William (bill) anderson was born in either 1838 or 1839 in jefferson county or salt springs township, randolph county in missouri and, grew up near huntsville in randolph county, missouri. His parents were william c. Anderson, a hat maker, and martha (ne thomason) anderson. In 1850 his father travelled to california leaving anderson and his two brothers, ellis and james, to provide for the family in his absence. In 1857, after william anderson sr. Returned from california, the anderson family moved to agnes city township, kansas.Prior to the civil war anderson worked for a time escorting wagon trains along the santa fe trail and was suspected of being a horse thief. During this time he had supposedly conducted several forays into missouri with the primary purpose of stealing horses. It is during this time period, from roughly 1854 through 1858 that a bloody border war referred to as, bleeding kansas raged between residents of missouri and kansas. The bloodshed was mostly carried out by, pro-union guerrilla forces from kansas, called “jayhawkers”. Missourian men with pro-slavery, sympathies called “bushwhackers”, engaged in attacks against each other as well as civilians and, bloody reprisal for revenge became the norm.Anderson’s father was shot dead in march 1862 by a local judge over a stolen horse. Anderson and his brother jim later confronted the judge, killing him along with his brother-in-law. Now in trouble with the local authorities, anderson and his family left kansas and moved to western missouri, considered safe from the kansas guerrillas.By the spring of 1863 anderson along with his brother jim had become partisan rangers joining captain quantrill’s confederate guerrilla company. The company would be bolstered by many recruits, including a missouri teenager, one jesse james. Anderson would rise to become one of quantrill’s trusted lieutenants.Brigadier general thomas ewing, jr., the local union commander, in retaliation to increased confederate activity, ordered the arrest of the relatives of the leading members of quantrill’s guerrilla company. Anderson’s sisters mary, josephine, and martha were imprisoned with nine other women who were accused of spying and assisting the confederate partisans. The group of women were housed in a three story building at kansas city, missouri.On august 14, 1863 the building collapsed, killing four of the women. Anderson’s sister josephine was among the dead while his sister mary survived but was permanently crippled. both sides claimed different reasons for the building collapse. Some claimed that union soldiers made the structure unsound by removing partitions and posts in an effort to make more space for prisoners. General ewing countered that the prisoners had caused the collapse themselves by digging an escape tunnel. This incident has been suggested as the spark for the brutality that anderson henceforth displayed against union soldiers and pro-union civilians alike.Anderson actively participated in quantrill’s raid on lawrence, kansas on august 21, 1863.In which about two hundred civilian men and boys were reported to have been killed and their corpses scalped and mutilated. This form of mutilation would be given to any free negros who was encountered in lawrence. Also many homes and buildings in lawrence were burned to the ground.Quantrill led his men on a winter retreat to texas after the affair at lawrence, where bill anderson married bush smith of sherman, texas. The now self-titled colonel quantrill (he only held a captains commission by confederate authority) and anderson quarrelled during this time and anderson returned to missouri in march 1864. Anderson would now headed his own cavalry company.In 1864 anderson gained notoriety for his particular savagery against union soldiers and civilian sympathizers alike. He and his men usually shot their prisoners along with mutilating and scalping the dead. His infamy would come to its height with the action at centralia ending in a terrible massacre. He sent letters to newspapers in lexington, missouri, promising further violence against pro-union civilians and threatening to take women of union families as hostages. That year he was joined by a group of recruits who had served briefly with archie clement, his own lieutenant; these recruits included frank james, who had been one of quantrill’s raiders, and the sixteen-year-old jesse james. During this time, anderson’s men adopted the practice of dangling the bloody scalps of their victims from their horse bridles. Anderson reportedly wrote to a newspaper in lexington, missouri on july 7, 1864 stating:i commenced at the first of this war to fight for my country, not to steal from it. I have chosen guerrilla warfare to revenge myself for wrongs that could not [be] honourably avenged otherwise. I lived in kansas when the war commenced. Because i would not fight the people of missouri, my native state, the yankees sought my life, but failed to get me. Revenged themselves by murdering my father, destroying all my property, and have since that time murdered one of my sisters and kept the other two in jail for twelve months.On september 27, 1864, anderson led fellow bushwhackers in the centralia massacre looting and terrifying the local populace. During the attack they barricaded the tracks of the northern missouri railroad and forced a train to stop. The group robbed the civilian passengers and killed 22 union soldiers who were returning home on furlough. Anderson left one union sergeant, thomas morton goodman, 1st missouri engineers, alive for a possible prisoner exchange. The sargent remained a captive for some days before escaping, but he would suffer mental health problems for the rest of his life. The rest of the prisoners anderson had stripped, shot, scalped or otherwise mutilated.The same day, union major a.V.E. Johnston of the newly raised 39th missouri infantry regiment (mounted) set off with his men to pursue anderson’s band. Anderson, in conjunction with other guerrilla leaders such as george todd, sent out a detachment that lured johnston into a trap. After discharging their single-shot rifles and causing light guerrilla casualties, the union soldiers were overrun by the pistol-wielding bushwhackers. Many fled in a panic as the guerrillas cut them down. Those who tried to surrender were slaughtered. Around 120 mounted infantrymen were killed in the ambush and pursuit. Bodies of the soldiers were decapitated and mutilated by some of the guerrillas. At the time of the battle of centralia, the union command was busy opposing a raid by general sterling price, at the head of 12,000 confederate cavalrymen. Price feinted towards st. Louis, made an attack on the federal garrison at pilot knob, then turned west, drawing the union forces south of the missouri river. Anderson met briefly with price, but chose to return to the north side of the river, where he faced only local militia.Union headquarters assigned militia colonel samuel p. Cox the task of eliminating the guerrilla leader. On october 26, 1864, cox managed to locate anderson near the hamlet of albany, which is now part of orrick, in ray county, missouri. Ironically, he used one of anderson’s own favourite tactics against him. Cox sent a mounted detachment to lure the guerrillas into an ambush.Cox gave this account of the battle:i had only about 300 men under my command and gave the word to stand their ground this fight must be victory or death and not a man faltered. We dismounted at the wooden bridge leaving our horses in charge of the men with the commissary wagons. Crossing the bridge i stationed my men in the timber and gave explicit instructions not to begin shooting until i gave the command. Lieutenant. Baker was sent ahead to reconnoitre and bring on the fight with instructions to retreat through our line. Brigadier general morton, of washington, d.C., was sent to baker with the word to start the fight. Baker dashed up to where anderson and his men were having meal ground and getting provisions, and opened fire. Instantly anderson and his men were in their saddles and gave chase to baker, who retreated under instructions and came dashing through our line. Anderson and some 20 of his men came in their historic manner, with their bridle reins in their teeth and revolver in each hand. When my men opened fire, many of anderson’s command went down. Others turned and fled, but the grim old chieftain and two of his men went right through the line, shooting and yelling, and it was as anderson and one of his men turned and came back that both of them were killed. The celebrated captain archie clement, who had gone through our line with anderson, kept right on across the bridge and stampeded my wagon train and its guards boy [sic] yelling to them to fly as the command was cut to pieces, and thinking it was one of their men, they ran and kept it up until i was a day or two getting them together again. In the hubbub, clemens escaped. Clement (clel) miller, afterwards a noted bank robber and a desperate character, was wounded in this fight and taken prisoner. It was with difficulty i restrained my men and the citizens from lynching him.Anderson led his men in a charge straight into the waiting militiamen who opened fire upon them. “bloody bill” fell from his horse after being shot twice through the side of the head and his surviving men then retreated while being pursued. It has been alleged that a silken cord with fifty-three knots was found on anderson to mark the number of men he had killed although this artefact has survived and, remains in a private collection. Human scalps were also found attached to his horse’s bridle. In his pocket a photograph of anderson and his wife was found as well as lock of hair from their infant child. Also found on anderson’s body were private papers and orders from general sterling price combined these items were used to confirm anderson’s identity.Anderson’s remains were then taken to richmond, missouri put on public display and photographed. He was then decapitated; his head stuck on a telegraph pole and his body was dragged through the streets before being buried in an unmarked grave in richmond’s pioneer cemetery. In 1908 the ex-guerrilla and outlaw frank james arranged for a funeral service at anderson’s grave site. A veteran’s tombstone was placed over his grave in 1967 and the birth year is there incorrectly stated as 1840.As with many notorious characters in american history, various people appeared after his death claiming to be bloody bill anderson. During a bank robbery in gallatin, missouri on december 7, 1869 jesse james shot the cashier, mistaking him for samuel p. Cox, the man james said killed bloody bill anderson. There can be little doubt using the modern science of psychiatry, that william anderson was most likely to be a psychopath. A victim of the circumstances of the missouri border conflicts and, the brutality of the civil war, in missouri. He remains the high example of the confederate guerrilla.