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William "Bloody Bill" Anderson
(1838? - 1864)

William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson was a notorious Confederate
Confederacy is a term used to identify the states that seceded from the United States and formed their own separate government during the Civil War. "Confederacy" is also used interchangeably with the terms "the South" and "the Confederate States of America."

Confederate is the term used to identify an individual who was loyal to the Confederacy.
guerrilla leader with whom Jesse James associated for a brief period during the Civil War
The Civil War was a military conflict that began on April 12, 1861, when Southern forces fired on Fort Sumter outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Several Southern states had seceded from the United States (also known as the Union) and formed the Confederate States of America (also referred to as the Confederacy) out of fear that the United States' newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln, would not allow the expansion of slavery into new western states. Battles and skirmishes were fought throughout the country by Union and Confederate forces. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. As other Confederate forces heard the news of Lee's surrender, they surrendered as well and the war was soon over. Over half a million men were killed or wounded in the war. Thousands of former slaves gained their freedom. After the war, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution were passed prohibiting slavery, providing equal protection for all citizens, and barring federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote due to their race, color, or status as a former slave.
. Anderson’s nickname was “Bloody Bill” because he murdered and butchered Union
Union is the term used to identify the United States and its government during the Civil War.
soldiers and sympathizers during the Civil War. He is considered one of the vilest figures on either side of the war.
Little is known about Anderson’s early life. Even the state of his birth is uncertain. While Anderson claimed Missouri as his native state, it is more likely that he was born in Kentucky around 1838. His father, a hatter with Southern sympathies, moved his family to Kansas where they were met with hostility because they refused to fight against the South. After Anderson’s father was killed in a confrontation over a horse in 1862, Anderson sought revenge and killed a local judge and his brother-in-law. Then two of his sisters were imprisoned by order of Union commander General Thomas Ewing because they were suspected of being guerrilla
A guerrilla is someone who fights in a war but is not part of an officially recognized military force. Often outnumbered or facing forces with superior weaponry, guerrillas rely on ambushes, raids, and surprise attacks. Their unconventional style of warfare includes attacking and killing civilians, which conventional militaries typically forbid. One of the most well-known guerrilla raids of the Civil War occurred in 1863 when Confederate guerrillas from Missouri raided Lawrence, Kansas, killed over two hundred men and boys, and burned the town. Guerrillas in Missouri were also called bushwhackers because they frequently launched attacks from heavily wooded areas in order to surprise the enemy and often in hid in rugged, forested terrain that made it difficult for the enemy to pursue them.
supporters. One sister died and the other was crippled when the Kansas City building they were imprisoned in collapsed. This event further fueled Anderson’s hostility towards all Union soldiers.

Anderson then conducted one brutal raid after another. He joined forces with fellow bushwhacker William Clarke Quantrill and tortured and terrorized people in Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Bushwhackers were bands of soldiers that did not belong to an organized military force. Anderson was the most feared and vicious bushwhacker in Missouri, especially after he ordered and conducted the massacre of Union soldiers at Centralia, Missouri, on September 27, 1864. Jesse James participated in the event.

On October 26, 1864, Anderson was killed by the Missouri State Militia who had found his camp near Albany, Missouri, in Ray County. His body was placed in a wagon and transported to Richmond, Missouri. After his photograph was taken, Anderson was decapitated by militia officers. He continues to be regarded as one of the most brutal Civil War guerillas.

Text by Carlynn Trout with research assistance by Elizabeth Engel


References and Resources

For more information about William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson's life and career, see the following resources:

Society Resources

The following is a selected list of books, articles, and manuscripts about William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson in the research centers of The State Historical Society of Missouri. The Society’s call numbers follow the citations in brackets. All links will open in a new tab.

  • Article in the Missouri Historical Review
  • Articles from the Newspaper Collection
    • "A Raid on Centralia. Bill Anderson in Command." Columbia Missouri Statesman. September, 30, 1864. p. 3. c. 2.
  • Books
    • Castel, Albert and Thomas Goodrich. Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998. [REF F508.1 An241ca]
    • Christensen, Lawrence O., William E. Foley, Gary R. Kremer, and Kenneth H. Winn, eds. Dictionary of Missouri Biography. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999. pp. 10-11. [REF F508 D561]
    • Wood, Larry. The Civil War Story of Bloody Bill Anderson. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 2003. [REF F508.1 An241w]

Outside Resources

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Historic Missourians: William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson
William Bloody Bill AndersonWilliam T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson (1838? - 1864).

[The State Historical Society of Missouri, Photograph Collection (023422-1)]

William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson

Born: 1838?
Died: October 26, 1864 (age 25?)
Category: Folk Legends
Region of Missouri: Northwest