Volume 3, Number 7
Was "Bloody Bill" Anderson, ruthless Civil War guerrilla, second in depravity only to William Quantrill, ever active in our White River Country in the early days of the Rebellion?
Or, was "Bloody Bill" so much feared by his contemporaries that he was as ubiquitous to them as today's "Jesse James" whose "Caves" are everywhere in Missouri and in some parts of Oklahoma as well?
"Bloody Bill-in-the-White-River-Valley" could be an interesting question, and, if question it is, it deserves an answer if one is still to be found.
Since questions may often be answered by questions, the first to be asked might well be, "What brings Bill Anderson back on-stage at this late date?"
The answer to that, and shocking one, indeed, appears in a recently reviewed auto biographical sketch written years ago to serve as an introduction to the diary of the Civil War years of William B. Cox, late of Oto, Missouri and Farrier to Company B., Sixth Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, U. S. Army. In that brief narrative Cox recounts the particulars of the murder of his father at the hands of, "the notorious rebel William Anderson, a Citizen of the County," which took place at McCullah's Spring in Stone County, Missouri, in the late summer of 1861.
But let William B. Cox tell it in his own way. Let it be recognized, however, that this verbatim copy of Cox's story is not so submitted by way of ridiculing its quaintness. Rather it is meant to re-create for the reader insofar as is possible the simplicities of Pre Civil War life in the Ozarks together with the stark brutalities of murderous bushwhacking which took place then and in the war years which followed and even for some time afterward.
Another request. Please allow this researchist to add, parenthetically, that he does not deem it necessary to call attention here or elsewhere to William B. Cox's high degree of success in self-education. Every word, every line in his diary brightens his attainments in that regard and in others as well.
So, here, then is William B. Cox.
"I was born in the State of Texas on January 28, 1837, A.D. In the fall of '37 my parents, John and Frances Cox, came to Southwest Missouri and settled on the James Fork of White River 35 miles southwest of Springfield, Missouri. I was brought up there a poor farmer boy with about twelve months of schooling. My mother died the 22nd of June, 1856. I was then left a ruined boy, but about the 15th of August, 1856, I became a member of the Protestant Methodist Church. In October I was married to Cordelia Orleana Shannon, the daughter of John D. and Polly Shannon, residents of Galena, Missouri. I then rented a farm of S. D. Nelson, one mile above the mouth of Crane Creek. We then went to farming and house-keeping with one horse, one cow and four head of sheep. I then made 1000 nails for $5.00 and boarded myself, with which I bought a few utensils to commence house-keeping with. We then went to work putting in 20 acres of corn which we cultivated well and made a crop.
"About the first of July we concluded to go and look at Nebraska Territory, so I rigged up a three horse team and away we went. We reached Nebraska City in July. After looking around for some time and being well pleased with the country I then went to work hauling, in the city, at $3.00 a day, which I continued until the 15th of September. We set out for home on the 28th day of September and got home on the 14th of October.
"I then bought a claim on Crane Creek and moved on it and wintered. In the Spring of '58, my father concluded to move to Kansas, so I sold my claim and took charge of his farm and made a splendid crop. He returned in the fall and bought a farm joining Galena, Stone Co., Missouri and moved on it. I remained on the old farm.
"We lived there a quiet and agreeable life, till the Spring of '61 when I began to see trouble rising in our land, but contented myself the best I could and went on with my work. I lost some time out of my crop, but with the aid of two small boys I cultivated 50 acres of corn and made a good crop. I got my oats, wheat and hay nicely stored by the 15th of July.
"They then turned and marched me 5 miles to the remainder of the command, where I found the above named prisoners. We were closely guarded around a small brush fire until daylight. We were then put under march, with breakfast, and marched 5 miles to McCullah's Spring where we halted for one hour. On looking around I saw several of our old Neighbors. The Capitan then gave us up to the Citizens and ordered them to take us up to Springfield. There were eight of them under the command of William Shook. They started but turned me and my brother, James, loose and told us to go home. They then went on a half a mile and turned to the left up a small narrow hollow in the woods. Shook then ordered them in a line fronting him. The prisoners seeing that they were going to be shot: Father placing his hands over his face and crying for mercy. He was then shot dead by the notorious rebel William Anderson, a citizen of the County. Davis and son breaking into a run. Clemuel Davis was shot and wounded and beat over the head with stones until he was dead. Samuel Davis, his son, was wounded but made his escape.
I then scouted around until the 1st of November when I went to Springfield and stayed a few days and the Army left there. I went home and then went to Rolla and joined the 6th Missouri Cavalry on the first day of December 1861." (End of quotation.)
While Cox does not give the exact dates of his short stay in Springfield, it is of interest to note that his visit there must have been co-incidental with the momentous action taken by a fully exasperated Lincoln and his War Department. Together they removed Fremont from command of The Department of the West at that particular time just when the pretentious "Pathfinder" had finally gotten together a relatively huge force of some 20,000 effectives in and near Springfield and was at last, he protested, about to engage Prince and McCulloch, shatter their forces, and drive the remainder as far as possible from the state.
There was a great deal more to Fremont's removal than the Federal Administration's need for relief from Fremont's insufferable posturings but all that is another story or stories. Our interest here is "the Army", now under David Hunter, "left there", at the direction of President Lincoln who wrote Hunter personally "suggesting" that pursuit of Price and McCulloch be given up and that Hunter's forces be divided into two corps of observation and be withdrawn severally to Sedalia and Rolla, the rail-heads existing at that time.
In compliance, then, with these "suggestions", one corps of Federal troops, some 9,000 men, under Sigel, began on November 8, 1861, to fall back toward Rolla. The others moved toward Sedalia soon after.
The foregoing does not lead us very far toward an answer to our question. A back ground, "Yes". An answer, "No". We would still wish to know if "the notorious rebel, William Anderson, a citizen of the County" could possibly have been "Bloody Bill" Anderson, first known to Civil War's guerrilla warfare as a mere trooper in Quantrill's band? Was this "Citizen" of Stone County the filler whose "terrible demoniac deeds" (1) "exceeded those of Quantrill himself"?
Brownlee (1) and others (2), (3) point out that little is known about the background and early life of "Bloody Bill". It seems, however, that he was born at or near Huntsville, the County seat of Randolph County, Missouri, in 1840 although the exact date is unknown. His boyhood appears to have been spent there, but from the accounts just mentioned the family moved to eastern Kansas in the 1850's and were living near Council Grove where in a short time they became involved in "incidents" common to the Border Wars of Kansas. The story goes that
Connelley says, "Anderson was one of the first guerrillas to take to the brush. He was active in 1861." This would allow for sweeps far from the guerrilla activities along the Kansas-Missouri border although it would hardly support Cox's statement-"a citizen of the County"-without some sort of corroboration from some source. So far nothing of that nature has been found.
There is further reason for doubt as to identity here. One wonders whether it was in "Bloody Bill's" nature even in the earlier days of the War to murder an unarmed and helpless hill-farmer in cold blood simply because of his victim's expressed loyalty to the Union. "Bill" could, and did do so many times later in his infamous career even though we have his word given in 1864, if we can accept a killer's word, that he did have certain scruples in that regard. Brownlee (4) quotes "Bill" as follows, "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 for twelve months."
True, a "Yankee" did not have to be in uniform in every case where "Bill's" scruples might possibly have been concerned. A considerable number of dead men, if they could speak, would vehemently support that particular statement. Thus, while "Bill's" declaration of his scruples is much too equivocal for use here, his actions never were. He was out to kill Yankees without exception,-just that.
So where are we for an answer to our question?
Are we to conclude that, "the notorious rebel, William Anderson, a Citizen of the County", Stone County, Missouri, and "Bloody Bill" Anderson, whose murderous depravity in our Civil War literally beggars description, are indeed one and the same person?
If so, we shall need to rely heavily on Connelley's unexpanded statement that "Bloody Bill" was active as early as 1861, and we shall need to surmise as well that "Bill's" high mobility as a guerrilla fighter would have allowed him quite early in his depredations to range as widely in the State then as he did later in his experiences as an "Officer" in Price's Auxiliary Forces.
Are the "two" the same man?
Possibly, not probably.
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