Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bloody Bill

"William T. Anderson was a hard man. A handsome twenty-five-year-old, he had grown up tough in Kentucky, Kansas, and Missouri. After his father was killed in the Kansas Territory, he had drifted into simple banditry. Then the Civil War unleashed his full potential. Already an embittered, brooding man, he had filled with bile after one of his sisters died and two others suffered injuries in the Kansas City prison collapse. At [the raid on] Lawrence, he had killed the innocent with a special passion, telling one woman, 'I'm here for revenge and I have got it.' Afterward in Texas, he began his rise to notoriety by breaking away from Quantrill, leading his own column of guerrillas back to Missouri in the spring of 1864. He brought terror to the Unionists in Jackson and Lafayette Counties. As he operated outside of Lexington in July, he sent a letter to the newspapers that exceeded even Fletch Taylor's megalomania. 'I will hunt you down like wolves and murder you,' he warned the loyal citizens. 'You cannot escape.' Small wonder they began to call him 'Bloody Bill.'

On July 11, 1864, he crossed the Missouri River into Carroll County with twenty-one men. Archie Clement is usually thought to have been among them, riding as Anderson's close companion. They immediately killed nine civilians - murdering as many noncombatants in four hours as Taylor's band had in four weeks. Then they scorched their way across Chariton, Randolph, Monroe, Howard, and Boone Counties, killing and robbing with impunity. After gunning down one man in Anderson's hometown, Huntsville, the bushwackers told a sobbing woman, 'We would shoot Jesus Christ or God Almighty if he ran from us.'

At some point during Anderson's parade of terror north of the Missouri River, Jesse and Frank James rode to join him, along with the other Clay County guerrillas who had followed Taylor. Given the massive influx of Union troops into their old killing grounds, they may have linked up with him as early as the third week in July. If so, Jesse would have been back with his friend Archie Clement when the rebels ambushed a patrol near Huntsville, killing two. After the fight, Clement scalped the dead - an act that was fast becoming his trademark. 'You come to hunt bush whackers,' Anderson (or one of his followers) scratched on a piece of paper. 'Now you are skelpt. Clemyent skept you. Wm. Anderson.' Then he pinned the note to one of the bodies, and the guerrillas rode off."

-T.J. Stiles
Jesse James, Last Rebel of the Civil War

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