In the history of armed human conflict, few men in 24 years of life have left a mark as indelible as Bloody Bill Anderson’s. Reared in Huntsville, Missouri, his family moved to Kansas before the Civil War, and Anderson is believed to have enlisted in the Missouri State Guard in 1861. Little is known of his early history or his service before August, 1863; There is no reason to believe that brutality inhabited his character.
The demon in Anderson was vengeance. A bad policy – Union authorities in western Missouri jailed relatives of Southern partisans on charges of aiding and abetting – became infinitely worse on August 13, 1863. A Kansas City building housing female prisoners collapsed. Four young women died, including Anderson’s 14 year old sister, Josephine. Mary Anderson, 16, was disfigured and crippled. Anderson no doubt believed, as some still believe, that this was a case of criminal negligence or worse. Four days later, Quantrill began his murderous raid on Lawrence, Kansas, urged on by those intent on avenging Kansas City. Anderson rode with him.
In 1864, Anderson was ready to assert himself as leader of the most violent wing of the Missouri partisans. He spent the Summer in central Missouri, spreading terror and making war without bounds. In September, 1864, Anderson’s rampage culminated – and most would say his vengeance was fulfilled – in a small north Missouri town called Centralia.
Centralia made Bill Anderson the most hunted man in America. He lived another month. Trapped by a Union patrol in Orrick, Missouri, on October 27, 1864, he lead a last charge and fell. His body was hauled to Richmond, Missouri, and his remains lie there in PioneerCemetery.