During the Civil War, William Quantrill and his raiders hit towns like a scourge of locusts.
The Confederate renegades were of the ilk portrayed in the movie, "Cold Mountain." However, they were not confined to one area. They rendered indiscriminate violence on innocent victims from Texas to Kansas.
The militia of murderers rode into Texas in 1863 but, fortunately, were kicked out before they could kill civilians, as they had in Kansas.
However, it was just a matter of time before Quantrill and his men found an excuse to terrorize and murder other soldiers. Their hatred for Union sympathizers was scary, and plenty of Unionists existed in North Texas - especially around Gainesville and Decatur.
Quantrill excelled at inciting violent vengeance in the name of the South. His men spread terror wherever they went, constantly raiding Unionists' homes and businesses and ambushing Union troops.
The "distractions" allowed Confederate troops to move safely and impressed the Confederate brass.
In 1862, Quantrill was commissioned as a Missouri Partisan Ranger with the rank of captain. He was declared an outlaw by the Union Army. That occurred after Quantrill and his men assisted the Confederate Army in its capture of Independence, Mo.
Quantrill's band mushroomed to 450 raiders, and his guerilla-style warfare along the Kansas-Missouri border escalated into an attack on an entire Kansas town. The purge on civilians occurred in Lawrence, Kan., a stronghold of pro-Union support. The raiders killed 183 men and boys, dragging some from their homes to murder them in front of their families. Then they torched the town, leaving the women and children to flee for their lives.
Union soldiers swiftly reacted to the massacre but not fast enough to capture Quantrill and his men.
Quantrill fled to Texas and reported to Gen. Henry E. McCulloch at Bonham on Oct. 6, 1863.
Ironically, Quantrill and his men were ordered to help round up the increasing number of deserters and draft dodgers in North Texas. The band captured a few but killed even more, and McCulloch pulled them off this duty.
The general sent them to track down retreating Comanches from a recent raid on the northwest frontier, which they didn't accomplish with much success.
As Quantrill's authority over his followers disintegrated, the guerilla band broke up into several smaller units, one led by "Bloody Bill" Anderson, who looked like a handsome pirate and enhanced his notorious image by wearing a necklace of Yankee scalps.
Anderson became first lieutenant after Quantrill's Raiders were reorganized into the Confederate Army. But Anderson soon broke with Quantrill, and the two outlaws became at odds.
Quantrill chased Anderson to Sherman and from there to Bonham, where Anderson informed McCulloch that his former commander was robbing civilians.
McCulloch was determined to rid North Texas of Quantrill's influence. On March 18, 1864, Quantrill was arrested on the charge of ordering the murder of a Confederate major. Quantrill escaped, returning to his camp near Sherman, pursued by more than 300 state and Confederate troops. McCulloch ordered the guerilla leader's return, dead or alive.
Anderson had his gang join in the pursuit, and the two bands skirmished until Quantrill escaped across the Red River. Luckily for Texans, Anderson also left and resumed raiding in Kansas and Missouri in 1864. Anderson is believed to have killed more men than any other bushwhacker of the war.
One of the most vicious atrocities in the Civil War was committed under Anderson's leadership. In August 1864, he and his men raided all the homes and stores in Centralia, Mo. They stopped a train and killed 23 unarmed Union soldiers on furlough and then set fire to the train and the depot.
Quantrill and Anderson never returned to Texas, both dying violent deaths. Anderson was caught and shot Oct. 26, 1864, his body dragged through the streets of Richmond, Mo., by victorious Unionists and his head displayed on a spiked telegraph pole.
Quantrill lived a little longer, attempting to recover some prestige via a plan to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. He assembled a group of raiders, but the strength of Union troops east of the Mississippi convinced him that he could not succeed. Quantrill gave up his plan and returned to raiding.
He entered Kentucky in early 1865. A Unionist irregular force surprised his group near Taylorsville, Ky. and Quantrill was shot through the spine. He died at a military prison June 6, 1865, in Louisville, Ky.
Quantrill's raiders' stay in Texas was not without incident. Had Quantrill realized the extent of Union sympathy - particularly in North Texas and the Hill Country - there surely would have been more bloodshed.
McCulloch kept Quantrill under closer observation than the Confederate officials in Missouri and Kansas had. The officer wasted no time in arresting Quantrill and kicking his men out of the state. Perhaps McCulloch can be remembered best as the general who protected North Texas from the excesses of Confederate renegades.