August 21, 1863: Raid on Lawrence Kansas

 

The bloodiest atrocity of the Civil War occurred one hundred and fifty-eight years ago.  The Civil War in Kansas and Missouri was war to the knife and the knife to the hilt.   “Captain” William C. Quantrill had been a practitioner in the bloody art of raid and counter-raid since 1861.  He planned the raid to kill Senator Jim Lane, leader of the Jayhawkers of Kansas, in retaliation for Lane’s plundering of Osceola, Missouri in 1861 during which nine pro-Confederate men had been executed following a drum head courtmartial.  The collapse of a house used as a jail for pro-Confederate women in Kansas City, Kansas on August 13, 1863 inflamed Confederate partisans.  Four women were killed, including the 15 year old sister of “Bloody Bill” Anderson, Quantrill’s chief lieutenant.  Gathering 450 raiders, Quantrill rode into Lawrence at dawn on August 21, 1863.

The raiders embarked upon a four hour orgy of murder and plunder of the unarmed citizenry.  Between 185 to 200 men and boys were murdered.  The cut off point for boys was the vague standard of whether they could carry a rifle.  The youngest boy slain was 12 or 14 years old.  No outrages were committed against the women of the town, other than seeing their husbands, brothers and sons, and other male relatives and friends, gunned down before their eyes.  Lane, ironically, escaped by running into a cornfield in his nightshirt.

In the aftermath of the raid, General Thomas Ewing, Jr. issued General Order No. 11 ordering the evacuation of Confederate civilians from four Missouri western counties: (more…)

Published in: on August 21, 2021 at 11:59 pm  Comments Off on August 21, 1863: Raid on Lawrence Kansas  
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Come Cheer Up My Lads

 

Something for the weekend.  Heart of Oak.  Written by actor David Garrick in 1759, with music by Dr. William Boyce, the song is a rousing tribute to the Royal Navy.  Garrick penned the song during the Annus Mirabilis of 1759 when Church bells in Great Britain and America were being worn out in celebration of British victories, including the taking of Quebec, on land and sea.  The song was an immediate hit both in Great Britain and its colonies.

The video clip above is taken from That Hamilton Woman (1941) starring Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier.  In many ways simply a historical pot boiler common for films during the period, the film also celebrates British resistance to the tyranny of Napoleon which of course strongly resonated with British audiences in 1941.  It was Churchill’s favorite movie and he would frequently show it to guests during the War.

The playing of Heart of Oak at the beginning of the clip is not a conceit of the film.  When British ships of the line were sailing into battle the bands of the ships would strike up Heart of Oak, always a favorite of the sailors on board.  Serving in miserable conditions, sometimes pressed (“compulsorily volunteered” was the phrase), the song did reflect how the sailors perceived themselves.  They were almost all ardent patriots, as they demonstrated during the fleet mutinies at Spithead and the Nore in 1797, when the mutineers turned over to the government French agents who attempted to make common cause with them.  The leaders of the mutineers told the authorities that they were entirely loyal to England, and they simply wanted redress for their grievances, which the Admiralty eventually granted.  Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar, where he smashed the combined French and Spanish fleets and established British naval supremacy for a century, understood the patriotism of the common seaman, which is why he sent the fleet the message, “England expects every man to do his duty” prior to sailing into the fight.

Nelson in the film is shown as saying of the decorations that he wore in the engagement, “I won them in battle?  Then I’ll wear them in battle.” although he of course realized that this made him a prime target for French snipers.  Nelson had previously lost a right arm and a right eye in prior engagements.  At Trafalgar his luck ran out and he was killed by a French sharpshooter.  However, his stance was not foolhardy.  To direct a fleet action in the early Nineteenth Century an admiral needed to be on deck, and Nelson understood that the attribute prized above all others by the men he led was physical courage.  Nelson was a complete cad in his personal life, but he had in abundance that quality.  The men would fight much harder if they saw their officers coolly displaying complete contempt for death in action, and therefore it was necessary for Nelson to do so.  Additionally, throughout his career he had struggled for better conditions for the men under his command, and they fought their hardest when led by him.

Come, cheer up, my lads, ’tis to glory we steer,

 To add something more to this wonderful year;

 To honour we call you, as freemen not slaves,

 For who are so free as the sons of the waves

  (Chorus sung once…)

 Heart of oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men,

 we always are ready; Steady, boys, steady!

 We’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again.

 

We ne’er see our foes but we wish them to stay,

 They never see us but they wish us away;

 If they run,why we follow and run them ashore,

 And if they won’t fight us, what cannot do more.

  (Chorus sung once…)

 

we still make them feel and we still make them flee,

 and drub them at shore as we drub them at sea,

 so cheer up me lads with one heart let us sing,

 oh soldiers and sailors, our statesmen and king.

  (Chorus sung once…)

 

 

Published in: on August 21, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Come Cheer Up My Lads  
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