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William Clarke Quantrill: His life and times - Albert E Castel

William Clarke Quantrill: His life and times

Author: Albert E Castel
Book title: William Clarke Quantrill: His life and times
ISBN: 0585145253
ISBN13: 978-0585145259
Publisher: F. Fell (1962)
Category: Americas
Rating: 4.9/5
Votes: 763
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Reviews: (5)
As a true lover of Civil War literature and historically accurate reading, I absolutely recommend this book, it would make a great addition to any collection.
William Clarke Quantrill entered the ranks of the infamous for sure on August 21, 1863, when he led a band of 450 men into Lawrence, Kansas, and committed what is probably the worst atrocity of the Civil War: the killing of 150 inhabitants and the burning of the town. Other massacres perpetrated by Quantrill occurred, but none was as devastating as what happened in Lawrence. To the Union he was an outlaw, and a price was put on his head. He was feared and hated during his day, and his reputation long outlived him (Castell believes he's one of the most widely known men connected with the Civil War).

He was born in Ohio in 1837, taught school for a while, and then went out west where he was a professional gambler around Salt Lake City. When the war broke out he was living in Kansas, and already had the notoriety of a desperado. His sympathies were with the South, and in 1861 formed a guerrilla band that attacked and destroyed Union property and murdered Union sympathizers in the border states. He helped the Confederates capture Independence, MO, and after the Lawrence atrocity, defeated Union forces at Baxter Springs, KS. His band by this time had become so unruly that not even Quantrill could reign them in, and it split into smaller factions. He was wounded in an ambush in Kentucky in May 1865 (rumor had it, though impossible to prove, that Quantrill at the time was heading for Washington to assassinate Lincoln) and died in a Union prison hospital on June 6, 1865. Whether anyone collected the reward money history doesn't say.

Castel's biography is popular in nature, though backed up with solid scholarship. Invented dialogue is sprinkled throughout the text, but it is not obtrusive and doesn't lower the book's high standards. Castel also recounts some of the legends that cropped up soon after Quantrill's death, some of them having to do with Quantrill's grave sight (desecrated) and his skull.

To some in the South he was a the bravest of the brave, while to most in the North he was a degenerate monster. Castel thinks he was courageous and a strong leader, but also cruel and without scruples. Every year until 1929 there was a Quantrill's Raiders reunion held near Blue Springs, KS. One legacy that evolved from Quantrill's band was that of Jesse and Frank James and the Dalton gang, all who got their start with Quantrill's Raiders. Castel tells the story of this nefarious man with skill and keeps our interest throughout.
My interest in the Civil War is a bit unusual - the impact of the war on the non-combatants in the western border states, specifically Arkansas and Missouri and to a lesser extent, Kansas and the Indian Territory that would eventually become Oklahoma. This book will definitely be a valued part of my research library.
"William Quantrill - His Life and Times" is a balanced look at a young man, unsatisfied with what he had accomplished in life and caught up in the complexities of the pre-war strife in Kansas and Missouri. A gifted teacher originally from Ohio "raised as an abolitionist," Quantrill becomes a thief and scoundrel, Border Ruffian (pro-slavery) and jayhawker (anti-slavery), exploiting the conflict on the border to benefit himself. After the war begins, he goes on to fame..., and his destiny, a heroic legend to many and a barbaric devil to others.
This looks to be just another look at the Northern re-write of history after the war. I would not recommend this to anyone wanting anything different than the standard Post-war Nothern view. If that "New York" view of southern history is what you are looking for then this is probably something for you. Otherwise I would recommend a much better and more informative and well researched book by Paul R. Peterson on the topic which includes 500 pages of well done research from several points of view. It is not boaring and offers a refreshing alternative to the politically correct and "parrotted" version that we often see re-published every few years.
crazy mashine
I have been interested in this for some time, as my father, born in 1890, spoke of his father having told of speaking with Frank James in St. Joseph, Mo. He said he was a pleasant man to visit with.
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