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The Civil War in Missouri

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Missouri Guerrillas

"Guerillas Hunting Union Men With Blood-Hounds" (Download 2.5 MB PDF)
Main Idea

  • Guerrilla warfare went on in Missouri for most of the Civil War. Bands of pro-South men would hunt and kill Union soldiers and pro-Union civilians. 
  • William Quantrill and Bill Anderson were perfect examples of guerrilla leaders. Their campaigns during the war characterize how unique the Civil War was in Missouri. 

William Quantrill

Highlights

  • William Quantrill was born in Ohio and became a schoolteacher. He moved to Kansas and then Missouri.
  • When the Civil War broke out, Quantrill became the leader of a band of some 400 guerrillas organized into smaller groups. They terrorized Union soldiers, moving quickly and sneakily. 
  • Most famously, Quantrill led a raid on Lawrence, Kansas, where he burned and murdered fathers and sons in a brutal fashion. 
  • Eventually, Quantrill was killed in a conflict in Kentucky following the end of the Civil War. His legacy is a statement to the fiercely divided loyalties of Missourians during the war. He is remembered as a brutal murderer by some, and as a defender against Federal aggression by others. 

In-Depth

William Quantrill was born in Ohio and became a schoolteacher. After travels to Utah, Quantrill resided in Lawrence, Kansas. While it is unclear how or why, sometime during this period Quantrill developed a radical hatred of anti-slavery men and women in Kansas known as Jayhawkers. His hatred compelled him to work secretly to gain the trust of a band of Jayhawkers so that in 1858 he could help trap them in an ambush, where he helped in the killing of three. 

When the Civil War broke out, Quantrill became the leader of a band of some 400 guerrillas. They terrorized Union soldiers, moving quickly and stealthily. Most famously, Quantrill led a raid on Lawrence, Kansas, where he burned and murdered fathers and sons in a brutal fashion. 

Eventually, Quantrill was killed in a conflict in Kentucky following the end of the Civil War. His legacy is a statement to the fiercely divided loyalties of Missourians during the war. He is remembered as a brutal murderer by some, and as a defender against Federal aggression by others. 

“Bloody” Bill Anderson

Highlights

  • Bill Anderson was born in Randolph County, Missouri, in 1840. In 1862, after General Sterling Price was driven from Missouri, Bill Anderson joined William Quantrill’s band of Bushwhackers. 
  • In 1864 he broke from Quantrill after a dispute and went on to terrorize Missouri with an independent band.
  • Most notable was his attack at Centralia, Missouri, where he ran into about 20 Union soldiers on leave. He had them stripped, murdered, and mutilated. 
  • He was finally killed in October 1864 when a group of Union soldiers led by Colonel Samuel P. Cox found him and shot him from his horse. The brutality of Bloody Bill’s gang was infamous. Members like Frank and Jesse James would continue on and become legendary after the war’s end. 

In-Depth

Bill Anderson was born in Randolph County, Missouri, in 1840. In 1862, after General Sterling Price was driven from Missouri, Anderson joined William Quantrill’s band of Bushwhackers. He participated in the raid on Lawrence, Kansas, in retribution for the loss of his sister when a federal prison collapsed—which he believed had been done purposely. It is reported that after the death of his sister, Anderson, who became known as “Bloody Bill Anderson,” became ruthless. Earlier he had been known to release prisoners after he killed all the Union soldiers he caught. He was said to have decorated his horse with the skulls of those he killed, and marked each kill with a knot in a silken cord.

In 1864 he broke from Quantrill after a dispute and went on to terrorize Missouri with an independent band. Most notable was his attack at Centralia, Missouri, where he found about 20 Union soldiers on leave. He had them stripped, murdered, and mutilated. He then defeated a band of 120 Union Calvary that was sent to pursue him. 

He finally met his demise in October 1864 when a group of Union soldiers led by Colonel Samuel P. Cox found him and shot him from his horse. The brutality of Bloody Bill’s gang, with such infamous members as Frank and Jesse James, would continue on and become legendary after the war’s end.

Vocabulary

Bushwhacker - (in the American Civil War) a guerrilla, especially a Confederate.

Primary Source

"Guerillas Hunting Union Men
With Blood-Hounds" (Download 2.5 MB PDF)