detailed, well-written histories with this life of Quantrill, who emerges less as a psychopath than as a soldier bent on bringing total destruction to his enemy. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14710-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996


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