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Sidney Creek and Quantrell's Raiders: History from Two Perspectives

By Melinda Cohenour

    In 1994, my cousin Dianne Honstein ordered materials to assist her in researching our shared family history, particularly as it had to do with the Civil War. One of the published works she reviewed was entitled “Capsule History of Quantrell’s Missouri Cavalry” written by John F. Walters. (This Capsule History follows her letter below) Upon receipt she was dismayed by what she read. Actually, she tells the story best. Thus, with her permission, I shall transcribe her letter to Mr. Walters in its entirety:

    (Written from Ft. Morgan, Colorado, on 21 January 1994 by Dianne Honstein)

Dear Mr. Walter (sic),

    Today I received your “Capsule History of Quantrell’s Missouri Cavalry”. Thank you for your prompt reply. As I can see, the roster that would be of greatest interest to me should be included in an “Official History”, which I would like to order.

    It is a fact that the winners write the history books. I noted that your data came “by examining Federal sources only.” I really had not anticipated this obvious bias in what should have been an objective history. Please hear me out, as I can see that you are rightly proud of your knowledge, and I do not wish to offend you.

    I was born and raised in LA, with no knowledge of my father’s ancestry. I had a vague assurance growing up that in the Civil War the North was right and just, and the South was bad, and therefore, they lost. In about 1984, when I was 38, my Dad challenged my sister and me to find out something of his history. What he knew of it he never told us, though he had lived with his grandmother Emma Reynolds. She remembered many things from the 1860’s, including seeing Lincoln ride through town on horseback when she was a child. (The same Lincoln who conducted opinion polls on slavery before he announced a stand.) I know that she told him family remembrances, but even after we showed him extensive, documented findings back to the 1500’s, he did not tell us what he knew. The amazing fact I learned from his not sharing his knowledge of his history with us is that one hundred and thirty years later, the prejudice against the South and the shame of losing lingers on.

    Suddenly I had a Confederate history. I decided I needed to do some research and see what kind of people my people had been.

    They were Lees, Youngers, Purcells, Reynolds, Creeks, Daltons, and Estes’s. They were legislators, governors, farmers, and businessmen. They had a history in this country from the North Eastern shore of the Chesapeake in the 1600’s, where court was even held in their ancestor’s home. Letters written by, and documents signed by, family members are today in our government’s archives. Their Grandfather Joshua Younger fought in the Revolution and went with Lewis and Clarke. He had a Kentucky land grant signed by George Washington. Their father fought beside Daniel Boon. (sic) They were of the wealthiest families in Missouri, having bred, raised, trained and raced the finest horses in the country. This yielded also a wealth of Southern principles and social graciousness. They were of well educated and historically prominent ancestry. They were Southern gentlemen.

    So what happened? Because of their social prominence, they got a great deal of media attention, of which the Union version survived, and the Confederate view suffocated.

    The Jayhawkers, or Redlegs, were vicious and unprincipled. They were the first to raid along the Kansas-Missouri border. Quantrill, a teacher, was traveling with his brother from Maryland to California. The young men were camped for the night at Cottonwood, KS, when a group of Jayhawkers attacked them and murdered Quantrill’s brother, and severely wounded him. They stole everything and left Quantrill to slowly die next to his brother in the woods. Three days later, an Indian found Quantrill, buried his brother, took him to his home, and cared for him. After a six month recovery, Quantrill took a teaching position in a local school, and paid the Indian for his care. He then went to Lawrence.

    The unit that had attacked Quantrill and murdered his brother was there, a part of the regiment under Col. Jim Lane. This was about in 1857 – 1858. Quantrill joined this Union group as Charles Hart, a scout. For approximately three years he sought out and somehow assured the death of all but two of the men who had murdered his brother. This done, he left the Lane regiment. I’m enclosing a couple of pages from the book Quantrell and His Guerilla Band.

    The Creeks, Youngers, and Daltons were cousins. This was their “home turf” that the Jayhawkers were raiding. Quantrill was a commissioned officer in the area by this time, and they joined him to create a Confederate Cavalry unit. In their battles, they were proud, even vain, of their courtesy to women, and of their consideration of the old men. They did not ‘murder and rape’, but fought an invading army, and bands of raiders, in order to protect their homes, families and friends. In what I have read, the Jayhawkers were cruel and merciless from the beginning, molesting and threatening the women, and frequently hanging the old men. Retaliation was in order.

    The Federal Union troops burned them out of their homes; confiscated their land, imprisoned their mothers and sisters, murdered their fathers by ambush, and disenfranchised them, as well as anyone who gave them shelter or aid. They could no longer even support themselves. The Federal government had taken all that they had. In turn, they took it back. They weren’t robbing stores or homes. They weren’t highwaymen. They robbed Federal banks, and trains carrying Federal monies, retrieving that which was ‘stolen’ from them.

    It was WAR, for Pete’s sake, and even back then, this was a media event. I can understand the slant of the press at that time, but you would think that after all this time and in our age of liberal social justifications the labeling and the retelling of these stories would have become, at the least, more objective. “Terrorized the region”? “Carrying on”? “Frequent murders”? “Unauthorized raids”? “Deserted his unit”? “Of the same type as their leader”?

    You might see where this bias could be considered offensive, and affect sales of your reports to those with ancestral connections to the Confederacy.

    But, as a surgical nurse, I think I can pare down the ‘halo-words’, the adjectives which totally deny the ideals, the gentleness, the honor, the bravery and the devastation experienced and passed down by my great-great Grandfather Sidney Washington Creek, and gather from your text the information I am looking for. My analytical training will allow me to do this, but my DNA has compelled me to take this last hour-and-a-half to express my thoughts to you.

    History is wonderful, isn’t it? It’s fascinating, especially when you have personal ties to the past. We do share a common interest. I do hope I haven’t offended you, and that when possible you might consider reporting your histories from a broader source, or give a thought to a more objective perspective. But I am glad and appreciative to find someone like you who has taken the time and great effort to compile our history so it is accessible, not lost or buried. I can’t imagine the research and indexing you have done. I hope to get through my recent find, a first edition of The Lost Cause: a New History of the War of the Confederates, Edward Pollard, 1866. It’s hard to get through, and is not indexed. But I will, I will. I do admire the work you are doing.

    Enclosed please find my check for $37.50 for an “Official History” of Quantrells Missouri Cavalry.

    Thank you for your time.

    Dianne Creek Honstein

Transcript of letter written 21 Jan 1994, by Dianne Honstein To John F. Walters in reprisal for his published work entitled “Quantrell’s Missouri Cavalry.”
Submitted by Melinda Cohenour with permission

Here is the info Diane Creek Honstein referenced as copied for clarity of reading from the PDF he sent her.


   Without a doubt the most notorious band of men to see service during the Civil War was the group known as Quantrell's Missouri Cavalry. The unit terroized large regions of Missouri and along the Kansas-Missouri border for a great part of the War, carrying on - along with more strictly military type operations and duties - frequent robberies, murders, and unauthorized raids.

   The unit, sometimes designated as a regiment but, in actuallity only a battalion, fought under the Confederate flag for the early part of its career. Later, bowever, when its activities grew so far out of bounds, this protection offered was withdrawn by Confederate authorities and the unit served in a capacity not much above a group of outlaws.

   William Clarke Quantrell, the unit's organizer and commanding officer, had seen a great deal of service during the Kansas Troubles of the late 1850's. When the War broke out he served in a small cavalry company, taking part in the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, in late summer of 1861. When this company disbanded Quantrell served briefly as a private in a regular Missouri mounted regiment but soon deserted and returned to the Blue Springs region of Missouri. There, possibly because of a raid conducted by Kansas Jayhawkers on the home of a friend, Quantrell decided to organize a unit to serve behind Federal lines.

   Sometime in late October, 1861, be was commissioned a Captain in the Confederate Army. His band at this time numbered only about fifty followers. No official records exist to show that he was ever officially promoted over the rank of Captain but he later often styled himself Major or Colonel. By the time his band committed its most infamous act, the sack of Lawrence, Kansas in August, 1863, the size of the group had risen to more than four hundred and fifty men.

   Included among these were men like "Bloody" Bill Anderson, Arch Clements, and George Todd, all of whom would break with Quantrell in the following months and lead bands of their own, each almost equally notorious. Frank and Jesse James, Bob and Cole Younger, and others who would, following the War, become infamous in their own rights as bank or train robbers and killers, served with Quantrell. But, because so many members of the group were of the same type as their leader, dissension and dissatisfaction were frequent in the group and, by the end of the war, when Quantrell had crossed the Mississippi River heading east with a plan to kidnap or kill President Abraham Lincoln, fewer than thirty men remained with him. Although the unit served side by side by regular Confederate forces, even sometimes after it was no longer considered part of the Confederate Army, no records have been found to indicate that it was ever assigned to any specific higher command.

   By examining Federal sources only, it would appear that the unit took part in hundreds of Skirmishes, raids, etc. during the War. So great was the fear of the band that large numbers of events were laid at the doings of Quantrell 's hand. While it is true that the group frequently served in small detachments and saw service over a fairly large geographic area, many engagements Federal sources claim to have been fought against Quantrell were actually attributable to other similar guerrilla organizations.

   A careful examination of both official and unofficial records show that Ouantrell' s Missouri Cavalry participated in more than (missing words) various type engagements. These are identified below. Numbers after the events locate them on the map following this history.

Skirmish, Little Sante Fe, Mo.Nov. 21, 1861
   Expedition to Blue Springs, Mo. (1)Jan. 29 - Feb. 3, 1862
Skirmish, Independence, Mo. (2)Feb. 18, 1862
Skirmish, Independence, Ho. (2)Feb. 22, 1862
Skirmish near Aubrey, Kan. (3) March 12, 1862
Skirmish, Little Sante Fe , (detachment)March 22, 1862
Skirmish, Post Oak Creek, Mo (4 ) (detachment )March 22, 1862
Skirmish, Independence , Mo. (2) (detachment )March 22, 1862
Skirmish, Gouge ' s Mill, Mo. March 26, 1862
Skirmish, Pink Hill, Mo. (detachment )March 31, l862
Skirmish, Little Sni, Mo. (detacnment )April 1, 1862
Skirmish, Little Blue River, Mo. (5)April 12, 1862
Skirmish, Santa Fe Road, Mo.April 14, 1862
Skirmish, Independence, Mo. (2)May 16, 1862
    Operations about Miami (6 ) and Waverly (7), Mo. and
SkirmishesMay 25 - 28, 1862
Skirmish, Little Blue, Jackson County, Mo. (5)June 2, 1862
Skirmish near Sedalia, Mo. (8)June 5, 1862
Skirmish, Eminence, Mo. (9)June 17, 1862
Skirmish, Raytown, Mo. (10)June 23, 1862
Skirmish, Pleasant Hill, Mo. (11)July 8, 1862
Skirmish, Lot of Peach Farm on Sugar Creek near Wadesburg , Mo. (?)July 9, 1862
Skirmish , Clinton, Mo. (12 )July 9, 1862
Skirmishes, Search Big Creek Bluff near Pleasant Hill, Mo. (11)July 11, 1862
Skirmish , lake water near Columbus, Mo (13)July 23, 1862
Action, Independence, Mo. (2)Aug. 11, 1862
    Operations against the Expedition to Hickory Grove, Mo.(14)Aug. 17 - 27' 1862
Skirmish, Hickory Grove, Mo. (14)Aug. 23, 1862.
Skirmish, Coon Creek near Lamar, Mo. (15)Aug. 24, 1862
Skirmish, Lamar, Mo. (15)Aug. 24, 1862
   Raid, Olathe, Kan. (16)Sept. 6, 1862
Skirmish, Liberty (17 ) and Sibley's Landing (18), Mo.Oct. 6, 1862
   Raid, Shawnee, Kan. (19)Oct. 17, 1862
    Operations in Jackson County, Mo. (20) (detachment)Nov. 1 - 5, 1862
Skirmish, Harrisonville, Cass County, Mo. (21) (detachment)Nov. 3, 1862
Skirmish, Lamar, Mo. (16) (detachment)Nov. 5, 1862
   Operations against the Expedition from Fort Scott, Kan.(22)Nov. 6 - 11, 1862
Skirmish, Cato, Kan. Nov. 8, 1862
   Engagement, Cane Hill, Boston Mountains, Boonsboro, Mo. (23) (detachment)Nov. 28, 1862
Skirmish, Independence, Mo. (2)Feb. 3, 1863
Skirmish, Independence, Mo. (2)Feb. 8, 1863
Skirmish near Aubrey, Kan. (3)March 12, 1863
Skirmish, Blue Springs (1) near Independence (2), Mo.March 22, 1863
Skirmish, Independence, Mo. (2)April 23, 1863
   Operations about Lexington, Mo. (24) (detachment)May 4, 1863
Skirmish, Big Creek near Pleasant Hill, Mo. (11)May 15, 1863
Skirmish, Richfield, Clay County, Mo. (25) (detachment)May 19, 1863
Skirmish, Subley, Mo. (18)June 23, 1863
Skirmish. Hudson's Ford, Neosho River, I. T. June 30, 1863
Skirmish, Lawrence, Kan. (26 ) (detachment )July 27, 1863
Skirmish, Saline County, Mo. (27) (detachment)July 31 , 1863
Skirmish, Taylor's Farm, Little Blue, Mo. (5)Aug. 1, 1863
Skirmish, Jack's Fork, Mo. (detachment)Aug. 14, 1863
Skirmish near Sherwood, Mo . (detachment)Aug. 14, 1863
   Massacre, Lawrence, Kan. (26)Aug. 21, 1863
Skirmish, Brooklyn, Kan.Aug. 21, 1863
Skirmish, Paoli, Kan. (28 )Aug. 21, 1863
   Quantrell's Raid into Kansas Aug. 21 - 28, 1863
Skirmish, Big Creek near Pleasant Hill, Mo. (11 ) (detachment)Aug. 22, 1863
Skirmish, Independence, Mo. (2)Aug. 25, 1863
Skirmishes near Hopewell, Mo. ( detachment )Aug. 25 - 26, 1863
    Operations against the Scout from Coldwater Grove to Pleasant Hill (11 ) and Big Creek, Mo . and SkirmishesSept. 4 - 7' 1863
Skirmish near Maysville, Ark . (29 ) (detachment )Sept. 5, 1863
Skirmish, Jackson County, Mo. (20) (detachment)Sept. 15, 1863
Skirmish, near Widow Wheeler's, Mo.Oct. 4, 1863
Action, Baxter Springs, Kan. (30)Oct. 6, 1863
Skirmish, Fort Blair, Waldron, Ark. (31) (detachment)Oct. 6, 1863
Skirmish, Choctaw Nation, I. T. (32) (detachment )Oct. 7, 1863
Skirmish near Man's Creek, Mo. (detachment)Oct. 14, 1863
Affair, Greenton Valley near Hopewell (33) , Mo. (detachment)Oct. 21, 1863
Attack, Fort Gibson, I. T. (34 )Dec. 16, 1863
Skirmish near Sheldon Place, Barren Fork, I. T. (35)Dec . 18, 1863
Skirmish near Fort Gibson : I. T. (34 )Dec . 26, 1863
   Operations in the Indian Territory April 15 - 20, 1864
Affair near Choshy, I. T. (36 )April 20, 1864
Skirmish, Dayton, Mo . (detachment )April 26, 1864
Skirmish, Ofatt ' s Knob , Mo . (detachment )April 28, 1864
Skirmishes, Johnson County, Mo. ( 37 ) (detachment )April 23 - 30, 1864
Skirmish, Sni Hills, Mo. (detachment)April 29, 1864
Skirmish near Arnoldsville and Raid on New Market (38), Mo. June 1, 1864
Affair·, Versailles, Mo. (39)July 13, 1864
Skirmish, Saline County, Mo. (27) (detachment)Aug 13, 1864
Skirmish, Fort Gibson, I. T. (34) (detachment)Sept. 10, 1864
Skirmish, Fayette, Mo. (40) (detachment)Sept. 24, 1864
Skirmish near Glasgow, Mo. (41) (detachment)Jan. 10, 1865
Affair, Danville, Ky. (42)Jan. 29, 1865
Skirmish, near Chaplintown, Ky. (43)Jan. 30, 1865
Affair, New Market, Ky.Feb. 8, 1865
Skirmish, Bradfordsville , Ky. (44)Feb. 3, 1865
Skirmish, Hustonville, Ky. (45)i eb. 9, 1865
Skirmish near Bloomfield, Ky. (46)April 13, 1865

   Quantrell was seriously wounded at Bloomfield on April 13, 1865. Federal troops captured him and brought him to Louisville, Kentucky. Here he claimed that his name was William Clarke (some references will be found in official and unofficial sources to Clarke's Kentucky Cavalry Company) but his identity was soon established. Upon his capture the few remaining members of his band still at large dispersed, some returning to Missouri and their illegal activities. Quantrell's condition had, in the meantime, worsened and he died in Louisville on June 4, 1865.

    This concludes the Capsule History provided by John F. Walters (copied for clarity of reading from the PDF.)

Compiled and Presented by Melinda Cohenour.

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