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By Linda Emley
On April 21, 1862, the Confederate Congress passed the Partisan Ranger Act. This law was written to help recruit irregulars to serve in the Civil War. Many men lived and died as Partisan Rangers.
A few survived and lived normal lives after the war, while others never gave up after the war ended. This is a story about the Partisan Rangers, who were also known as “bushwhackers” and “guerillas”, depending on which side of the battle line you were standing.
One of the most famous Rangers roamed the roads of Ray County and thanks to him, our local history is known worldwide.
On Oct. 26, 1864, a company of Missouri Partisan Rangers led by Capt. William Anderson were camped north of present-day Orrick on land owned by “Riley” Blythe, which was then known as Albany.
Major Samuel Cox of Gallatin and 300 men of the 51st and 33rd Missouri Militia Mounted Infantry were a few miles away on the other side of Albany.
It is believed that Mrs. Mary Rowland, a Union mother, rode to Major Cox and told him where the Rangers were camped. This resulted in the “Battle of Albany”.
It was not a big battle like Lexington, but it was an important one.
The 1881 Ray County History Book gives the following account: “A heavy force of guerrillas, under the command of Bill Anderson, were repulsed near Albany, Ray county, by a portion of the 51st regiment, E. M. M., commanded by Major John Grimes, and a portion of the Daviess company E. M. M., commanded by Major Samuel P. Cox, of the 1st cavalry, MSM. In this engagement Bill Anderson, the noted bushwhacker, was killed, while making a desperate charge. The Ray County troops and the Daviess County troops in the action, behaved with great coolness and gallantry.
“The arrangement of the forces and the planning of the method in which the attack was to be brought on were well conceived and admirably carried out. They reflected the highest honor upon the officers in command. On the fall of their leader, the bushwhackers, who had met with some loss from the well directed fire of the Ray County and Daviess County troops, made a hasty retreat, and left Ray County that night.”
Many stories have been written about the Battle of Albany, which lasted only 10 minutes. The following is Major Cox‘s account: “Lieutenant Baker was sent ahead to reconnoiter and bring on the fight, and then retreat through our line. Baker dashed up to where Anderson and his men camped and opened fire. Instantly, Anderson and his men were in their saddles and gave chase to Baker, who retreated under instructions and came dashing through our line. Anderson and some twenty of his men came on, a revolver in each hand. When my men opened fire many of Anderson’s command went down, others turned and fled, but Anderson and two of his men went right through the line shooting and yelling, and it was as Anderson and one of his men turned back that both of them were killed.”
Four federal troops were wounded and 11 Rangers lost their lives. The Rangers killed were Hank Patterson, Mr. Simonds, Anson Tolliver, Paul Debenhorst, Smith Jobson, Mr. Luckett, John Mcllvane, Jasper Moody, William Tarkington, John Pringle and Capt. Anderson.
Capt. Anderson, known as “Bloody Bill”, was only 24 years old when he died. Not many people who die so young are still remembered 150 years after their death, but Anderson was not a normal man.
He grew up in Missouri and later moved to Kansas. He was a Jayhawker who switched sides and became a bushwhacker. His father was killed in 1862, so Bill and his brother Jim killed their father’s murderer and moved back to Missouri.
Due to his bushwhacking, his three sisters were arrested and held in a Union jail in Kansas City. In 1863, the jail collapsed, killing one sister and injuring the other two.
William Clarke Quantrill and 400 men raided Lawrence, Kan. on Aug 21 to avenge the death of those who died in the jail. They killed around 150 people and burned Lawrence to the ground. It’s said that Anderson killed 14 men at Lawrence.
Bill Anderson was a man who fought in a war. There were men on both sides of the war just like him who believed in what they were fighting for. Right or wrong, he was a leader respected by his men.
The body of Bloody Bill was taken to the Ray County Courthouse, placed on public display, dragged around the courthouse square and photographed before he was buried at Pioneer Cemetery. The other Partisan Rangers killed with him were buried on the battlefield at Albany.
Some claimed that Anderson’s head was removed and placed on a pole, but others say it was not. This is a highly debated issue and due to the lack of pictures, we will never know for sure. Another much discussed topic is if the young, then unknown Jesse James was riding with Anderson when he was killed. The younger James boy did ride with Anderson, but not all of Anderson’s men were with him when he died.
A few years later, Jesse James made it known that he was a friend of Bill Anderson’s when he shot a cashier while robbing a bank at Gallatin. Jesse shot the cashier, Capt. John Sheets, because he believed he was Samuel Cox, among the men who ambushed and killed Bill Anderson. It was after this bank robbery that the “James Gang” started its road to fame, thanks to their names appearing in a newspaper story about the bank robbery.
Anderson had taught Jesse James how to fight. When Frank James was riding with Quantrill, the 16-year-old Jesse wanted to join him, but Quantrill thought he was too young. Anderson told Jesse that 16 was just fine, so he joined Anderson. Would Jesse James’s life be different if Anderson had said no? That’s something we’ll never know.
Two months ago, Robbie Maupin walked into the Ray County Museum. He’s from Orrick and we started talking about the Battle of Albany. Three Maupins rode with Anderson and may have been with him at the Battle of Albany.
Robbie came to the next board meeting of the Ray County Historical Society and asked if we would like to do something that had never been done before. Before the meeting was over, we decided that in October 2014 we would hold a reenactment in Ray County on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Albany.
Robbie worked on the Battle of Lexington at the Big River Ranch, so he understands that this is going to be a big event for our county and Civil War history.
The word is out and we’ve received calls from other states asking to be put on the mailing list for the reenactment. It’s time to start planning and show the world that we understand the importance of our history. More people come from out of town to visit the grave of Anderson than come to visit Bob Ford’s grave, so this is going to be a big event.
If you are a Southern man, you can pay your respects to Anderson and the Partisan Rangers who died there. If you are a Union man, you can celebrate a Union victory. And then there are people like me that just love history.
It’s not all about the battle because we‘ll have Civil War people telling stories around the campfire. There will even be a Civil War ball for everyone to enjoy on Saturday night, which is something we have not had in Ray County for a few years.
On Jan.12, 2012, the annual Ray County Historical Society business meeting and dinner will be the kickoff party for this project. Mark your calendars now and plan on joining us for a night of fun as we plan our own “Battle of Albany”.
You can write Linda Emley at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her at Ray County Museum.