Society of the Old West

From early westward expansion through the early 20th Century.

William Anderson was born in 1839, in Kentucky and grew up in Randolph County, Missouri. In 1857, he, his brother, and three sisters moved to Agnes City in Kansas. His father was shot to death in 1862. Upon hearing who did the deed, Anderson and his brother shot him and another man. Now wanted for murder Anderson fled Kansas and went back to Missouri.

In 1863, Anderson married a woman by the name of Bush Smith of Sherman County, Texas. During December 1863, Anderson and his brother joined Quantrill and his company of guerrilla raiders and later became one of his officers. Union soldiers arrested many of the relatives of members serving with Quantrill as a way to subdue them from carrying out further raids. Anderson’s three sisters, Mary, Martha and Josephine were imprisoned with nine other women and held in a hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. The building was said to be weakened structurally in that the Yankees had cut and weakened certain supporting partitions and posts. When it collapsed on August 14, Josephine was killed and Mary severely injured, leaving her crippled for life.

This is the incident that infuriated Anderson, causing him to exact a terrible revenge on Union soldiers and civilians alike. The Union army stated it was an accident as they were trying to make the hotel larger, but Anderson didn't believe them. He already hated bluebellies with furious hatred and this incident was pouring kerosene on the fire.

About 200 civilian men and boys were reported killed when Anderson along with Quantrill's Raiders attacked Lawrence, Kansas on August 21st 1863. Many of the buildings were razed to the ground by fire. Quantrill and his company then went to Texas to for a while. Three months later in March 1864 Anderson had a quarrel with Quantrill and returned to Missouri and started his own band of guerrilla raiders.

Anderson made a name for himself when in 1864 he and his guerrillas attacked Union soldiers and civilian sympathizers and was also particularly savage in doing so, shooting prisoners and mutilating the dead. It was reported that Andersons men hung the bloody scalps of their victims from the bridles of their horses. Anderson promised the aggression and terror would continue when he sent letters saying so to several newspaper publishers in Lexington, Missouri. Andersons group was later bolstered with an intake of new recruits including Frank and Jesse James who had originally rode with Quantrill. Anderson kept his promise by raiding Centralia on September 27th 1864. Wearing Confederate army uniforms, Anderson and his group conducted merciless looting, burning and killing of the local inhabitants. It was during this time that they also attacked a train of the Northern Missouri Railroad and robbed the passengers therein. They captured 22 Union soldiers onboard who all ended up being shot at the side of the railway track. They left one union soldier, a sergeant alive so that he could report what he had witnessed there on that day. Later that day, the sergeant duly reported the atrocity to his superiors. As consequence, Union Major A. V. Johnston and his men of the newly formed 39th Missouri mounted Infantry set off to apprehend Anderson and his bloody band. Upon hearing about this, Anderson teamed up with guerrilla leader George Todd and amalgamated their forces. This new bigger band of guerrillas fought and successfully counter attacked Johnston's army. Johnston's army was cut down by hundreds of guerrilla fighters , those who attempted to surrender were shot. In all about 120 men and officers of the 39th Missouri infantry were killed.

The Union army HQ sent a veteran and experienced campaign fighter, Colonel Samuel P Cox out to eliminate Anderson and his band of Guerrillas. Anderson was located on October 26th 1864 in Ray County, Missouri near the hamlet of Albany of which today is part of Orrick County.
Cox lured Anderson into an ambush by getting Andersons men to attack first. Lt. Baker was sent ahead to reconnoiter and bring on the fight with instructions to retreat through our line. 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 as ordered and came dashing through the yankee line, waiting in ambush. 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 the yankees opened fire, many of Anderson's command went down. 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 other man, Archie Clement charged straight through the line and stampeded the wagons. Clemens escaped capture. Clell Miller was wounded and imprisoned. Bloody Bill Anderson's body were taken to Richmond, Missouri and there put on public display and photographed. His body was dragged behind a horse through the streets before being buried in an unmarked grave in Richmond’s Pioneer Cemetery. Andersons identity was confirmed when a photograph of him and his wife along with a lock of hair from their infant child was discovered in his pockets. Also legend has it that a silk cord with 53 knots tied into it was also found, the number of knots indicating how many men Anderson had personally killed. His horse also had a number of scalps attached to the bridle.

 Editor note:  Anderson was indeed a madman,,,, but never a coward.

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