Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla

Article excerpt

Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla. By Albert Castel and Thomas Goodrich. (Mechanicsburg, Penn.: Stackpole Books, c. 1998. Pp. x, 170. Cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-8117-1506-X.)

Professional writer Thomas Goodrich has produced three previous books on the Kansas-Missouri war of the 1850s-1860s. Albert Castel is a well-known Civil War historian whose titles include an acclaimed study of the Atlanta Campaign as well as biographies of Missouri's Confederate hero General Sterling Price, and the guerrilla chieftain William Clarke Quantrill. Why would these two authors combine their talents for a biography of a relatively minor character such as William Anderson? "Why not a book about him?" they respond (p. vii); that may be the only answer to the question.

Anderson's life reads like a novel. Born in 1839, he was the eldest son of a restless Kentuckian who had moved his family at least four times before coming to Kansas in 1855. While his father settled for modest prosperity in his freighting and grocery business, William found a more lucrative occupation in selling stolen horses and mules across the troubled Kansas-Missouri border. After he and his brother killed two men in a quarrel in 1862, he moved his operation to Missouri. Though Quantrill publicly chastised him for plundering pro-southern civilians as well as Unionists, Anderson proclaimed his Confederate sympathies and assembled his own guerrilla band in the spring of 1863 (p. …

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