I may earn a commission from the companies mentioned in this post via affiliate links to products or services associated with content in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read the Advertising Disclosure for more information.


The Civil war had its fair share of heroes and villains. Bloody Bill Anderson was not a hero. Even Confederate soldiers who were not a part of Anderson’s gang, could not say that he was heroic.

He is remembered mostly for his sacking of the Missouri town called Centralia. On September 27, 1864 Bloody Bill accompanied by eighty men, came upon the outskirts of Centralia.

Anderson and his men were disguised as Union soldiers when they rode into the town. Anderson and his band of men looted and burned the town. Getting very drunk in the process which alcohol found in the town.

The scene must have been horrific for the unsuspecting people of the town. Anderson noticed a railroad bridge just outside of town and directed his men to head towards the bridge. They built a barricade to stop the train and when it did, the passengers were offloaded. Of the train passengers, 23 were Union soldiers.

Bloody Bill Anderson

Bloody Bill Anderson (1839-1864)

Anderson ordered the Union soldiers to line up. He and his men then proceeded to execute all of the Union soldiers except for one sergeant Thomas Goodman. Anderson planned to use this sergeant in a prisoner exchange for one of his men. After a few days of captivity the sergeant was able to make his escape.

On the same day after the murder of the 22 Union soldiers 155 additional Union soldiers from the 39th Missouri Infantry led by Major A.V.E. Johnston arrvied in Centralia. Although the Union troops did outnumber the Confederate guerrillas 155 to 80 they were not match for the better armed and more experienced Confederates. The Union troops were carrying single shot rifles while the Confederates had revolvers which could fire multiple shots at a time. The Union troops were massacred by Anderson’s men. Only 32 of the Union soldiers managed to survive the onslaught. Major Johnston was not among the survivors.

On October 26th 1864 Union troops tracked down the guerrillas. Anderson would find himself under attack by troops led by Colonel Samuel Cox. Although outnumbered Anderson ordered his men to charge the northern troops. Anderson was shot in the head during a charge and was killed instantly.

His body was taken to Richmond Missouri where he was decapitated, dragged around town and finally buried. With this ended the career of one of the most effective guerrilla leaders of the Civil War.