Controversy marks reburial of Confederate guerrilla Quantrill's remains

October 19, 1992|By Kansas City Star

Confederate guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill was so despised by Union officers that they wanted him hanged, drawn and quartered.

They never got to scatter his body in four directions. But history has certainly taken its revenge: Quantrill's bones have been dug up and separated; his skull has been peddled by a mercenary newspaperman and nicknamed "Jake" by a secret society of teen-age boys.

And his skeleton apparently will never be whole again.

Some of Quantrill's remains -- a lock of hair and five bones kept in Kansas for decades -- are to be interred Oct. 24 in a Confederate military cemetery in Higginsville, Missouri.

His skull will be buried later this month in Ohio.

Some bones may be in the Louisville, Ky., grave where Quantrill was buried in 1865. And some may have been reinterred in the family cemetery plot in Ohio where the skull will be laid to rest. No one knows for sure.

What is certain is this: History buffs are as split over the burial plans as Civil War Confederates were split over whether to support Quantrill and his cruel guerrilla tactics, which included the burning of Lawrence, Kan., and the execution of captured Union soldiers.

Many members of the Quantrill Society -- a loose-knit group that includes descendants of men who rode with Quantrill -- say the remains belong together, in one grave.

"Our feeling is, we want the bones in one place. How many people are buried in three spots?" said society member Sonny Wells.

Members of the Dover Historical Society, who are burying the skull in Quantrill's hometown of Dover, Ohio, wanted the Kansas bones as well.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, who are planning to bury the bones in Higginsville, Mo., wish they could bury the skull at their site, too.

Mr. Wells points out that only honorably discharged Confederate veterans and their family members have been buried in the cemetery at the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site in Higginsville, where Quantrill's bones are headed.

Quantrill died in the war and does not fit the cemetery's guidelines, Mr. Wells argues.

Between 1861 and 1863, Quantrill and his colleagues bloodied much of eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Their bands raided farms, assassinated Union troops, cut telegraph lines, stole mail and disbanded into the landscape when chased.

To many Missourians, Quantrill was a hero who sought revenge for murderous deeds committed by Jayhawkers. To Kansans, he was the villain who led the raid of Lawrence in August 1863 that killed 150.

Quantrill eventually fled to Kentucky, where he was wounded and captured May 10, 1865, dying a few weeks later in Louisville.

Twenty-two years later a newspaperman named W.W. Scott dug up the body at the request of Quantrill's mother. She wanted his remains moved to Ohio.

But the bones were shunned by people in Dover because of Quantrill's war record. So Scott stored the bones in his attic, his

newspaper of

fice and briefly in the basement of City Hall, said Les Williams of the Dover Historical Society.

Scott tried to sell the skull and picked Kansas, the state that despised Quantrill the most, to peddle his goods.

He sent the lock of hair in a letter to the Kansas Historical Society and offered the skull for 30 pieces of silver. He delivered two shinbones to the society in 1888.

Scott died in 1902, and the Kansas society obtained three more bones from his widow in 1912. Anthropologists who examined those three bones years ago said they belonged to a teen-ager, not Quantrill. Even so, they are headed for Higginsville.

Scott never was able to sell the skull. After he died, relatives latched onto it for initiation rites of a secret group called the D.J.S. Club -- which existed for just four years and consisted of boys age 13 to 16 who nicknamed the skull "Jake."

The skull passed in 1910 to a social group called the Zeta chapter of the Alpha Pi fraternity, which disbanded in 1941. An Alpha Pi trustee kept the skull hidden until 1960, and in 1972, the skull was given to the Dover Historical Society.

This month, the skull will be placed in a child's casket and buried in a private ceremony in Dover.

"We don't want a huge crowd or a circus," Mr. Williams said. "He deserves a little bit of dignity."

And what of the bones? The Kansas Legislature has allowed the state historical society to release the five bones it has held. They will be delivered to Higginsville, and at an Oct. 24 ceremony there, an honor guard of Civil War re-enactors will fire a salute over Quantrill's grave.

Robert L. Hawkins III of the Sons of Confederate Veterans says Quantrill deserves to be treated like any other Confederate soldier.

"It is not our intention to unreasonably glorify him," Mr. Hawkins said. "There are mixed feeling about him even within our group."

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