The guerrilla or Bushwhacker in Missouri came from a variety of backgrounds and fought Union forces for a variety of reasons. Many were simply continuing feuds that already existed between Kansas “Jayhawkers” and Missourians. Others were angry about wrongs that had been committed against them by pro-Union men or unruly Union soldiers. Still others simply feared the tyranny of the government.
The largest bands of guerillas, like William Quantrill’s band, had 400 members, but most were much smaller. Their supplies were limited to what they owned or could come across. Their weapons were everything from hunting pieces to knives. Eventually, the revolver became the weapon of choice for the Bushwhacker. They acquired arms where they could, including taking what was left behind on the battlefield. The rapid rate of fire made the revolver perfect for the quick attacks executed by these men. It is said that “Bloody Bill” Anderson carried six to eight revolvers with him at any point.
Guerrillas mostly wore civilian clothing, although a special way of dress developed over time that included a hunting shirt, which was often decorated, and a plumed hat.
The life of a guerrilla was difficult. They relied on sanctuaries to survive. The sanctuaries were the homes or shelters of people sympathetic to their cause. These supporters provided them with shelter, food, and medical care, and even spied for them in some cases.