Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West

William Anderson


(February 2, 1837 - October 27, 1864)


Although Bloody Bill is more of a Civil War figure, I have included him due to the close ties and possible influence he may have had over Jesse James.


Anderson's beginnings are hazy, but it is known, he was raised and educated in Huntsville, MO. The family moved to Council Grove, KS and became involved in the Border War between Kansas and Missouri. When Anderson's father was killed, Bloody Bill and his brother James joined Quantrill's fighting force. William explained his reason for joining the guerillas:


I have chosen guerrilla warfare to revenge myself for wrongs that I could not honorably revenge otherwise. I lived in Kansas when this 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 since that time murdered one of my sisters and kept the other two in jail twelve months.


The jail holding his two sisters collapsed killing the eldest. William's other sister suffered spinal injuries, a broken leg and severe facial cuts.


Anderson rose in the Quantrill ranks becoming a Lieutenant. While Quantrill approached each battle with calm savagry, Bloody Bill was a psychopath at times foaming at the mouth during battle.


One of Anderson's most notorious incidents was in the town of Centralia, MO. After ravaging the town and pro-Union citizens, the guerilla group of 85 stopped a train. Passengers included 25 unarmed Union soldiers on furlough. The soldiers were removed from the train, stripped to their underwear, lined up and killed. Anderson walked over to the dead soldiers with a gun in each hand and fired repeatedly into the dead bodies.


While leading his guerilla band near Orrick, Missouri on October 27th 1864, Anderson was ambushed by Captain S.P.Cox and his Union troops. Anderson was caught completely unaware and was riddled with bullets then left for dead in his saddle. His loyal followers put up a fight to try and recover Anderson's corpse, but they were driven back by superior firepower.


Anderson's body was taken to Richmond, Missouri where it was propped up in a chair and a pistol was placed in the dead man's hand then photographs were taken. A short while later, the Union troopers, full of loathing for the dead man, decapitated Anderson and impaled his head on a telegraph pole at the entrance to the town as a signature to all that the infamous killer was indeed dead. Anderson's torso was roped and tied to a horse then dragged along the streets of Richmond.


Charles Siringo claimed Anderson was not killed in October of 1864. Rather it was someone who was riding his horse and Bloody Bill ran a saloon in Erin Springs, Oklahoma into the 1900s. Another person who looked like Anderson also surfaced in Texas and was running a saloon. However, it is more likely Anderson was killed that fateful day in Missouri.


William "Bloody Bill" Anderson is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Richmond, Mo.



Gravesite Map


Information compiled by Steve Grimm


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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation