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Economic difficulties


William Quantrill
William Quantrill

Economic difficulties resulted from a national depression in 1857 and a severe drought in 1859 and 1860. However, the discovery of gold in 1858 in the eastern Rocky Mountains of present-day Colorado, then in western Kansas Territory, brought prosperity to some. Miners purchased supplies in the Missouri River towns of Atchison and Leavenworth; stagecoach and freight companies—such as Russell, Majors, and Waddell—became big businesses; and the Smoky Hill Trail across central Kansas was opened. The Pony Express, a mail service between Saint Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, began on April 3, 1860, under the direction of the Central Overland California and Pike’s Peak Express Company. At that time, regular mail service took up to three weeks to cross the continent, but the Pony Express carried mail on horseback between Saint Joseph and Sacramento in ten days. Pony Express riders were expected to cover 120 km (75 mi) a day.

William Frederick Cody, who later became a scout and showman, known as Buffalo Bill, rode the Pony Express, which lasted only a little more than a year because of the completion of the transcontinental telegraph. Shortly after Kansas achieved statehood the Civil War began. Kansas contributed more than 20,000 men (two-thirds of the adult males in the state) to the Union effort. Blacks and Native Americans each contributed soldiers to the Union troops raised in Kansas. Kansas troops served on the plains, saw action in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and the Indian Territory, and the Eighth Kansas Infantry distinguished itself at Lookout Mountain and Chickamauga. There were no major battles in Kansas, but Kansas troops helped pursue a retreating Confederate force under General Sterling Price in October 1864, following his defeat at the battle of Westport in present-day Kansas City, Missouri. The Confederates were caught in Kansas, but Price managed to escape.

Confederate guerrillas led by William Quantrill raided several communities in eastern Kansas, and some Kansans engaged in similar activity in western Missouri. On August 21, 1863, Quantrill attacked Lawrence, Kansas, at dawn, destroyed its businesses, and killed 150 people, most of them civilians. In October Quantrill raided Baxter Springs and then attacked troops on their way to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Disguised in Union uniforms, the guerrillas took the Union force by surprise and inflicted heavy casualties. Encarta "Kansas" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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