William T. Anderson

William T. Anderson

William T. Anderson a.k.a "Bloody Bill" (1839–October 26, 1864) was a pro-Confederate guerrilla leader in the American Civil War, known for his brutality towards Union soldiers, Jayhawkers, and pro-Union civilians in Missouri and Kansas.

Early years

Born in Kentucky, Anderson grew up near Huntsville in Randolph County, Missouri with his parents, William C. Anderson, a hat maker, and Martha (Thomason) Anderson. In 1850, his father traveled to California, leaving Anderson and his two brothers, Ellis and James, to provide for the family in his absence. After William Anderson Sr. returned from California, the Anderson family moved to Agnes City Township, Kansas, in 1857.

Anderson worked for a time on a wagon train and allegedly was suspected of horse theft. He supposedly conducted several forays into Missouri, primarily to steal horses. Anderson's father was shot dead in March 1862. Most accounts claim a neighbor did it and that Anderson and his brother Jim later confronted the neighbor, killing him and another man. Now in trouble with the law, Anderson had to leave Kansas.

Anderson as a guerrilla

By the spring of 1863, if not earlier, Anderson and his brother Jim had become bushwhackers and joined Quantrill's Confederate guerrilla company. Anderson later became one of Quantrill's lieutenants. The same year, Union authorities, frustrated by their failure to stamp out the bushwhackers, decided to arrest relatives of the leading members of Quantrill's guerrilla company. Anderson's sisters, Mary, Josephine, and Martha, were imprisoned with nine other women, all accused of assisting Confederate partisans. They were housed in a Kansas City, Missouri building which had allegedly been made structurally unsound by Union soldiers, who, it is claimed, removed partitions and posts in an effort to make more space. On August 14, the building collapsed, killing four of the women, including Josephine. Anderson's sister Mary survived, but was permanently crippled. This incident has been suggested as the spark for the virulent brutality that Anderson would henceforth demonstrate against Union soldiers and civilians.

During the winter of 1863/64, Bill Anderson married Bush Smith of Sherman, Texas.

Raids on Lawrence, Kansas, and Centralia, Missouri

Anderson participated in Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, Kansas on August 21, 1863. About 200 civilian men and boys were reported to have been killed, and many homes and buildings in Lawrence were burned to the ground. Soon afterward, Quantrill led his men on a winter retreat to Texas. There he and Anderson quarreled, and Anderson returned to Missouri in March 1864 at the head of his own guerrilla company.

In 1864 Anderson gained notoriety for his particular savagery against Union soldiers and civilian sympathizers alike. He and his men usually shot their prisoners, and often mutilated and scalped the dead. He sent letters to newspapers in Lexington, Missouri, promising further violence against pro-Union civilians and threatening to take women of Union families as hostages. That year he was joined by a group of recruits who had served briefly with Archie Clement, his own lieutenant; these recruits included Frank James, who had been one of Quantrill's Raiders, and the sixteen-year-old Jesse James. During this time, Anderson's men adopted the practice of dangling the bloody scalps of their victims from their horse bridles.

On September 27, 1864, Anderson led fellow bushwhackers in the Centralia Massacre, looting and terrifying the local populace. They barricaded the tracks of the Northern Missouri Railroad and forced a train to stop. They robbed the civilian passengers, and killed 22 Union soldiers who were returning home on furlough. Anderson left one Union sergeant alive for a possible prisoner exchange; the rest he had stripped, shot, and scalped or otherwise mutilated.

The same day, Union Major A.V.E. Johnston of the newly raised 39th Missouri Infantry Regiment (Mounted) set off with his men to pursue Anderson's band. Anderson, in conjunction with other guerrilla leaders such as George Todd, sent out a detachment that lured Johnston into a trap. After discharging their single-shot rifles and causing light guerrilla casualties, the Union solders were overrun by the pistol-wielding bushwhackers. Many fled in a panic as the guerrillas cut them down. Those who tried to surrender were slaughtered. Around 120 mounted infantrymen were killed in the ambush and pursuit. Bodies of the soldiers were decapitated and mutilated by some of the guerrillas.

Anderson's death

At the time of the Battle of Centralia, the Union command was busy opposing a raid by General Sterling Price, at the head of 12,000 Confederate cavalrymen. Price feinted towards St. Louis, made an attack on the federal garrison at Pilot Knob, then turned west, drawing the Union forces south of the Missouri River. Anderson met briefly with Price, but chose to return to the north side of the river, where he faced only local militia.

Union headquarters assigned militia Colonel Samuel P. Cox the task of eliminating the guerrilla leader. On October 26, 1864, Cox managed to locate Anderson in Ray County, Missouri near the hamlet of Albany, which is now part of Orrick, Missouri. [http://www.daviesscountyhistoricalsociety.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=90&mode=mode=thread&order=0&thold=0] Ironically, he used one of Anderson's favorite tactics against him. Cox sent a mounted detachment to lure the guerrillas into an ambush. Anderson led his men in a charge straight into the waiting militiamen, who fired a volley. "Bloody Bill" fell from his horse, shot through the head. His surviving men then retreated. Allegedly, a silken cord with fifty-three knots was found on Anderson. It was claimed to be the number of men he had killed. Human scalps were also found on his bridle. A photograph of Anderson and his wife was found in his pocket, along with a lock of hair from their infant child, confirming his identity.

Cox gave this account of the battle:

"I had o­nly about 300 men under my command and gave the word to stand their ground – this fight must be victory or death – and not a man faltered. We dismounted at the wooden bridge leaving our horses in charge of the men with the commissary wagons. Crossing the bridge I stationed my men in the timber and gave explicit instructions not to begin shooting until I gave the command. Lt. Baker was sent ahead to reconnoiter and bring o­n the fight with instructions to retreat through our line. Cas. Morton, now a retired brigadier general, of Washington, D.C., was sent to Baker with the word to start the fight. Baker dashed up to where Anderson and his men were having meal ground and getting provisions, and opened fire. Instantly Anderson and his men were in their saddles and gave chase to Baker, who retreated under instructions and came dashing through our line. Anderson and some 20 of his men came in their historic manner, with their bridle reins in their teeth and revolver in each hand. When my men opened fire, many of Anderson's command went down. Others turned and fled, but the grim old chieftain and two of his men went right through the line, shooting and yelling, and it was as Anderson and o­ne of his men turned and came back that both of them were killed. The celebrated (Capt.) Archie Clement, who had gone through our line with Anderson, kept right o­n across the bridge and stampeded my wagon train and its guards boy [sic] yelling to them to fly as the command was cut to pieces, and thinking it was o­ne of their men, they ran and kept it up until I was a day or two getting them together again. In the hubbub, Clemens escaped. Clell Miller, afterwards a noted bank robber and a desperate character, was wounded in this fight and taken prisoner. It was with difficulty I restrained my men and the citizens from lynching him." [http://www.daviesscountyhistoricalsociety.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=90&mode=mode=thread&order=0&thold=0]
Anderson's remains were taken to Richmond, Missouri, put on public display, and photographed. His body was then dragged through the streets before being buried in an unmarked grave in Richmond's Pioneer Cemetery. In 1908, ex-guerrilla and outlaw Frank James arranged for a funeral service at Anderson's grave. Finally, in 1967 a veteran's tombstone was placed over his grave, incorrectly giving his birth year as 1840.

Death Controversy

As with many notorious characters in American history, various people appeared after his death claiming to be Bloody Bill Anderson. During a bank robbery in Gallatin, Missouri in December 1869, Jesse James shot the cashier, mistaking him for Samuel P. Cox, the man James said killed Bloody Bill Anderson. Nevertheless, there are those who insist Anderson had survived.

In 1924, a Brown County, Texas settler named William Columbus Anderson was interviewed by Henry C. Fuller, a staff writer for the "Brownwood Banner-Bulletin". Anderson claimed he was the real Bloody Bill Anderson, with the same name and middle initial as Anderson's father. He said that another guerrilla's body had been mistaken for his own. W. C. Anderson lived in a farmhouse at Salt Creek, near Brownwood, dying in 1927 at age eighty-seven. As with so many cases of purported survivors (including the many claimants to being Jesse James), independent scholars have given no credence to this or other claims.

The Hollywood version

In the movie The Outlaw Josey Wales, the title character, played by Clint Eastwood, is visited by a band loosely structured around Anderson and his men after the slaughter of Josey Wales' family by Kansas Jayhawkers. Wales agrees to ride with the group to "set things right." The character "Red Legs Terrell" is not based on the real Edwin Terrell but most likely on the notorious Redleg killer Capt. William S. Tough.

Also, a movie directed by Byron Werner entitled "Death Valley: The Revenge of Bloody Bill", portrays him as an undead zombie terrorizing a college debate team being held hostage by a drug dealer. Although the movie is accurate about his killings, it is inaccurate in aspects such as his death and his sister, who, in the film, was said to have been hanged due to her relation with Anderson.


* Albert E. Castel, Thomas Goodrich, "Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage life of a Civil War Guerilla"
* T.J. Stiles, "Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War" (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)
* Edward E. Leslie,"The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders"
* Thomas Goodrich " Bloody Dawn: The Story of the Lawrence Massacre"

External links

* [http://www.lastrebel.com Website for "Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War", with numerous primary sources]
* [http://www.ericjames.org Official website for the Family of Frank & Jesse James: Stray Leaves, A James Family in America Since 1650]
* [http://www.civilwarhistory.com/quantrill/anderson.htm Biography of Bloody Bill Anderson]
* [http://warrensburg.k12.mo.us/vw/scheuerell/bloody/ Biography of Bloody Bill Anderson]
* [http://www.millersparanormalresearch.com/Pages/Bloody_Bill.htm page about Bloody Bill]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7095 Anderson on Find a Grave]
* [http://history-sites.com/mb/cw/mocwmb/index.cgi?noframes;read=5899 Well researched analysis of the Anderson survival claims]

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