Spring was ostensibly for rebuilding and new beginnings. The on-going war made that impossible. Bursheba returned home to Harrisonville with her family. She attempted to dissolve most of Henry’s business interests to raise the money which would make it possible to care of her children.
Whenever any of Cole’s men came through looking for food or supplies Jim helped them however he could, although it made his mother nervous.
“It’s not that I begrudge those young men food and clothing,” Bursheba explained to Jim. “It is dangerous for our family to provide for them. We’ve seen how far the Militia will go to intimidate us.”
“And every other family whose son, brother, husband or father chooses to stand against them, Mother. They need what little help we can give them. Without the support of their families they’ll starve.”
Bursheba had no argument for that.
The degree of hatred rose on both sides. Frank James’ little brother Jesse was now riding with the Irregulars under the command of the ruthless “Bloody Bill” Anderson, who was aligned with Quantrill and the Confederates. The men of this command were not in any way dedicated to the wartime morality of Cole and many of his comrades. These men were ten-times more brutal and suffered no one they perceived in any way as their enemy. If the Union forces thought Quantrill and his men were tough, wily and ferocious, the nefarious actions of Anderson and his men were that times ten.
“Remember what you’re fighting for,” Frank advised Jesse.
“Well, we ain’t slitting throats for the hell of it,” Jesse smirked.
“You sure about that?” Frank questioned.
“There’s no mistaking that we’re servin’ The Cause,” Jesse smiled. “We ain’t taking no shit from any bull-headed, interloping Bluebelly sons-of-bitches.”
As the War raged on, the number of young men who aligned themselves with the guerrilla movement grew in number and intensity. Union Brigadier General Thomas C. Ewing was ordered to put the guerillas out of business altogether or at the very least render them unable to continue their unremitting assault against the Federal forces.
Ewing’s first decision was ill-conceived at best. In an effort to cut off his enemy from their seemingly endless supply of food, shelter and assistance, Ewing decided to arrest their daughters, their sisters, whoever the hell it was that was sustaining them. This coddling of the enemy was going to end right here, right now.
Bursheba sat in the parlor. She had never felt so alone. Josie, Caroline and Sally had been rounded up like cattle. Good God, was there no sense of humanity left? What possible crime could the Yankees state against her sweet daughters? The Yankees. Dear Lord, even she was now referring to the Militia by that demeaning term.
She looked at her boys standing together by the hearth. John’s face was rigid with anger. Bobby’s was arranged in a glare. They had once been so full of fun and adventure and now they were full of nothing but animosity and loathing. She couldn’t blame them for feeling that way. What counsel could she possibly provide that would make it any different?
Bobby came over to where his mother was sitting. Caroline’s husband George had been to talk with the boys. George told them not to cause trouble with the Yankees or they would make things even worse for their sisters. It was best to let the soldiers take custody of them and then they’d find a way to bring them home without antagonizing those who held them.
“Ma, George said we shouldn’t break the law.” Bobby looked into the weary face of his mother. “But is there even law anymore?”
“There’s no damn law. Only what the damn Yankees say is law.” John had been quiet long enough. He had grabbed the rifle Cole had hidden in the boards over Jim’s bed but his mother told him she couldn’t bear to see it in his hands and to please, please not give her yet another thing to worry about. Then George had come to the house and warned him outright.
“If you show that rifle you will be arrested yourself. Then who will be here to protect your mother?”
Jim had asked him for the rifle and hid it again, this time where he could easily reach it. John was so frustrated. If he was old enough, he would be out there kicking butt. But he wasn’t, so all he could do was stay here and hate every one of them.
“That’s true, isn’t it Ma?” Bobby knew what John’s opinion on all of this was but he needed to hear it from his mother. “The only law is Yankee law.”
“Oh, Bobby.” She took his hands. “Nothing is the same as it used to be. It’s hard to define anything at all these days. I only know that no matter how people treat us, how mean they sometimes are, we have to stay true to ourselves.”
“But none of that matters to them. No matter how we go along with what they want us to do, they just keep changing things and getting meaner.”
“I know, son. That’s why it’s important that we react in a way that shows them they aren’t going to change who we are, regardless of what we are put through. We must always meet those who want to harm us with courage and a strong commitment to what we believe as Christians, what we know to be true. That in the end it is God who judges us, not our enemies.”
“I don’t have a problem judging our enemies.” John wasn’t giving up his argument. “They all stink.”
By the end of the day over a hundred women had been imprisoned. Of course this only served to infuriate the guerillas even more. They began to make their plans to storm the jail.
But their efforts weren’t required after the three-story building collapsed. Several women were killed outright. Others suffered broken limbs and God knew what all.
Caroline, Sally and Josie were bruised and battered and by the time Henry’s brother Frank was able to return the three women to their homes, they said they didn’t know how they all could possibly go on.
“We have to go on,” their uncle told them. “We’re fighting for our lives now.”
John pounded one fist against the other as he paced the barn. His face was set in a mask of fury.
“I’ve had enough, Bobby!” he spat. “We’ve all had enough!”
“I’ve had enough too.” Bobby couldn’t believe what had happened to his sisters. Since when were they part of the fight? They were girls. They hadn’t done anything. “But there’s nothing we can do about it. No matter what we think, there’s nothing we can do about it!”
“I don’t know if there is or there isn’t,” John growled. “But there’s gonna come a day when we sure as hell can and I’m gonna ride that bull like he ain’t never been rode.”
He dug deep into his pocket.
“I’ve got something for you. I’ve been holding on to it.”
“What is it?”
John held out two shiny buttons.
Bobby looked at the buttons and up at John.
“They’re from Pa’s waistcoat. I took ‘em off it before he was buried.”
“There’s one for me and one for you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“These are to remind us of those stinkin’ sons-of-bitches Yankees and what they took from us, in case we ever get soft. What they took from our family. You keep this button…” He placed one in Bobby’s hand. “..and you remember all they took from us.” He spit on the ground. “You remember all them Bluebelly bastards took.”
The guerillas had had enough too. Injuring and killing innocent women was in no way acceptable to the men of Quantrill and Anderson. As it so often was by this time, it wasn’t just war; it was personal. It was now their turn to throw down their fury.
Over three hundred guerrillas rode into Lawrence, Kansas that warm morning in August. They had been whipped into such frenzy that self-control and any kind of reason were quickly cast off. Throwing aside any semblance of decency, those who rode west that day held fast to the attitude that this was revenge, pure and simple.
It was a blood bath.
“My God,” Cole later expressed to John Jarrett. “Men were killed right in front of their wives…their mothers…their children! Some of them were only boys…”
“You can’t let it bother you, Cole,” Jarrett responded. “That’s justice. Our women were wives, and mothers, and children too and they weren’t treated any better.”
Cole understood that yet he had witnessed some brutal and hideous battle during his time at war but the vicious slaughtering of civilians that day was not what he had signed up to support. If this was justice, justice was not only bitter but unspeakable.
“Cole and the boys really showed ‘em!”
When John heard of the atrocities at Lawrence he was thrilled.
“They gave them a big fistful of the shit we’ve had to put up with!”
“It doesn’t make sense to me.” Bobby was troubled by it. “Why buck up against the Yankees by doing to everyday people like they’ve done to us? They should have just fought the Militia. The people they killed were just people. They weren’t soldiers.”
“Some of them were. Besides, hitting the soldiers that hard takes a lot of planning. It’s not something they can just go out and do.”
“They’ve been doing it, haven’t they? Cole said the guerillas and the Confederate Army have the Yankees on the run.”
“You always say that when you don’t have a good answer.”
Bobby drew circles in the dirt with the stick he was holding. “The Yankees have got to be really mad at what just happened. It’ll be hard to get to the Quantrill men so now they’ll just punish as many regular people as they can. Something bad is gonna happen. You wait and see.”
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