There are many things I love about living in Lawrence, Kansas, one being that it is a town rich with history. A history that is celebrated and honored. This August, the city of Lawrence is all abuzz for the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s Raid, the commemoration of a ruthless Civil War raid of the city by confederate guerrilla soldiers that ended in 200 Lawrencians dead and a town in ashes.
Current residents of Lawrence have a passionate understanding of the border war between Kansas and Missouri, a rivalry that began during the Civil War and lingers in various forms to this very day. It all began when a simultaneous rush of anti-slavery abolitionists and pro-slavery settlers moved in on Kansas when the territory opened for settlement in 1854. The mad dash was in effort to determine if Kansas would enter the union as a free state or a slave state, and thus began the bloody conflict between pro-slavery Border Ruffians and anti-slavery Jayhawkers, in the era appropriately titled Bleeding Kansas.
Quantrill’s Raid could have been the end of Lawrence, but the young city was determined. Lawrence rose from its ashes and eventually Kansas entered the Union as a Free State in 1861. Today Lawrence is thriving and is (in my opinion) the best college town in the country. I mean… We have the University of Kansas Jayhawks and a freaking phoenix on our city’s seal. How cool is that?
And you don’t have to be an adult to enjoy and understand the history behind Quantrill’s Raid or enjoy the 1863 Commemorate Lawrence 1863 activities. Here is a nifty list of books for kids, both fiction and nonfiction, that will take you back to this critical time in Lawrence’s history:
John Brown by John Hendrix. A picture book biography of the infamous white abolitionist, published on the 150th anniversary of his raid on Harper’s Ferry. (Ages 8 & up)
Blue Creek Farm by Carrol Thomas. With her mother dead and her brother riding for the Pony Express, Matty must face the dangers of the Civil War alone, on the family farm near Lawrence. (Ages 9 & up)
Tragic Prelude: Bleeding Kansas by Karen Zeinert. Read the history of Kansas territory as the Civil War approached. Would it enter the union as a free state or a slave state? (Ages 11 & up)
Bleeding Kansas and the Violent Clash Over Slavery in the Heartland by Jeff C. Young. Learn about Kansas and the violence over slavery before and during the Civil War. Easy text and website resources. (Ages 10 & up)
A Voice for Kanzas by Debra McArthur. Lucy’s family moves to Kansas Territory, into the conflict between proslavery Border Ruffians and anti-slavery Insiders, like her father. (Ages 11 & up) See staff member Linda Clay’s review.
Lawrence: Survivors of Quantrill’s Raid by Lawrence historian Katie H. Armitage. An illustrated history of William Quantrill’s guerrilla raid on abolitionist Lawrence on August 21, 1863, and brief stories of the survivors. (Ages 14 & up)
Be sure to check out the 1863 Commemorate Lawrence website for more information as well as a list of events offered throughout the city. If you’re interested in going for a historical walk down memory lane, Kansas Travel has a Self-Guided Walking Tour of Quantrill’s Raid which includes a downloadable map and pictures of local landmarks.