Quantrill’s Raid Book List for Young Readers

[Also appears on the Lawrence Public Library Children’s Room blog]

There are many things I love about living in Lawrence, Kansas, one being that it is a town rich with history; a history that is celebrated and honored. This August the city of Lawrence is all a buzz for the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s Raid, the commemoration of a ruthless Civil War raid of the city by confederate guerrilla soldiers that ended with 200 dead Lawrencians and a town left in ashes.

Current residents of Lawrence have a passionate understanding of the border war between Kansas and Missouri, a rivalry that began during the Civil War and lingers in various forms to this very day. It all began when a massive rush of anti-slavery abolitionists from the northeast and pro-slavery settlers moved in on Kansas when the territory opened for settlement in 1854. These mad dashed were efforts to sway whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state, and thus began the bloody conflict between pro-slavery Border Ruffians and anti-slavery Jayhawkers in the era appropriately titled “Bleeding Kansas”.

Quantrill’s Raid could have been the end of Lawrence, but the young city was determined. Lawrence rose from its ashes and eventually Kansas entered the Union as a Free State in 1861. Today Lawrence is thriving and (is in my opinion) the best college town in the country. I mean… We have the University of Kansas Jayhawks and a freaking phoenix on our city’s seal. How cool is that?

And you don’t have to be an adult to delve into the history behind Quantrill’s Raid or participate the 1863 Commemorate Lawrence activities. Here is a nifty list of books for kids, both fiction and nonfiction, that will take you back to this remarkable time in Lawrence’s history.

Quantrill’s Raid Book List for Young Readers:

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix

A picture book published on the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, this biography explores the life of one of American history’s most controversial figures. John Brown died before Quantrill’s Raid, but his story gives a great insight of the Bleeding Kansas time period. (Ages 8 & up)


Blue Creek Farm by Carrol Thomas

With her mother dead and her brother riding for the Pony Express, Matty must face the dangers of the Civil War alone, on the family farm near Lawrence, Kansas. (Ages 9 & up)


Tragic Prelude: Bleeding Kansas by Karen Zeinert

Read the history of Kansas territory as the Civil War approached. Would it enter the union as a free state or a slave state? (Ages 11 & up)

Bleeding Kansas and the Violent Clash Over Slavery in the Heartland by Jeff C. Young

Learn about Kansas and the violence over slavery before and during the Civil War. Easy text and website resources.  (Ages 10 & up)

A Voice for Kanzas by Debra McArthur

Lucy’s family moves to Kansas Territory and into the conflict between proslavery Border Ruffians and anti-slavery Insiders, like her father. See my lovely staff member Miss Linda’s review. (Ages 11 & up)

Lawrence: Survivors of Quantrill’s Raid by Katie H. Armitage

An illustrated history of William Quantrill’s guerrilla raid on abolitionist Lawrence on August 21, 1863, and brief stories of the survivors. (Ages 14 & up)

Be sure to check out the 1863 Commemorate Lawrence website for more information as well as a list of events offered throughout the city. Although this is more of a grown-up event, my personal favorite is the live Twitter reenactment of Quantrill’s Raid on August 21st. If the voices of the past could tweet, what would they say? New characters join the conversation every day leading up the the event. Follow the conversation using the hashtag #QR1863.

If you’re interested in going for a historical walk down memory lane, Kansas Travel has a Self-Guided Walking Tour of Quantrill’s Raid which includes a downloadable map and pictures of local landmarks.


image sources: Quantrill’s Raid, 1863 Commemorate Lawrence


One Response to “Quantrill’s Raid Book List for Young Readers”

  1. Danzel says:

    Very cool list! I’m bookmarking to remember some of these for Kansas Day.

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