The Lawrence Massacre and General Order No. 11

In the early hours of August 21, 1863, as the townspeople awoke, 450 rebels swept into Lawrence, Kansas.  They rounded up the town’s able-bodied men, and shot them, as the city’s women and children watched.  Their gruesome work done, the rebels looted the city and set fire to it.   By 9 a.m., 200 men were dead and a huge portion of the city’s business district was in ruins.

The Union immediately plotted revenge.  General Thomas Ewing, Jr. issued Order No. 11,   which foreshadowed Sherman’s march and scorched earth warfare.  Ewing ordered residents from parts of four counties (three is Missouri, one in Kansas) expelled, as those counties were believed to be sympathetic to the Confederacy, and to have played a role in the Lawrence massacre.  Only those residents who could prove their loyalty to the Union were allowed to stay.

Then, General Ewing’s troops laid waste to parts of those four counties.  His troops burned homes and fields, and executed men.  The area was rendered virtually uninhabitable.

The four-county area is a time capsule that has been rich for archaeological work, and the Bates County Archaeological Field School has done some fascinating work in the area.  Their work has uncovered many 19th century structures and artifacts.  As their work progresses, it will be interesting to see if they can shed further light on the destruction of the area by Union troops.

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