William Clarke Quantrill, born on July 31st 1837 at Canal Dover, which is now known as the state of Ohio, is controversially one of the most influential guerrilla leaders in the eyes of outlaws and hired mercenaries for his involvement in the American Civil War. The war amongst the American states revolved heavily around the matter of slavery amongst other things. While the Northern states of the America (which was economically more stable and booming) wanted an end to slavery, the Southern states heavily relied on slavery. Abolishing slavery meant halting the already stalling Southern economy. William Clarke Quantrill who was a pro confederate couldn’t stand slavery being abolished. He invited like-minded people and formed a group of bandits called the Quantrill’s Raiders. Famously known for their aggressive nature and guerrilla tactics, the Quantrill’s Raiders patrolled and caught escaped slaves.
However, it hadn’t been like this in the beginning. As a matter of fact, the early life and political views of William Quantrill much opposed his later stance on slavery. Around 1857, William Quantrill seemed to appear against pro-slavery after regarding strict views against the Lecompton constitution which was drafted to exclusively withhold slavery. He also seemed to appreciate the American senator James Lane whose political views were strictly against slavery. It wasn’t until 1860 when William Quantrill changed his mind and switched sides. Reportedly in a letter to his mother, he expressed deep resentment against anti-slavery supporters as well as democrats, who in his words are an abomination to the society.
William Clarke Quantrill’s political agenda gathered pace after 1861 with his involvement in the Lawrence massacre which was regarded as the garrison of the anti-slavery forces and housed the notable American Senator James Lane. The attack was suspected to be retaliation over the Union Forces’ arrests of Quantrill’s Raiders and the unintentional deaths of some of the prisoners due to a building collapse. Quantrill’s men took this incident to be planned and as a personal attack on Quantrill’s raiders. On 21st August, Quantrill along with more than 400 bandits raided Lawrence and massacred more than a 100 people. The main objective of the raid was to kill James Lane, he nonetheless managed to escape the deadly raid. The Lawrence massacre made Quantrill into a most-wanted fugitive criminal and was chased endlessly by the Union Forces. Quantrill by now had realized what awaited him so he alongside his men moved to Texas where he committed more atrocities and raids. Eventually in an ambush on 10th May, Quantrill and his men were caught off-guard and arrested. Quantrill in an attempt to escape was shot and paralyzed. Later to be reported dead from his wounds on June 6th.
William Quantrill is undoubtedly the most controversial civil war figure. Some see him as a revolutionary leader who fought for the Southern side and their agenda to withhold slavery while some disagree with the notion and see him as nothing less than a murderer who terrorized and killed people to promote his immoral and heinous political agendas such as slavery.