Regarding your observation and question--everywhere Bill Anderson and the Todds were traveling during the days immediately before and immediately after Centralia was in the heart of Little Dixie--Centralia was merely the site where the Federals caught up to the Confederates (en route to Renick, the 39th Missouri Infantry had stumbled across the trail of the 400 man Confederate force the day before--the next day the burning train and burning depot at Centralia--fires started by Bill Anderson--tended to pinpoint a pretty precise location for the 39th Missouri to zero in on). A massive manhunt for the Todds and Bill Anderson et al, involving several thousand Federals, had been undertaken in the days and weeks prior to Centralia, with a large-scale cat and mouse game going on in the process. Multiple Confederate accounts exist in regard to the lead up to Centralia, as well as what occurred at Centralia. That bears repeating--multiple CONFEDERATE accounts. None of these Confederate accounts place any significance in regard to the town of Centralia. A game of cat and mouse often results in the cat catching the mouse, and, if and when it happens, it has to happen somewhere. Just so happened that the mouse ended up eating the cat at Centralia.
A hundred years after the war, somebody wrote a letter to the editor of a cowboy magazine stating that Bill Anderson was there to save Centralia. If that in fact had been the case, it wouldn't have taken a century for the claim to have been made, nor would it have first been made in the form of a letter to the editor of a cowboy magazine. The multiple accounts written by Confederates who were at Centralia would not have "forgotten" to mention this very critical piece of information if it were true, nor would the Federals, if they were intent on destroying Centralia before the massacre, and declined to do so afterwards. Rocheport was burned in retaliation for the killing of 13 Federal troopers at Goslin's Lane. Not likely Centralia would have been spared for the killings of over ten times that number of Federals if Centralia was in Federal crosshairs before. The fact of the matter is, consideration was given to burning Centralia in retaliation for what occurred at Centralia, but it was spared at the specific request of Congressman James S. Rollins, who was present during events in Centralia, and who advised the Federals who responded that the town had no culpability in what had transpired.