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This area along the Kansas border was mostly open prairie and sparsely populated. However, it lay near to the Military Road running from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas to Ft. Smith, Arkansas and thus saw lots of troop movements. It was also the area through which Quantrill’s 400 raiders moved across the border into Kansas the night of August 20, 1863 on their way to burn Lawrence, KS. They also retreated back into the county and disappeared into the brush here.
February 1862 The tragic story of Sarah Meador still carries a strong emotional impact. Jesse and Sarah Meadow lived near Morristown. In February, 1862, Jayhawkers rode onto the farm and pointed a gun at Jesse’s chest and another at his head. With the children watching, Sarah jumped between the men and the revolvers and received the ball that would have ended her husband’s life. With the children crying as their mother lay wounded, the soldiers left. Sarah survived.
Map by Jonathan Curth, courtesy of Tom Rafiner
August 20, 1863
William C. Quantrill left Johnson County on August 19 with some 400 guerrillas to ride to Lawrence, Kansas in retaliation for years of the Kansans raiding into Missouri. They arrived on the evening of Aug. 20 at the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Grand River in the northwest part of Cass County just four miles east of the Kansas border. The farm belonged to Nathan Harrelson, the largest landowner in Cass County. The men rested about eight hours and were joined by about 50 men which swelled the ranks to about 450.
In late afternoon, the company set off for Lawrence and rode 14 hours through the night. They rode four abreast through the hot august night. As the sun rose the next morning they arrived on the outskirts of Lawrence undetected and rode down Massachusetts Street ready for revenge.
Four hours later, they left the town burning and had murdered between 143 and 216 men and boys and left hundreds of widows and orphans. As they retreated back to Cass Cunty, Union troops pursued them through the heat of the day. Both sides rested from exhaustion that evening near Paola. On the morning of August 22, the ragged band rode back into Missouri just south of where they entered and dispersed into the brush of Cass County.
October 27, 1864 The defeated Confederate Army of Gen. Sterling Price retreated south from The Battle of Westport along the Military Road which skirted the western border of this area. The cavalry of General Jo Shelby provided protection for the retreating Confederates all the way to Mine Creek.
Exceptional sites for in-depth information
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area | www.freedomsfrontier.org
Missouri Kansas Conflict: Civil War on the Western Border | www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org
Missouri / Kansas Border War Network | www.moksbwn.org
Civil War in Missouri | www.mocivilwar.org
Kansas State Historical Society | www.kshs.org
Books: Rafiner, Tom. Caught Between Three Fires. 2010, ExLibris http://www.casscountyorderno11.com/about-tom-rafiner.html