The Civil War was undoubtedly the most traumatic time in Missouri history. In Missouri, the conflict began brewing well before the war started. There were plenty of travesties committed between Red-legs and Jayhawkers from Kansas and abolitionists from Missouri to fuel the dark depths of men's souls, where hatred, vengeance and bloodthirsty violence can grow to a fever pitch.
These acts escalated during the war years, as the most inflamed of these men on both sides decided they preferred fighting guerrilla-style in a border war instead of being confined to the missions and mores of the Union and Confederate armies.
For some, their actions were a product of seeking vengeance against the enemy, and for others, it was an opportunity to let their baser instincts and emotions take blossom.
In southwest Missouri, there were many bushwhackers who claimed one affiliation or the other or changed them when the situation demanded it, all so they could rob, rape and murder at will — men like Alf Bolin and others of his ilk.
Then there were the more widely known guerrillas who claimed the high moral ground for their acts while exhibiting the most heinous forms of violence that one can imagine. They were the ones with many followers, who left a bloody swath behind them and killed civilians as well as military personnel.
One such guerrilla was a man who was born in Missouri, but whom you might have never heard of. He was active with the worst of them and rubbed shoulders with those whose names will live in infamy.
It might seem appropriate that Allen Parmer's middle name was Hazard. He was born May 6, 1848, near Kearney in Clay County as one of seven children born to Isaac W. and Barbara (Hazard) Parmer. Both Isaac and Barbara were natives of Ohio.
When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Allen Parmer was approaching his 13th birthday. When he decided to join in the fight for the Confederacy, Parmer enlisted with Quantrill's Partisan Rangers. At the time, he was either 14 or 15 and might not have known what he was getting into by joining the bloody guerrilla outfit, but he soon would and seemed to embrace all that it entailed.
William Clarke Quantrill had been born in Ohio. By the time he was 16, he was a schoolteacher. After his abusive father died of tuberculosis, Quantrill left home for Mendota, Ill., where he secured a job unloading timber from railcars in a lumber yard.
One night, early in 1856, Quantrill was working the late shift when an altercation resulted in his killing another man. He was arrested, but with no witnesses, he was let go and left for Fort Wayne, Ind., where he once again became a schoolteacher.
Restless by nature, Quantrill moved back home to Ohio where he partnered up with two other men and migrated to the Kansas Territory in February 1857. The other two men agreed to pay for Quantrill's land in exchange for working off the amount, but Quantrill soon spent his days wandering the wilderness with a rifle instead of working off his debt.
He then joined with others to start a settlement on Tuscarora Lake, but was banished from the new settlement when he was caught stealing goods from the other settlers' cabins. Next, he signed on as a teamster for an expedition to Salt Lake City for the Army in the spring of 1858.
After that, he became part of a gang of Missouri ruffians who charged fees to protect Missouri farmers from the Jayhawkers.
He ended up in 1859 in Lawrence, Kan., where he again taught school for one term. Next he took up cattle rustling with some friends before developing a scheme where he used free black men to lure in runaway slaves so he could capture them and return them to their owners for the bounty.
Curiously, in 1858 he wrote a letter to a friend supporting the Northern cause and stating that notorious abolitionist James Henry “Jim” Lane was “as good a man as we have here.” However, by February 1860, he had changed his tune in a letter to his mother, saying he now supported the pro-slavery faction and that he detested the aforementioned Jim Lane.
When the war started in April 1861, Quantrill enlisted in the First Cherokee Mounted Regiment out of the Indian Territory before transferring to Company B of Colonel Cockrell's Second Cavalry Regiment that was part of the Eighth Division of the Missouri State Guards. These were units fighting for the Confederacy.
He is reported to have fought at the Battle of Carthage on July 5, 1861, and at the Skirmish at Dug Spring in Christian County that was a prelude to the upcoming battle in Greene County. That was the battle at Wilson's Creek on Aug. 10, 1861, where Quantrill again fought for the Confederacy.
Two days after that battle, he was commissioned as a captain of cavalry scouts and then personally spearheaded the attack on Independence in the Second Battle of Independence.
However, Quantrill apparently chafed at the strict order of Gen. Sterling Price's Confederate Army and soon deserted to form his own “army” of ruffians who would follow his orders ruthlessly and efficiently. By Christmas of 1861, he had 10 men recruited at Blue Springs who were loyal to him and dependable.
In 1862, he began to pick up other Missouri recruits, including the likes of Cole Younger, Willam T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson, and Frank and Jesse James. If Allen Parmer joined up with Quantrill when he was 14, he also would have joined him in 1862. If he was 15 when he joined up, it would have been the following year.
Next week: The bloody guerrilla warfare takes a toll on Missouri.