The first armed robbery of a U. S. bank after the Civil War was carried out in Liberty, Missouri on 1866 by a reckless group of ex-confederates and among them was none other than Jessie James. Still recovering from a recent gunshot wound given to him by a Union soldier, a month after the war had ended, Jesse still managed to dodge a borage of gun fire from local authorities and escape the Clay County Savings Association with more than 60,000$. The town’s people of Liberty had just witnessed what would go down in history as one of the most courageously foolhardy robberies done in daylight, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Jessie would develop his knack for bank robbing with his mob of ex-confederates over the next two years. But, it would be teaming up with Cole Younger and gang in 1868 that would propel him into legendary outlaw status, and create the mythical hero known as Jessie James. The James Younger Gang earned their name in 1869, and tales of their exploits reigned throughout Missouri. Jesse and his brother Frank, now riding with Cole Younger and company, were backed by more forceful military expertise than their previous years. The men would use this new found support to make even larger heists than the ones Jesse had achieved since Liberty.
It would be in Gallatin, Missouri where Jesse would add to what was already a growing acclaim. While robbing the Daviess County Savings Association Jesse accuses a cashier of being Samuel P. Cox, a militia officer known for killing famed confederate massacre artist Bloody Bill Anderson. Jesse’s proclamation of vengeance boded over well with the predominantly pro-confederate citizens of Missouri and he became even more infamously iconic. Jesse’s supporters were a community of men and women who felt cheated and degraded by the North, and he was their hero.
The end of the Civil War left Missouri desecrated with a suffering economy and no representation in the state office. The James Younger Gang developed a reputation for robbing Union supported banks and banks that took advantage of the working farmer class. This earned the men a Robin Hood-like persona that would follow them beyond the grave. It also upset many major Union run corporations that were not keen to the idea of losing their money to a band of outlaws. They took the initiative to call on professionals from the North to quiet some of the acclaim Jesse was beginning to garner.
The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was called upon in 1874 to stop and apprehend the James-Younger Gang, dead or alive. An agency based out of Chicago who dealt primarily with counterfeiters, con men and professional criminals found themselves unprepared to handle this ragtag group of ex-army guerillas. The founder of the agency, Allan Pinkerton organized for the James family house hold to be raided. During this raid, on January 25, 1875, an explosive device was thrown into the house resulting in the death of Jesse’s half brother and the decapitation of his mother’s arm.
This enraged the citizens of Missouri and only added more fuel to Jesse’s high acclaim. While the event became a public controversy, and lead to much social change in Missouri earning pro-confederates more say over the legal matters of their state, it would also inadvertently result in the downfall of the James-Younger Gang. Life is temporary, at best. It could only be expected that the gang would part ways and settle down, but no one could imagine such a dull fate for Jesse. He had lived his life like a bird flying directly into the son, waiting to be engulfed in its rays.
While the most reckless lives tend to be the most interesting, they also happen to be short lived as well. Pinkerton had forced Jesse and his brother Frank to flee to Nashville, Tennessee most likely for fear that their mother would continue to be assaulted. Frank had decided to settle down and give up the life of an outlaw, but Jesse just couldn’t allow himself take after his brother. By this time, due to the brief split, the majority of the Younger gang was either dead or arrested.
Jesse continued to rob banks but found himself only able to trust two men, one of shot him in the back of the head after Jesse had move him into his home. The man took the shot, which killed Jesse instantly, for a 10,000$ reward that was on James’s head. On Jesse’s grave, his mother engraved the epitaph In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son, Murdered by a Traitor and Coward Whose Name is not Worthy to Appear Here (Wikipedia, 2007). The man’s name will not be mentioned here either, and so the legend lives on.
James-Younger Gang. (2007, June 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:51, July 2, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=James-Younger_Gang&oldid=139500800