Residents in Lawrence aim to pull-off a social media first: a minute-by-minute reenactment of Quantrill’s Raid via Twitter on Aug. 21.
Bringing together local actors, re-enactors, history buffs and social media lovers, the community Twitter project has participants adopting the personas of those involved in the raid and tweeting as though the events were happening in real time. Folks can follow along on Twitter through the hashtag #QR1863 or through a Twitter feed on the website:
Community members are already tweeting as their characters, but the bulk of the action will occur in the early morning hours of Aug. 21, the day 150 years earlier that William Quantrill and 400 of his men rode into Lawrence murdering and burning as they went.
A grant through the Kansas Humanities Council will allow noted Border War scholars, Missouri State University history instructor Jeremy Neely and KU history professor Jonathan Earle to moderate the Twitter conversation around #QR1863. In the evening of Aug. 21, Neely and Earle will lead a scholarly discussion on the day’s posts and the aftermath of the raid.
More than 30 different Twitter characters – representing both sides of the Kansas/Missouri border – have been assigned. Thanks to a legacy of letters, books and newspaper articles, Twitter participants have a wealth of material from which to shape their characters.
Some historians have claimed Quantrill’s Raid as the greatest civilian atrocity of the Civil War. It was preceded by a decade of escalating violence between the abolitionist-minded Jayhawkers and the pro-slavery Bushwhackers. On Aug. 21, 1863, Quantrill and 400 of his men rode into Lawrence with the intent to plunder and destroy. By the time they left, nearly 200 Lawrence men had died and the town had been reduced to smoldering ruins.
The group of Twitter participants includes historical re-enactors, participants portraying relatives and folks taking on their 1863 counterparts. Pushing the narrative forward will be a local acting troupe lead by Ric Averill, the artistic director of performing arts at the Lawrence
Art Center. Averill and a group of actors will take on the role of some of the more historically significant characters, such as noted newspaper man and abolitionist John Speer and Quantrill. But many secondary roles have been adopted as well.
The event is one of many being held in Lawrence to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s Raid, a tragedy that shaped our city’s course and continues to linger in the minds of its residents. By sharing the story of Quantrill’s Raid with the wide and diverse audience that makes up Twitter, we hope to pique interest in Lawrence’s history and to create a narrative that can be used in educational settings. Oh, and we’d also like to see #QR1863 trending worldwide by the end of the day on Aug. 21.