William T. Anderson, better known as Bloody Bill, was one of the deadliest and most brutal pro‑Confederate guerrilla leaders in the American Civil War. Anderson led a band that targeted Union loyalists and Federal soldiers in Missouri and Kansas. On this day in 1864, Bloody Bill was killed in a Union ambush. A more complete account of Bloody Bill’s life and death can be read here.
My first two books, both stories of the American Civil War, led me to toward an interest in the Old West: gunslingers and bandits, gold rushes and sheriffs. Particularly, I developed an interest in the outlaw Jesse James. My interest was keen enough to start writing a book about the blue-eyed-killer. Jesse knew and rode with Bloody Bill. Posted below is a piece from my book, a piece that, in a round about way, describes Bloody Bill. In the poem, Bloody Bill asks my narrator about a youngin’ Jesse James. Here’s my narrator’s colloquial description of that encounter.
Me and Bloody Bill
I didn’t tell ya yet, but one fella that rode
with us, and Quantrill, was the meanest cuss
I ever did meet. He’d sooner cut some flesh
off your bones and fry it up for bacon
rather than walk an extra step and do the same
to a swine born for bacon slicin’.
He came to me once askin’ ‘bout Jesse,
‘bout how good Jesse was at killin’.
By that time, most knew that Jesse
was Frank’s brother, but they didn’t
talk about it none. Bloody Bill didn’t care
what Jesse’s name was. He just liked
how Jesse’s bullets flew from his gun.
They always seemed to hit what they
was searchin’ for – every time.
That friend of yours, with the blue eyes.
He can shoot. Think he can shoot some more?
I got some ideas for him and me.
Quantrill’s goin ’soft and it’s time to fill
some Yanks up with holes and bullets, bullets and holes.
And I mean lots of bullets and holes.
I says I reckon he could do that, Mr. Anderson.
I called him mister cause he scared me
and sure enough I was smart to be scared.