Book Chat
"The Devil Knows How to Ride:
The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders"

This chat took place in the Civil War Home Chatroom on 10/10/05 and covered Chapters 12 & 13

10/10/2005 8:41 pm (et) Harry: I must regretfully miss the book chat tonight.

10/10/2005 8:42 pm (et) amhistoryguy: We'll miss ya Harry

10/10/2005 8:42 pm (et) Harry: One thing I did notice while reading Chapter 13.

10/10/2005 8:43 pm (et) Harry: When describing Anderson's antics, Leslie mentions that they were indicative of how discipline was breaking down and the men had become out of control.

10/10/2005 8:43 pm (et) Harry: This a full year after Lawrence.

10/10/2005 8:44 pm (et) Harry: I am reading what I imagine will be my favorite chapter...The Death of Quantrill.

10/10/2005 8:44 pm (et) Harry: Though I was pretty happy to see Todd and Anderson get theirs.

10/10/2005 8:45 pm (et) Harry: How's everything, Dave?

10/10/2005 8:45 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Good Harry, it is harder and harder to read Leslie, I agree with you.

10/10/2005 8:48 pm (et) ks: Ditto. I just want to get the final 100 pages or so read and be done with it! :)

10/10/2005 8:49 pm (et) Harry: The book is a chore. Not because it is poorly written so much as the main actors (sorry, but the main Southern actors) are so unlikable.

10/10/2005 8:50 pm (et) Harry: And also because Leslie is obviously on a different page. I mean, imagine Vincent Bugliosi writing "Helter Skelter" trying to justify and glorify Manson.

10/10/2005 8:52 pm (et) Harry: The fact is, he very graphically describes heinous acts committed by Q&A, to the point where they almost become ho-hum (one discharged soldier who tagged along with Q into Kentucky while Q and his men are disguised as Union cavalrymen - he was hung in the woods a couple miles down the road- ho-hum)

10/10/2005 8:52 pm (et) amhistoryguy: It the type of book that I find hard to keep at, poorly researched, poorly written, and with an agenda.

10/10/2005 8:53 pm (et) Harry: Yet, when describing what Leslie obviously feels are equal acts of savagery on the parts of Union men, he is very vague...very few names or details. Suspicious.

10/10/2005 8:54 pm (et) ks: With an agenda, but I thought this week's chapter surely showed an ugliness that Leslie wasn't trying to justify. Had the feeling we were finally seeing him say "Okay, Q was a lowlife killer."

10/10/2005 8:55 pm (et) Harry: Well, I'll be digging into First Bull Run once I'm done with this book. A good change of pace.

10/10/2005 8:55 pm (et) amhistoryguy: You mean First Gentleman's Cow Run?

10/10/2005 8:55 pm (et) Harry: ks...but I really didn't see his behavior change as Leslie seems to try to imply. He seems to me to have been pretty consistently bloodthirsty.

10/10/2005 8:56 pm (et) ks: I really don't expect there's going to be anyone here tonight other than the two of us once Harry departs, AHG. Base is doing his Yankee thing, Babs isn't caught up and heaven only knows what's happened to Archie. And now that we're finally reading something of his namesake. Blech....

10/10/2005 8:57 pm (et) Harry: I was thinking the same thing about Clement, ks.

10/10/2005 8:57 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Should be a rousing discussion ; )

10/10/2005 8:57 pm (et) Harry: And by the way, I'm changing my screen name here to tedbundy.

10/10/2005 8:57 pm (et) Harry: Or maybe johnwaynegacy.

10/10/2005 8:57 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I thought that the comparison of Q to Forrest, even though Leslie attributed it to Lewis, was pretty lame

10/10/2005 8:58 pm (et) Harry: jefferydahmer?

10/10/2005 8:58 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I can ride a horse really well, so I'm a great cavalrymen?

10/10/2005 8:58 pm (et) ks: Yes, I'd agree he's been consistently bloodthirsty, but I didn't feel Leslie psychoanalyzed and tried to explain/justify it this week. And the descriptions of atrocities are so graphic and repetitious this week. Much worse than previous weeks...

10/10/2005 8:59 pm (et) Harry: Leslie's habit of quoting long passages from modern historians like Castel was particularly annoying, like "see, this guy's a professor so he must be right."

10/10/2005 8:59 pm (et) Harry: logs off.

10/10/2005 9:00 pm (et) ks: Leslie made him out as a great tactician too, didn't he? He seemed to learn from mistakes, but didn't see the kind of info that would qualify as a legitimate comparison to Forrest.

10/10/2005 9:00 pm (et) amhistoryguy: And yet, ks, he does describe some of the activities of Q's band, as "Holliganism." As if "boys will be boys."

10/10/2005 9:02 pm (et) ks: Hooliganism I took to be the drinking/carousing/shooting things up. The decapitating, dismembering, raping, and such didn't come across to me as described by Leslie in any way other than as vengeful, demented, atrocities.

10/10/2005 9:02 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I have to admit to having developed a bias against Leslie, and his book. As I said, I am finding it more and more difficult to read. I will admit that this week, he is less devoted to justifying Q, but in my mind, the damage was done by Leslie in previous chapters.

10/10/2005 9:04 pm (et) ks: BTW I do appreciate your showing up to see this through even though the book's not to your liking (or any of our likings). Sometimes in the past we've postponed a book chat when the numbers looked to be low. I don't want to do that with this read. I just want to get it OVER with and the sooner the better. ;)

10/10/2005 9:04 pm (et) amhistoryguy: The use of a story by Younger, and then the admission that "it can't be verified," in my mind, has no place in a work that present itself as history or a "True Story."

10/10/2005 9:05 pm (et) ks: True Story is a ridiculous claim and deserves no place in the title....IMHO.

10/10/2005 9:05 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I agree with that. Although I don't like Leslie's book, I am glad to have read it, and even happier to be done with it.

10/10/2005 9:05 pm (et) ks: Well, shall we try to go through these 2 chapters in order? :) I'll post the heading for the first...

10/10/2005 9:06 pm (et) ks:
Chapter 12

”The History of Every Guerilla Chief Has Been the Same”: The Usurpation of Quantrill
Good to read that even the CSA wanted to be rid of Q and Co.

10/10/2005 9:06 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I found it interesting that, on page 287, "McCulloch ordered the bushwackers to go after them, and Quantrill immediately obeyed."

10/10/2005 9:08 pm (et) amhistoryguy: On page 292, McCulloch states "I have never yet go them to do any service. Whenever order have gone to them, they have some excuse, but are certain not to go."

10/10/2005 9:08 pm (et) ks: I laughed reading McCulloch's correspondence later on when he was trying to get Q as far away from his command as possible.

10/10/2005 9:08 pm (et) amhistoryguy: A bit of a contradiction ?

10/10/2005 9:09 pm (et) ks: Oh, because in that instance Q was after Comanches. Yes, that was interesting. But later on I had the impression McCulloch spoke favorably in order to pass Q off on someone else. He and his company had done so much damage in Texas.

10/10/2005 9:09 pm (et) amhistoryguy: The chapter really hammers home the violent lifestyle the guerillas lived, and the violence they brought to everyone they came in contact with.

10/10/2005 9:10 pm (et) ks: There was no controlling "the boys" any longer.

10/10/2005 9:10 pm (et) amhistoryguy: It seems like when Q was in Missouri, the Confederate attitude was very different than when he was in Texas

10/10/2005 9:11 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Much harder to distance yourself from Q's methods when he is "under your command." but not under your control.

10/10/2005 9:11 pm (et) ks: You mean as in they were hopeful he'd bring in MO enlistments and were more tolerant of his violent activities??

10/10/2005 9:13 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I really had the feeling that they were not as interested in enlistments as they were in trying to draw a Union response, and inflict violence on a part of the country they saw as nearly north.

10/10/2005 9:14 pm (et) ks: I appreciated the inclusion of the letter from Gov. Reynolds urging Q to accept the inevitable. And that quote from which the chapter's name was drawn was very telling. "All authority over undisciplined bands is short-lived. The history of every guerilla chief has been the same. He either becomes the slave of his men, of if he attempts to control them, some officer or some private rises up, disputes his authority, gains the men, and puts him down.

10/10/2005 9:15 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Q may have done more to decrease Missouri enlistments than to increase them. A Missouri Confederate politician even sent a letter to Jefferson Davis to that effect, That because of Q, men were opting to stay home to defend their wives and property from his violence.

10/10/2005 9:17 pm (et) ks: Draw a Union response and Federal attention away from the east...okay, yes, that was the case. But if they could actually bring in those new recruits and supplies, they were more than happy to see Q go back into MO.

10/10/2005 9:17 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I can't help but think that at times, Quantrill confused himself as to his status and goals. I've nothing really to base that on, but considering Leslie's work, it seems to fit.

10/10/2005 9:18 pm (et) ks: I've not read enough about this situation to know if that was the case, so I find what you're saying quite interesting. Was this letter to Davis mentioned in our reading?

10/10/2005 9:18 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I don't recall any statistics or examples of numbers of recruits Q brought in, other than to his own band of outlaws. Any idea how many men Q recruited?

10/10/2005 9:19 pm (et) ks: None. And that's why I wish Archie were around. He's been quick to offer that kind of information or at least point to sources where one might read more.

10/10/2005 9:20 pm (et) amhistoryguy: No, the letter is mentioned in a couple of other sources, which I seem to have misplaced. The letter was written by a Confederate Congressman from Missouri.

10/10/2005 9:21 pm (et) ks: There's been no one around to DISAGREE with these past few weeks. We all have an low (as in bottom of the scum pile) opinion of Quantrill. ;)

10/10/2005 9:22 pm (et) ks: Good. LOL. I was afraid I'd missed something in reading. ;)

10/10/2005 9:22 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I had hoped to get a better idea of just who Q was, but no such luck.

10/10/2005 9:23 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I can't help but feel we are missing a big part of the story.

10/10/2005 9:24 pm (et) ks: I can't say that I was surprised to read about Q's men even starting to murder Confederate officers. That fits with the image I've developed of him as simply a killer. But this was the first time I'd read about the incidents.

10/10/2005 9:24 pm (et) ks: By that I mean it fits with my concept of him, but I'd not seen any references to these incidents previously.

10/10/2005 9:25 pm (et) amhistoryguy: He was ruthless, bloodthirsty, not a at all soldierly, IMO, not much of a leader, and uncontrollable. Yet, there are those who see him as a Confederate hero. I don't get it.

10/10/2005 9:26 pm (et) ks: Nor do I. What did you make of McCulloch's willingness to believe Anderson's claims that Q and his mean were guilty of a vast array of felonies and then attempting to arrest him rather than Fletch Taylor who he had in custody?

10/10/2005 9:28 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think that the amount of confusion centered around Q, extended even to McCulloch. Just like in the Union army and government, those in the Confederacy were careful about stepping on toes.

10/10/2005 9:29 pm (et) amhistoryguy: They weren't sure of Q's status, rank, mission or just who in Richmond, if anyone supported Q.

10/10/2005 9:29 pm (et) ks: Reading about Quantrill doesn't FEEL like reading about any other CW officer I've studied in the past. It's much more a curiosity about a man who gathered about him beasts with totally abhorrent behavior.

10/10/2005 9:30 pm (et) amhistoryguy: It is almost easy to view Q, Lawrence, and the events in Missouri and Kansas as separate from the CW, although taking place in the same time period.

10/10/2005 9:31 pm (et) ks: Wasn't that amazing??!! The mention of the correspondence between Sterling Price and Reynolds trying to figure out just WHO had promoted Quantrill!

10/10/2005 9:33 pm (et) amhistoryguy: As if as a by product of the CW, lawlessness, and roving hordes of murderers and thieves had become commonplace because of conditions created by the war. Not the other way around.

10/10/2005 9:33 pm (et) ks: Not a pretty story. Not one that is easily romanticized or glorified if one looks at the facts of all those dead and dismembered and burnt bodies. I say that and then think of the songs on the Barton and Para site and recordings. Obviously some have romanticized Q's deeds. But I don't see how they could do that at all if they've read the accounts of the killings.

10/10/2005 9:35 pm (et) ks: And please note that I'm not saying Cathy and Dave have romanticized the Q story. They've done research to retrieve the musical history of the time...the way Q was portrayed in the songs sung in parlors and around campfires.

10/10/2005 9:35 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I read somewhere, not in Leslie, that the view of Q as an avenging angel, and the protector against yankee oppressors accounts for his "popular " following.

10/10/2005 9:36 pm (et) amhistoryguy: People reading even Leslie's accounts must be reading with blinders on.

10/10/2005 9:36 pm (et) ks: An avenging angel...whose men are out murdering Southerners and Southern officers in addition to Yankees.

10/10/2005 9:37 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Quantrill didn't have a side other than his own.

10/10/2005 9:38 pm (et) ks: :) Thought that as well, AHG. Some folks who've come off to me previously as pretty "pro-Quantrill" spoke highly of what I'd learn in reading from this book. Though we've stated it's not a good history book, it sure doesn't paint any pretty picture of Q. Leslie, try as he might, can't explain away the killer.

10/10/2005 9:39 pm (et) ks: Guess I'd better mention the final chapter for tonight. ;)

10/10/2005 9:39 pm (et) ks:
Chapter 13

”A Carnival of Blood”: Anderson and Todd During the Summer and Fall of 1864

10/10/2005 9:40 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I hate to keep poking at Leslie, BUT... when he describes the outbreak of "hydrophobia" why the heck couldn't he just say rabies. It sort of irked me.

10/10/2005 9:42 pm (et) ks: It's in this chapter that I reached the "let's get this OVER with already" state. How many more descriptions of massacres like Centralia and decapitations, scalpings, gory and ghoulish arrangements of dead bodies do we need to read?

10/10/2005 9:43 pm (et) ks: :) I read that I thought ""??? oh, he means rabies." Hydrophobia probably fits in better with all of the horrors described. Sounds scarier.

10/10/2005 9:43 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Anderson and Todd were as bad or worse, if that is possible, than Q. I agree with you, I felt like ok enough already, and only kept reading hoping for some indication of motivation other than these guys were fiends.

10/10/2005 9:46 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I thought the hydrophobia comment was a bit pompous - I've always been told that a good writer uses the simple and more generally understood terms.

10/10/2005 9:46 pm (et) ks: They seemed worse to me. The really horrid stuff isn't attributed to Q but rather his contemporaries. This was the first time I'd read repeated accounts of rape. Those stood out amidst all of the other atrocities described. *People who are not reading and haven't read the book...hard to impart the feeling of violence for violence sake overdose I'm experiencing with this book. :-P

10/10/2005 9:48 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Like I've said before, I don't feel like I'm reading a CW book - but a book about the worst criminals of that era, operating under the guise of "warriors."

10/10/2005 9:49 pm (et) ks: I agree. And it's a new experience for me to be thinking as I read "Why isn't he dead yet and can't we get this over with?".

10/10/2005 9:51 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Maybe it's just me, but I don't even find the way Leslie presents Q, that Q is a very interesting person. Like reading about a shark on a feeding frenzy, with no soul or redeeming qualities.

10/10/2005 9:52 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I feel drained after reading 10 or 20 pages.

10/10/2005 9:52 pm (et) ks: I'm reading from the dust jacket about Leslie and his first book, Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls which supposedly received international acclaim. Paul Theroux (no idea who he is, but I'll google and find out) proclaimed it his personal choice for the "best book of 1988. Fascinating, entertaining and horrifying." Seems like he continued in that vein taking up the job of writing about Quantrill. Q fit the bill for fascination with horror.

10/10/2005 9:52 pm (et) amhistoryguy: And I wouldn't mind being done. : )

10/10/2005 9:53 pm (et) ks: So you won't object if I ask to read 100 pages and FINISH this puppy next week?? ;) ;)

10/10/2005 9:54 pm (et) amhistoryguy: YaHOOOO....

10/10/2005 9:54 pm (et) ks: Nothing to read for Sundays and the motivation to have Quantrill dead and buried (and dug up and scattered across many states) will get ME through it. ;)

10/10/2005 9:56 pm (et) ks: To me it's come to feel like Leslie has put this almost bland and blameless face on Quantrill...although he's either out killing or trying to command killers he ultimately can't control.

10/10/2005 9:56 pm (et) amhistoryguy: One more comment on Leslie, It almost seems to me that his interest in Q developed into a book quite some time after he began to research him - thus his comment in the "notes," that the sources "were from his research" rather than being specific. He did not set out to write a book about Q. - it just sort of happened

10/10/2005 9:57 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I can say that I know what Q did from reading Leslie's book, but I can't say that I gained much insight into Q.

10/10/2005 9:58 pm (et) ks: I do look forward to seeing what the Basecat has to say about the read this week. He's mentioned previously not knowing a whole lot about what happened with the border war. I expect his commentary to be memorable. :)

10/10/2005 10:00 pm (et) ks: How could we have much insight into him without his actual correspondence or in depth descriptions from his family and the guerillas with whom he lived and died?

10/10/2005 10:00 pm (et) amhistoryguy: That's one of the benefits of book chat, as I see it. The perspective of others can help you with a clearer understand of your own views.

10/10/2005 10:01 pm (et) amhistoryguy: A character like Q, sources are everything to understanding him.

10/10/2005 10:02 pm (et) amhistoryguy: I think anyone who claims to understand him is kidding themselves.

10/10/2005 10:03 pm (et) ks: Anyway I look forward to reading more about his mother this next week. That might be interesting.

10/10/2005 10:03 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Sounds like a plan

10/10/2005 10:04 pm (et) ks: AHG, thanks for sticking this out with me. ;) Feel like we should share a celebratory toast when this read is in FINISHED. ;)

10/10/2005 10:04 pm (et) amhistoryguy: Thanks for struggling through a two person chat with me.

10/10/2005 10:05 pm (et) ks: Just finishing it won't make it HISTORY. ;)

10/10/2005 10:05 pm (et) ks: LOL My pleasure.  Gracias and Adios! :)

10/10/2005 10:06 pm (et) amhistoryguy: night ks


GO TO CHAT FOR CHAPTERS 14,15 & Epilogue