This photograph from 1864 displays the corpse of William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson, one of the most infamous guerrilla leaders of the Missouri-Kansas border conflict. Early in the war, Anderson joined the ranks of the pro-Confederate Bushwhackers to preserve slavery in the state, among other objectives. After his sister died in the collapse of a Union jail in Kansas City, Missouri, in August 1863, Anderson played a major role in William Quantrill’s revenge raid on the abolitionist stronghold of Lawrence, Kansas. He continued his streak of terror throughout the following summer, eventually pillaging the town of Centralia, Missouri in September 1864 and killing over 100 unarmed Union soldiers there. By the time Anderson himself was killed just one month later, in October 1864, he stood personally accountable for as many as 54 murders. His record inspired the likes of rising guerrilla leaders, including the notorious Bushwhacker and outlaw, Jesse James.
Such detailed documentation of Bloody Bill’s death represents the revolutionary use of photography to capture the Civil War and the sensationalism that gripped the Missouri-Kansas border conflict. Following his death, Anderson’s body was dragged through the streets by Unionists and publicly displayed in Richmond, Missouri, as proof of the infamous Bushwhacker’s death. As Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers passionately sought revenge against one another for personal as well as public atrocities, the Civil War along the Missouri-Kansas border shone a light on the conflict surrounding it: a war where localized intimate disagreements embroiled the entire civilian population in the larger questions of freedom and enslavement in America.
Creator: Richard Kice
Subject: Civil War, 1861-1865; Guerrilla warfare
Contributing Institution: Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
Accession Number: WICR 30222
Copy Request: Contact Wilson's Creek National Battlefield at: (417)-732-2662; 6424 West Farm Road 182 Republic, MO 65738.
Rights: The Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Civil War Museum is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes only. The written permission of the copyright owner(s) and/or other right holder(s) (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected images(s) beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an image(s) and securing any necessary permission ultimately rests with person(s) desiring to use the image(s). Images that are the property of Wilson's Creek National Battlefield should be cited as: Image Credit: Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Civil War Museum.