Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Black Powder, Bridges and Blue Bellies, oh my!
June 1862

Following the huge loss of manpower following the Bloody Bill’s ill-fated attack during the Peninsula Campaign, Anderson’s Company is reduced to skirmishing duty until it can be re-fitted. Orders are issued that a bridge just across the Ohio border is to be destroyed. Anderson commands the mission with the group being put in charge of the wagon containing the barrels of black powder that will be used to destroy the bridge.

The group travels through West Virginia easily enough (Confederate State), but the journey into Ohio is a difficult one through heavily forested hills and through weather that is unseasonably wet. After several days of travel, during late afternoon, the group comes across a steep ravine with a river at its base. A trestle bridge crosses the stream, and Anderson breaks into a smile for the first time in weeks.

McCoy informs Tully that the topography does not match that of the target bridge, and Tully approaches Anderson as he is directing soldiers. Anderson reacts angrily and repeated strikes Tully about the head and face with his riding whip, his last comment is heard by all, “We are in enemy country, that is a Union bridge and we will destroy it!”.

The group is sent to rip-up sections of railway as the demolition crew sets the barrels. As they are doing so, the piercing blast of a whistle cuts through the air, as a train approaches.
The driver sees the destroyed railway tracks and slams on the breaks, with the train screeching to a halt, it’s middle section coming to a halt over the bridge.

The Confederates swarm the train in search of loot. Most of the passengers are terrified and hand over their valuables immediately, however a man starts to stand-up and opens his mouth to say something to Anderson. In the blink of an eye, the sound frighteningly loud in the confines of the cabin, Anderson draws his heavy Colt Dragoon pistol and shoots him square in the forehead. Pandemonium erupts in the carriage for a few seconds, until he fires a second shoot through the roof. Then it goes eerily quiet, save for the muffled sobs of several women.

Just as everyone is wondering what to do next, a second train whistle cuts through the air – a second train is approaching. It comes to a screeching halt behind the first, before two men dressed in Union blue climb off and start walking to the bridge to investigate. A half dozen more also disembark and begin lighting pipes, stretching their legs etc, obviously taking advantage of the break in the journey.

The Southerners are quickly spotted and after letting loose a poorly organised volley of fire, the Union soldiers charge. A swirling battle then ensues, climaxing in Anderson ordering the detonation of the explosives, even though the train is still straddling the bridge. Fortunately, the majority of the civilians had fled the train as both the bridge and train are destroyed in a huge explosion of fire, quickly hidden by a rising smoke cloud.

The unit rapidly withdraws towards Confederate lines, Anderson apparently happy for the first time in weeks…

A Bad Day for Osceola
(23rd September 1861)

The group are on a train heading for Osceloa, but as they near the town, the emergency break is applied and smoke can be seen on the horizon. McCoy quickly forms a posse and heads into town to investigate. They arrive to find the entire town ablaze. Bodies are strewn about the main street, the church locked and fired with numerous people inside. As they search for survivors, drunken laughter is heard from the saloon and Union soldiers stagger out, their arms filled with loot. Guns are drawn, tomahawks pulled and a measure of revenge is taken.

As the dust settles, riders are heard approaching and a Confederate officer and his guerrilla band rein in. The officer is Captain William T. Anderson (better known as ‘Bloody Bill’) who has been chasing the blue-bellies, the ‘Kansas Redlegs’, across Missouri.

The group is quickly sworn in as conscripts and Anderson displays his aggressive tendencies by executing the groups prisoner.

Anderson then leads the group to join with the 13th Alabama Rifles, who are re-fitting at a Confederate Camp in Montgomery, Alabama. After a hard winter of training, the Rifles form part of the defences around Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign. During the successful defence of the capital, Anderson leads a heroic/suicidal charge out of the Confederate trenches to assault the Union lines. Apparently against General Longstreet’s orders, the charge is successful, but with dreadful losses. Only 28 soldiers survive.

Historical background:
The Sacking of Osceola was a Union Jayhawker initiative on September 23, 1861, to push out pro-Southern elements at Osceola, Missouri. It was not authorized by Union military authorities but was the work of an informal group of Kansas pro-Union “Jayhawkers”. The town of 3,000 people was plundered and burned to the ground, and nine local citizens were executed.

Following Sterling Price’s secessionist Missouri State Guard victory over General Nathaniel Lyon’s Union army at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Price began initiatives to “clean out” opposition in Kansas and retake the state of Missouri.

James H. Lane organized 1,200 troops to resist the Price invasion into Kansas. Price defeated Lane in the Battle of Dry Wood Creek near Fort Scott, Kansas. Lane retreated and Price continued his offensive further into Missouri to the Siege of Lexington.

While Price moved North, Lane launched an attack behind him. After crossing the Missouri border at Trading Post, Kansas on September 10, Lane began an offensive moving East on Butler, Harrisonville, Osceola and Clinton, Missouri.

The climax of the campaign was on September 23, 1861, at Osceola, where Lane’s forces drove off a small Southern force and then looted and burned the town. An artillery battery under Capt. Thomas Moonlight shelled the St. Clair County courthouse. According to reports, many of the Kansans got so drunk that when it came time to leave they were unable to march and had to ride in wagons and carriages. They carried off with them a tremendous load of plunder, including as Lane’s personal share a piano and a quantity of silk dresses. Hundreds of slaves followed Lane to Kansas and freedom. The troops moved Northwest and arrived at Kansas City, Missouri, on September 29, to pursue Price as he retreated south through the state.

Osceola was plundered with Lane’s men taking 350 horses and 200 slaves, 400 cattle, 3,000 bags of flour, and quantities of supplies from all the town shops and stores as well as carriages and wagons. Nine local men were rounded up, given a quick drumhead court-martial trial, and executed. All but three of the town’s 800 buildings burned; the town never fully recovered.


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