Quantrill's Raiders and Independence, Missouri, Raid

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Quantrill's Raiders
Independence, Missouri

Name(s): Battle of Independence, Missouri; First Battle of Independence

Location: Jackson County

Campaign: Operations North of Boston Mountains (1862)

Date(s): August 11, 1862

Principal Commanders: Lt. Col. James T. Buel [US]; Col. J. T. Hughes and Col. G. W. Thompson [CS]

Forces Engaged: Garrison (approx. 300 [US]; 700-800 [CS]

Estimated Casualties: Total unknown (US approx. 344; CS unknown)

Result(s): Confederate victory

Quantrill's Raiders : Independence Missouri Raid
Independence Missouri Raid.gif
Quantrill Raid Independence Missouri Map

Summary: On August 11, 1862, Col. J. T. Hughes’s Confederate force, including William Quantrill and his raiders, attacked Independence, at dawn, in two columns on different roads. They drove through the town to the Union Army camp, capturing, killing, and scattering the Yankees. Lt. Col. James T. Buel, commander of the garrison, attempted to hold out in one of the buildings with some of his men. Soon the building next to them was on fire, threatening them. Buel then, by means of a flag of truce, arranged a meeting with the Confederate commander, Col. G. W. Thompson, who had replaced Col. J. T. Hughes, killed earlier. Buel surrendered and about 150 of his men were paroled, the others had escaped, hidden, or been killed. Having taken Independence, the Rebel force headed for Kansas City. Confederate dominance in the Kansas City area continued, but not for long. See also Missouri Civil War History.

Battle: Col. John T. Hughes’s Confederate force, including the partisan leader William Quantrill, attacked Independence before dawn, in two columns using different roads. They moved through the town to the Union Army camp, delivering a deadly volley to the sleeping men. Captain Breckenridge suggested surrender, but Captain Jacob Axline formed the Federal troops behind a rock wall and a nearby ditch while the Confederates rifled through their camp, looking for ammunition. The Rebels made several attacks against Axline's wall, but never succeeded in taking it. Here Colonel Hughes was killed, while Thompson and Hays were wounded.

Lt. Col. Buel attempted to hold out with part of his force in the bank building he used as his headquarters. He was forced to surrender after an adjacent building was set afire. Through a flag of truce, Buel arranged a meeting with the new Confederate commander, Col. Gideon W. Thompson, who had replaced Colonel Hughes, killed earlier. Buel surrendered, and about 150 of his men were paroled; the remainder had escaped, hidden, or been killed.

Realizing that they would be overrun, the Federal troops defending the jail fired a volley and fled. Confederate guerilla leader George Todd freed the prisoners at the jail, among them City Marshal James Knowles, jailed for the killing of a rowdy citizen. Todd also captured Captain Aaron Thomas of the 2nd Battalion Missouri State Militia Cavalry. Knowles had guided Thomas' force in a successful ambush of Todd's command in an earlier engagement, killing several of them. Todd and his men summarily executed Knowles and Thomas. Ironically, George Todd would later be killed at the Second Battle of Independence, in 1864.

William Quantrill Memorial
William Quantrill .jpg
William Quantrill Marker

(Right) While William Quantrill rode into the history books as one of the prominent Confederate guerrillas, recruits Frank and Jesse James, with the likes of "Bloody" Bill Anderson, cemented the raiders a place in Civil War folklore.

The First Battle of Independence resulted in approximately 344 known Union casualties while total losses for the Confederates remain unknown. Most of the Union command in Independence was captured, with only a few groups of men escaping. The Confederate victory was costly, however, resulting in the death of ten experienced officers, among them Colonel John T. Hughes, and the wounding of Colonels Hays and Thompson. The victors left town late that afternoon, but remained in the area for several days. Hays led them in a cooperative attack with other Confederate commands against a Federal force arriving at Lone Jack.

Although the Southerners had won a victory at Independence, they were unable to capitalize on it. Confederate dominance in the Jackson County area would continue—but not for long.

Lt. Col. Buel's performance and his failure to heed warnings of an impending attack by prominent citizens was widely condemned. Captain Breckenridge's inability to find any guerrillas in the preceding eleven days, together with his eagerness to surrender, was considered "disgraceful conduct." Both men were court-martialled and the soldiers who had been captured were mustered out of service. Since the two officers had been dismissed with their men, nothing ultimately resulted from the court martial proceedings.

On June 3, 1864 the former Capt. Axline was murdered by guerrillas (likely of George Todd's command) while on his way home to Hickman Mills. Independence would later become the site of a second Civil War battle, in October 1864, as part of General Sterling Price's Missouri Campaign that culminated in his defeat at the Battle of Westport.


(Sources listed below.)

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Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: Quantrill's Raiders and Independence Missouri, Union Soldiers Capture, Civil War Raiders History, Capture of Independence Missouri, William Quantrill's Raiders, Guerrilla War Kansas, Missouri Raids, List of Quantrill's Battles.

Sources: National Archives; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Eakin, Joanne Chiles, Battle of Independence, August 11, 1862, Two Trails Publishing, 2000; Nichols, Bruce, Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, Volume III, January - August 1864, McFarland, 2014; Library of Congress.

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