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Civil War Guerrilla Leaders

The Lawrence Massacre was one of the bloodiest events in the history of Kansas. The raid on Lawrence, Kansas was led by William Quantrill and his Raiders. It was August 1863 when Quantrill led about 450 raiders to the town of Lawrence, Kansas. Just before dawn the raiders attacked the town, burned the buildings to the ground and killed about 200 men and boys.

In his days before the war, William Clarke Quantrill was a school teacher and a gambler and then joined the Confederate army when the war broke out. Shortly after the start of the Civil War, William Quantrill began to organize men into a guerrilla army and began terrorizing Union forces. He was promoted to the rank of captain by the Confederate army and was branded a criminal by the Union. After his raid on Lawrence, the Confederate army withdrew its support of Quantrill. However, this did not stop him from operating outside the auspices of the Confederacy.

William Quantrill met his end in 1865 after succumbing from a gunshot wound to the chest in Kentucky.

William T. (Bloody Bill) Anderson was also a Confederate guerrilla leader. There are conflicting stories about Jesse James being a part of Anderson’s guerrilla gang but his older brother, Frank, was a part of the guerrilla squad. Before going out on his own, Bloody Bill was a part of Quantrill’s raiders in 1863 and was a part of the raiders during the attack on Lawrence, Kansas. Bill’s younger sister was killed when a makeshift prison building collapsed. Her and other women were arrested for being sympathizers or being related to Quantrill’s raiders. This tragic event is what fueled the raiders attack on Lawrence.

By 1864, most of Quantrill’s raiders had split up for the winter in Texas and some went on to form smaller bands of guerrilla raiders. One of these was Bill Anderson. Anderson, Frank James, and the rest of the guerrilla band attacked a train in Centralia, Missouri and slaughtered 22 unarmed Union soldiers. The Union sent troops after Bloody Bill and his outfit but Anderson’s crew had stolen and dressed in Union army gear. Blending in with the Union troops, Anderson’s guerrillas attacked the troops and brutally killed 120 soldiers. In October of 1864, Bloody Bill Anderson met his death after he tried to charge a Union militia, after being trapped and outnumbered by the Union forces in Missouri.

William Quantrill and William Anderson are just two of many guerrilla bands that worked with both armies during the Civil War. These two are the most famous because of the scope of their misdeeds. There will be future articles about other guerrilla leaders such as John Mosby and James Lane. Lane was a Union sympathizer and part of the group called the Jayhawkers.

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