MOzarks Moments: Bloody guerrilla warfare grips western Missouri

James Henry 'Jim' Lane was a Jayhawker from Lawrence, Kansas who led a guerrilla-type attack on the town of Osceola, Missouri. Willam Clarke Quantrill the Confederate guerrilla who led a retaliatory attack on Lane's hometown of Lawrence. William 'Bloody Bill' Anderson, who was one of Quantrill's lieutenants and who led the guerrillas at the massacre at Centralia, Missouri.

When 15-year-old Missouri boy Allen Parmer joined up with William Quantrill's guerrilla band, other new recruits Frank and Jesse James were 18 and 16, respectively. Their lives would thereafter be forever intertwined. 

After Parmer joined Quantrill's band to fight for the Confederacy, he was involved in some of the more notorious actions in the Civil War. One of the first was the infamous massacre at Lawrence, Kansas.

Quantrill was familiar with Lawrence, having taught school there for a year and living there for several more while engaged in more dubious activities. He had also come to nurse a hatred for Jim Lane, who lived at Lawrence. Lane was an abolitionist who formed a brigade of Jayhawkers composed of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Kansas Volunteers.

Lane's brigade fought against the troops of Gen. Sterling Price of Missouri at the Battle of Dry Wood Creek and lost. So Lane decided to attack pro-southern pockets of support in Missouri. 

On Sept. 23, 1861, he and his forces sacked Osceola. Nine male residents of Osceola were killed, the town was looted, and then Osceola was burned.

Gen. Henry Halleck, commander of the Department of Missouri for the Union said after the sacking of Osceola, “The course pursed by those under Lane . . . has turned against us many thousands who were formerly Union men. A few more such raids will make this state unanimous against us.”

Lane's Brigade was ordered disbanded. He was appointed Brigadier General of volunteers and served as a Union recruiting commissioner for Kansas.

In August of 1863, Union officials, frustrated by their inability to stop Quantrill and his guerrilla force, decided to arrest the wives, sisters and daughters of known guerillas. These women were imprisoned in a makeshift jail in an older building in Kansas City. The building collapsed and a number of women were either killed or maimed.

The guerrillas immediately decided the collapse had been a deliberate act by the Union army. William C. “Bloody Bill” Anderson was one of those guerrillas. He had three sisters who were in the “jail” in Kansas City when it collapsed. One was killed and two were maimed.

Bloody Bill Anderson grew up in Huntsville, Missouri and moved with his family to Council Grove, Kansas in 1857. In 1860, he began stealing horses and selling them to freighters and travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.

Late in 1861, he and an acquaintance traveled to Missouri to join the Confederate Army, but were captured by Union troops in Vernon County, Missouri before they could join up. They were released back in Kansas where Anderson and his friend had a falling out. In July of 1862, Anderson murdered his former friend and fled to Missouri.

Anderson and his brother formed a gang to attack and rob Union soldiers in Missouri and eventually joined up with Quantrill early in 1863.

By spring of 1863, Quantrill had promoted Anderson to one of his lieutenants.

Because Lawrence had long been a stronghold of both abolitionists and Jayhawker groups and was the home of Jim Lane, Quantrill decided to strike back against that town on Aug. 21, 1863. Allen Parmer was with Quantrill and the others as they rode into Lawrence.

The guerrillas shouted “Remember Osceola” as they burned a fourth of the town's buildings and massacred 150 men and boys in Lawrence. Jim Lane was home, but slipped into a ravine and escaped without being seen. Lane survived the war, but then took his own life by shooting himself on July 1, 1866 and lingering 10 days before succumbing to his wound.

Quantrill then took his men to Texas, where they would could remain behind Confederate lines while wintering there. On their way to Texas, they attacked Fort Baxter near Baxter Springs, Kansas and killed more than 100 Union troops there.

The massacre at Lawrence was not enough revenge for Bloody Bill Anderson, however, and on Sept. 27, 1864, he commanded his portion of Quantrill's guerrillas to attack Centralia. With about 80 in his command, many dressed in stolen Union uniforms, Anderson rode into Centralia at 9 o'clock in the morning. There, they destroyed the railroad tracks and looted the town. 

They also captured a North Missouri RR train coming into town, pulled 23 Union soldiers from the train and executed them. Their bodies were them maimed and their scalps taken and the railroad depot was burned.

Anderson's band of Quantrill's guerrillas left Centralia, but at 3 p.m., Union Major Johnston and his 39th Missouri Mounted Infantry Regiment composed of 146 soldiers rode into Centralia after receiving word of the attack.

Johnston pursued the guerrillas and when they caught up with them he ordered his men to dismount and fight on foot. The guerrillas turned, and on horseback, charged the Union troops. 

The Union soldiers were armed with muzzle-loading Enfield rifles while the guerrillas were wielding revolvers, which they could fire repeatedly as the rode into the Union line. One hundred twenty-three of the one hundred forty-seven soldiers were killed. 

Major Johnston was among those killed, and according to Frank James, his brother Jesse was the one who killed him. The guerrillas only lost three men and 10 were wounded.

Bloody Bill Anderson and his men were then pursued by Lt. Col. Samuel P. Cox. Cox and his troops caught up to the guerrillas and in the brief battle that ensued, Anderson was killed. Union soldiers had his corpse photographed and then paraded the body through the streets of Richmond, Missouri.

Allen Parmer, Frank and Jesse James were all at the Centralia Massacre and reunited with Quantrill after Bloody Bill Anderson was killed. 

Next week: The inevitable end of the Missouri guerrillas.

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