(Johnson County, Kansas and metro Olathe in red inset, state map on right.)
The "Border Wars"
Surprisingly enough, some of the most vicious fighting of the U.S. Civil War occurred not in the East with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac, but in the central and northeastern border region between Kansas and Missouri. On the Union side were regular Army units supported by irregulars known as "redlegs" (because of the red buckskin leggings they wore) or "jayhawkers" and on the side of (or sympathetic to) the Southern Confederacy were the "partisan rangers" or "guerrilla" bands led by the famous (or infamous) William Quantrill and his understudy William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson.
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Both sides left a trail of vengeance, reprisal, atrocity, death, and destruction in their wakes, with little mercy shown by either side to combatants and non-combatants alike. The fighting in the so-called "border wars" was vicious, personal, and often involved the sacking and complete destruction of homes, farms, and entire communities, not to mention kidnapping and murder.
Vengeance and Reprisal
In the late summer and early fall of 1862 Quantrill and his "Raiders" were itching to deliver their unique version of vengeance and reprisal to the other side for depredations committed by "jayhawkers" and Union army troops in central and northwestern Missouri earlier in the year. The "plum ripe for picking" that caught the eye of Quantrill was Olathe, Kansas, a prosperous northeastern border town in Johnson County.
On September 7, 1862 Quantrill's "Raiders," accompanied by "Bloody Bill" Anderson's own small band, rode into Olathe, forced the local militia forces to surrender, and then proceeded to sack and destroy the town. They gathered up not only food, ammunition, and supplies but everything else they could "liberate" from the locals, including items such as mirrors, toiletries, furniture, sheaves of U.S. "greenbacks," and substantial amounts of gold and silver coins.
Back to Missouri
What the "Raiders" couldn't carry on their persons or their mounts they loaded into the 15 or so wagons they took from Olathe's citizens. Then the column headed back for central Missouri. The residents of Olathe were extremely fortunate that Quantrill and "Bloody Bill" were focused more on booty than on murder and execution. Only 6 men from the town lost their lives (in the following year at Lawrence, Kansas the "Raiders" would not be so merciful).
At some point as Quantrill reached Missouri, "Bloody Bill" and his small band broke off from the main column and headed for Cass County, Missouri. This was fortuitous since Federal cavalry columns were hard on the heels of the "Raiders" who had been slowed significantly by their wagonloads of booty. Eventually, Union forces did catch up with Quantrill's men who had to abandon the wagons to avoid death or capture.
Numerous Treasure Troves
Legend has it that numerous treasure troves of various sizes were hastily buried or secreted along Quantrill's route after the pursuing Federals started closing in on the column. It is a historical fact that many (if not all) of the "Raiders'" were carrying heavy loads of cash, jewelry, and gold and silver coins on their persons at the time and that many of these items had to be abandoned along the way. Those that could buried their treasures near unique terrain features that could be easily recognized and committed to memory so that recovery could be attempted at a later date.
I myself suspect that a portion of the loot taken during the Olathe raid was simply scattered about at various locations along the retreat route back into Missouri as the pursuing columns drew near. Granted, the Union forces did recover nearly all the wagons and probably a decent amount of the goodies that had been stolen, but much treasure still escaped recovery. Additionally, some members of Quantrill's column who, in fact, did bury "goodies" along the way were later captured or killed. Thus, those troves remain viable for recovery to this day.
Aside from the treasure trove aspects, the story of the "border wars" and the two Williams (Cantrill and "Bloody Bill") is a unique and highly interesting tale of one of the darker periods in U.S. history. So if you decide to research these potential treasure caches, you'll recover more than just silver and gold.....
Good hunting to all!
If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Lost Gold in Tennessee"
(c) J.R. 2009
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