Jesse James ~ Confederate Guerilla ~ Quantrill Raider ~ Wild West Outlaw
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This is a complete history of Jesse James from his growing up on a Missouri farm with his brother Frank, to their both becoming Quantrill's Raiders for the Confederacy, to becoming the most celebrated outlaw in the Old Wild West. Please study the Preview and the Thumbnails to assess the quality of the content.
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Jesse James, 1847 – 1882, was an American outlaw from the state of Missouri. He was a pivotal member of the James-Younger Gang. His crimes included bank and train robbery plus murder. His brother Frank James was his closest ally in the gang.
The James Brothers came out of the Civil War where they had fought for the Confederacy, which had lost. This meant their former way of life was lost as the James family was a slave holding family which farmed. Thus, they began their outlaw lives at the end of the Civil War, around 1866.
The James Farm was located in Kearny, Missouri. This Kearney area of Missouri was settled by so many Southerners that it became known as “Little Dixie”. Jesse’s and Frank’s parents had been successful, commercial hemp farmers who owned 100 acres of farmland and the slaves to work it.
Missouri was a state at war with itself over which side to support in the Civil War. So both civilians and soldiers attacked one another for being on the “wrong side.” All border states along the “free soil” and “slave soil” divide had this problem. Missouri was particularly violent about it. 75% of Missouri’s population was from the South. The farmers who migrated to Missouri from the South raised the same crops and livestock as they had before. They also brought their slaves with them and added more slaves as they prospered. What made matters worse was that the Missouri farmers were pushing into Kansas, wanting to make Kansas a slave state as well. Slavery Abolitionists fiercely opposed this.
The James family’s farm had been attacked by the Union’s guerilla raiders. Jesse had been lashed by the attackers. In response, Frank James, the eldest, joined with Quantrill to become a Quantrill’s Raider.
The Quantrill’s Raiders ambushed Union troops and convoys, seized the mail and attacked Missouri and Kansas towns. Quantrill included attacks against pro-Union civilians. Ambushes and raids were his preferred methods. The conventional Confederate Army had pulled out of Missouri and left it to the Bushwackers and Quantrill’s Raiders to wage the war instead.
But for the Civil War, the entire James family would have remained law abiding hemp farmers. There is no outlaw story to tell without the Civil War setting the stage.
The Civil War’s ending did not improve Missouri’s volatile condition. Armed clashes between gangs of veterans from both sides of the war continued. Missouri lived up to our popular idea of the “Wild West” with folk hero versions of outlaws. Jesse James ultimately became the most celebrated of these.