Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Jesse James: The Last Rebel

At the age of 15, Jesse James joined his older brother Frank fighting with Quantrell's Confederate Guerrillas and took part in the raid on the town of Lawrence where 183 men and young boys were rounded up and killed.

In September 1864, he participated in Bloody Bill Anderson's cold blooded murder of 23 unarmed Union soldiers whose bodies were then mutilated.

It was said Jesse was handy with a knife.

At the end of the Civil War both Jesse and Frank refused to accept the surrender - they would continue the fight by other means.

Jesse James, aged 21.

Things started to go wrong for Jesse on 7 September 1876, following the fiasco of the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid when in a shoot-out with the townspeople all were wounded and two of his men killed, another would die soon after.

In the subsequent manhunt the Younger brothers would be captured. It was the end of the James/Younger Gang and no longer would he be able to work alongside his old Confederate colleagues, people he could rely upon.

On 24 April 1874, Jesse James married his cousin Zerelda Mimms but though they were to have two children he could not escape his past and any thought of settling down proved impossible.

The coward Bob Ford who never received the reward he expected for the murder of Jesse James but still tried to cash in on his fame leading to him being killed in a bar room brawl some years later.

On 3 April 1882, Jesse was discussing future raids with the Ford brothers when he removed his gun belt (something he never did) and mounted a chair so as to straighten a picture. As he did so Bob Ford took out his pistol and shot him in the back of the head.

The increasingly paranoid Jesse who had earlier killed another gang member he thought would betray him did not trust the Ford's either, and he certainly would not turn his back on them.

So was Jesse testing their loyalty or realising it was all over had he chosen to die as a martyr to the cause he had fought for all his life?

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