Tag Archives: William “Bloody Bill” Anderson

Missouri: Price Rushes West

October 15, 1864 – Major General Sterling Price’s Confederates captured several towns while moving through Missouri, but Federal pursuers were closing in on them fast.

Confederate General Sterling Price | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

In September, Price had begun an expedition to free his home state from Federal rule. His Army of Missouri consisted of three cavalry divisions under Major General James F. Fagan and Brigadier Generals John S. Marmaduke and Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby. Price initially planned to head northeast and capture St. Louis, but after learning that the city was heavily defended, Price instead rode to seize the state capital of Jefferson City.

Price’s troopers turned westward and moved along the Missouri River, passing through Washington, skirmishing with a token Federal force at Richwoods, and occupying Herman. The Confederates crossed the Osage River on the 6th and approached Jefferson City, but Price found the Federal defenses there too strong to attack. He continued west toward Boonville, with a Federal brigade under Brigadier General John B. Sanborn in pursuit.

Meanwhile, Major General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Department of Missouri from St. Louis, deployed cavalry under Major General Alfred Pleasonton and XVI Corps under Major General Andrew J. Smith to pursue the Confederates. Smith’s corps had been slated to reinforce the Federals in Tennessee, but it was held back to deal with Price.

Major General Samuel R. Curtis, commanding the Federal Department of Kansas from Fort Leavenworth, mobilized a division of his Army of the Border under Major General James G. Blunt to move east into Missouri and confront Price. Kansas Governor Thomas Carney reluctantly gave Curtis a division of state militia to join Blunt after learning that Price was moving west toward his state.

Price reached Boonville on the 9th, where he learned that not only were Pleasonton and Smith pursuing from the east, but 20,000 Federals under Curtis were heading his way from the west. Price resolved to continue heading west, and he issued a proclamation requesting that citizens join his army and “redeem” Missouri from Federal control.

The Boonville residents were initially supportive of Price’s efforts, and about 2,000 volunteers joined Price’s army. The divisions of Fagan and Marmaduke defeated Sanborn’s pursuing Federals outside Boonville on the 11th and sent them retreating across Saline Creek.

However, even with the new recruits, desertions and illness left Price with just 8,500 men, or 3,500 less than he had when the campaign started. And public opinion turned against the Confederates after they spent two days looting Boonville. This recklessness gave the Federals time to develop a strategy to destroy them.

Confederate partisans led by William “Bloody Bill” Anderson came to Boonville to reinforce Price, but Price was outraged by the scalps hanging from their bridles. With large numbers of Federal troops closing in from two directions, Price began looking to return to Arkansas. He and Anderson parted ways, with Anderson’s partisans going to raid towns north of the Missouri River.

Price dispatched troopers under Shelby and Brigadier General John B. Clark, Jr. to capture Glasgow, the supposed site of a large Federal arsenal. The 2,500 troopers placed the 750-man Federal garrison under siege and forced its surrender on the 15th. Elements of Shelby’s command also captured Paris that day. However, the Federals destroyed most of their stockpile before surrendering.

Another detached force of about 1,500 Confederates from Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson’s command and part of Shelby’s Iron Brigade captured Sedalia. Thompson stopped his men from looting the town; they only took arms, horses, and supplies before moving on to rejoin Price’s army. These victories boosted Confederate morale, but the time they spent occupying the towns gave the Federals more time to close in on them.

Price then captured Carrollton and burned Smithville before approaching Lexington. Rosecrans looked to trap Price between his force and Curtis’s, but many of the Kansas militia refused to cross the border into Missouri. Blunt had just about 2,000 men in his command when he approached Lexington, about 30 miles east of Kansas City. Shelby rode into his home town of Waverly to confront Blunt’s Kansans and Coloradans.

On the 19th, Price’s main force drove Blunt’s Federals westward, down the Independence Road out of Lexington, until darkness ended the fighting. Blunt was no match for Price, but he gained important information about Price’s strength.

Blunt’s Federals withdrew to defenses on the bank of the Little Blue River, east of Independence, on the 20th. Curtis urged Blunt to concentrate at Independence because “the Big Blue must be our main line for battle. We must pick our battle-ground where we can have united councils as well as a strong position.” Curtis reported:

“The country is rough and thickly timbered, and the streams bordered by precipitate banks, which render it generally impassable for cavalry and artillery. I divided the forces, distributing them so as to form a line more or less continuous, according to danger, from the Missouri River to the crossing of the Blue, near Hickman Mills, a distance of 15 or 16 miles.”

By the 20th, Price’s momentum had slowed and Missourians had not joined his army as he hoped. Pinned by the Missouri River on his right, Price now faced advances from Pleasonton’s Federal cavalry behind him, A.J. Smith’s infantry moving toward his left, and Blunt’s men in his front. But the Confederates continued forward, clashing with Blunt’s vanguard on the Little Blue and driving them toward Independence.

Price’s troopers captured Independence on the 21st, after Federals put up a strong resistance in the streets and houses. The Confederates camped that night west of Independence. Pleasonton’s cavalry attacked the Confederate rear guard at Independence the next day, pushing them westward out of town.

Meanwhile, Price learned that Curtis and Blunt blocked his path at Westport. Shelby’s Confederates flanked Blunt on the Big Blue, giving Price control of Byram’s Ford. Blunt withdrew to join Curtis’s main force, while Price used the ford to move his 500 supply wagons and 5,000 head of cattle southward.

As Price approached Westport, Curtis held a council of war in Kansas City’s Gillis House to ponder his next move. Curtis had initially planned to withdraw to Fort Leavenworth, but Blunt persuaded him to instead attack the Confederates in the morning. Price in turn planned to drive off Curtis in his front and then turn and drive off Pleasonton in his rear. Being outnumbered, this was a desperate gamble, but it was Price’s only hope of escaping Missouri without having his army destroyed.

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Sources

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 466, 469-71, 476-78; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Kindle Locations 12116-26, 12137-57, 12178-88; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 504-12; Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 602-03; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 578-81, 583-87; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 787; Schultz, Fred L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 474

Bloody Bill’s Centralia Raid

September 27, 1864 – Pro-Confederate guerrillas ravaged a Missouri town and murdered nearly 150 Federal soldiers.

William “Bloody Bill” Anderson | Image Credit: BlogSpot.com

On the night of September 26, a band of 225 ruffians under guerrilla leaders “Bloody Bill” Anderson and George Todd camped at the Singleton farm, four miles south of Centralia, a small railroad town. The next day, Anderson and 30 men, including Frank and Jesse James, entered Centralia to collect St. Louis newspapers, but after they got drunk on a barrel of whiskey, Anderson declared from the town square, “From this time forward I ask no quarter and give none.”

The raiders terrorized residents for three hours, committing robbery, rape, and murder before finally burning the town. When the train from Columbia arrived at noon, they forced the passengers out and robbed them. They tore up a stretch of track, forcing the westbound train from St. Charles to stop before it could reach the depot. They robbed these passengers as well, then killed 24 unarmed Federal soldiers on furlough along with two civilians trying to hide their valuables.

Anderson spared Federal Sergeant Thomas Goodman, hoping to exchange him for an imprisoned Confederate guerrilla. The raiders made off with $3,000 in greenbacks from the train’s express car, returned to the Singleton Farm, then released Goodman unharmed.

Later that day, Federal Major A.V.E. Johnson and 158 men from the 39th Missouri arrived in Centralia. Johnson left half his force to restore order in the town and led the other half in pursuit. Three miles out, the raiders suddenly wheeled around and attacked their pursuers. The guerrillas shot or cut the throats of most Federals, including Johnson, with the 23 men on the fastest horses escaping.

The raiders then returned to Centralia and killed most of the remaining Federals, many of whom begged for mercy. Those wounded were shot in the head. The 39th lost a total of 116 killed, two wounded, and six missing. Anderson and Todd scalped and decapitated many of their victims and wore their hair and heads as trophies.

On the 29th, the district commander, Brigadier General Clinton Fisk, arrived at Centralia and reported that some Federals “were shot through the head, then scalped, bayonets thrust through them, ears and noses cut off, and privates torn off and thrust in the mouths of the dying.”

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Sources

Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 463; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 123; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Kindle Locations 12127-37; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 501-02; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 61; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 575; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 787; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 159-61

The Border District: Ewing Incites Guerrillas

August 14, 1863 – Brigadier General Thomas Ewing incurred the wrath of Confederate raiders operating along the Missouri-Kansas border by targeting their relatives, including women and children.

Brig Gen Thomas Ewing | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The border conflict between Missouri and Kansas, which had begun before the war, continued raging as the war progressed. Ewing (brother-in-law of William T. Sherman), commanding the Federal District of the Border, had just 2,500 men spread out across Missouri, Kansas, and the Colorado Territory. There were no concentrated enemy forces, but the Federals had to deal with pro-Confederate partisans operating mainly in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.

These partisans, mostly based in Missouri, crossed the border, launched quick attacks, and then disappeared among the population. Since the Federals could not track them down, Ewing authorized the arrest of anyone suspected of aiding or abetting them, including their mothers, wives, and daughters. This infuriated the raiders, who had made it a point not to make war on women.

Ewing’s Federals began rounding up these women and sending them to designated prison camps, including abandoned warehouses and other buildings. One such structure was an old three-story brick building in Kansas City, in which the women were held on the second floor. On the 14th, this building collapsed, killing five and injuring many others.

The partisans believed that Ewing had deliberately sabotaged the building. It was in a dilapidated condition, and Ewing had been warned that it might collapse. Among the women killed was the sister of William Anderson, who became known as “Bloody Bill” following his retaliatory rampage. Other women were related to notorious partisan leader Colonel William C. Quantrill.

Col W.C. Quantrill | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Quantrill had gained notoriety during the fight over “Bleeding Kansas” before the war, making money by charging exorbitant fees to return fugitive slaves to their masters, as well as stealing horses and cattle. When the war began, he raised a group of pro-Confederate raiders that included “Bloody Bill,” Cole Younger, and Frank and Jesse James. Quantrill became a captain under the Confederate Partisan Ranger Act, but when the Confederate government denied him a colonelship, he bestowed the title upon himself anyway.

Four days after the Kansas City building collapse, Ewing exacerbated the partisans’ rage further by issuing General Order No. 10. This declared that the arrests would continue, and furthermore, “the wives and children of known guerrillas, and also women who are heads of families and are willfully engaged in aiding guerrillas, will be notified… to remove out of this district and out of the State of Missouri forthwith.”

Quantrill and his raiders received word of the tragedy at Kansas City and Ewing’s punitive response while camped in western Missouri. Quantrill had been planning to raid Lawrence, the abolitionist headquarters of Kansas that had been sacked by pro-slavery forces in 1856. Ever since James H. Lane, a U.S. senator who led Unionist Kansas forces, sacked Osceola, Missouri, in 1861, Quantrill had sought revenge.

The raiders, who had spies in Lawrence, prepared a “death list” of prominent Unionist residents, including Lane. Scouts informed Quantrill that an attack might fail because large bodies of Federal troops often passed through on their way to other posts. But Quantrill argued, “Lawrence is the great hotbed of abolitionism in Kansas, and we can get more revenge and more money there than anywhere else in the state.” And now, after learning of Ewing’s depredations, Quantrill resolved to attack no matter what.

On the 19th, Quantrill and about 300 Missouri partisans began heading toward Kansas. As they reached the border, Quantrill announced, “This is a hazardous ride, and there is a chance we will all be annihilated. Any man who feels he is not equal to the task can quit, and no one will call him a coward.” Some left, but most remained. In fact, they gained new recruits along the way, boosting their total to around 450.

The partisans rode through the night, stopping at farms to get directions to Lawrence in the dark. The raiders killed any civilian who recognized Quantrill, spoke German (German immigrants were largely pro-Republican), or was a known abolitionist. In all, 10 farmers were forced to serve as guides and then murdered by the time Quantrill and his men approached Lawrence before dawn on the 21st.

Quantrill had planned to attack at night, but now dawn was approaching, so the attack would have to take place in broad daylight. Lawrence was a large town of about 2,000 people, and some partisans began having second thoughts about attacking. Quantrill told them, “You can do as you please. I am going to Lawrence.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 302-03; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), p. 703-04; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 340-41; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 399; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 785; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 152; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q363