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The Devil Knows how to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantril and his Confederate Raiders

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Brilliantly weaving together eyewitness accounts, letters, memories, newspaper articles, and military reports into a riveting narrative, this definitive biography reveals the personality of William Clarke Quantrill (1837–1865) and the events that transformed a quiet Ohio schoolteacher from a staunchly Unionist family into a virulent pro-slavery Confederate soldier and the Brilliantly weaving together eyewitness accounts, letters, memories, newspaper articles, and military reports into a riveting narrative, this definitive biography reveals the personality of William Clarke Quantrill (1837–1865) and the events that transformed a quiet Ohio schoolteacher from a staunchly Unionist family into a virulent pro-slavery Confederate soldier and the most feared and despised guerrilla chieftain of the Civil War. This groundbreaking work includes the most accurate account ever written of the 1863 Lawrence, Kansas massacre (the greatest atrocity of the Civil War), when Quantrill and 450 raiders torched the Unionist town and executed roughly 200 unarmed, unresisting men and teenage boys. It also details the postwar outlaw careers of those who rode with him — Frank and Jesse James, and Cole Younger. No other history so fully penetrates the myth of a cardboard-cutout psychopath to expose Quantrill in all his brutality and human complexity.


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Brilliantly weaving together eyewitness accounts, letters, memories, newspaper articles, and military reports into a riveting narrative, this definitive biography reveals the personality of William Clarke Quantrill (1837–1865) and the events that transformed a quiet Ohio schoolteacher from a staunchly Unionist family into a virulent pro-slavery Confederate soldier and the Brilliantly weaving together eyewitness accounts, letters, memories, newspaper articles, and military reports into a riveting narrative, this definitive biography reveals the personality of William Clarke Quantrill (1837–1865) and the events that transformed a quiet Ohio schoolteacher from a staunchly Unionist family into a virulent pro-slavery Confederate soldier and the most feared and despised guerrilla chieftain of the Civil War. This groundbreaking work includes the most accurate account ever written of the 1863 Lawrence, Kansas massacre (the greatest atrocity of the Civil War), when Quantrill and 450 raiders torched the Unionist town and executed roughly 200 unarmed, unresisting men and teenage boys. It also details the postwar outlaw careers of those who rode with him — Frank and Jesse James, and Cole Younger. No other history so fully penetrates the myth of a cardboard-cutout psychopath to expose Quantrill in all his brutality and human complexity.

30 review for The Devil Knows how to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantril and his Confederate Raiders

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I feel some reviews have been unfair to the author. The author wrote beautifully and clearly, and it's obvious he did extensive amounts of research to write this book. I understand that William Clarke Quantrill wasn't a good man and a lot of horrible things happened, but the author did a great job of describing it all in a way that was easy to read and easy to follow. I tend to read history books before bed to help myself fall asleep (I know that sounds bad), but I had to stop myself from readin I feel some reviews have been unfair to the author. The author wrote beautifully and clearly, and it's obvious he did extensive amounts of research to write this book. I understand that William Clarke Quantrill wasn't a good man and a lot of horrible things happened, but the author did a great job of describing it all in a way that was easy to read and easy to follow. I tend to read history books before bed to help myself fall asleep (I know that sounds bad), but I had to stop myself from reading this into the night because I enjoyed it. I'm really happy I decided to read this book about Quantrill because it was such a good read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah Courter

    I'll be honest, I didn't actually finish it. I got about half-way and it was so depressing, I decided not to finish reading it. I picked it up because I didn't know much about the western states during the war. The first part about the border war, was pretty good. Though in no way could you ever justify the brutality that happened on both sides, it was very interesting to read accounts of the politics that occurred prior to the war (the narration begins around 1852) in the region. I would give a 5 I'll be honest, I didn't actually finish it. I got about half-way and it was so depressing, I decided not to finish reading it. I picked it up because I didn't know much about the western states during the war. The first part about the border war, was pretty good. Though in no way could you ever justify the brutality that happened on both sides, it was very interesting to read accounts of the politics that occurred prior to the war (the narration begins around 1852) in the region. I would give a 5 star to the author for his unbiased accounts. He took all his writings from primary sources, using accounts, letters, and dispatches from both sides. Explaining differences between accounts (if they arose), he looked into why someone would be drawn to either exaggerate or down play their own account; connecting the dots between fact and fiction. Two things I'v learned from this: 1) If anyone thinks there were "good 'ol days", please, please remind them that mankind is morally depraved, and aside from the grace and mercy of God, we would have marauders, jay-walkers, red-legs, and border ruffians running wild even now. 2) No matter what "side" you're on, justice must be served. Brutality ALWAYS breeds brutality. Everyone is a human-being and should therefore be treated with respect. It only takes one act not being atoned for, and all hell breaks loose. It turned into a bloodbath, all because no-one held accountable the person[s] who perpetrated the crime to begin with.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Good book. Loaded with info on the Kansas/Missouri border war during the Civil War era. Maybe too much info. Sometimes it was tough to remember who was Union or Confederate due to the many different names. And it seemed a bit repetitive. This calvary goes after the guerrillas, they fight, some die most escape. Then same scenario different guys. Over....and over....and over. If it were edited down a little it would've been a better read in my opinion. But very informative and a good overall book. Good book. Loaded with info on the Kansas/Missouri border war during the Civil War era. Maybe too much info. Sometimes it was tough to remember who was Union or Confederate due to the many different names. And it seemed a bit repetitive. This calvary goes after the guerrillas, they fight, some die most escape. Then same scenario different guys. Over....and over....and over. If it were edited down a little it would've been a better read in my opinion. But very informative and a good overall book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    A very interesting treatment of a figure in US history that most people would probably just as soon forget. Quantrill's story seemingly has the power to engender powerful feelings right down to this day in some parts of the country. Well paced and full of detail. A very interesting treatment of a figure in US history that most people would probably just as soon forget. Quantrill's story seemingly has the power to engender powerful feelings right down to this day in some parts of the country. Well paced and full of detail.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    In Edward Leslie's first book he delivers an excellent account of the life of William Quantrill who was regarded as one of the most vicious commanders in the Civil War. Whether people sided with him as a legitimate soldier or an outlaw chieftain leading a band of thieves and murders the one common thing they agreed upon was his ruthless determination to do harm to the union. So little has been written about the border wars that this provides a fascinating look at the tit for tat strategy and cou In Edward Leslie's first book he delivers an excellent account of the life of William Quantrill who was regarded as one of the most vicious commanders in the Civil War. Whether people sided with him as a legitimate soldier or an outlaw chieftain leading a band of thieves and murders the one common thing they agreed upon was his ruthless determination to do harm to the union. So little has been written about the border wars that this provides a fascinating look at the tit for tat strategy and counter raids that often are written off as simple thievery by other authors. The Union was not always in the right as seen by the devastating Order 11 which swelled Quantrill's ranks with new recruits eager to shoot union soldiers. Leslie also takes some time at the end to cover the fate of the various people who rode with an against Quantrill detailing what happens including the notorious Younger and James brothers who would become infamous in the years following the Civil War using the tactics practiced by Quantrill. Quantrill himself would be killed after being hounded by Union soldiers and being the most wanted man in the West. The one hard part about this subject is the lack of available written sources. While most Civil War literature is filled with primary accounts and journals that survived this is not the case with the border war. We have a few military dispatches and newspaper accounts but most of the direct participating did not keep journals. Leslie puts together what he can and tells the reader when he is going off of rumor or speculation which happens at several points due to lack of hard primary sources. Due to his responsible use I don't see any problem with the book as some other reviewers have. It is well worth the time to gain a greater understanding of the border war and one of the most interesting figures of the Civil War.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    I will commend and congratulate the author on his extensive and thorough research. That said, however, I must say this is simply the most discouraging and dispiriting book I have ever read. Never has the ability of humankind to turn on it's own, to put selfish beliefs and condemnations ahead of faith and fairness, even been more sadly illustrated than in this epic Civil War story. I'm going to have to agree with the author's hypothesis that this story of the "border wars" between Kansas and Miss I will commend and congratulate the author on his extensive and thorough research. That said, however, I must say this is simply the most discouraging and dispiriting book I have ever read. Never has the ability of humankind to turn on it's own, to put selfish beliefs and condemnations ahead of faith and fairness, even been more sadly illustrated than in this epic Civil War story. I'm going to have to agree with the author's hypothesis that this story of the "border wars" between Kansas and Missouri is 2nd only to the treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII as the most heinous event in American history. I would give it a "5" for depth and research, however, it's a hard story to follow and the author does not do much in helping keep the story lines cohesive and coherent, so I'm only rating it a "3".

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brian T

    I really enjoy Civil War history, and the fact that the majority of this story takes place on the Missouri/Kansas border, made it particularly enjoyable for me to read. Quantrill and his guerillas battled heartily with the "jayhawkers" from Kansas, and the raid on Lawrence was portrayed in excellent fashion. Both sides were brutal and unforgiving with the other. There was zero sense of "fair play". Anyone interested in why the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri is so intense would be well advis I really enjoy Civil War history, and the fact that the majority of this story takes place on the Missouri/Kansas border, made it particularly enjoyable for me to read. Quantrill and his guerillas battled heartily with the "jayhawkers" from Kansas, and the raid on Lawrence was portrayed in excellent fashion. Both sides were brutal and unforgiving with the other. There was zero sense of "fair play". Anyone interested in why the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri is so intense would be well advised to read this book. The history between these two states has been "tense" for well over 150 years and this story demonstrates A LOT of the reason why. While I found that this book could get a little dry at times, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    This is a great book for anyone interested in the border war or the Civil War in general. The book paints a good picture of the events leading to the Lawrence raid and the feelings of both sides before and after.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Straw

    Amazing introduction to the border wars in Kansas and Missouri. Covers all your famous sociopaths, like Bloody Bill Anderson. Really gripping account with original sources doing the talking a lot of the time.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lizanne Whitlow

    CD Audiobook via Blackstone Downpour

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve K

  12. 5 out of 5

    James

  13. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Avery

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tara Leonardt

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Hensley

  16. 4 out of 5

    Wetbook

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amy

  18. 4 out of 5

    James

  19. 4 out of 5

    Colin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jkluever

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Smethers

  22. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Todd

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alvidblu

  24. 4 out of 5

    AresJett

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maarten Vanderhaeghe

  27. 4 out of 5

    Richard Lallo

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott Chesebrough

  29. 4 out of 5

    Doug Deaton

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tam Le Blanc

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