Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Story of Bloody Bill Anderson (part 1)

Al Colombo, Author
There’s one thing you quickly find out while researching the many stories of the Old West, some of the most interesting true life tales from our own historic past involve people you never heard of--some of them centering on Civil War times. The story of Bloody Bill Anderson, which began on March 22nd in the year 1862, is one of those tales. This is part 1, taken from an action story in Old West magazine, Winter 1978 edition, entitled "Cord of Death." --Al Colombo

Bill Anderson was only 22 years of age when his life took a sudden turn. He went from an apathetic bystander to the American Civil War to that of a skilled fighting machine almost overnight because of the deaths of two family members by northern forces.

Bill and his brother, returning from delivering cattle to Fort Leavenworth, were horrified with the realization that their father and Uncle were dead, hanged by Union soldiers.
“The Union commander at Kansas City was pressing a campaign of attrition, designed to hamstring the guerrilla activities,” says M.W. McCarter, author of ‘Cord of Death’. The ‘Guerrillas,’ in this case, was that or the fighting force of William Clarke Quantrill who “...had been especially active in the area south of Kansas City and Westport.”
"Bloody Bill," as the locals began calling the young Anderson, began his own campaign of death and destruction that very evening when he murdered a Union sentry by breaking his neck. The next evening, according to McCarter, a second sentry was murdered, very close to where the first one was killed, only this time he was nearly discovered by another Union soldier who arrived to relieve the murdered watchman. This happened while Bloody Bill was stripping the dead sentry of his uniform.
“He immediately swung the liberated revolver into action and put two 0.36 caliber balls through the breast of the approaching Federal cavalryman,” says McCarter.
He took the uniforms, arms, ammunition, and horses of both soldiers. His intent was to reach Missouri.

The following is a documentary that provides a splendid view of Bill Anderson and his life. He actually was born and lived in Dover, Ohio, no more than 15 minutes from the hometown of both WMD authors! In this documentary, you will find details that were not originally included in author McCarter's story in Old West magazine. The story, as provided in all five parts of this series, are based on McCarter's article, which is most likely the "official" version.

The reason why "Bloody Bill" headed for the Missouri border is that this state was divided in its allegiance.

“During the American Civil War, Missouri was a hotly contested border state populated by both Union and Confederate sympathizers. It sent armies, generals, and supplies to both sides, was represented with a star on both flags, maintained dual governments, and endured a bloody neighbor-against-neighbor intrastate war within the larger national war” (click here).
Tired from two days of riding without sleep, he stopped at a confederate sympathizer’s farm where he decided to stop and get a few hours of sleep, using the hayloft.
According to McCarter, “A slight sound awakened him two hours later. He carefully eased one of the revolvers out of its holster and swung its muzzle toward the shadows near the ladder leading to the loft. He placed a big thumb on the hammer and eared it back to full cock. The metallic snick was loud and ominous.”
Just then, John McCorkie, a member of Quantrill’s Raiders, the very guerrilla fighters that had conducted raides southwest of Aubrey, near Bloody Bill’s farm, quietly informed him that he had his own revolver cocked and ready to fire, suggesting that they sit and chat for a bit before firing. After a brief discussion, Bloody Bill became an important piece of that organization’s operations, and hence, our own history. It was under the care of the Quantrill fighting machine that Bloody Bill Anderson became a well-trained fighter for the ideals and political support of the Confederacy.

The guerrillas fought two battles on March 22nd of the same year, only 10 days after he entered the fight. The first skirmish at Big Blue bridge was successful, but Union soldiers managed to surround them that evening while Bloody Bill and his compatriots slept at Tate’s farm.
“After a brisk exchange of rifle and revolver fire, the Union soldiers managed to set the house afire and it was necessary for Anderson and the others to push out one wall in order to escape,” McCarter says. Unfortunately, they left their horses behind as well as 4 members of their fighting group.
A repeat performance ensued 8 days later at the farm of Samuel Clark. The author says that Anderson, after studying the genius of Quantrill and so mimicking his techniques, was able to use some of the same military tactics to kill nearly half of the fighting force of the First Missouri Cavalry, the opposing force. WMD

Editor's Note: Be sure to return to Western Magazine Digest on December 22, 2018, when we publish part 2. At that time we'll also provide an additional video as well as other resources that provide an even closer picture of the "Bloody Bill" Anderson story.

If you find WMD stories and other resources interesting and entertaining, please consider supporting our work by purchasing one of the following informational resources on Bloody Bill Anderson and the American Civil War. Or, perhaps one of our Collectible Magazines in our WMD store (click here).

        

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