1 of 4 principal towns that the original settlers established in the territory, Lawrence, Kansas was also 1 of 2 towns people by pro-Unionists with antislavery sentiments. On August 21st, beginning at dawn, some 450 Confederate and Missouri guerrillas, under Col. William C. Quantrill, entered Lawrence, wantonly burning, pillaging, and massacring its citizens.
The "Kansas War", one within the larger struggle, was characterized by personal enmity and bitterness. The Unionists had raided Osceola, Missouri, and the Lawrence raid ostensibly was in retaliation. But Quantrill, who had previously conducted several irregular operations, also had a personal grudge against the abolitionist town and its people.
About 150 men and boys died (some sources put the figure at 180); only women and smaller children were spared by the raiders, though a few men did manage to escape. The attackers also destroyed $1,500,000 worth of property. An eyewitness asserted, "The town is a complete ruin. The whole of the business part, and all good private residences are burned down. Everything of value was taken along by the fiends. I cannot describe the horrors."
Quantrill's men withdrew the next day, leaving little but a smoldering ruin. They struck again about 6 weeks later at Baxter Springs, Kansas, then went into Texas.