If you recall, in part 2 of 'The Story of Bloody Bill Anderson (part 2),’ after the skirmish in St. Clair County, Missouri, where a Union regiment took the word of a Confederate sympathizer that a small number or Quantrill Raiders were camped near his farm, the Federals took a relatively small regiment to knab the leader of what was essentially a group of guerrilla fighters: William Clarke Quantrill. It was during that altercation in 1862 that Bill Anderson experienced an injury that limited his involvement with further hostilities for the next two weeks.
In March of 1863, Anderson and a few others from Quantrill’s group returned to Kansas City where they continued to wage war against the North. It was during this period that Anderson reconnected with his family. According to McCarter, Anderson remained in contact with them until his death in October while fighting at Old Albany in Ray County, Missouri.
Impersonation: a Fighting Strategy Designed to WinOne of the things I found interesting about Anderson’s battle strategy was the ingenious use of stolen Union uniforms. For example, according to McCarter, Anderson’s relatively small band of fighting men would dawn Union uniforms and spend time drinking with Union soldiers, eventually finding a pretext to lure them to a nearby alley where they would kill them in an assortment of ways.
That’s only the beginning. “Masquerading as work details, they frequently waylaid wood-cutting and wood-gathering parties in the Big Blue River section between Kansas City and Independence. On one occasion, they hanged five Federal soldiers within 200 yards of a bridge-building detail composed of almost 100 men,” says McCarter.
One of their tactics was to attack a column of Union soldiers on the move at full gallop with a revolver in each hand. By waiting to fire on the enemy until they were physically upon them, they were able to engage a sizable force, killing and maiming 40 to 50 each time. These quick and rapid attacks also was demoralizing to Union troops, all of which was intended to cause disruption and disorganization.
“The military road between Independence and Kansas City was frequently in the hands of one guerrilla band or another. At one time, they captured the mail rider for six consecutive days,” says author McCarter.One of Bloody Bill’s men, Jim Vaughan, was captured in a barber shop as he was getting a shave and a haircut. Dressed in a stolen Union uniform, a Federal soldier recognized him as a Quantrill fighter. William Clarke Quantrill made an offer to exchange Vaughan for a Union Lieutenant, sergeant, and a private, but the offer was refused.
Because Bloody Bill and Quantrill was causing so many problems for the Federals, it was decided that all the women and girls associated with the Confederate fighters would be captured, arrested, and detained in the Union Hotel. Subsequently 100 women were arrested and held. Although they were treated well, an unfortunate accident took place on August 2, 1863. The four-floor structure fell into a heap of rubble.
The tragedy that day touched Bloody Bill in a most personal manner. “Josephine and Mary Anderson were arrested on July 12 and confined in the brick building. Their 10-year-old sister Jenny was permitted to visit with them and finally to remain with them,” McCarter said. All three girls were Anderson’s sister. While Mary and Jenny survived the cave-in, Josephine died. As you can imagine, Anderson and the rest of Quantrill’s hardy band of impassioned fighters did all they could to kill and plunder Federal forces within their reach.
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Additional ReadingThere is so much more to the Bloody Bill Anderson story, but WMD coverage stops here. To learn more about Bill Andrews’ exploits and that of the Quantrill Raiders, follow the links below. You also can purchase the Winter 1978 issue of Old West magazine (there is only one in stock, so buy it now), available in our online store (click here).
As Featured in: The Story of Bloody Bill Anderson (part 2)