This Day in History: 1863 Quantrill Ambushes, Kills Badger Band

On this day in 1863, two and a half years after the start of the Civil War, hundreds of pro-slavery Confederates led by Captain William Quantrill disguised themselves as Federal soldiers, then ambushed and killed more than 50 Wisconsin men stationed in “Bloody Kansas”.

Amongst the killed were the brigade band’s 11 men. Several of them had been pinioned to the band wagon by swords driven through them while still alive and the wagon then set afire. Among these served in this way were T.L. Davis, of Platteville, and Johnny Fritz a 15-year-old drummer boy; a sword had been driven through his thigh and then into the woodwork of the wagon.

Quantrill’s group was known to not only torture and burn men alive but kill them even after surrender. Quantrill himself had earned a reputation as a liar and spy.

By the end of 1863 his methods were a clear burden to the Confederate Army, which had to assign soldiers to protect civilians from his men. He eventually was arrested in Texas by a Confederate General in early 1864 on charges of ordering the murder of an officer.

Civilians were accosted, homes were broken into, church steeples were shot up, and a Confederate recruiting officer, Major George N. Butts, was found shot to death on the side of a road. “They regard the life of a man less than you would that of a sheep-killing dog,” said [General] McCulloch. “I regard them but one shade better than highwaymen.” In Sherman, drunken guerrillas rode their horses into a hotel lobby and shot out the gaslights.

Quantrill easily escaped arrest by McCulloch and then tried to continue his style of guerrilla raids, leading men like Jesse James on campaigns North and East of Texas. He was shot in 1865, as he claimed he wanted to march on the US President, and died while in a hospital.

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