Friday, November 18, 2022

BOOK REVIEW! BLOODY BILL ANDERSON - THE SHORT, SAVAGE LIFE OF A CIVIL WAR GUERRILLA BY ALBERT CASTEL & TOM GOODRICH (University Press of Kansas, 1998)

Well, it did seem as if it was gonna be an ordinary enough day in Fayette Missouri that September 24th. There was a farmer's market being held about noon and as is expected with such things the locals were out and about not only buying up the local produce but having about as much of a good time as they could amid the carnage around 'em that was known as The War Between the States. During this social gathering a number of men on horseback dressed in Union uniforms rode into town and, perhaps not to everyone's surprise, began a wholesale slaughter on the small city giving credence to the plain ol' fact that these guys weren't exactly on the side of Ol' Glory but Southern sympathizin' Bushwhackers who definitely had more of a taste for pure carnage than they did for the Southern cause. Fortunately a garrison from the local fort were dispatched to quell the violence but not before suffering heavy casualties. The Bushwhackers lost a number of men before retreating, though instead of bein' give proper burials the Union soldiers, nervesplitted by this particularly grisly encounter, decided to line the corpses up on the road and ride their horses over the bunch until the vanquished were nothing but a mass of bloody pulp.

Sheesh, don't ya love it when history comes alive like this?

The Civil War was one big mass of terror 'n cruelty administered by both sides of the conflict, but it was definitely a whole lot worse out in Kansas and Missouri what with the militias going out of their way to inflict total terror upon not only the men in uniform but the populace at large. And when it came to that old cliche of death 'n destruction nobody could really top the Bushwhackers under the leadership of Ohioan (albeit diehard Confederate) James Quantrill who had some rather gnarly reg'lar fellers working with him like "Little Archie" Clement, an aw shucks teenager who happened to like mutilating people while they were still alive. And like, who could forget the legendary even in his own time "Bloody" Bill Anderson, a man who to this day is either viewed as a defender against Northern aggression or a plain ol' maniac which goes to show you how the controversy lives on even to this day.

Anyway this book is a particularly concise and downright explicit saga of one of the more bloodthirsty and ruthless men to pop up in the annals of Amerigan history. And reading through the pages of this biography you really do get the idea of just how much war can turn otherwise everyday decent human beings into madmen who think nothing of committing atrocities before returning to their formerly peaceful live raising a family on a farm as if the past never happened. Only in this case you certainly do get the impression that the likes of Anderson and Clement were, and would have remained had they survived the war, specimens who never had a human bone in their carcasses given the way they likes to play around with their victims before dispatching 'em, cutting their wieners off and stuffing them in their mouths or just plain having a good laugh decapitating their quarry and either mixing the heads and bodies up or placing 'em of their former owner's chest with their dead hands holding 'em in place like something outta Ichabod Crane. Now, that really got Little Archie laughing his own gourd off!

It's all here in detail from Anderson's early days as a horse thief to his first murder of a local judge whose main crime, besides blasting Anderson's dad in the chest with a shotgun, was spurning the guy's sister's hand in marriage, to his days with Quantrill's Raiders (where he worked along sides such future Wild West baddies as the Youngers and James Brothers --- Jesse being particularly fond of the guy). Of course a whole lotta space is given to such antics as the gruesome razing of Lawrence Kansas as revenge for the death of his sister not to mention the train robbery which didn't net much in the way of useful booty but was rich in Union soldiers out on furlough, all of who were lined up, shot and scalped with their luscious glories being attached with the rest of the previously ill gotten hair to their saddles not just as trophies as much as they were warnings.

Y'know, I sure wish this book was around back when I was in grade school...I mean, could you imagine me giving a talk up in front of the class goin' on in detail about Anderson's exploits while the rest of the kids were yappin' on 'bout George Washington's cherry tree? I have the feeling that, although I definitely thought I would've deserved an "A" for my efforts, I probably would have been subjected to a battery of psychological tests being asked all sorts of embarrassing questions about how I spent my free time locked in the bathroom with a copy of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (the hula girl issue). Sheesh, as if Amerigan History was nothin' but Bunker Hill and Iwo Jima and not the good stuff such as this! 

4 comments:

Brad said...


Would have been cool to get a book like that from arrow books when us 70s school kids could order stuff. The teacher would open the box and hand out the new dynamite magazine...bee gees or beatles whos the greatest...to the judy hennsler types. This is some history learning i could get behind instead of the signing of the magna carta.

Alvin Bishop said...

Chris! Would you raze a town to avenge your sister?

Brad! Chris has the hots for Judy Hennsler. Tread carefully. He might raze your town! With you in it! (Chuckle!)

Cheers!

Daniel Boom said...

The North lost the Civil War after all, just because it's still stuck supporting the barely educated incest-loving mouth-breathers who inhabit most of the South. Fuck 'em.

jimbo jeeves said...

alven bisop is a fagit