"Bloody Bill" Anderson ?-1864
His tactics were often
compared to the "uncivilized" warfare of the Indians. Union
commanders in the area had issued official orders throughout the time
of the war that denied quarter to guerillas. Any guerilla soldier caught
in a battle with Union troops was to be executed on the spot Anderson
and other guerilla leaders responded in kind and also refused quarter
to Union troops. After his death he would gain the moniker, "Bloody
Bill" Anderson. His philosophy of warfare was that of his Scottish
ancestors who's motto was, nemo me impune lacessit (no one provokes me
Anderson was born in Missouri but lived his teen years in Kansas during
the border war that exploded in Missouri and Kansas with the Kansas and
Nebraska act of 1854. The Kansas and Nebraska act became the first test
of the philosophy of a popular vote to determine if Kansas would enter
the state as a free or slave state. The question of slavery in states
had impact on the balance of power within the federal government and many
Missourians perceived that a free Kansas would slant power to the northern
states. Many people from the north saw that Kansas entering, as a slave
state would shift the balance of power to the south.
In response to this perceived threat to the north, the New England Emigrant
Aid Company (NEAC) was formed. The goal of the NEAC was to encourage abolition-minded
people in immigrating to Kansas in order to vote. Missourians reacted
by crossing the border in order to vote in Kansass elections. Much
has been made of the cross-border voting but the fact is that it was not
an unusual practice and the results of such votes had been accepted in
the past such as when Iowa voters crossed to vote in Nebraska elections.
People from border counties of one state felt they had a vested interest
in the affairs of the bordering state and so the practice was not rare.
These two opposing philosophies led to violence in a very short time.
Kansans and Missourians began collecting arms and raiding across the border
to punish those on the other side who were seen as a threat. Abolitionists
tended to wink at lawbreakers like John Brown and treated them as heroes
instead of murdering thieves they were. By the same token, many Missourians
with southern sympathies saw the New England immigrants as outsiders who
challenged their assumed right to settle Kansas. Many from both sides
saw the unrest as a chance for personal gain under the guise of defending
high ideals. From the Missouri side came a group that would earn the designation,
"border ruffian." The same ilk of people from Kansas were designated,
One prominent group of Jayhawkers came to be known as "Redlegs,"
named for the red leather leggings they wore around their legs. The Jayhawker
bands were based primarily in Lawrence, Kansas which was named after a
wealthy abolitionist in the east. Lawrence became the focus of Jayhawker
activity in the War Between the States.
When the War Between the States began in the east, the differences between
Missouri and Kansas only escalated. The majority of Kansans by that time
were strong unionists. The majority of Missourians at that time wished
to remain neutral in the war as conditional unionists. Federal troops
soon occupied Missouri and many Missourians then felt compelled to choose
sides. William T. Anderson, just 21 years old, chose for the south as
a partisan ranger or guerilla.
The federal occupation forces soon came to regard the guerillas as common
criminals rather than soldiers and so, under the command of General Halleck
in March of 1862, they officially instituted a policy of executing captured
guerillas. Further, federal forces began rounding up and imprisoning family
members of suspected guerillas. The guerilla leaders accepted such terms
and often killed the soldiers they captured. "No Quarter" became
the rallying cry of both sides with Missouri and Kansas civilians caught
in the middle. When the no quarter policy seemed to only encourage guerilla
activity, the federal commanders began harassing civilians who were suspected
of assisting the Confederate cause by aiding the guerillas. Some were
even harassed for feeding a family member home on furlough from the war.
Men and even young boys were often murdered by federal troops when they
would not betray the hiding places of guerilla bands.
In August of 1863, several women from guerilla families were being held
in a Kansas City jail when it collapsed killing several of them. The guerillas
were convinced that the collapse had been purposely engineered by federal
troops and became enraged. One of the women killed was the eldest sister
of William Anderson. Anderson, by now a leader of a guerilla band, is
said to have been driven insane with a lust for revenge. It is said that,
after the jail collapse, he would ride into battle weeping his sister's
name and that he claimed that he would never spare a federal. From that
time on, there was no return to "civilized" warfare for Anderson.
A little over a week after the jail collapse Anderson joined with other
guerilla bands under the leadership of William Clarke Quantrill for a
raid into Lawrence, Kansas. By the end of August, the federal commander,
General Ewing, issued Order Number 11, which effectively expelled all
citizens from the western border of Missouri and confiscated their property
to federal authorities.
Waging war on the civilian population only galvanized the guerillas in
their efforts to expel the federal occupation force. Anderson moved to
central Missouri where he could find more Confederate sympathizers to
supply and hide his band. In central Missouri his guerillas concentrated
on disrupting communications and supplies to the union forces. In 1864
his primary target was the railroad system that tied Hannibal, St. Louis
and St. Joseph, Missouri. His guerillas made several raids in towns along
the Missouri and Grand Rivers as well. They recruited for the regular
Confederate army and for their own forces. Union forces were at a disadvantage
since the population tended to side with the guerillas providing supplies,
hiding places, and intelligence about union troop movements.
In late September of 1864, the union commander in the area, General Fisk,
issued orders to teach the Confederate sympathizers a lesson. Some say
that Anderson had been notified of these orders and had suspected the
town of Centralia, Missouri as a probable target of a Union raid.
On 27 September, Anderson led his men into Centralia to collect supplies
and disrupt the railroad station. They found the rail schedule and noticed
a train was due so they stayed in the station in order to rob the train.
Anderson's guerillas blocked the rail forcing the train to stop. They
boarded the train and began robbing the passengers when they discovered
25 union soldiers on furlough from General William Sherman's command in
the southeast. The soldiers were lined up beside the train, stripped of
their uniforms, and executed. The guerillas would often wear stolen union
uniforms in order to ambush federal patrols so they took the uniforms
and left town suspecting a federal force was likely on the way.
In fact, a company of about 150 union troops had been on Andersons
trail for some time and was not far behind them. They followed Anderson's
trail to just south of Centralia. Often the guerillas would send out a
small group of their band to lure their enemy into a trap. This tactic
worked once again as some of Anderson's men lured the federal patrol into
a field surrounded by trees on three sides. When the federals came into
the field, they found themselves surrounded by guerilla forces that had
been hiding in the trees around the field. Several guerilla leaders had
joined forces to annihilate the federal patrol. The guerillas charged
and killed federals by the score giving no quarter to those attempting
to surrender. They pursued and killed the troops that attempted to escape.
Some guerillas even scalped their victims.
After the battle the guerilla bands separated again to elude their pursuers.
Anderson and his command headed west along the Missouri river taking one
of the federal troops from the train as a hostage to be exchanged for
one of their men being held in federal prison. They continued to kill
union militia and sympathizers along the way. By October, Anderson's band
was camping in the little town of Albany, Missouri, just north of the
modern-day town of Orrick. Federal troops attacked the guerilla camp and
the guerillas responded with a daring charge led by Anderson. Anderson
rode right through the federal lines bullets whizzing around him but as
he passed through the lines his horse slowed and he dropped to the ground.
The other guerillas, realizing their bold leader had been killed, scattered
in all directions.
The federal troops took Anderson's body to Richmond where a series of
ghoulish photographs were taken. He was buried in an unmarked grave in
Richmond and in the evening federal troops were said to have been seen
urinating on his grave. The federals found flowers on the grave a few
days later and road their horses over and over the grave in an attempt
to hide it. Just a few years ago, a simple marker was placed on his grave
in what is now called the Pioneer Cemetery in Richmond, Missouri.
After his death, William Anderson gained the now familiar nickname, "Bloody
Bill." It is said that in war the winners write the official history
and so it is with Anderson. He has been remembered as a devil-incarnate
by most and will probably always be remembered as more fiend than human.
Anderson was the leader of a band of desperate men fighting for a lost
cause. His philosophy in war was to inflict as much damage on his enemy
as possible, and he certainly lived out that philosophy. Legend has it
that Anderson carried a silk cord with a knot for every federal he killed.
It is said that he stopped knotting the cord after 54 knots but there
were many more after that.
To some, his legend is the epitome of evil. To others, his legend is the
epitome of a fierce warrior who made his enemies feel the heat of his
vengeance. His headstone reads simply, "Captain, Confederate States
By J. Mark Hord