The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself
Being an Autobiography of the Missouri Guerrilla Captain and
Outlaw, his Capture and Prison Life, and the Only Authentic
Account of the Northfield Raid Ever Published
By Cole Younger
The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself
Being an Autobiography of the Missouri Guerrilla Captain and Outlaw,
his Capture and Prison Life, and the
Only Authentic Account of the Northfield Raid Ever Published
By Cole Younger
The Henneberry Company
Why This Book Is Here
1. Boyhood Days
2. The Dark and Bloody Ground1
3. Driven from Home
4. The Trap That Failed
5. Vengeance Indeed
6. In the Enemy's Lines
7. Lone Jack
8. A Foul Crime
9. How Elkins Escaped
10. A Price on My Head
12. Quantrell on War
13. The Palmyra Butchery
15. Chasing Cotton Thieves
16. A Clash with Apaches
17. The Edicts of Outlawry
18. Not All Black
19. A Duel and an Auction
20. Laurels Unsought
21. The Truth about John Younger
22. Amnesty Bill Fails
23. Belle Starr
24. “Captain Dykes”
25. Eluding the Police
26. Ben Butler's Money
27. Horace Greeley Perry
28. The Northfield Raid
29. A Chase to the Death
30. To Prison for Life
31. Some Private History
32. Lost—Twenty-five Years
33. The Star of Hope
34. On Parole
35. Jim Gives It Up
36. Free Again
37. The Wild West
38. What My Life Has Taught Me
Nannie Harris and Charity Kerr
William Clarke Quantrell
Jesse James (top) and Frank James (bottom)
Illustration: Wild West Show advertisement
Why This Book Is Here
Many may wonder why an old “guerrilla” should feel called upon at this late day to rehearse the story of his life. On the eve of sixty, I come out into the world to find a hundred or more of books, of greater or less pretensions, purporting to be a history of “The Lives of the Younger Brothers,” but which are all nothing
more nor less than a lot of sensational recitals, with which the Younger brothers never had the least association. One publishing house alone is selling sixty varieties of these books, and I venture to say that in the whole lot there could not be found six pages of truth. The stage, too, has its lurid dramas in which we are painted in devilish blackness.
It is therefore my purpose to give an authentic and absolutely correct history of the lives of the “Younger Brothers,” in order that I may, if possible, counteract in some measure at least, the harm that has been done my brothers and myself, by the blood and thunder accounts of misdeeds, with which relentless
sensationalists have charged us, but which have not even the suggestion of truth about them, though doubtless they have had everything to do with coloring public opinion.
In this account I propose to set out the little good that was in my life, at the same time not withholding in any way the bad, with the hope of setting right before the world a family name once honored, but which has suffered disgrace by being charged with more evil deeds than were ever its rightful share.
To the host of friends in Minnesota and Missouri who have done everything possible to help my brother and myself during the last few years, with no other object than the love of doing good and aiding fellow creatures in suffering, I wish to say that I shall always conduct myself so that they will never have the least
cause to regret having championed our cause, or feel any shame in the friendship so generously proven to us. Nothing lies deeper in my heart than the gratitude I feel to them all, except a desire to prove myself worthy.
In the two states named these friends are too numerous for me to mention each of their names, but among those in Missouri who traveled long journeys to Minnesota to plead my cause, even though they knew it to be unpopular in many quarters, I wish to especially thank Col. W. C. Bronaugh of Clinton, Capt. Steve Ragan, Colonel Rogers of Kansas City and Miss Cora MacNeill, now Mrs. George M. Bennett of Minneapolis, but also formerly of Kansas City.
In concluding these remarks, I wish to say that from cover to cover there is not a statement which could not be verified.
Lee's Summit, Mo.
1. Boyhood Days
Political hatreds are always bitter, but none were ever more bitter than those which existed along the border line of Missouri and Kansas during my boyhood in Jackson county in the former state from 1856 to '60. These hatreds were soon to make trouble for me of which I had never dreamed.
Mine was a happy childhood. I was the seventh of fourteen children, but my father had prospered and we were given the best education the limited facilities of that part of the West then afforded.
My people had always been prominent, politically. It was born in the blood. My great grandmother on my father's side was a daughter of “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, whose proud memory we all cherish. The Youngers came from Strasburg, and helped to rule there when it was a free city. Henry Washington Younger, my father, represented Jackson county three times in the legislature, and was also judge of the county court. My mother, who was Bursheba Fristoe of Independence, was the daughter of Richard Fristoe who fought under General Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, Jackson county having been so named at my grandfather Fristoe's insistence. Mother was descended from the Sullivans, Ladens and Percivals of South Carolina, the Taylors of Virginia and the Fristoes of Tennessee, and my grandfather Fristoe was a grand nephew of Chief Justice John Marshall of Virginia.
Naturally we were Southerners in sympathy and in fact. My father owned slaves and his children were reared in ease, though the border did not then abound in what would now be called luxury. The railroads had not reached Jackson county, and wild game was plentiful on my father's farm on Big Creek near Lee's Summit. I cannot remember when I did not know how to shoot. I hunted wild geese when I could not have dragged a pair of them home unaided. But this garden spot was destined to be a bloody battle ground when the nation divided.
There had been scrimmages back and forth over the Kansas line since 1855. I was only a boy, born January 15, 1844. My brother James was born January 15, 1848, John in 1851, and Robert in December, 1853. My eldest brother, Richard, died in 1860. This was before the conflicts and troubles centered on our home that planted a bitterness in my young heart which cried out for revenge and this feeling was only accentuated by the cruelties of war which followed. I refer in particular to the shameful and cowardly murder of my father for money which he was known to have in his possession, and the cruel treatment of my mother at the hands of the Missouri Militia. My father was in the employ of the United States government and had the mail contract for five hundred miles. While in Washington attending to some business regarding this matter, a raid was made by the Kansas Jayhawkers upon the livery stable and stage line for several miles out into the country, the robbers also looting his store and destroying his property generally. When my father returned from Washington and learned of these outrages he went to Kansas City, Mo., headquarters of the State Militia, to see if anything could be done. He had started back to Harrisonville in a buggy, but was waylaid one mile south of Westport, a suburb of Kansas City, and brutally murdered; falling out of his buggy into the road with three mortal bullet wounds. His horse was tied to a tree and his body left lying where it fell. Mrs. Washington Wells and her son, Samuel, on the road home from Kansas City to Lee's Summit, recognized the body as that of my father. Mrs. Wells stayed to guard the remains while her son carried the news of the murder to Col. Peabody of the Federal command, who was then in camp at Kansas City. An incident in connection with the murder of my father was the meeting of two of my cousins, on my mother's side, Charity Kerr and Nannie Harris (afterwards Mrs. McCorkle) with first my father and then a short distance on with Capt. Walley and his gang of the Missouri Militia, whose hands are stained with the blood of my father.
Nannie Harris and Charity Kerr Walley afterwards caused the arrest of my cousins fearing that they had recognized him and his men. These young women were thrown into an old rickety, two-story house, located between 14th and 15th streets on Grand avenue, Kansas City, Mo. Twenty-five other women were also prisoners there at that time, including three of my own sisters. The down-stairs was used as a grocery store. After six months of living death in this trap, the house was secretly undermined and fell with the prisoners, only five of whom escaped injury or death. It was noted that the grocery man had moved his stock of groceries from the building in time to save it from ruin, showing that the wrecking of the house was planned in cold blood, with the murder of my sisters and cousins and the other unfortunate women in mind. All of my relatives, however, were saved from death except Charity Kerr, who was helpless in bed with the fever and she went down with the wreck and her body, frightfully mangled, was afterwards taken from the ruins. Mrs. McCorkle jumped from the window of the house and escaped. This cousin was the daughter of Reuben N. Harris, who was revenue collector for many years. A Virginian by birth, and a school teacher for many years in various parts of Missouri, he was well known throughout the state as an active sympathizer with the South. His home was friendly to every Confederate soldier and scout in the West. Information, newspapers, and the like, left there, were certain to be kept for the right hands. In September 1863, soldiers ransacked the Harris home, stole everything they considered valuable, and burned the house. A daughter, Kate, who was asleep upstairs, was rescued from the flames by her sister. As the raiders left, one of them shouted:
“Now, old lady, call on your protectors. Why don't you call on Cole Younger now?”
Among the women who lost their lives was Miss Josephine Anderson, whose cruel death simply blighted her brother's life and so filled him with determination to revenge that he afterward became the most desperate of desperate men. “Quantrell sometimes spares, but Anderson never,” became a tradition of the
Kansas line. Before he died in a skirmish with Northern troops in 1864, he had tied fifty-three knots in a silken cord which he carried in his buckskin pouch.
Every knot represented a human life.
Anderson was then ripe for the raid on Lawrence.
All this was cruelty, indeed, and enough to harden and embitter the softest of hearts, but it was mild compared with the continuous suffering and torture imposed upon my mother during the years from 1862 to 1870.
After the murder of my father she was so annoyed at her home in Harrisonville that she sought peace at her country residence eight and a half miles north of town. But she failed to find the comfort she sought, for annoyances continued in a more aggravated form. She had with her only the youngest children and was obliged to rely wholly for protection upon “Suse,” the only remaining servant left to the family, who proved her worth many times over and in every emergency was loyalty and devotion itself. Nothing could have proved her faithfulness more effectually than an incident connected with one of my stolen visits home. I went home one night to get medicine for the boys wounded in the battle of Lone Jack whom I was nursing in the woods some miles away. As I sat talking with my mother two of my brothers watched at the windows. There was soon the dreaded cry, “the militia are surrounding the house,” and in the excitement which followed, “Suse” dashed open the door to find a score of bayonets in her face. She threw up her hands and pushed aside the guns. Her frantic screams, when they demanded that she deliver me up to them, caused a momentary confusion which enabled me to gain her side and together we made for the gate, where I took for the woods amid a shower of lead, none of the bullets even so much as skinning me, although from the house to the gate I was in the full glare of the light.
Two months after this incident the same persecutors again entered our home in the dead of the night, and, at the point of a pistol, tried to force my mother to set fire to her own home. She begged to be allowed to wait until morning, so that she and her children and “Suse” would not be turned out in the snow, then some two or three feet deep, in the darkness, with the nearest neighbor many miles away.
This they agreed to do on condition that she put the torch to her house at daybreak. They were there bright and early to see that she carried out her agreement, so, leaving her burning walls behind her, she and the four youngest children and “Suse” began their eight mile trudge through the snow to Harrisonville.
I have always felt that the exposure to which she was subjected on this cruel journey, too hard even for a man to take, was the direct cause of her death. From Harrisonville she went to Waverly, where she was hounded continually. One of the conditions upon which her life was spared was that she would report at Lexington weekly. It was during one of her absences there that our enemies went to the house where she had left her family and demanded that they turn over the $2,200 which had been overlooked when my father was murdered. She had taken the precaution to conceal it upon the person of “Suse,” and although they actually hung this faithful servant to a tree in the yard in their determination to force her to divulge the hiding place of the money, she never even hinted that the money at that very moment was secreted in her garments. She was left for dead, and except for the timely arrival of a friend, who cut her down and restored her to her senses, she would in a few moments have been as dead as her would-be-murderers hoped.
One of the numerous books purporting to be a history of my life states with the utmost soberness that, as a boy, I was cruel to dumb animals and to my schoolmates, and, as for my teachers, to them I was a continual trouble and annoyance. A hundred of my friends and schoolmates will bear me out in the statement that, far from being cruel to either dumb animals or human beings, I was always regarded as kind and considerate to both.
One of my old school-teachers, whom I have never seen since the spring or summer of 1862, is Stephen B. Elkins, senator from West Virginia. July 4, 1898, Senator Elkins wrote: “I knew Cole Younger when we were boys and also his parents. They were good people and among the pioneers on the western border of Missouri. The Younger brothers maintained a good reputation in the community where they lived and were well esteemed, as were their parents, for their good conduct and character. In the spring or summer of 1862 I was taken prisoner by Quantrell's men and brought into his camp by the pickets who had me in charge. On reaching the camp the first person I saw whom I knew was Cole Younger. When I was taken prisoner, I expected to be shot without ceremony. As soon as I saw Cole Younger I felt a sense of relief because I had known him and his parents long and favorably, and as soon as I got a chance I told him frankly what I feared and that I hoped he would manage to take care of me and save me from being killed. He assured me he would do all he could to protect me.
Cole Younger told Quantrell that my father and brother were in the rebel army and were good fighters, and that I had stayed at home to take care of my mother; that I was a good fellow and a non-combatant. This occurred just before I entered the Union army, and it was generally known, and I am sure Cole knew, that I was strongly for the Union and about to enter the army. Cole Younger told me what to do to make good my escape and I feel that I owe my life to his kindness.”
Another old school-teacher is Capt. Steve Ragan, who still lives in Kansas City, Mo., and will bear testimony to the fact that I was neither cruel nor unmanageable.
2. The Dark and Bloody Ground
Many causes united in embittering the people on both sides of the border between Missouri and Kansas. Those Missourians who were for slavery wanted Kansas admitted as a slave state, and sought to accomplish it by the most strenuous efforts. Abolitionists on the other hand determined that Kansas should be free and one of the plans for inviting immigration from the Eastern Northern states where slavery was in disrepute, was the organization of an Immigrant Aid Society, in which many of the leading men were interested. Neither the earnestness of their purpose nor the enthusiasm of their fight for liberty is for me to question now.
But many of those who came to Kansas under the auspices of this society were undesirable neighbors, looked at from any standpoint. Their ideas on property rights were very hazy, in many cases. Some of them were let out of Eastern prisons to live down a “past” in a new country. They looked upon a slave owner as legitimate prey, and later when lines became more closely drawn a secessionist was fit game, whether he had owned slaves or not.
These new neighbors ran off with the horses and negroes of Missouri people without compunctions of conscience and some Missourians grew to have similarly lax notions about the property rights of Kansans. These raiders on both sides, if interfered with, would kill, and ultimately they developed into what was known during the war as “Freebooters,” who, when they found a stable of horses or anything easily transportable, would take it whether the owner be abolitionist or secessionist in sympathy.
It was a robbery and murder by one of these bands of Kansas Jayhawkers, that gave to the Civil war Quantrell, the Chief of the Guerrillas.
A boy of 20, William Clarke Quantrell, had joined his brother in Kansas in 1855 and they were on their way to California overland when a band of Jayhawkers in command of Capt. Pickens, as was afterwards learned, raided their camp near the Cottonwood river; killed the older boy, left the younger one for dead, and carried off their valuables.
But under the care of friendly Indians, Charles Quantrell lived. Changing his name to Charley Hart, he sought the Jayhawkers, joined Pickens' company, and confided in no one. Quantrell and three others were sent out to meet an “underground railroad” train of negroes from Missouri. One of the party did not come back.
Between October, 1857, and March, 1858, Pickens' company lost 13 men. Promotion was rapid. Charley “Hart” was made a lieutenant.
No one had recognized in him the boy who had been left for dead two summers before, else Capt. Pickens had been more careful in his confidences. One night he told the young lieutenant the story of a raid on an emigrant camp on the Cottonwood river; how the dead man had been left no shroud; the wounded one no blanket; how the mules were sold and the proceeds gambled for.
But Lieut. “Hart's” mask revealed nothing. Three days later Pickens and two of his friends were found dead on Bull Creek.
Col. Jim Lane's orderly boasted of the Cottonwood affair in his cups at a banquet one night. The orderly was found dead soon after.
Quantrell told a friend that of the 32 who were concerned in the killing of his brother, only two remained alive, and they had moved to California.
The fight at Carthage in July 1861, found Quantrell in Capt. Stewart's company of cavalry. I was there as a private in the state guard, fighting under Price. Then came Gen. Lyon's fatal charge at Wilson's creek, and Gen. Price's march on Lexington to dislodge Col. Mulligan and his command.
Here Quantrell came into the public eye for the first time. His red shirt stood out in the first rank in every advance; he was one of the last when the men fell back.
After Lexington, Quantrell went with the command as far as the Osage river, and then, with the consent of his officers, came up the Kansas line again to settle some old scores with the Jayhawkers.
3. Driven from Home
I was only seventeen when Col. Mockbee gave a dancing party for his daughter at his home in Harrisonville which was to terminate seriously for some of us who were there. The colonel was a Southerner, and his daughter had the Southern spirit, too. Probably this was the reason that inspired the young Missouri militiamen who were stationed at Harrisonville to intrude on the colonel's party. Among them was Captain Irvin Walley, who, even though a married man, was particularly obnoxious in forcing his attentions on the young women. My sister refused to dance with him, and he picked a quarrel with me.
“Where is Quantrell?” he asked me, with a sneer.
“I don't know,” I answered.
“You are a liar,” he continued, and as he went down in a heap on the floor, he drew his pistol, but friends came between us, and at their solicitation I went home and informed my father of what had taken place. He told me to go down to the farm in Jackson county, and to keep away from the conflict that Walley was evidently determined to force. Next morning I started. That night Walley and a band of his scouts came to my father's house and demanded that he surrender me, on the ground that I was a spy, and in communication with Quantrell. Father denounced it as a lie.
Though a slave-owner, father had never been in sympathy with secession, believing, as it turned out, that it meant the death of slavery. He was for the Union, in spite of his natural inclinations to sympathy with the South.
A demand that I surrender was conveyed to my father by Col. Neugent, who was in charge of the militia at Harrisonville, again charging that I was a spy. I never doubted that his action was due to the enmity of Walley. My parents wanted me to go away to school. I would have liked to have stayed and fought it out,
and although I consented to go away, it was too late, and I was left no choice as to fighting it out. Watch was being kept for me at every railroad station, and the only school I could reach was the school of war close at home.
Armed with a shot-gun and revolver, I went out into the night and was a qanderer.
Instant death to all persons bearing arms in Missouri was the edict that went forth Aug. 30 of that year from Gen. John C. Fremont's headquarters at St. Louis, and he declared that all slaves belonging to persons in arms against the United States were free. President Lincoln promptly overruled this, but it had added to the bitterness in Missouri where many men who owned slaves were as yet opposed to secession.
It was “hide and run for it” with me after that. That winter my brother-in-law, John Jarrette, and myself, joined Capt. Quantrell's company. Jarrette was orderly sergeant. He never knew fear, and the forty that then made up the company were as brave men as ever drew breath.
We were not long quiet. Burris had a detachment raiding in the neighborhood of Independence. We struck their camp at sunset. We were thirty-two; they eighty-four; but we were sure shots and one volley broke their ranks in utter confusion. Five fell at the first fire, and seven more died in the chase, the others regaining
Independence, where the presence of the rest of the regiment saved them. That day my persistent pistol practice showed its worth when one of the militiamen fell, 71 yards away, actual measure. That was Nov. 10, 1861.
All that winter Independence was the scene of a bloody warfare. One day early in February Capt. Quantrell and David Pool, Bill Gregg and George Shepherd, George Todd and myself, charged in pairs down three of the streets to the court house, other members of the company coming through other streets. We had eleven hurt, but we got away with ammunition and other supplies that were badly needed. Seven militiamen died that day. Another charge, at daybreak of Feb. 21, resulted badly. Instead of the one company we expected to find, there were four.
Although we killed seventeen, we lost one, young George, who fell so close to the guns of the foe that we had considerable difficulty in getting him away for burial. Then we disbanded for a time. Capt. Quantrell believed that it was harder to trail one man than a company, and every little while the company would break up, to rally again at a moment's notice.
4. The Trap That Failed
In March Quantrell planned to attack Independence. We met at David George's and went from there toward Independence as far as Little Blue church, where Allen Parmer, who afterward married Susie James, the sister of Frank and Jesse, told the captain that instead of there being 300 Jayhawkers in Independence,
there were 600. The odds were too strong, and we swung around to the southwest.
Thirteen soldiers who guarded the bridge at the Big Blue found their number unlucky. The bridge was burned and we dined that day at the home of Alex. Majors, of Russell, Majors & Waddell, the freighters, and rested for the night at Maj. Tale's house, near New Santa Fe, where there was fighting for sure before morning.
A militia command, 300 strong, came out to capture us, but they did not risk an attack until nearly midnight. Capt. Quantrell, John Jarrette, and I were sleeping together when the alarm was given, the sentry's challenge, “Who are you?” followed by a pistol shot. We were up on the instant.
So stealthy had been their approach that they had cut the sentry off from us before alarming him, and he fled into the timber in a shower of lead.
There was a heavy knock on the outer door, and a deep voice shouted: “Make a light.” Quantrell, listening within, fired through the panel. The visitor fell.
While we barricaded the windows with bedding, the captain polled his men. “Boys,” he said, “we're in a tight place. We can't stay here and I do not mean to surrender. All who want to follow me out can say so; all who prefer to give up without a rush can also say so. I will do the best I can for them.”
Four voted to surrender, and went out to the besieging party, leaving seventeen. Quantrell, James Little, Hoy, Stephen Shores and myself held
the upper story, Jarrette, George Shepherd, Toler and others the lower. Anxious to see who their prisoners were, the militiamen exposed themselves imprudently, and it cost them six.
Would they permit Major Tate's family to escape? Yes. They were only too glad, for with the family out, the ell, which was not commanded by our fire, offered a tempting mark for the incendiary. Hardly had the Tales left than the flames began to climb the ell. There was another parley. Could we have twenty minutes? Ten? Five?
Back came the answer: “You have one minute. If at its expiration you have not surrendered, not a single man among you shall escape alive.”
“Thank you,” said I; “catching comes before hanging.”
“Count six then and be d—d to you!” shouted back George Shepherd, who was doing the dickering, and Quantrell said quietly, “Shotguns to the front.”
There were six of these, and behind them came those with revolvers only. Then Quantrell opened the door and leaped out. Close behind him were Jarrette, Shepherd, Toler, Little, Hoy and myself, and behind us the revolvers.
In less time than it takes to tell it, the rush was over. We had lost five, Hoy being knocked down with a musket and taken prisoner, while they had eighteen killed and twenty-nine wounded. We did not stop till we got to the timber, but there was really no pursuit. The audacity of the thing had given the troops a taste of
They kept Hoy at Leavenworth for several months and then hanged him. This was the inevitable end of a “guerrilla” when taken prisoner.
5. Vengeance Indeed
Among the Jackson county folks who insisted on their right to shelter their friends was an old man named Blythe. Col. Peabody at Independence had sent out a scouting party to find me or anyone else of the company they could “beat up.”
Blythe was not at home when they came but his son, aged twelve, was. They took him to the barn and tried to find out where we were, but the little fellow baffled them until he thought he saw a chance to break through the guard, and started for the house. He reached it safely, seized a pistol, and made for the woods followed by a hail of bullets. They dropped him in his tracks, but, game to the last, he rolled over as he fell, shot one of his pursuers dead, mortally wounded a second, and badly hurt a third. They put seventeen bullets in him before he could shoot a fourth time.
A negro servant who had witnessed the seizure of his young master, had fled for the timber, and came upon a party of a dozen of us, including Quantrell and myself. As he quickly told us the story, we made our plans, and ambushed at the “Blue Cut,” a deep pass on the road the soldiers must take back to ndependence. The banks are about thirty feet high, and the cut about fifty yards wide. Not a shot was to be fired until the entire command was in the cut.
Thirty-eight had started to “round up” Cole Younger that morning; seventeen of them lay dead in the cut that night and the rest of them had a lively chase into Independence.
To this day old residents know the Blue Cut as “the slaughterpen.”
Early in May, 1862, Quantrell's men were disbanded for a month. Horses were needed, and ammunition. There were plenty of horses in Missouri, but the ammunition presented more of a problem.
Capt. Quantrell, George Todd and myself, attired as Union officers, went to Hamilton, a small town on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad, undetected by the company of the Seventh United States Cavalry in camp there, although we put up at the principal hotel. Todd passed as a major in the Sixth Missouri Cavalry, Quantrell a major in the Ninth, and I a captain in an Illinois regiment. At Hannibal there was a regiment of Federal soldiers. The commander talked very freely with us about Quantrell, Todd, Haller, Younger, Blunt, Pool and other guerrillas of whom he had heard.
While in Hannibal we bought 50,000 revolver caps and such other ammunition as we needed. From there we went to St. Joseph, which was under command of Col. Harrison B. Branch. “Too many majors traveling together are like too many roses in a bouquet,” suggested Todd. “The other flowers have no show.”
He reduced himself to captain and I to lieutenant. Our disguise was undiscovered. Col. Branch entertained us at his headquarters most hospitably.
“I hope you may kill a guerrilla with every bullet I have sold you,” said one merchant to me. “I think if ever there was a set of devils let loose, it is Quantrell, Todd, Cole Younger and Dave Pool.”
From St. Joseph we went to Kansas City in a hack, sending Todd into Jackson county with the ammunition. When within three miles of Kansas City the hack was halted by a picket on outpost duty, and while the driver argued with the guard, Quantrell and I slipped out on the other side of the hack and made our way
to William Bledsoe's farm, where we were in friendly hands.
6. In the Enemy's Lines
Col. Buell, whose garrison of 600 held Independence, had ordered that every male citizen of Jackson county between 18 and 45 years of age should fight against the South. Col. Upton Hays, who was in Jackson county in July and August, 1862, recruiting a regiment for the Confederate army, decided that it was the time to strike a decisive blow for the dislodging of Buell. In reconnoitering the vicinity he took with him Dick Yager, Boone Muir and myself, all of whom had seen service with Capt. Quantrell. It was finally decided to make the attack August 11th. Colonel Hays wanted accurate information about the state of things inside town.
“Leave that to me,” said I. Three days remained before the battle. Next morning there rode up to the picket line at Independence an old apple-woman, whose gray hair and much of her face was nearly hidden by an old-fashioned and faded sun-bonnet. Spectacles half hid her eyes and a basket on her arm was laden with beets, beans and apples. The left rein was leather but a rope replaced the right. “Good morning, grandmother,” bantered the first picket. “Does the rebel crop need any rain out in your country?” The sergeant at the reserve post seized her bridle, and looking up said: “Were you younger and prettier, I might kiss you.”
“Were I younger and prettier, I might box your ears for your impudence.”
“Oh, ho! You old she-wolf, what claws you have for scratching!” he retorted, and reached for her hand.
The quick move she made started the horse suddenly, or he might have been surprised to feel that hand. But the horse was better than apple-women usually ride, and that aroused some suspicion at Col. Buell's headquarters, so that the ride out was interrupted by a mounted picket who galloped alongside and again her bridle was seized.
The sergeant and eight men of the guard were perhaps thirty paces back.
“What will you have?” asked the apple-woman. “I am but a poor lone woman going peaceably to my home.” “Didn't you hear the sergeant call for you, d—n you?” answered the sentinel.
A spurred boot under the ragged skirt pierced the horse's flank; the hand that came from the apple basket fired the cocked pistol almost before the sentry knew it, and the picket fell dead. The reserve stood as if stupefied. That night I gave Quantrell, for Col. Hays, a plan showing the condition of affairs in Independence.
The morning of the 11th the attack was made and Col. Buell, his force shot to pieces, surrendered. The apple-woman's expedition had been a success.
7. Lone Jack
It was in August, 1862, nearly a year after the party at Col. Mockbee's, that I was formally enrolled in the army of the Confederate States of America by Col. Gideon W. Thompson. I was eighteen, and for some little time had been assisting Col. Hays in recruiting a regiment around my old home.
It was within a day or two after the surrender of Buell at Independence that I was elected as first lieutenant in Capt. Jarrette's company in Col. Upton B. Hays' regiment, which was a part of the brigade of Gen. Joseph O. Shelby. We took the oath, perhaps 300 of us, down on Luther Mason's farm, a few miles from where I now write, where Col. Hays had encamped after Independence.
Millions of boys and men have read with rising hair the terrible “black oath” which was supposed to have been taken by these brave fighters, but of which they never heard, nor I, until I read it in books published long after the war. When Col. Hays camped on the Cowherd, White, Howard and Younger farms, Quantrell had been left to guard the approaches to Kansas City, and to prevent the escape to that point of news from the scattered Confederate commands which were recruiting in western Missouri. At the same time he was obtaining from the Chicago and St. Louis papers and other sources, information about the northern armies, which was conveyed by couriers to Confederate officers in the south, and he kept concealed along the Missouri river skiffs and ferry boats to enable the Confederate officers, recruiting north of the river, to have free access to the south.
The night that I was enlisted, I was sent by Col. Hays to meet Cols. Cockrell, Coffee, Tracy, Jackman and Hunter, who, with the remnants of regiments that had been shattered in various battles through the south, were headed toward Col. Hays' command.
It was Col. Hays' plan for them to join him the fifteenth, and after a day's rest, the entire command would attack Kansas City, and, among other advantages resulting from victory there, secure possession of Weller's steam ferry.
Boone Muir and myself met Coffee and the rest below Rose Hill, on Grand river. Col. Cockrell, whose home was in Johnson county, had gone by a different route, hoping to secure new recruits among his neighbors, and, as senior colonel, had directed the rest of the command to encamp the next evening at Lone Jack, a little village in the southeastern portion of Jackson county, so called from a solitary big black jack tree that rose from an open field nearly a mile from any other timber.
At noon of Aug. 15, Muir and I had been in the saddle twenty-four to thirty hours, and I threw myself on the blue grass to sleep. Col. Hays, however, was still anxious to have the other command join him, he having plenty of forage, and being well equipped with ammunition as the result of the capture of Independence a few days before. Accordingly I was shortly awakened to accompany him to Lone Jack, where he would personally make known the situation to the other colonels.
Meantime, however, Major Emory L. Foster, in command at Lexington, had hurried out to find Quantrell, if possible, and avenge Independence. Foster had nearly 1,000 cavalrymen, and two pieces of Rabb's Indiana battery that had already made for itself a name for hard fighting. He did not dream of the presence
of Cockrell and his command until he stumbled upon them in Lone Jack.
At nightfall, the Indiana battery opened on Lone Jack, and the Confederate commands were cut in two, Coffee retreating to the south, while Cockrell withdrew to the west, and when Col. Hays and I arrived, had his men drawn up in line of battle, while the officers were holding a council in his quarters.
“Come in, Colonel Hays,” exclaimed Col. Cockrell. “We just sent a runner out to look you up. We want to attack Foster and beat him in the morning. He will just be a nice breakfast spell.”
Col. Hays sent me back to bring up his command, but on second thought said:
“No, Lieutenant, I'll go, too.” On the way back he asked me what I thought about Foster being a “breakfast spell.”
“I think he'll be rather tough meat for breakfast,” I replied. “He might be all right for dinner.”
But Cockrell and Foster were neighbors in Johnson county, and Cockrell did not have as good an idea of Foster's fighting qualities that night as he did twenty-four hours later. The fight started at daybreak, hit or miss, an accidental gunshot giving Foster's men the alarm. For five hours it waged, most of the time across the village street, not more than sixty feet wide, and during those five hours every recruit there felt the force of Gen. Sherman's characterization—“War is hell.”
Jackman, with a party of thirty seasoned men, charged the Indiana guns, and captured them, but Major Foster led a gallant charge against the invaders, and recaptured the pieces. We were out of ammunition, and were helpless, had the fight been pressed.
Riding to the still house where we had left the wagon munitions we had taken a few days before at Independence, I obtained a fresh supply and started for the action on the gallop.
Of that mad ride into the camp I remember little except that I had my horse going at full tilt before I came into the line of fire. Although the enemy was within 150 yards, I was not wounded. They did mark my clothes in one or two places, however. Major Foster, in a letter to Judge George M. Bennett of Minneapolis, said:
“During the progress of the fight my attention was called to a young Confederate riding in front of the Confederate line, distributing ammunition to the men from what seemed to be a ‘splint basket.’ He rode along under a most galling fire from our side the entire length of the Confederate lines, and when he had at last disappeared, our boys recognized his gallantry in ringing cheers. I was told by some of our men from the western border of the state that they recognized the daring young rider as Cole Younger. About 9:30 a.m., I was shot down. The wounded of both forces were gathered up and were placed in houses. My brother and I, both supposed to be mortally wounded, were in the same bed. About an hour after the Confederates left the field, the ranking officer who took command when I became unconscious, gathered his men together and returned to Lexington. Soon after the Confederates returned. The first man who entered my room was a guerrilla, followed by a dozen or more men who seemed to obey him. He was personally known to me and had been my enemy from before the war. He said he and his men had just shot a lieutenant of a Cass county company whom they found wounded and that he would shoot me and my brother. While he was standing over us, threatening us with his drawn pistol, the young man I had seen distributing ammunition along in front of the Confederate line rushed into the room from the west door and seizing the fellow, thrust him out of the room.
Several Confederates followed the young Confederate into the room, and I heard them call him Cole Younger. He (Younger) sent for Col. Cockrell (in command of the Confederate forces) and stated the case to him. He also called the young man Cole Younger and directed him to guard the house, which he did. My brother had with him about $300, and I had about $700. This money and our revolvers were, with the knowledge and approval of Cole Younger, placed in safe hands, and were finally delivered to my mother in Warrensburg, Mo. Cole Younger was then certainly a high type of manhood, and every inch a soldier, who risked his own life to protect that of wounded and disabled enemies. I believe he still retains those qualities and would prove himself as good a citizen as we have among us if set free, and would fight for the Stars and Stripes as fearlessly as he did for the Southern flag. I have never seen him since the battle of Lone Jack. I know much of the conditions and circumstances under which the Youngers were placed after the war, and knowing this, I have great sympathy for them. Many men, now prominent and useful citizens of Missouri, were, like the Youngers, unable to return to their homes until some fortunate accident threw them with men they had known before the war, who had influence enough to make easy their return to peace and usefulness. If this had occurred to the Youngers, they would have had good homes in Missouri.”
It is to Major Foster's surprise of the command at Lone Jack that Kansas City owes its escape from being the scene of a hard battle August 17, 1862. Quantrell was not in the fight at Lone Jack at all, but Jarrette and Gregg did come up with some of Quantrell's men just at the end and were in the chase back toward Lexington. In proportion to the number of men engaged, Lone Jack was one of the hardest fights of the war. That night there were 136 dead and 550 wounded on the battlefield.
8. A Foul Crime
With two big farms in Jackson county, besides money-making stores and a livery stable at Harrisonville, my father at the outbreak of the war was wealthy beyond the average of the people in northwestern Missouri. As a mail contractor, his stables were filled with good horses, and his property was easily worth
$100,000, which was much more in those days, in the public esteem, than it is now.
This, perhaps, as much as Walley's enmity for me, made him the target for the freebooters who infested the Kansas line. In one of Jennison's first raids, the Younger stable at Harrisonville was raided and $20,000 worth of horses and vehicles taken. The experiment became a habit with the Jayhawkers, and such visits were frequent until the following fall, when the worst of all the indignities heaped upon my family was to be charged against them—the murder of my father.
When the body was discovered, it was taken in charge by Capt. Peabody, who was in command of the militia forces in Kansas City, and when he found $2,000, which father had taken the precaution to conceal in a belt which he wore about him, it was sent home to our family.
It has been charged that my father tried to draw his pistol on a party of soldiers, who suspected me of the murder of one of their comrades and wanted to know my whereabouts. This is false. My father never carried a pistol, to my knowledge, and I have never had any doubt that the band that killed him was led by that same Capt. Walley. Indeed he was suspected at the time, accused of murder, and placed under arrest, but his comrades furnished an alibi, to the satisfaction of the court, and he was released.
He is dead now, and probably he rests more comfortably than he ever did after that night in '62, for whether he had a conscience or not, he knew that Missouri people had memories, and good ones, too.
But the freebooters were not through.
My sisters were taken prisoners, as were the girls of other families whose sons had gone to join the Confederate army, their captors hoping by this means to frighten the Southern boys into surrender.
After my mother's home was burned, she took her children and went to Lafayette county. Militiamen followed her, shot at Jim, the oldest of the boys at home, fourteen, and drove him into the brush. Small wonder that he followed his brother as a soldier when he became old enough in 1864!
Despairing of peace south of the Missouri, mother crossed into Clay county, remaining until the War between the States had ended. But not so the war on her. A mob, among whom she recognized some of the men who were pretty definitely known to have murdered my father, broke in on her after she had returned to Jackson county, searched the house for Jim and me, hung John, aged fourteen, to a beam and told him to say his prayers, for he had but a little time to live unless he told where his older brothers were. He defied them and was strung up four times.
The fourth time the rope cut deep into the flesh. The boy was unconscious. Brutally hacking his body with knives, they left him for dead. That was early in 1870. June 2 of that year, before John had recovered from his injuries, mother died.
9. How Elkins Escaped
It was along about the first week in October, 1862, that I stopped with a dozen men at the home of Judge Hamilton, on Big Creek, in Cass county. We spent the afternoon there, and just before leaving John Hays, of my command, dashed up with the news that Quantrell was camped only two miles west. He also gave the
more important information to me, that some of Captain Parker's men had arrested Steve Elkins on the charge of being a Union spy, and were taking him to Quantrell's camp to hang him.
I lost no time in saddling up, and followed by my little detachment, rode hastily away to Quantrell's camp, for red tape occupied little space in those days, and quick action was necessary if anything was to be done. I knew Quantrell and his men well and was also aware that there were several Confederate officers in the camp. The moment we reached our destination, I went at once to Captain Charles Harrison, one of the officers, and my warm personal friend, and told him openly of my friendship and esteem for Elkins. He promised to lend me all his aid and influence, and I started out to see Quantrell, after first telling my men to keep their horses saddled, ready for a rescue and retreat in case I failed of a peaceable deliverance.
Quantrell received me courteously and kindly, as he always did, and after a little desultory chat, I carelessly remarked, “I am surprised to find that you have my old friend and teacher, Steve Elkins, in camp as a prisoner.”
"What! Do you know him?" asked Quantrell in astonishment. I told him that I did, and that he was my school teacher when the war broke out, also that some half a hundred other pupils of Elkins were now fighting in the Southern army.
“We all care for him very deeply,” I told Quantrell, and then asked what charges were preferred against him. He explained that Elkins had not been arrested on his orders, but by some of Parker's men, who were in vicious humor because of their leader's recent death. They had told Quantrell that Elkins had joined the Union forces at Kansas City, and was now in Cass county as a spy.
I jumped to my feet, and said that the men that made the charges lied, and that I stood ready to ram the lie down their throats with a pistol point. Quantrell laughed, and chided me about letting my hot blood get the better of cold judgment. I insisted, however, and told him further that Elkins' father and brother were Southern soldiers, and that Steve was a non-combatant, staying at home to care for his mother, but that I was in no sense a non-combatant, and would stand as his champion in any fight.
Quantrell finally looked at his watch, and then remarked: “I will be on the move in fifteen minutes. I will release Elkins, since you seem so excited about it, and will leave him in your hands. Be careful, for Parker's men are rather bitter against him.”
Happy at heart, I dashed away to see Elkins, with whom I had only passed a few words and a hand-shake to cheer him up. He knew me, however, and realized that I would save him or die in the attempt, for from a boy it was my reputation that I never deserted a friend.
When I joined him again, several of Parker's men were standing around in the crowd, and as I shook hands with Elkins and told him of his freedom, I added, “If any damned hound makes further false charges against you, it's me he's got to settle with, and that at the pistol point.”
I made that talk as a sort of bluff, for a bluff is often as good as a fight if it's properly backed up. As Quantrell and his men rode away in the direction of Dave Daily's neighborhood, I told Elkins to hit out West until he came to the Kansas City and Harrisonville road, and then, under cover of night, he could go either way. I shook his hand goodbye, slapped him on the shoulder, and have never seen him since.
I followed Quantrell's men for half a mile, fearing that some stragglers might return to take a quiet shot at Elkins, and then stopped for something to eat, and fed our horses. At the time that I defended Elkins before Quantrell, I knew that Steve's sympathies were with the North, and had heard that he had joined the Federal army. But it mattered nothing to me—he was my friend.
10. A Price on My Head
When Col. Hays went south in the fall to join Shelby, Capt. Jarrette went with as many of his company as were able to travel and the wounded were left with me in Jackson county. Missouri militia recognized no red cross, and we were unable for that reason to shelter our men in farm-houses, but built dugouts in the hills, the roofs covered with earth for concealment. All that winter we lay in the hollows of Jackson county, while the militia sought to locate the improvised hospitals.
It was a winter of battles too numerous to be told here, and it was a winter, too, that laid a price upon my head. Capt. Quantrell and his men had raided Olathe and Shawneetown, and among the killed at Paola on the way out from Olathe was a man named Judy, whose father had formerly lived in Cass county, but had gone to Kansas as a refugee. Judy, the father, returned to Cass county after the war as the appointive sheriff.
It was a matter of common knowledge to the guerillas, at least, that young Judy had been killed by Dick Maddox and Joe Hall, and that as a matter of fact at the time of the fight I was miles away at Austin, Mo. But Judy had secured my indictment in Kansas on the charge of killing his son, and threatened me with
arrest by a posse so that from 1863 to 1903 I was never in Cass county except as a hunted man. Years afterward this killing of Judy turned up to shut me out of Missouri.
Frequent meetings with the militia were unavoidable during the winter and there was fight after fight. Clashes were almost daily, but few of them involved any large number of men.
George Todd and Albert Cunningham, who were also caring for squads of soldiers in our neighborhood, and I made an expedition early in the winter across the Kansas line near New Santa Fe, where our party of 30 met 62 militiamen. Todd led the charge. With a yell and a rush, every man with a revolver in each hand, they gave the militia a volley at a hundred yards, which was returned, but no men could stand in the face of a rush like that and the militia fell back. In their retreat they were reinforced by 150 more and returned to the attack, driving Todd and his comrades before them. With six men I was holding the rear in the timber when a detachment of 52 ran down upon us. It was a desperate fight, and every man in it was wounded more or less.
John McDowell's horse was killed under him and he, wounded, called to me for help. Packing him up behind me, we returned to our camp in safety. This was the McDowell who less than three months later betrayed one of our camps to the militia in Independence and brought down upon us a midwinter raid. Todd had his camp at Red Grenshaw's, Cunningham was on the Little Blue, and mine was near Martin O. Jones' farm, eight miles south of Independence.
Todd's spirit of adventure, with my hope to avenge my father's murder, combined in a Christmas adventure which has been misrepresented by other writers. Todd said he knew some of the band who had killed father were in Kansas City, and Christmas day six of us went in to look them up.
Leaving Zach Traber with our horses just beyond the outposts, the rest of us hunted them until it must have been nearly midnight. We were in a saloon on Main street. I had called for a cigar, and glancing around, saw that we had been recognized by a trooper who had been playing cards. He reached for his pistol, but he never pulled it.
I do not know how many were killed that night. They chased us well out of town and there was a fight at the picket post on the Independence road. Col. Penick, in command at Independence, hearing of the Kansas City adventure, put a price of $1,000 on my head and other figures on those of my comrades. It was to get this blood money that six weeks later, Feb. 9, the militia drove my mother out of her house and made her burn it before their eyes. I was a hunted man.
The day after they burned my mother out of her home they made another trial for the $1,000 reward, and this time they had a better prospect of success, for they had with them the traitor, McDowell, whom I had carried out on my horse in the fight at New Santa Fe a few weeks before. McDowell said he wanted to go home to see his wife and assure her he was all right, but he did not go near her. Instead he hurried into Independence and that evening the militia came out, eighty strong, to take us prisoners. Even they did not trust McDowell, for he, closely guarded, was kept in front.
Forty of them had come within twenty yards of us on the south when my horse warned me, and I called out: “Is that you Todd?” “Don't mind us; we're friends,” came the answer, but I saw they were not, and the lieutenant in command fell at the first fire. The boys swarmed out of the dug-outs, and the fighting was hot.
Retreat to the north was cut off by the other forty and they had us between them. We made for the west, firing as we went, and the soldiers fell right and left. I stayed by Joe Hardin till they dropped him in his tracks, and fought fifteen of the militia while Otho Hinton stopped to get his heavy boots off. Tom Talley, too, had one boot off and one foot stuck in the leg of the other. He could not run and he had no knife to cut the leather. I yanked his boot off and we took to our heels, the militia within 20 yards.
Talley's pistol had filled with snow and he could not fire a shot. But we reached the timber and stood at bay. George Talley was shot dead at this last stand, but when the militia fell back, their dead and wounded numbered seventeen. Nathan Kerr, Geo. Wigginton, Bill Hulse and John McCorkle did well that day. We were all in our socks, having taken off our overcoats, gloves and heavy boots to lighten our burdens, and the icy road promised to cut our feet to pieces, but we made our way to a rock bridge where a hog trail would hide our tracks, and when we left this trail, I made every one of the boys follow in my footprints, leaving but the one trail till we got to the cedar bluffs. For a stretch of three miles here, these bluffs were practically impassable to horsemen, but we climbed down them and found
our way to the home of Mrs. Moore where we were safe again.
The soldiers took back to Independence a pair of gloves marked “Presented to Lieut. Coleman Younger by Miss M. E. Sanders” and they thought Cole Younger was dead for a time. Her brother, Charles Sanders, was one of my company.
Making our way out to Napoleon and Wellington we got new coats and gloves and also located some of the red sheepskin leggings worn by the Red-leg scouts, with which we made a trip over into what was known as “Hell's corner” on the Missouri, near Independence. Col. Penick's men, who had in many cases
“collected” more horses than they really had use for, had left them with friends at various points. As we went in we spotted as many of these as we thought we could lead out, and took them out with us on our way back.
One of the horses I got on that trip was the meanest horse I ever rode and I named him “Jim Lane” in honor of one of the most efficient raiders that ever disgraced an army uniform. This horse a young woman was keeping for her sweetheart who had left it with her father for safety, as he feared it might be shot.
As I mounted the nag, she suddenly grasped the bridle reins. The horse always, I found afterwards, had a trick of rearing up on his hind feet, when he was about to start off. Evidently the young woman was also ignorant of his little habit or else she would never have taken hold of his bridle in an effort to detain me. He was no respecter of persons, this horse of her sweetheart, and he rose high in the air with the young woman still clinging. He turned around and made almost a complete circuit before he came down and again allowed her to enjoy the security of having both feet upon the earth. She was a little frightened after having been lifted off her feet in this way and dangled in the air, and somewhat piqued, too, that I was about to ride away on her sweetheart's horse, and when I suggested that the horse was not as quiet as he might be and she had better not catch hold of his bridle any more, she called to me as a parting shot, “You horrid old red-leg, you are meaner than Quantrell or Todd or Cole Younger or any of his gang!”
The night we made our escape, they burned the homes of Grandmother Fristoe, and her neighbor, Mrs. Rucker, and gray heads suffered because younger ones had not been noosed.
12. Quantrell on War
After the Lone Jack fight, Capt. Quantrell had joined Gen. Shelby at Cane Hill, Arkansas, but shortly left his command to go to the Confederate capital at Richmond to ask to be commissioned as a colonel under the partisan ranger act and to be so recognized by the war department as to have any protection the Confederate States might be able to afford him. He knew the service was a furious one, but he believed that to succeed the South must fight desperately.
Secretary Cooper suggested that war had its amenities and refinements and that in the nineteenth century it was simply barbarism to talk of a black flag.
“Barbarism,” rejoined Quantrell, according to Senator Louis T. Wigfall, of Texas, who was present at the interview, “barbarism, Mr. Secretary, means war and war means barbarism. You ask an impossible thing, Mr. Secretary. This secession or revolution, or whatever you call it, cannot conquer without violence. Your young Confederacy wants victory. Men must be killed.”
“What would you do, Captain Quantrell, were yours the power and the opportunity?” inquired the secretary.
“Do, Mr. Secretary? I would wage such a war as to make surrender forever impossible. I would break up foreign enlistments by indiscriminate massacre. I would win the independence of my people or I would find them graves.”
“What of our prisoners?”
“There would be no prisoners,” exclaimed the fiery captain. “Do they take any prisoners from me? Surrounded, I do not surrender; hunted, I hunt my hunters; hated and made blacker than a dozen devils, I add to my hoofs the swiftness of a horse and to my horns the terrors of a savage following. Kansas should be laid waste at once. Meet the torch with the torch, pillage with pillage, slaughter with slaughter, subjugation with extermination.
You have my ideas of war, Mr. Secretary, and I am sorry they do not accord with your own or with the ideas of the government you have the honor to represent so well.”
Disappointed, Capt. Quantrell left without his commission. He had felt the truth of his fiery speech.
Our tenders of exchanges of prisoners had been scorned by the officers of the militia. There was a boy who was an exception to this rule, to whom I want to pay a tribute. He was a young lieutenant from Brown county and if my memory serves me right, his name also was Brown. We had taken him prisoner at Olathe.
At Leavenworth they had one of our boys named Hoy, who had been taken at the Tate house, and we paroled Brown, and sent him to Leavenworth to ask the exchange of Hoy. Brown went, too, and was laughed at for his earnestness.
Exchange was ridiculed. “You are free,” they said to him, “why worry about exchanges?”
But Brown had given his word as a man and as a soldier and he came back to our camp and surrendered. He was told to return to the lines of his own army, and given safe conduct and money to provide for his immediate wants, but he vowed he would never fight again under his country's flag until he had been exchanged
in accordance with his parole. There was a cheer for that man when he left the camp, and anyone who had proposed shooting him would himself have been
13. The Palmyra Butchery
As long as Pete Donan was the editor of the Lexington Caucasian, that paper once each year published an account substantially in this wise:
“So long as God gives us life and the earth is cursed with the presence of McNeil we feel it to be our solemn duty to rehearse once every year the story of the most atrocious and horrible occurrence in the annals of barbarous warfare.”
“On Friday, the 17th day of October, 1862, a deed was enacted at the fair grounds at Palmyra, Mo., which sent a thrill of horror through the civilized world.”
“Ten brave and true and innocent men were taken from their prison, driven to the edge of the town, seated on their rough board coffins, for no crime of their own, and murdered like so many swine.”
“By the hell-spawned and hell-bound, trebly damned old blotch upon creation's face, John McNeil, until recently by the grace of bayonets, Tom Fletcher, and the devil, sheriff of St. Louis county.”
“Shot to death!!”
“There was our poor, handsome, gallant boyhood friend Tom Sidener—”
“As pure a soul as ever winged its flight from blood-stained sod to that God who will yet to all eternity damn the fiendish butcher, McNeil.”
“He was engaged to be married to a young lady in Monroe county.”
“When he learned he was to be shot, he sent for his wedding suit, which had just been made, declaring that if he couldn't be married in it; he intended to die in it.”
“Arrayed in his elegant black broad cloth, and his white silk vest, when he mounted his coarse plank coffin, in the wagon that was to bear him to his death he looked as if he was going to be married instead of shot.”
“The very guards cried like children when they bade him goodbye.”
“Raising his cap and bowing to the weeping women who lined the streets, he was driven from their sight forever!”
“Half an hour afterward six musket balls had pierced his noble heart, and his white silk vest was torn and dyed with his martyr blood!”
“There was poor old Willis Baker, his head whitened with the snows of more than seventy winters—”
“Heroic old man!”
“With his white hair streaming in the wind, he seated himself on his rude coffin and died without a shudder; refusing with his last breath to forgive his executioners, and swearing he would ‘meet them and torment them in hell through all eternity.’ ”
“There was that helpless, half-idiot boy from Lewis county, who allowed himself to be blindfolded; then hearing Sidener and the others refuse, slipped up one corner of the bandage, and seeing the rest with their eyes uncovered, removed the handkerchief from his own, died as innocent as a lamb.”
“There were Humstead and Bixler, and Lake, and McPheeters.”
“And there was that most wondrous martyr of them all—young Smith, of Knox county—who died for another man.”
“Humphrey was the doomed man.”
“His heart-broken wife, in widow's weeds, with her eight helpless little ones in deep mourning, that was only less black than the anguish they endured, or the heart of him to whom they appealed, rushed to the feet of McNeil, and in accents so piteous that a soul of adamant must have melted under it, besought him
for the life of the husband and father.”
“She was brutally repulsed.”
“But Strachan, the monster of Shelby county, whom the angel a few months afterward smote with Herodian rottenness—Strachan, whose flesh literally fell from his living skeleton—Strachan, who has long been paying in the deepest, blackest, hottest hole in perdition the penalty of his forty-ply damnation-deserving crimes was provost marshal.”
“He saw the frantic agony of the woman; called her into his office and told her he would save her husband if she would give him three hundred dollars and then submit—but oh! humanity shudders, sickens at the horrid proposal.”
“The wretched, half-crazed, agonized wife, not knowing what she did—acceded to save her husband's life—and the next morning she was found lying insane and nearly dead, with her baby at her breast, near the public spring at Palmyra.”
“And after all this, her husband was only released on condition that another should be shot in his place.”
“Young Smith was selected.”
“And then ensued a contest without a parallel in all the six thousand years of human history.”
“Humphrey refused to let any man die in his stead, declaring he should feel himself a murderer if he did.”
“Smith protested that he was only a poor orphan boy, and so far as he knew there was not a soul on earth to grieve for him; that Humphrey had a large family entirely dependent upon him for daily bread, and it was his duty to live while he could.”
“And Smith, the simple country lad, only seventeen years old, the Hero without a peer on all Fame's mighty scroll, took his seat on a rough box—and was shot!”
“Will not God eternally damn his murderers?”
“We might dwell for hours on the incidents connected with this most frightful butchery of ancient or modern ages.”
“But why go on?”
“The murder was done!”
“The Confederate government talked of demanding the murderer McNeil.”
“Then a ‘memorial’ was gotten up, and signed by two thousand Missourians, recommending the heaven-earth-and-hell-accursed old monster, on account of his Palmyra massacre, to special favor and he was promoted to a brigadier-generalship.”
Disguised as a cattle trader, Lieutenant Fletcher Taylor, now a prominent and wealthy citizen of Joplin, Mo., spent a week at the Eldridge house in Lawrence, Kansas, from which place had gone out the Jayhawkers who in three months just previous had slain 200 men and boys, taken many women prisoners, and stolen no one knows how many horses.
At the house of Capt. Purdee on the Blackwater in Johnson county, 310 men answered August 16, 1863, to the summons of Capt. Quantrell to hear the report of Lieut. Taylor's reconnaissance.
The lieutenant's report was encouraging. The city itself was poorly garrisoned; the camp beyond was not formidable; the streets were wide.
“You have heard the report,” said Quantrell when the lieutenant finished. “It is a long march; we march through soldiers; we attack soldiers; we must retreat through soldiers. What shall it be? Speak out. Anderson!”
“Lawrence or hell,” relied Anderson, instantly. With fire flashing in his eyes as he recalled the recent wreck from which his sister had been taken in Kansas City, he added: “But with one proviso, that we kill every male thing.”
“Todd?” called Quantrell.
“Lawrence, if I knew that not a man would get back alive.”
This was Capt. William Gregg, who still lives in Kansas City, one of the bravest men that ever faced powder, and in action the coolest, probably, in the entire command.
“Lawrence,” he relied. “It is the home of Jim Lane; the nurse of Jayhawkers.”
“Lawrence, by all means,” my brother-in-law answered. “It is the head devil of the killing and burning in Jackson county. I vote to fight it and with fire burn it before we leave.” Shepherd, Dick Maddox, so on, Quantrell called the roll.
“Have you all voted?” shouted Quantrell.
There was no word.
“Then Lawrence it is; saddle up.”
We reached Lawrence the morning of the 21st. Quantrell sent me to quiz an old farmer who was feeding his hogs as to whether there had been any material changes in Lawrence since Lieut. Taylor had been there. He thought there were 75 soldiers in Lawrence; there were really 200.
Four abreast, the column dashed into the town with the cry: “The camp first!”
It was a day of butchery. Bill Anderson claimed to have killed fourteen and the count was allowed. But it is not true that women were killed. One negro woman leaned out of a window and shouted:
She toppled out dead before it was seen she was a woman. The death list that day is variously estimated at from 143 to 216 and the property loss by the firing of the town, the sacking of the bank, and the rest, at $1,500.000.
Maj. John N. Edwards, in his Noted Guerrillas, says: “Cole Younger saved at least a dozen lives this day. Indeed, he killed none save in open and manly battle. At one house he captured five citizens over whom he put a guard and at another three whom he defended and protected. The notorious Gen. James H. Lane, to get whom Quantrell would gladly have left and sacrificed all the balance of the victims, made his escape through a corn-field, hotly pursued but too splendidly mounted to be captured.”
My second lieutenant, Lon Railey, and a detachment gave Jim Lane a hot chase that day but in vain. When I joined Brother-in-law Jarrette's company, he said:
“Cole, your mother and your sister told me to take care of you.”
That day it was reversed. Coming out of Lawrence his horse was shot under him. He took the saddle off and tried to put it on a mustang that one of the boys was leading. Some of the boys say he had $8,000 in the saddle bags for the benefit of the widows and orphans of Missouri, but whether that is true or not I have no knowledge. While he was trying to saddle the mustang, he was nearly surrounded by the enemy. I dashed back and made him get up behind me. The saddle was left for the Kansas men. One of the treasures that we did bring out of Lawrence that day, however, was Jim Lane's “black flag,” with the inscription
“Presented to Gen. James H. Lane by the ladies of Leavenworth”.
That is the only black flag that I knew anything about in connection with the Lawrence raid.
Lawrence was followed by a feverish demand from the North for vengeance. Quantrell was to be hanged, drawn and quartered, his band annihilated; nothing was too terrible for his punishment. Four days after the raid, Gen. Thomas Ewing at St. Louis issued his celebrated General Order No. 11. This required that all
persons living in Jackson, Cass and Bates counties, except one township, or within one mile of a military post, should remove within fifteen days. Those establishing their loyalty were permitted to go within the lines of any military post, or to Kansas, but all others were to remove without the bounds of the military district. All grain and hay in the proscribed district was to be turned into the military post before Sept. 9, and any grain or hay not so turned in was to be destroyed.
It was the depopulation of western Missouri. Any citizen not within the limits of the military post after Sept. 9 was regarded as an outlaw.
Pursued by 6,000 soldiers, the Confederates in that vicinity must ultimately rejoin their army farther south, but they harassed their pursuers for weeks in little bands rarely exceeding ten. The horrors of guerrilla warfare before the raid at Lawrence, were eclipsed after it. Scalping, for the first time, was resorted to.
Andy Blunt found Ab. Haller's body, so mutilated, in the woods near Texas Prairie on the eastern edge of Jackson county. “We had something to learn yet,” said Blunt to his companions, “and we have learned it. Scalp for scalp hereafter.”
Among the brave fighters who were participants in the fight at Lawrence were Tom Maupin, Dick Yager, Payne Jones, Frank Shepherd, Harrison Trow, Dick Burns, Andy McGuire and Ben Broomfield.
15. Chasing Cotton Thieves
In the fall of 1863, in the absence of Capt. Jarrette, who had rejoined Shelby's command, I became, at 19, captain of the company. Joe Lea was first lieutenant and Lon Railey second lieutenant.
When Capt. Jarrette came north again, I again became lieutenant, but when Capts. Jarrette and Poole reported to Gen. Shelby on the Red river, they were sent into Louisiana, and I again became captain of the company, so reporting to Gen. Henry E. McCulloch in command of Northern Texas at Bonham. All my orders on the commissary and quartermaster's departments were signed by me as Capt. C.S.A. and duly honored.
Around Bonham I did scout service for Gen. McCulloch, and in November he sent me with a very flattering letter to report to Gen. E. Kirby Smith, at Shreveport, Louisiana, the headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi department. Capts. Jarrette and Poole were at Shreveport and Gen. Smith gave us minute orders for a campaign against the cotton thieves and speculators who infested the Mississippi river bottom. An expedition to get rid of these was planned by Gen. Smith with Capt. Poole commanding one company, myself the other, and Capt. Jarrette over us both.
Five miles from Tester's ferry on Bayou Macon we met a cotton train convoyed by 50 cavalry. We charged them on sight. The convoy got away with ten survivors, but every driver was shot, and four cotton buyers who were close behind in an ambulance were hung in a cotton gin near at hand. They had $180,000 on them, which, with the cotton and wagons, was sent back to Bastrop in charge of Lieut. Greenwood.
A more exciting experience was mine at Bayou Monticello, a stream that was deeper than it looked. Observing a cotton train on a plantation across the bayou, I called to my men to follow me and plunged in. Seeing me floundering in the deep water, however, they went higher up to a bridge, and when I landed I found myself alone. I was hard pressed for a time, till they came up and relieved me.
There were 52 soldiers killed here. Other charges near Goodrich's Landing and at Omega put an end to the cotton speculation in that locality. The Confederate army in that section was not well armed, and our company, each man with a pair of dragoon pistols and a Sharpe's rifle, was the envy of the Southern army. Gen. Kirby Smith told me he had not seen during the war a band so well armed.
Consequently when, in February, 1864, Gen. Marmaduke sent to Gen. Shelby for an officer and 40 of the best mounted and best armed men he had, it was but natural that Shelby's adjutant-general, John N. Edwards, should recommend a part of the Missouri boys, and told me to select my men and report to Gen. Shelby, who in turn ordered me to report for special service to Gen. Marmaduke at Warren, Ark.
Only twenty, and a beardless boy, Gen. Marmaduke looked me over rather dubiously, as I thought, but finally told me what he wanted—to find out whether or not it was true that Gen. Steele, at Little Rock, was preparing to move against Price at Camden, and to make the grand round of the picket posts from Warren to the Mississippi river, up the Arkansas to Pine Bluff and Little Rock, and returning by way of the western outpost at Hot Springs.
We were to intercept all messages between Price and Marmaduke, and govern our movements by their contents. About half way between Pine Bluff and Little Rock we came up with a train of wagons, followed by an ambulance carrying several women and accompanied by mounted Federal soldiers. The soldiers got away into Pine Bluff, but we captured the wagons and ambulance, but finding nothing of importance let them proceed.
We made a thorough examination of the interior of Little Rock, and satisfied ourselves that no movement on Price was imminent, and were on our way out before we became involved in a little shooting match with the patrol, from which no harm resulted to our side, however, except a shot in my leg.
Years afterward, in prison, I learned from Senator Cushman Kellogg Davis, of Minnesota, that he was one of the officers who galloped into Pine Bluff ahead of us that day. He was at that time on the staff of the judge advocate general, and they were on their way into Pine Bluff to hold a court-martial. The women were, as they had said, the wives of some of the officers. Senator Davis was among the prominent Minnesotans who worked for our parole, although he did not live to see it accomplished.
16. A Clash with Apaches
In May, 1864, Col. George S. Jackson and a force of about 300, myself among the number, were sent across the staked plains into Colorado to intercept some wagon trains, and to cut the transcontinental telegraph line from Leavenworth to San Francisco. We cut the line and found the trains, but empty, and on our return
were met at the Rio Grande by orders to detail a party to cross the continent on a secret mission for the Confederate states. Two vessels of the Alabama type, built in British waters, were to be delivered at Victoria, B.C., and a secret service officer named Kennedy, who was entrusted with the papers, was given an escort of twenty men, including myself, Capt. Jarrette and other veteran scouts.
While on this expedition we had a brief tilt with Comanches, but in the country which Gen. Crook afterward fought over inch by inch, we had a real Indian fight with Apache Mojaves which lasted through two days and the night between practically without cessation.
We had a considerable advantage in weapons, but the reds were pestiferous in spite of that, and they kept us busy for fully 36 hours plugging them at every opportunity. How many Indians we killed I do not know, as we had no time or curiosity to stop and count them. They wounded some of our horses and we had
to abandon one wagon, but we did not lose a man.
From El Paso we went down through Chihuahua and Sonora to Guaymas, where the party split up, Capt. Jarrette going up the mainland, while Kennedy and I, with three men, took a boat to San Francisco, disguised as Mexican miners. We were not detected, and then traveled by stage to Puget Sound, sailing for
Victoria, as nearly as I have since been able to locate it, about where Seattle now is. On our arrival at Victoria, however, we found that Lee had surrendered at Appomattox and the war was at an end.
For a long time I was accused of the killing of several people at Centralia, in September, 1864, but I think my worst enemies now concede that it is impossible for me to have been there at the time.
Another spectre that rose to haunt my last days in prison, and long stood between my parole and final pardon, was the story of one John McMath, a corporal in an Indiana cavalry company, in Pleasanton's command, that I had maltreated him when he lay wounded on the battle field close by the Big Blue, near my old home in Jackson county. McMath says this occurred Oct. 23, 1863. It is true that I was in Missouri on that date, but McMath's regiment was not, nor Pleasanton's command, and the war department records at Washington show that he was injured in a fight at the Big Blue Oct. 23, 1864—3 full year later—much
as he says I hurt him. This was eleven months after I had left Missouri and while I was 1,500 miles away, yet this hideous charge was brought to the attention of Chief Justice Start, of Minnesota, in 1896 by a Minneapolis newspaper.
In his Noted Guerrillas, Maj. John N. Edwards wrote: “Lee's surrender at Appomattox found Cole Younger at Los Angeles, trying the best he could to earn a livelihood and live at peace with all the world. The character of this man to many has been a curious study, but to those who knew him well there is nothing
about it of mystery or many-sidedness. An awful provocation drove him into the army. He was never a bloodthirsty or a merciless man. He was brave to recklessness, desperate to rashness, remarkable for terrible prowess in battle; but he was never known to kill a prisoner. On the contrary, there are alive today (1877) fully 200 Federal soldiers who owe their lives to Cole Younger, a man whose father had been cruelly murdered, whose mother had been hounded to her death, whose family had been made to endure the torment of a ferocious persecution, and whose kith and kin, even to remote degrees, were plundered and imprisoned.
His brother James did not go into the war until 1864, and was a brave, dauntless, high-spirited boy who never killed a soldier in his life save in fair and open battle. Cole was a fair-haired, amiable, generous man, devoted in his friendships and true to his word and to comradeship. In intrepidity he was never surpassed.
In battle he never had those to go where he would not follow, aye, where he would not gladly lead. On his body today there are the scars of thirty-six wounds. He was a Guerrilla and a giant among a band of Guerrillas, but he was one among five hundred who only killed in open and honorable battle. As great as had been
his provocation, he never murdered; as brutal as had been the treatment of every one near and dear to him, he refused always to take vengeance on those who were innocent of the wrongs and who had taken no part in the deeds which drove him, a boy, into the ranks of the Guerrillas, but he fought as a soldier who rights
for a cause, a creed, an idea, or for glory. He was a hero and he was merciful.”
17. The Edicts of Outlawry
While I was on the Pacific slope, April 8, 1865, to be exact, the state of Missouri adopted what is known to the disgrace of its author as the Drake constitution. Confederate soldiers and sympathizers were prohibited from practicing any profession, preaching the gospel, acting as deacon in a church, or doing
various other things, under penalty of a fine not less than $500 or imprisonment in the county jail not less than six months. Section 4 of Article 11 gave amnesty to union soldiers for their acts after Jan. 1, 1861, but held Confederates responsible for acts done either as soldiers or citizens, and Section 12 provided for the indictment, trial and punishment of persons accused of crime in counties other than the one where the offense was committed. The result of this was that Missourians were largely barred by law from holding office and the state was overrun with “carpetbag” office-holders, many of whom came from Kansas, and
during the war had been freebooters and bushwhackers up and down the Kansas border.
Organizing a posse from men like themselves, sheriffs or others pretending to be sheriffs would take their mobs, rout men out of their beds at night under service of writs, on which the only return ever made was a pistol shot somewhere in the darkness, maybe in the victim's dooryard, perhaps in some lonely country
Visiting for a time with my uncle on the Pacific slope, I returned to Jackson county in the fall of 1865 to pick up the scattered ends of a ruined family fortune. I was 21, and no man of my age in Missouri, perhaps, had better prospects, if I had been unmolested. Mother had been driven to a refuge in a cabin on one of our farms, my brother Jim had been away during the last few months of the war fighting in the army, and had been taken prisoner in Quantrell's last fight at Wakefield's house near Smiley, Ky. He was taken to the military prison at Alton, Ill., and was released in the fall of 1865, coming home within a few days of my return.
Our faithful negro servant, “Aunt Suse,” had been hung up in the barn in a vain endeavor to make her reveal the whereabouts of my mother's sons and money; my dead father's fortune had been stolen and scattered to the winds; but our farms were left, and had I been given an opportunity to till them in peace it would
have saved four wasted lives. In the summer of 1866 the governor of Kansas made a requisition on the governor of Missouri for 300 men, naming them, who had taken part in the attacks on Lawrence and other Kansas towns.
Attorneys in Independence had decided that they would defend, free of charge, for any offense except murder, any of the Jackson county boys who would give themselves up. No one did more than I to assemble the boys at Blue Springs for a meeting to consider such course.
It was while at this that I saw Jesse James for the first time in my life, so that sets at rest all the wild stories that have been told about our meeting as boys and joining Quantrell. Frank James and I had seen service together, and Frank was a good soldier, too. Jesse, however, did not enter the service until after I had
gone South in the fall of 1863, and when I saw him early in the summer of 1866 he was still suffering from the shot through the lung he had received in the last battle in Johnson county in May, 1865.
The spectre of Paola now rose to haunt me. Although all the guerrillas knew who had killed young Judy, his father had secured my indictment in Kansas on the charge of murdering his son. Judy, who had returned to Missouri as the appointed sheriff of Cass county, had a posse prepared to serve a writ for me in its usual way—a night visit and then the pistol or the rope.
I consulted with old ex-Governor King at Richmond, who had two sons in the Federal army, one of whom I had captured during the war, although he did not know it at the time, and with Judge Tutt of this district. Judge Tutt said there was no sheriff in this vicinity who would draw a jury that would give me a fair trial. If I should so make oath he, as judge, would appoint a jury commissioner who
would summon a jury that would give me a fair trial, but he was confident that as soon as he did so mob law would be invoked before I could go to trial.
One man had been taken from the train and hung at Warrensburg and there had been many like offenses against former Confederate soldiers.
Judy had no legal rights in Jackson county, but in spite of that his posse started for the Younger farm one night to take me. George Belcher, a Union soldier, but not in sympathy with mob law, heard of Judy's plans, and through Sam Colwell and Zach Cooper, neighbors, I was warned in the evening of the intended raid. When they came I was well out of reach on my way to the home of my great-uncle, Thomas Fristoe, in Howard county. Judy and his mob searched the house in vain, but they put up for a midnight supper which they compelled the faithful “Aunt Suse” to provide, and left disappointed.
Judy and his Kansas indictment were the entering wedge in a wasted life. But for him and his mob law Mr. and Mrs. Cole Younger, for there was a dear sweetheart awaiting my return, might have been happy and prosperous residents of Jackson county from 1866 to this day.
It was while I was visiting my great-uncle in Howard county that there took place at Liberty the first of a long string of bank and train robberies, all of which were usually attributed either to the Younger brothers, or to some of their friends, and which we were unable to come out and successfully refute for two reasons,
first the bringing down of a storm about the heads of those who had sheltered us; and second, giving such pursuers as Judy and his posse fresh clues to our whereabouts.
18. Not All Black
From the mass of rubbish that has been written about the guerrilla there is little surprise that the popular conception of him should be a fiendish, bloodthirsty wretch. Yet he was, in many cases, if not in most, a man who had been born to better things, and who was made what he was by such outrages as Osceola, Palmyra, and a hundred other raids less famous, but not less infamous, that were made by Kansans into Missouri during the war.
When the war ceased those of the guerrillas who were not hung or shot, or pursued by posses till they found the hand of man turned against them at every step, settled down to become good citizens in the peaceful walks of life, and the survivors of Quantrell's band may be pardoned, in view of the black paint that has been devoted to them, in calling attention to the fact that of the members of Quantrell's command who have since been entrusted with public place not one has ever betrayed his trust. John C. Hope was for two terms sheriff of Jackson county, Mo., in which is Kansas City, and Capt. J. M. Tucker was sheriff at Los Angeles, California. Henry Porter represented one of the Jackson county districts in the state legislature, removed to Texas, where he was made judge of the county court, and is now, I understand, a judge of probate in the state of Washington.
“Pink” Gibson was for several years county judge in Johnson county; Harry Ogden served the state of Louisiana as lieutenant-governor and as one of its congressmen. Capt. J. G. Lea was for many years instructor in the military department of the University of New Mexico, and, I believe, is there yet. Jesse
Hamblett was marshal at Lexington, and W. H. Gregg, who was Quantrell's first lieutenant, has been thought well enough of to be a deputy sheriff under the administration of a Republican. Jim Hendricks, deputy sheriff of Lewis and Clark county, Montana, is another, but to enumerate all the men of the old band who have held minor places would be wearisome.
19. A Duel and an Auction
I left Missouri soon after Judy's raid for Louisiana, spending three months with Capt. J. C. Lea on what was known as the Widow Amos' farm on Fortune fork, Tensas parish. We then rented the Bass farm on Lake Providence, in Carroll parish, where I stayed until 1867, when chills and fever drove me north to Missouri. When the bank at Russellville, Ky., was robbed, which has been laid to us, I was with my uncle, Jeff Younger, in St. Clair county, and Jim and Bob were at home here in Lee's Summit.
At the time of the Richmond and Savannah, Mo., bank robberies, in which, according to newspapers and sensationalists, I was largely concerned, I was living on the Bass plantation, three miles below Lake Providence, in Louisiana. Capt. J. C. and Frank Lea, of Roswell, N. M., and Tom Lea, of Independence, Mo., were living in the same house with me, any one of whom will vouch for the truth of my statement that I was not anywhere near either of these towns at the time of the robberies in question, but was with them at the plantation referred to above. Furthermore, right here I want to state, and I will take my oath solemnly that what I say is the truth, and nothing but the truth, notwithstanding all the accusations that have been made against me, I never, in all my life, had anything whatever to do with robbing any bank in the state of Missouri. I could prove that I was not in the towns where banks were robbed in Missouri, at the time that the raids took place, and in many instances that I was thousands of miles away.
In the fall of 1868 Jim and Bob went with me to Texas. Mother's health had failed perceptibly, the result in a large measure of her exposure at the time the militia forced her to burn her house, and we sought to make her a home in a milder climate in the southwest. The next two or three years we spent there gathering and driving cattle, my sister joining us and keeping house for us at Syene, Dallas county, where we made our headquarters.
I was at Austin, Texas, when the Gallatin, Mo., bank was robbed; another crime of which we have been accused by the romancers, though never, so far as I know, by the authorities.
In 1870 and 1871 Jim was deputy sheriff of Dallas county. Jim and Bob sang in the church choir there until 1872, when Bob, who was only seventeen, and in love with one of the local belles, felt keenly the obloquy attaching to the accusation that his brother Cole had robbed the Kansas City fair, and left Dallas.
One of the lies that had been published broadcast concerning me is that I killed five men and shot five others in a row over a “jobbed” horse race in Louisiana. There is this much truth about it—there was a jobbed race, and after it I fought a duel, but not over the race.
In the crowd that was present at the race was one Capt. Jim White, to whom I had sent word during the war that when I met him again he would have to apologize or fight because of circulating some scandal about a young woman friend of mine.
White introduced himself to me after this race, where a friend of mine had been swindled out of considerable money, and we went over to a neighboring plantation to shoot it out. At the first fire his right arm was shattered at the shoulder. He thought he was fatally hurt, and so did I at first, and he called me over and said:
“Captain Younger, whether I die or not, I want to shake hands with you as a friend. I have had some differences of this sort with others and came out all right; people have sneered at my success and said, ‘Wait till Cap'n Younger gets at you. He'll fix you!’ So I finally made up my mind to fight you, right or wrong.”
I told my friend who owned the plantation to take care of White, and I went to Texas to make in the cattle business some of the money I had lost trying to raise cotton. The next year I was over in Mississippi at a dance, and a young lady asked to be introduced to me.
Her name was White, and we had not talked long before she said:
“Mother says you've made a man of father.” Captain White had crossed the river, quit his drinking associates, but I have never seen him since the day we shot it
This duel gave Cole Younger a reputation in that section which was of value to a poor preacher's widow near Bayou Macon some time later.
There was to be a sale of the property and effects of the Widow Hurley. I attended the sale, hitched my horse in the barn lot and was walking across the garden at the back of the house toward an open space, where the crowd was gathered waiting for the auctioneer to open the sale. As I walked I came upon Mrs. Hurley, crying. “Good morning, Mrs. Hurley,” I said, “I am sorry to see you in tears; what is the trouble?”
She explained that her husband had mortgaged the property and stock before his death and she had not been able to lift it, and they were about to be taken away from her. I asked her what the amount of the indebtedness was, and she told me $80. I took the money out of my pocket and gave it to her, and told her to
bid it in when the time came, and I gave her the signal.
Asbury Humphreys, who was the auctioneer, knew me from the story of the duel, and before he began I told him he would have to put the property all up at once.
Some of the fellows from over on the river wanted the cows and hogs put up separately, so they could pick out what they wanted, and Asbury declared he was afraid to change the plan for the sale. They would not let him live there if he did.
“Well, Asbury,” I said, “I'm going to be down beside the wagon where I can see you and you can see me, and when I give you the sign you knock the property down or I'll have use for this pistol.”
I had not had time to coach Mrs. Hurley, so she made it somewhat embarrassing for Asbury. There was kicking enough when he announced that he had decided to put all the goods up in a lump, but he looked down where I was learning against the wheel of his wagon and stood pat.
When he called for bids Mrs. Hurley bid her whole $80. I had not taken the precaution to tell her to start it lower, and there were now only two ways out of it, either to give her more money or have it knocked down to her right there.
I decided that the shortest way out of it was to have Asbury knock it down to her then and there, so I gave him the sign.
I had to protect Asbury from the crowd for a few minutes, but there was no harm done to any one. Mrs. Hurley had her goods, and the creditor had his money, and I was out $80, while Asbury's reliability as an auctioneer was called into some question until his position in the matter was fully understood.
20. Laurels Unsought
Although every book purporting to narrate the lives of the Younger brothers has told of the Liberty robbery, and implied that we had a part in it, the Youngers were not suspected at that time, nor for a long time afterward. It was claimed by people
of Liberty that they positively recognized among the robbers Oll Shepherd, “Red” Monkers and “Bud” Pence, who had seen service with Quantrell. Jim White and J. F. Edmunson were arrested in St. Joseph, but were promptly released, their preliminary examination failing to connect them with the raid in any way.
In October of that year a bank at Lexington, Mo., was robbed of $2,000, but so far as I know it was never connected with the Younger brothers in any way until 1880, when J. W. Buel published his “Border Bandits.”
March 2, 1867, the bank at Savannah, Mo., was raided, but the five who did this were identified, and there were no Younger boys in the party. This raid was accompanied by bloodshed, Judge McLain, the banker, being shot, though not fatally.
May 23 of that year the bank at Richmond, Mo., was raided, Mayor Shaw was killed, and the robbers raided the jail, where were confined a number of prisoners whose arrest, it was claimed, was due to their sympathy with secession. Jailer Griffin and his 15-year-old son were killed there. Warrants were issued for a
number of the old guerrillas, including Allen Parmer, afterward the husband of Susie James, although he was working in Kansas City at the time, and proved an absolute alibi. No warrant was issued for the Youngers, but subsequent historians (?) have, inferentially at least, accused us of taking part, but as I said
before, there is no truth in the accusation.
The bank at Russellville, Ky., was raided March 20, 1868, and among the raiders was a man who gave his name as Colburn, who the detectives have endeavored to make it appear was Cole Younger. Having served in Kentucky with Quantrell, Jim Younger and Frank James were well known through that state, and it being known that the previous bank robberies in Missouri were charged to ex-guerrillas, similar conclusions were at once drawn by the Louisville sleuths who were put on the case. Jim and John were at home at Lee's Summit.
June 3, 1871, Obocock Bros.' bank at Corydon, Iowa, was robbed of $40,000 by seven men in broad daylight. The romancers have connected Jim and me with that, when as a matter of fact I was in Louisiana, Jim and Bob were at Dallas, and John was in California.
April 29, 1872, the day that the bank at Columbia, Ky., was raided and the cashier, R. A. C. Martin, killed I was at Neosho Falls, Kansas, with a drove of cattle.
September 26 of the same year the cash-box of the Kansas City fair was stolen. A full statement as to my whereabouts during the day is given in a letter appended hereto, which also shows that it would have been impossible for me to be present at the wrecking of the Rock Island train in Adair county, Iowa,
July 21, 1873; the hold-up of the Malvern stage near the Gaines place Jan. 15, 1874; the Ste. Genevieve bank robbery May 27, 1873, or the Iron Mountain train robbery at Gad's Hill, Mo., Jan. 31, 1874. It was charged that Arthur McCoy or A. C. McCoy and myself had been participants in the Gad's Hill affair and the two stage robberies.
Nov. 15, 1874, I wrote a letter to my brother-in-law, Lycargus A. Jones, which was published in part in the Pleasant Hill Review Nov. 26, the editor having in the meantime inquired into the statements of facts and satisfied himself of their truth.
The parts of this letter now relevant are as follows:
"Cass County, Nov. 15, 1874.
You may use this letter in your own way. I will give you this outline and sketch of my whereabouts and actions at the time of certain robberies with which I am charged. At the time of the Gallatin bank robbery I was gathering cattle in Ellis county, Texas; cattle that I bought from Pleas Taylor and Rector. This can be proved by both of them; also by Sheriff Barkley and fifty other respectable men of that county. I brought the cattle to Kansas that fall and remained in St. Clair county until February.
I then went to Arkansas and returned to St. Clair county about the first of May. I went to Kansas, where our cattle were, in Woodson county, at Col. Ridge's. During the summer I was either in St. Clair, Jackson or Kansas, but as there was no robbery committed that summer it makes no difference where I was.
The gate at the fair grounds was robbed that fall. I was in Jackson county at the time. I left R. P. Rose's that morning, went down the Independence road, stopped at Dr. Noland's, and got some pills. Brother John was with me. I went through Independence and from there to Ace Webb's. There I took dinner and then went to Dr. L. W. Twyman's. Stayed there until after supper, then went to Silas Hudspeth's and stayed all night. This was the day the gate was robbed at Kansas City. Next day John and I went to Kansas City. We crossed the river at Blue Mills and went up on the other side. Our business there was to see E. P. West. He was not at home, but the family will remember that we were there. We crossed on the bridge, stayed in the city all night and the next morning we rode up through the city. I met several of my friends. Among them was Bob Hudspeth. We then returned to the Six-Mile country by the way of Independence. At Big Blue we met Jas. Chiles and had a long talk with him. I saw several friends that were standing at or near the gate, and they all said that they didn't know any of the party that did the robbing.
Neither John nor myself was accused of the crime until several days after. My name would never have been used in connection with the affair had not Jesse W. James, for some cause best known to himself, published in the Kansas City Times a letter stating that John, he and myself were accused of the robbery.
Where he got his authority I don't know, but one thing I do know, he had none from me. We were not on good terms at the time, nor have we been for several years. From that time on mine and John's names have been connected with the James brothers. John hadn't seen either of them for eighteen months before his death. And as for A. C. McCoy, John never saw him in his life. I knew A. C. McCoy during the war, but have never seen him since, notwithstanding the Appleton City paper says he has been with us in that county for two years. Now if any respectable man in that county will say he ever saw A. C. McCoy with me or John I will say no more; or if any reliable man will say that he ever saw any one with us who suited the description of A. C. McCoy then I will be silent and never more plead innocence."
Poor John, he has been hunted down and shot like a wild beast, and never was a boy more innocent. But there is a day coming when the secrets of all hearts will be laid open before that All-seeing Eye, and every act of our lives will be scrutinized; then will his skirts be white as the driven snow, while those of
his accusers will be doubly dark.
I will come now to the Ste. Genevieve robbery. At that time I was in St. Clair county, Mo. I do not remember the date, but Mr. Murphy, one of our neighbors, was sick about that time, and I sat up with him regularly, where I met with some of his neighbors every day. Dr. L. Lewis was his physician.
As to the Iowa train robbery, I have forgotten the day, I was also in St. Clair county, Mo., at that time, and had the pleasure of attending preaching the evening previous to the robbery at Monegaw Springs. There were fifty or a hundred persons there who will testify in any court that John and I were there. I will give you the names of some of them: Simeon C. Bruce, John S. Wilson, James Van Allen, Rev. Mr. Smith and lady. Helvin Fickle and wife of Greenton Valley were attending the springs at that time, and either of them will testify to the above, for John and I sat in front of Mr. Smith while he was preaching and was in his company for a few moments, together with his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Fickle, after service. They live at Greenton Valley, Lafayette county, Mo., and their evidence would be taken in the court of heaven.
As there was no other robbery committed until January, I will come to that time. About the last of December, 1873, I arrived in Carroll parish, Louisiana. I stayed there until the 8th of February, 1874. Brother and I stayed at Wm. Dickerson's, near Floyd. During the time the Shreveport stage and the Hot Springs stage were robbed; also the Gad's Hill robbery. On reading since my release the pretended history of my life I find that I was wrong in stating that there was no robbery during the summer of 1872, the bank at Columbia, Ky., having been raided April 29 of that year. I had not heard of that when I wrote the letter of 1874, and to correct any misapprehension that might be created by omitting it I will say that at that time I was at Neosho, Kansas, with a drove of cattle, which I sold to Maj. Ray. It was immediately following the Rock Island robbery at Adair, Iowa, that there first appeared a deliberate enlistment of some local papers in Missouri to connect us with this robbery.
New York and Chicago as well as St. Paul and Minneapolis papers did not connect the Youngers with the crime, and three days after the robbery these papers had it that the robbers had been followed into Nodaway county, Missouri, while we were at Monegaw Springs all that time. Besides those mentioned in my
1874 letter, Marshall P. Wright's affidavit that he showed Jim and me at Monegaw Springs the morning paper containing the account of the robbery the next morning after it took place, was presented to Gov. Clough of Minnesota in 1898.
It is 250 miles or more and no cross lines of railroad existed to facilitate our passage, so it would be impossible for any one to have made the trip. The shortest rail lines are roundabout, via St. Joseph and Kansas City, so it will be apparent that I could not have been at the Rock Island wreck.
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