The most feared badass of the Civil War was Bloody Bill Anderson. His real name, William T. Anderson wasn’t nearly badass enough, so he was quickly granted the name of Bloody Bill. Bloody Bill Anderson was born in Missouri, sometime around 1838-ish. His dad was a haberdasher who moved the family north across the border to Kansas during a magical time known as “Bleeding Kansas”, which sounds about as fun as it actually was. Basically, Kansas was going to become a state, so since the U.S. government couldn’t decide if it should be a slave state or a free state they decided to let the state’s residents vote on it. Naturally, this meant that everybody in the state who had an opinion on the subject went around killing everyone who disagreed with them. Destruction, disorder, arson, and street fights were a daily occurrence. Crime was out of control. Death was a daily event.
Bloody Bill fit right in.
Initially little more than a common theif, robbing liquor stores and stealing horses owned by anti-slavery people, things got personal for Bill in 1862 when Bill’s father was murdered. Apparently, Bill’s dad got pissed off when a neighbor boy refused to marry his daughter, so pops broke into the guys house with a shotgun. The neighbor boy got the drop on Bill’s dad and shot him point-blank in the chest, killing him instantly. Bill, whose mother had already died from being struck by lightning a few years earlier, responded by going to the neighbor’s house, killing him and his brother-in-law, burning down their family liquor store, fleeing to Missouri, and forming a band of 30 outlaws intent on killing every pro-Union person they could catch.
Anderson then hooked up with some fellow badasses in the form of infamous Missouri guerillas led by William Clarke Quantrill. Quantrill, a most murderous raider had taken it upon himself to fight an unauthorized war for the Confederacy in Missouri, attacking Union troops, trains, and supply points all over the place to disrupt their operations. Bloody Bill was promoted to Lieutenant, but in his own words, he wasn’t really all that interested in the War, he just enjoyed the robbing, killing, and looting.
The Union made a mistake in 1863, issuing warrants to arrest any woman that had aided Quantrill and his group. Bloody Bill’s three sisters were arrested, one was killed when the prison collapsed, and one was crippled.
Now it was VERY personal.
A week later, Bloody Bill and his raiders attacked Lawrence, Kansas and its pro-Union tendencies, and proceeded to burn the entire town down and killed every man and boy “big enough to hold a gun.” His group of raiders, which included infamous outlaws Frank James, Jesse James, and Cole Younger, then took Fort Blair from the Union and again killed every single man all the way down to the Army band.
Being now chased by thousands of Union troops seeking retribution, the men headed to Sherman, Texas where they could wait for things to cool down. While there, Bloody Bill only killed a few people and robbed a couple of the local stores. Oh, and he married the local saloon girl. But then Qauntrill of all people said that Bill was a complete psychotic and needed to cool it, so Bill split town with his fellow outlaws Frank and Jesse James.
Some time passes, and local residents in Northern Missouri find 12 Union soldiers who had been killed and scalped, their bodies left to rot. Bloody Bill was back.
For the next four months, Bloody Bill and his ragtag group of approximately 50 outlaws raised hell all over Kansas and Missouri wearing stolen Union uniforms, attacking troops, burning bridges, and leaving a trail of the dead and dismembered.
One of the more notable attacks was in 1864. Bill’s crew was hoping to team up Confederate General Price and fight with them in Missouri. Price declined Bill’s help for obvious reasons, so Bill got pissed and drunk, burned the town down and robbed a half dozen stores. When the noon train arrived in town, Bill and his men boarded it, dragged 24 Union shoulders off the train and killed them all. When a militia was sent in to deal with Bill, as you might have guessed, Bill and his men rode them down, killed all of them, and decapitated them all.
It was at this point that Samuel P. Cox was called in to deal with Anderson. He ambushed Bloody Bill outside Albany, Missouri, catching him in his own trap and gunning Anderson down as he fearlessly charged straight into a vastly-superior force, surrender never being an option for such a violent man. His body was displayed publicly in Richmond, Missouri for two days. On the third day, pro-Unionists pulled his body down, decapitate it, put his head on a pike outside the city, and dragged his body through the streets behind a horse. It was eventually recovered and buried just outside town. Much to the mayor’s chagrin, the local townspeople came out and put flowers on it every night.
“If I cared for my life, I’d have lost it long ago. Wanting to lose it, I can’t throw it away.”
– Bloody Bill Anderson
William T. Anderson was NOT a good person. He’s another in a long list of men that fall under the heading of “Badass” if only because of the sheer ferocity that he lived. Certainly not someone to be emulated, Bloody Bill lived his way, and would never be deterred. While we do not applaud his violence, we can at least tip our hats to someone that lived life on their own terms, even if those terms were bloody mayhem.