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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City

Battlefield Dispatches #83

Scalps & Spies

This column is not about a spy who was scalped, but does concern a reminder of a vicious type of calling card & the voluntary use of women as spies for the Union “Hounds” in the pursuit of Confederate “Foxes”. As mentioned previously, the scalping of dead Union “Hounds” & leaving said remains to be discovered was a calling card & warning, that this would be your fate if you were captured by “Bloody Bill Anderson” and or possibly his men. The reputation of “Bloody Bill” was not only disseminated by word of mouth & in newspapers of the day, it was also communicated in the after action reports & telegrams of the Union “Hounds”. The following (3) after action documents are located on Pages 216, 217 & 194 in Vol. 41, Part III, Correspondence of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.  

William T. Anderson

Clinton B. Fisk


Saint Joseph, Mo., September 16, 1864.

Col. O.D. Greene,
Assistant Adjutant-General & Chief of Staff, Saint Louis:

Major King telegraphs me from Fayette that his command have had a fight with ANDERSON’S GUERRILLAS, killing 11 of them, capturing 12 horses and the same number of revolvers. Some of the bridles of these horses were trimmed with HUMAN SCALPS!

CLINTON B. FISK
Brigadier-General.


Headquarters Troops in the Field
Fayette, Mo., September 14, 1864.

Brig. Gen. C. B. Fisk,

I returned to this place last night from [a] scout [patrol]. Heard of no large bands. I went into the vicinity of Old Franklin and Rocheport. On Sunday my [wagon] train coming from Glasgow was attacked. My escort, twenty-five men charged them; killed 1, wounded 1 and captured 3 horses and equipments. ON Monday my command killed 5 guerrillas; captured 7 horses and 12 pistols, with the loss of 1 horse killed. The last 5 killed were ANDERSON’S MEN and some of their bridles being DECKED [decorated] with HUMAN SCALPS. Captain Mayo was I n command of the advance when he came upon five at a house. He charged them; killed 3 of the five and captured all their horses; one of these horses had scalps on the bridle. I am compelled to rest my horses and shoe them up. Major Leonard is out [on a scout].

AUSTIN A. KING.
Major, Commanding.


On the same day, in southwestern Missouri a local loyal “Union” woman had been recruited to enter the “Secret Service” as a spy. During the Civil War, women were used by both sides as spies and smugglers. However, it is very unusual to find a spy to be named in a document of the day, because being so named would mean certain death if the document were to be acquired by the enemy!

John B. Sanborn

Stand Watie


Neosho, Mo., September 16, 1864.

General [John B.] Sanborn,

Commanding District of Southwest Missouri [at Springfield].

General: I have the honor, according to yours of the 14th instant, requesting me to send you a lady suitable to act in the “secret service” as [a] spy, to send you Miss Mary martin, a lady of UNDOUBTED LOYALTY, INGENIOUS AND DARING. I have information on Stand Watie being down near Spavina. I am going to start a lady [another spy] together with the boy Winfield Scott, in that direction today. I will use all vigilance possible and inform you of any and every move in that direction.

I am, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

MILTON BURCH
Major, Comdg. Battalion 8th Cavalry Missouri State Militia.


It is not known if the mission Miss Mary Martin was sent on as a spy was successful or not, but spies would be continued to be used & scalps would continue to be taken by “Bloody Bill Anderson” & his men until he, Anderson, one of the most famous or infamous Confederate “Foxes” was killed by the Union “Hounds” which will be described in a future column and of course the War Went On!  

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