Continuing my catch-up of this project, this is another quick edition of this series.
When it comes to the area I live in, it seems that most of the notable “famous” historical graves are that of notorious outlaws that died in and around The Civil War. I by no means want to either condone what these men did, or glorify them in any way by visiting these memorials, but I want to understand…..why? why did most of these guys, largely Missouri partisans, feel that they needed to go on gruesome murder sprees in their early 20s. Was it legitimate community activism, or were these men looking for an excuse to live as murderers above the law? As with my recent trip to the grave of Frank James, today was one such excursion – the gravesite of William “Bloody Bill” Anderson.
The Grave of “Bloody” Bill Anderson; Pioneer Cemetery in Richmond, MO
I have been reading a book about Anderson, and figured “why not” considering I live about 20 miles from his burial place – I loaded up my car, and headed out.
According to Wikipedia:
“William T. Anderson (1840 – October 26, 1864), known by the nickname “Bloody Bill” Anderson, was one of the deadliest and most notorious Confederate guerrilla leaders in the American Civil War. Anderson led a band of volunteer partisan raiders who targeted Union loyalists and federal soldiers in the states of Missouri and Kansas.
Raised by a family of Southerners in Kansas, Anderson began to support himself by stealing and selling horses in 1862. After a Union loyalist judge killed his father, Anderson killed the judge and fled to Missouri. There he robbed travelers and killed several Union soldiers. In early 1863 he joined Quantrill’s Raiders, a group of Confederate guerrillas which operated along the Kansas–Missouri border. He became a skilled bushwhacker, earning the trust of the group’s leaders, William Quantrill and George M. Todd. Anderson’s bushwhacking marked him as a dangerous man and eventually led the Union to imprison his sisters. After a building collapse in the makeshift jail in Kansas City, MO left one of them dead in custody and the other permanently maimed, Anderson devoted himself to revenge. He took a leading role in the Lawrence Massacre and later took part in the Battle of Baxter Springs, both in 1863.
In late 1863, while Quantrill’s Raiders spent the winter in Sherman, Texas, animosity developed between Anderson and Quantrill. Anderson, perhaps falsely, implicated Quantrill in a murder, leading to the latter’s arrest by Confederate authorities. Anderson subsequently returned to Missouri as the leader of his own group of raiders and became the most feared guerrilla in the state, robbing and killing a large number of Union soldiers and civilian sympathizers. Although Union supporters viewed him as incorrigibly evil, Confederate supporters in Missouri saw his actions as justifiable. In September 1864, Anderson led a raid on the town of Centralia, Missouri. Unexpectedly, his men were able to capture a passenger train, the first time Confederate guerrillas had done so. In what became known as the Centralia Massacre, Anderson’s bushwhackers killed 24 unarmed Union soldiers on the train and set an ambush later that day which killed over a hundred Union militiamen. Anderson himself was killed a month later in battle. Historians have made disparate appraisals of Anderson; some see him as a sadistic, psychopathic killer, but for others his actions cannot be separated from the general desperation and lawlessness of the time.
I am currently reading Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla by Albert Castel and Thomas Goodrich. I absolutely love another book by Goodrich called War to the Knife (about Bleeding Kansas), and was excited to see this book was “free” through Kindle Unlimited. Having two authors seems to have helped this book stay fairly unbiased, I know Goodrich appears to be on the side of “Lost Cause Mythology” in some of his other writings (I hear a book he did on reconstruction is very biased), but you don’t see much of that here. While not painted as a complete and utter demon, it’s hard to see what Anderson did as anything more than questionable at best.
Pioneer Cemetery is a small, incredibly old, Mormon cemetery in the middle of Richmond, MO. Most of the grave stones have been pulled down and set into concrete giving the site an appearance I haven’t really ever seen. In many ways, it helps preserve the stones, seeing that many are from around 1855 and earlier. It seems like it was abandoned at some point, but is now a memorial for Mormon settlers buried there. How a despicable Confederate partisan leader was buried there is a mystery to me, I’d like to get some information on why it happened unless they were trying to keep him away from the town’s main cemetery. Anderson’s grave is on the extreme edge of the property away from the earlier graves, almost in the road that runs next to the site. There is a historical marker site next to it, so it should be easy to spot.
Nothing too crazy to see here, just the grave of a guy that almost brought parts of Kansas and Missouri too its knees, now given such a mundane burial near a busy roadway, almost forgotten by anyone other than historians and the wildest of Lost Cause fanatics. It has been so crazy to see the graves of some of these guys, you can tell that no matter the infamy of the individual we all rot in the ground the same way.
This article is part of my summer series History Boy Summer, which you can keep up with by following this LINK.