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Player Handout: Jesse James

Jesse James

Jesse James was born in 1847 to a Baptist minister, and to a mother who married three times. He became a Quantrell Raider in the American Civil War, and he used the Navy Colts cap-and-ball pistol as his trademark weapon. He was widely known as a Confederate raider, riding up over the Missouri border to hold up trains, stagecoaches and banks, leading a band of seventeen men. Over the time of their career, they managed a quarter of a million dollars in train and bank robberies.

Jesse had relatives all over the state, and lawmen stayed away for the most part, as his kinfolk had killed a local police officer with the "wrong tendencies", and Louis Lull, a Pinkerton operative. One of the Youngers in Jesse's gang had gunned down another Pinkerton, leaving his body to be found half-eaten by hogs on a back road.

Eventually, an overly zealous Pinkerton agent threw a bomb into the window of the residence of Dr. Reuben Samuel -- Jesse's stepfather -- killing him and Jesse's step-brother, and taking off the arm of Jesse's mother. After this, public opinion became even more divided over the issue of Jesse's position as criminal or hero, and he rode out, robbing trains, banks and stagecoaches. He would push people around, and shoot anyone who resisted him.

In September of 1878, they attempted to rob a bank, but a gunfight broke out, in which several members of Jesse's gang were killed or jailed. Frank and Jesse James escaped, however. Jesse James "semi-retired" around Nashville, making no particular effort to hide his identity except to go by the name of "Mr. Howard". He went off to California for a time, but eventually grew bored and returned home to his old life style. In Muscle Shoals, Alabama, he robbed a stage, killing the conductor and a passenger in July of 1881.

By now, not only the Union but the Confederacy as well had bounties out on Jesse James, matching each other at ten thousand dollars, dead or alive. In the end, this was too much for one of Jesse's comrades to pass up. Bob Ford, a former member of the gang, betrayed Jesse by picking up one of his pistols off the table in his own house, and shot him in the back while he was straightening a picture on the wall.

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