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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B is for Bloody Bill Anderson

It's the second day of the A to Z blogfest, and how could I not dedicate this to Bloody Bill Anderson? I have a longtime interest in the Civil War west of the Mississippi River, where the name Bloody Bill was spoken with dread.

Bloody Bill was one of the many nobodies who was projected to fame by the war. He was a Confederate bushwhacker, a guerrilla fighter who attacked isolated Union outposts and patrols and caused havoc in rural Missouri. There were many such groups, and his was the toughest and most feared. Among his many followers rode a young Frank and Jesse James.

The Union army had a hard time stamping out the bushwhackers. Drained of men to fight the bigger battles in the east, the Union forces were spread thin across the state. In desperation the Union command ordered the imprisonment of the bushwhackers' families in the hope that this would make them give up. Bloody Bill's sister was put into prison in Kansas City.

In 1863 the prison collapsed and she was killed. It seems this tragedy unhinged Bloody Bill's mind. He took his revenge by sacking Lawrence, Kansas, killing some 200 civilians. The next year he went on a rampage through central Missouri, killing, scalping, and destroying everything in his path. Nominally this was in support of Confederate General Sterling Price's invasion, but in reality it was to quench Bloody Bill's thirst for revenge.

Anderson was killed by a lucky Union militia in October of that year. He's appeared in many movies and books since then, including The Outlaw Josey Wales and my Civil War novel A Fine Likeness. He's an irresistable character straight out of central casting!

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


  1. He's one of your favorite characters - you couldn't skip Bill!

  2. Fascinating!! What a great theme!

    Best of luck through the rest of the challenge!


  3. Bloody Bill has a very unfriendly look in his face for sure. Scary.

    Father Dragon Writes

  4. I love the picture!

  5. Interesting stuff, I'm get more drawn to that part of the civil war can you recommend a good (factual) book on him?




    1. Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla is the best book on him. I've used it as a source for both my fiction and nonfiction.


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