Quantrill’s Raid on Olathe, Kansas, September 6, 1862

William Quantrill (1837-1865) was a Confederate sympathizer and guerrilla fighter during the Civil War, roaming the plains of Kansas, which had joined the Union as a free state in 1861, and Missouri, a slave-owning state. He was not recognized by the Confederacy as an officer, and many of his men, including Frank and Jesse James, and Cole and Jim Younger, became outlaws after the war ended. The anti-slavery forces were known as jayhawkers, and many of them were equally predatory in their treatment of Kansas settlers.

Confederate raider William Quantrill led his band of 140 men out of Missouri and into Kansas. His purpose was to terrorize the citizens who were Union supporters and to resupply his troops. On the night of September 6-7, 1862, they rode into the small town of Olathe near the Kansas-Missouri border and attacked the town. Men broke into houses, stealing money and valuables along with another more unusual item-photos of pretty young women. Quantrill was known to have a fondness for these, and few were left in towns after his raids.

One of Quantrill’s main targets, of course, was horses. A resident of nearby Spring Hill who was caught up in the Olathe raid had the courage to protest the taking of his horse. Hiram Blanchard tried to pull his bay mare away from a raider and paid for his bravery with his life. The raider blew off the top of Blanchard’s head with his shotgun, leaving the bloody body in the street. Two more men were shot and killed by Quantrill’s men before the troop galloped off to the east. Pack horses, loaded down with loot, and stolen horses followed along behind.

The next morning, Olathe residents discovered more horror. The bodies of three young men, recent enlistees in the 12th Kansas Infantry, were found. Frank Cook and the Judy brothers, John and James, had been shot down in cold blood by Quantrill’s men. Frank Cook was taken from his father-in-law’s house and made a prisoner. His body was found not far away in a ravine with two bullet holes in his chest and his head crushed by a cannon ball. The raiders ransacked the Judy house, taking the enlistees as prisoners. John Judy’s wife headed for her neighbor’s as soon as the raiders had left, but she heard the gunshots that killed her husband and brother-in-law as she hurried along the road. John Judy was shot in the eye and twice in the chest, and his brother was shot once in the face and once in the chest. The bodies of the Judys were found on the nearby Millikan farm.

Although the attack on Olathe was largely overshadowed by Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas, on August 21, 1863, where 180 men and boys were killed, it symbolized the dangers of living on the prairies at that time. Kansas justly earned the unhappy name of “Bleeding Kansas” before and during the Civil War.

William Quantrill, a Confederate guerrilla fighter during the Civil War, directed a violent attack on the town of Olathe, Kansas, on the night of September 6-7, 1862. Six men were killed during the looting of the defenseless town: three civilians and three newly-recruited soldiers.