Northfield, Minnesota Robbery

The Northfield, Minnesota Robbery

December 30, 2004: Coming soon: an update/addition with photos of the bank/museum in Northfield, courtesy of the Northfield Historical Society

From a contemporary woodcut from John Jay Lemon’s “Northfield Tragedy, ” 1876

Northfield, Minnesota – First National Bank of Northfield

September 7, 1876

failed robbery attempt – bank clerk murdered, one townsperson killed

from the Northfield

newspaper,

Sept. 14. 1876

The town motto of Northfield, Minnesota is “Cows, colleges, and contentment.” Despite this placid motto, the Scandinavian settlers of this town brought down the most dangerous and successful outlaw bands operating at that time.

On September 7, 1876 three men entered the town of Northfield about 2pm. They were noticed because of the long linen dusters they wore (which concealed their weapons), the exceptionally fine horses they rode (attention paid to their horses had apparently caused them to cancel a robbery attempt shortly before in Mankato, Minnesota), and, some witnesses said, the rather arrogant confidence with which they moved. Several townspeople, some of them former Civil War soldiers, immediately recognized the look of a “guerrilla raid.” One of them is even said to have shouted, “It’s a St. Alban’s raid” (a bank near the Canadian border robbed by Confederate agents during the war).

Much to the outlaws’ surprise, the people of Northfield not only refused to cooperate with the robbery, they shot back. A lot of them shot back. With deadly accuracy. And they organized huge posses that didn’t give up but kept after them for days and weeks. As many as 2000 men chased them for weeks. This just didn’t happen to them in Missouri. The guns the Northfield townspeople grabbed quickly to use may have been old or in poor working order, but they had an advantage of range over the handguns the robbers used. It’s worth noting, though, that despite accounts written at the time mocking the apparent poor marksmenship of the Missouri robbers, the outlaws were very pointedly trying not to kill anyone. Cole Younger later said, “Chadwell, Woods and Jim rode up and joined us, shouting to people in the street to get inside, and firing their pistols to emphasize their commands. I do not believe they killed any one however… Every time I saw any one with a bead on me I would drop off my horse and try to drive the shooter inside…” The townspeople, on the other hand, were shooting to kill.

Fleeing the town under heavy gunfire, with no money, the James brothers, Frank and Jesse (presumably), and the Younger brothers (Cole, Jim, and Bob), along with Charlie Pitts, left behind two dead gang members, and two dead townspeople. Elias Stacy shot Clell Miller with a shotgun loaded with birdshot. A shot from Dr. Henry M. Wheeler killed him. Anselm R. Manning, armed with a finicky breach-loading rifle killed Chadwell/Stiles. Cole Younger was shot in the thigh; Bob Younger had his right elbow shattered.

Northfield, Minnesota 1869

Dead in Northfield was Nicholas Gustafson, a Swedish immigrant who apparently didn’t understand the shouts in English for him to get off the street. He was killed in the crossfire. Though Cole Younger pleaded guilty as the primary killer in his death, he claimed he wasn’t the one who actually fired the lethal shot. “I have always believed that the man Nicholas Gustafson… was hit by a glancing shot from Manning’s or Wheeler’s rifle. If any of our party shot him it must have been Woods,” said Cole Younger later.

Also dead, in the bank, was Joseph Lee Heywood, the bank clerk who refused to open the safe. He is, to this day, honored as a local hero in Northfield. For a long time it was believed it was Jesse James who killed him. But Cole Younger, on his deathbed, is said  to have told Jesse James’ son and Harry Hoffman (a relative) that it was Frank James who fired the shot that killed Heywood.

Among the dead outlaws was, unfortunately for the gang, the one man who knew his way around the swamps and forests of Minnesota. Most suffering gunshot wounds, lost, hungry, and relentlessly pursued, the gang split up, with the James brothers (with, it is believed, Frank seriously injured) going west where, after 400 miles of pursuit, they got away.

The Youngers were surrounded by a posse in a swamp near Madelia (pron. ma-dee-lee-uh). They did not consider surrendering as they thoroughly believed that they’d be lynched on the spot, so they came out shooting and were all shot again, with Charlie Pitts killed.

To their surprise, they weren’t lynched but, as Cole Younger commented upon with surprise and gratitude many times, were treated as kindly as circumstances allowed.

The Youngers pleaded guilty to the murder charges against them which, under Minnesota law, saved them from hanging. They were sentenced to life in prison and sent to the penitentiary at Stillwater, Minnesota. “The excitement that followed our sentence to state prison, which was popularly called ‘cheating the gallows,’ resulted in the change of the law in that respect,” Cole Younger said. Bob Younger died in prison in 1889 of consumption, but Cole and Jim Younger were paroled and released after twenty-five years. Despite their wild outlaw reputations, they behaved in prison at all times as obedient, model prisoners, never causing trouble or attempting to escape.

The Youngers in 1889, shortly before Bob’s death. Shown with sister Henrietta.

“Come with me to the prison, where for a quarter of a century I have occupied a lonely cell. When the door swings in on you there, the world does not hear your muffled wail. There is little to inspire mirth in prison. For a man who has lived close to the heart of nature, in the forest, in the saddle, to imprison him is like caging a wild bird.”

(Cole Younger in “What My Life Has Taught Me”)

“…imprisonment has brought out the excellencies of many men. I have learned many things in the lonely hours there. I have learned that hope is a divinity; I have learned that a surplus of determination conquers every weakness…” (Cole Younger in “What My Life Has Taught Me”) “A man has plenty of time to think in prison, and I might add that it is an ideal place for a man to study law, religion, Shakespeare, not forgetting the president’s messages. However, I would advise you not try to get into prison just to find an ideal place for these particular studies.”  (Cole Younger in “What My Life Has Taught Me”) “When the iron doors shut behind us at the Stillwater prison I submitted to the prison discipline with the same unquestioning obedience that I had exacted during my military service.” (Cole Younger, regarding the 25 years he spent in prison for the Northfield robbery and murders)

The surviving Younger brothers, Cole and Jim, were paroled to within the borders of Minnesota in 1901, having served 25 years of their life sentences in prison. October 19, 1902 Jim Younger killed himself in St. Paul, Minnesota, apparently despondent over the limitations of his parole that not only prevented him from returning home to Missouri, but prevented him from marrying. Early in 1903 Cole Younger was pardoned on the condition, among others, that he leave Minnesota and never return. That condition he doesn’t seem to have found a hardship.


The dead outlaws in Northfield, picture from the Northfield newspaper, 1876,

Clell Miller & Bill Chadwell

“The Northfield Tragedy,” written in 1876 by John Jay Lemon, a journalist who investigated the robbery and interviewed the Youngers immediately after their capture, gives the following descriptions of the two outlaws killed in Northfield:

Chadwell/Stiles – 6′ 4½” tall, face elongated oval with sharply cut features, high cheekbones, well arched brow, deep-set blue eyes, hair dark reddish auburn inclined to curl, 23-25 years old

Miller – 5′ 8″ tall, hair same as Chadwell’s, stouter, face rounder, blue eyes

He gives the descriptions of those in the bank thus:

The man shut in the vault door – slim, dark complexioned, black moustasche, slight but tall

Second man – sandy side-whiskers, shaved chin, blue eyes

Third man – heavy-set, curly brown hair, week’s growth of beard

Bank employee, A. E. Bunker, identified those in the bank as one of the James, Charlie Pitts, and Bob Younger.


Further Reading:Younger, Thomas Coleman, The Story of Cole Younger by Himself: An Autobiography of the Missouri Guerrilla, Confederate Cavalry Officer, and Western Outlaw, original publication 1903 – The ultimate primary source on the Northfield robbery written by one of the robbers, Cole Younger. He does give a reasonably full account of the robbery from his perspective, and of their capture and imprisonment. Cole is less than totally forthcoming in his information and is trying very hard to provide a sympathetic front–he was trying to get a full pardon at the time he wrote–yet still provides some fascinating personal insights into the Northfield raid. He also gives his war-time history, much of which is lifted pretty much verbatim from Edward’s “Noted Guerrillas,” a book of which he thought highly. Cole Younger’s book is especially interesting to read for what he doesn’t say as what he does, and for the careful dance of semantics he goes through to avoid outright lies.

Koblas, John, The Jesse James Northfield Raid: Confessions of the Ninth Man, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc., 1999 – just a dandy book in every regard. This is a purely Minnesota-centric history of the James and Youngers unfortunate visit to Minnesota in 1876. The author begins with the story of a man who claimed that Chadwell and Stiles were two separate people and that he was “the ninth man” at the Northfield robbery. Koblas tracks the James and Youngers progress and movements across Minnesota in minute, exacting detail (yet still very good reading!) and gives credence, or not, to Stiles claim. Lots of photos and good writing.

See alsoCivil War St. Louis Reviews: “When the Heavens Fell: The Youngers in Stillwater Prison” by John Koblas and “The Great Cole Younger & Frank James Historical Wild West Show” by John Koblas

Huntington, George, Robber and Hero: The Story of the Northfield Bank Raid, Northfield Historical Society, originally published 1895 – Probably the best and most accurate account of the robbery attempt in Northfield, Minnesota. This book was written less than twenty years after the event and so had considerable first-hand imput by still-living witnesses and participants.

More book sources

Possibilities and unanswered questions…

Were Frank and Jesse James at Northfield?

Cole Younger says: Every blood-and-thunder history of the Younger brothers declares that Frank and Jesse James were the two members of the band that entered Northfield who escaped arrest or death.

They were not, however. One of those two men was killed afterward in Arizona and the other died from fever some years afterward.

There were reasons why the James and the Younger brothers could not take part in any such project as that at Northfield. (he goes on to describe an incident that illustrated his intense dislike of Jesse James, though he remained friends with Frank James until his death) He says two other men “whose names on the expedition” were Woods and Howard were the two who got away. Jesse and Frank James around this time, and for several years after, used the names Woodson and Howard. Cole Younger was, however, careful never to implicate the James in the Northfield robbery in any substantive way, though such testimony may well have gotten them shorter sentences (they were denied parole several times because they refused to name the two who got away).

The day after their capture, in a hotel where they were treated for their numerous bullet wounds, a reporter interviewed Cole Younger. John Jay Lemon in “The Northfield Tragedy” says:

The writer mentioned to them that the other two, the James Brothers, were captured, one dead and the other dying. This seemed to affect them. Cole asking who was dead, the smaller one or larger of the two, adding the caution, “mind I don’t say they are the James brothers.” When the writer said that they had acknowledged who they were Cole then asked, “Did they say anything of us?” When answered in the negative he replied, “Good boys to the last.”

When Sheriff Glispin asked Cole to name the two who escaped capture, Cole responded by handing him a note saying, “Be true to your friends if the Heavens fall.” He never named the James in the robbery except in the apparent deathbed admission. Jim Younger, in letters written from prison, did apparently name both the James as the other two participants, however.

Another possibility that has occasionally been suggested is that Frank James was at Northfield, but not Jesse.

Cole Younger’s statement, “One of those two men was killed afterward in Arizona and the other died from fever some years afterward,” I believe is trying to suggest that the other two were John Jarrette–who is later placed in Arizona by Edwards in Noted Guerrillas–and Arthur McCoy–who is said to have died of fever or pneumonia in Texas. This is a purely speculative observation but may be the direction Younger was trying to shift credit away from the James. Jarrette and McCoy would fit the descriptions of the other two at Northfield reasonably well.

Was there a ninth man at Northfield?

This is an occasional theory. In 1913 a man named Bill Stiles claimed that Bill Chadwell was not an alias for Stiles; that they were two separate people and that he-Stiles-was the ninth man at Northfield, covering their exit from town. Other suggested as the “ninth man” include Jim Cummins (who really, really wanted to be as notorious as his dime novel legend but never was) and various others of the gang.

At the time of the robbery there was a statement from witnesses that nine strangers had been seen riding toward the town. Other stray bits of information support the idea, but even more information does not. It’s certainly possible that there was a ninth, or even tenth or eleventh, man involved in the Northfield robbery, but solid evidence to support the idea does not seem to exist.

Was the bank targeted because of Ben Butler?

Cole Younger claimed they chose the bank at Northfield because it was owned by the hated Union General Benjamin Butler. If so, it was a last-minute choice. After roaming around half of southern Minnesota, they had apparently planned to rob a bank in Mankato. That plan was aborted when they attracted too much attention from a crowd near the first bank. They thought they’d been discovered, but it was apparently just admiration of their fine horses that caused the attention. The gang was reported to have scouted numerous banks in various towns in Minnesota and, in their roamings, had been as far north as St. Paul. Had Northfield been their original target such roaming would not have been necessary.

Cole Younger said: “Butler…had a lot of money invested, we were told, in the First National Bank at Northfield, as also had J. T. Ames, Butler’s son-in-law, who had been the ‘carpet-bag’ governor of Mississippi after the war.” Cole Younger wrote this in 1903, after having had time to consider it. I haven’t found this claim being made at the time of the robbery. Indeed, an article in the St. Peter Tribune in an interview with Bob Younger given soon after their capture says: We also asked why they had selected Northfield in preference to any of the other banks, and he said they thought there was much more money to be had there. He said that in Mankato there were three banks and the money was too much divided. In St. Peter they thought they wouldn’t have gotten much.

Did Butler actually own, or invest in, the bank at Northfield, Minnesota? It does not appear to be so. Benjamin Butler’s daughter Blanche married Adelbert Ames, son of Jesse Ames. Maj.-Gen. Adelbert Ames had served during the war under General Butler and was later a ‘carpetbagger’ governor of Mississippi (not J. T. Ames as Cole Younger said). His father Jesse Ames, after retiring as a sea captain, was an owner of the flour mill in Northfield. They bought the mill in Northfield in 1864, building a new mill in 1870. He was retired by 1876 with his son John T. Ames then owning the mill. Gen. Benjamin Butler had visited Minnesota a number of times (he lived in Massachusetts), including visits to Northfield, home of his daughter’s in-laws. The officers of the First National Bank of Northfield do include Jesse Ames as Vice-President, and Jesse Ames and J. T. Ames as two of the directors. There does not appear, however, to be any direct link to Benjamin Butler or direct participation by his son-in-law Adelbert Ames. The “J. T. Ames” Cole Younger names above was John Thomas Ames, a brother to Adelbert, not related to Butler.

Adelbert Ames is said by some sources to have been in Northfield at the time of the robbery and was recognized by the robbers. J. T. Ames was one of the organizers of the pursuit of the robbers. It is, however, not impossible that Adelbert Ames was there visiting family at the time (he did not live in Minnesota). John Koblas in “The Jesse James Northfield Raid” cites Adelbert Ames’ presence to the “Northfield News,” a 1929 article, with a second source from a Faribault newspaper in 1876. Koblas say Adelbert Ames was near Wheeler during the shooting.

About three years after the Northfield robbery Ames appears to have leased some interest in his mill to Benjamin Butler. Cole Younger’s attributing the robbery to Benjamin Butler is, at best, stretching the inaccurate thread of connections and is more likely what it is usually taken to be—a convenient excuse rather than a primary motivation. Invoking Butler’s name, as Younger did, would cause an immediate, visceral reaction on the part of most Southerners in sympathy to the robbers, whether justified or not. It was, if nothing else, a shrewd publicity move. Whether to take the Butler story seriously as a motivation for the robbery depends, too, on what the outlaws believed at the time–at present the only claim I’ve found that Butler was their motivation comes from Cole Younger nearly 25 years after the fact.

Officers of the bank at the time of the robbery were:

J. C. Nutting, President

Jesse Ames, Vice-President

G. M. Phillips, Cashier

Directors:

J. C. Nutting

Jesse Ames

J. T. Ames

M. Wilson

E. T. Archibald

H. Thoreson

C. S. Hulbert

W. M. Norton

G. M. Phillips

(sources: Rice County Journal, Sept. 14, 1876, Northfield Newspaper headline index, various genealogical source records, Minnesota cemetery records and newspaper indexes, 1880 US Census, The Union Army A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-65, “Frank and Jesse James” by Ted P. Yeatman, autobiography of Cole Younger, “Robber and Hero” by George Huntington)

Was Northfield Cole Younger’s first and only robbery?

So he claimed. Interestingly, George Sheperd backed Cole in that claim in a quite forthright statement (as opposed to a vague denial). Sheperd, in an interview with J. W. Buel, said, “Speaking of Cole Younger, I have no hesitancy in saying that, outside of the affair at Northfield, I don’t believe he was ever connected with the James Boys, or that he ever participated in any of the robberies.” All things considered it seems extremely improbable, but decide for yourself. The Robberies chart does suggest Cole Younger was probably guilty of far fewer things than is generally thought. George Sheperd and Cole Younger were not on good terms and Sheperd had no reason to defend Younger or his reputation, yet, as a reliable witness, Sheperd has some serious credibility problems.

Bob Younger also said it was his first robbery. If not his first, it may have been very near to it.

In the case of Jim Younger, a number of people then and now think it may have been, in fact, his first and last robbery. When he was greeted by his sister, Retta, in jail, she is reported to have said, “Oh! Jim, this is too bad. If it had not been for Cole and Bob you would never have been here. They enticed you to do this.” – from “The Northfield Tragedy” 1876


The Citizens & Heroes of Northfield…

Joseph Lee Heywood – killed in the bank, refused to open the vault:A man modest, true, gentle; diligent in business; conscientious in duty; a citizen benevolent and honorable; towards God reverent and loyal; who, while defending his trust as a bank officer, fearlessly met death at the hands of armed robbers, in Northfield, Sept. 7, 1876

This tablet is inscribed by his friends as a tribute to heroic fidelity.

ESTO FIDELIS USQUE AD MORTEM.

(Carlton College memorial plaque–Heywood has served as college treasurer)

Joseph Lee Heywood, was born August 12, 1837 in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire of a farming family. He joined the Union army August 21, 1862 as a member of the 127th Illinois Regiment, Co. B. Participated in the siege of Vicksburg and the capture of Arkansas Post. He enlisted as a private and was discharged as a corporal. Heywood moved to Northfield, Minnesota in the fall of 1867. He worked for five years as a bookkeeper in a lumberyard. In 1872 he became bookkeeper of the First National Bank of Northfield, in service of which he was murdered.

Heywood was married first to Martha R. (Mattie) Buffum (she died May 3, 1873) and, after her death, to Lizzie Adams. One daughter, Lizzie May (born April 25, 1871), by his first marriage, age five at his death, survived him. Lizzie May later graduated from Carlton College and became a music teacher (she died Dec. 1947, wife of Rev. Edwin Carlton Dean). Banks in the United States and Canada donated $12,000 to the support of Heywood’s family after his death.

At the time of his death, Heywood was both City Treasurer and treasurer of Carlton College.

“Mr. Heywood was, beyond most men, modest and timid. He shrank from the public gaze; and, considering his high gifts and his standing in the community, he was retiring almost to a fault. He set a low estimate upon himself. He would not own to himself, did not even seem to know, that he was lovable and well-beloved. He courted no praise and sought no reward. Honors must come to him unsought if they came at all. He would be easily content to toil on, out of sight and with services unrecognized, but in every transaction he must be conscientious through and through, and do each hour to the full the duties of the hour.” –Funeral Discourse on Joseph Lee Heywood

The President has been inspecting the new time lock which had just been placed upon the door of the vault. The circumstance recalled to his mind the famous St. Albans bank-raid, which had especially interested him through his personal acquaintance with the victimized cashier. Having spoken of the course pursued by the raiders in that case, he said, in mere playfulness, to Mr. Heywood, “Now if robbers should come in here and order you to open this vault, would you do it?” With a quiet smile, and in his own modest way, Mr. Heywood answered, “I think not.”

–Robber and Hero by George Huntington, 1895

quoting James Woodward Strong, Carlton College President


Alonzo E. Bunker – bank teller, ran from bank and was shot by Pitts:“The part taken by Mr. Bunker in the encounter with the robbers in the bank… shows him to be a man of nerve, cool and self-collected in danger, and capable of bold action. Though not subjected to the brutal treatment inflicted upon Mr. Heywood, he was subjected to a similar temptation to secure his own safety by yielding to the demands of the robbers; and he kept such possession of his faculties; mental and physical, as to seize the first opportunity–an opportunity not afforded to Heywood–to break from his captors and escape under fire. The wound he received at that time was a dangerous one, and narrowly missed being fatal…”

–Robber and Hero by George Huntington, 1895

Bunker also tried to get a hold of a derringer kept on a shelf below the teller’s window but was spotted. The small gun was later found on Pitt’s body.

A. E. Bunker was the second son of Enos A. and Martha M. Bunker of Littleton, New Hampshire, where he was born March 29, 1849. He came to Minnesota in 1855. In 1869 he graduated from St. Paul Business College. In 1871 he studied for two years at Carlton College in Northfield. In 1873 he began working for the First National Bank of Northfield. Bunker married Nettie L. Smith in 1875. After the robbery, Bunker remained with the bank for two more years. In 1880 he left Northfield, moved several times, in connection with the Western Newspaper Union. In 1890 he was a manager in Des Moines, Iowa.


Frank J. Wilcox – assistant bookkeeper of the bankFrank J. Wilcox was the son of Baptist minister James F. Wilcox. Frank was born September 8, 1848 in Taunton, Massachusetts. The family moved to Northfield when he was ten years old. He attended Carleton College in Northfield, followed by Chicago University. After returning to Northfield he worked numerous temporary jobs, one of which landed him as assistant bookkeeper in the First National Bank on the day of the robbery. Though his role in the robbery was largely passive, he was praised for his support of his co-workers refusal to cooperate with the robbers even at risk of their lives. After the robbery his job was made permanent and he remained at the bank for at least twenty more years. In 1879 he married Jennie M. Blake and with her was an active member of the Northfield community.


A number of Northfield citizens immediately moved to defend their town but were either unarmed or poorly armed. Elias Hobbs and Justice Streater resorted to throwing rocks at the bank robbers. Elias Stacy shot Clell Miller in the face with bird shot. J. B. Hyde, Ross Phillips, and James Gregg also used shotguns that weren’t powerful enough to do much damage. The two men with rifles, Wheeler and Manning, were credited with routing the bank robbers from their town.

Henry M. Wheeler, killed Clell Miller and wounded Bob Younger. At the time of the raid he was a 22 year old medical student. He was home on summer vacation from college when the bank robbery occurred. From his father’s pharmacy he saw the suspicious strangers. He gave an alarm then was driven from the street by the armed robbers. With an old army carbine and three cartridges, he fired from a window of the Dampier Hotel. Wheeler moved to Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1881 where he worked as a doctor. Anselm R. Manning, killed Bill Chadwell and wounded Cole Younger. Manning was 43 years old at the time of the robbery. He was carpenter and blacksmith from Canada who had lived in Northfield since 1856. His first shot was standing in the open on the street and killed one of the robber’s horses. Then his breech-loading rifle jammed and he had to go back to his store to fix it. Coming back to the fight he fired more carefully, from better cover, wounding Cole Younger. He reloaded and killed Chadwell. Manning died in 1909.

Link: Jesse James and the Northfield Bank Raid


Excepts from the dime novel “The James Boys in Minnesota,” published in 1882…

The cold steel-like glitter which had been indelibly stamped in their eyes, on that summer day in 1861, when Jesse’s back smarted under blows, and he swore to wipe out the indignity with blood, seemed to become colder and harder, as they reflected on what the night might bring forth.

“Jesse, we are in a nest of robbers,” said Frank.

“Yes, and murderers,” replied Jesse. “We must teach them a lesson.”

“I think so.”

“We must wipe the entire bloodthirsty set from the face of existence!”

“It’s a duty we owe society,” said Jesse, with a light laugh. “We are working now wholly for the benefit of society.”

“Yes,” replied Frank, without the least bit of humor in his voice.

“It may be that by ridding the world of such wretches, Frank, that we may kind a balance accounts for some of our own missteps.” [subplot, fictitious, I believe, about their trip to Minnesota]


“The James Boys and the Youngers. The noted Missouri train robbers and highwaymen will make an attack upon the town today.!”


One of the bandits now placed a revolver at Mr. Heywood’s head and fired. The man who had been so faithful to his duty fell to the floor and expired without a groan.


Jesse mounted his horse with the reins in his teeth and a revolver in each hand, old guerrilla fashion, charged again and again up the street, clearing it each time.


Three more men came out of the bank and joined the other bandits in the fight. Through the shifting clouds of battle smoke which hovered above the field of carnage, the eager eyes of Eva Leigh pierced. Now her heart leaped wild with fear as she thought or feared she recognized a familiar form.

The bandits are mounted, their tall commanding chieftain, the Bandit King orders the retreat.  [subplot of the dime novel was a romance between this girl and Cole Younger]


Bob Younger was almost disabled from the start, and when the besiegers closed in upon the little camp, they found Cole Younger down with seven wounds, Jim Younger with his jaw shattered, Bob with his right arm hanging useless and with two fresh wounds, and Clell Miller with his hands still clutched, and a hard look upon his dead face. [Charlie Pitts, actually]

They were now prisoners, but captives among a Christian people. Their wounds were dressed, they were moved as gently as the situation allowed, and at Madelia, where they rested for a time, were treated with kindness.


Frank and Jesse James were the only outlaws of the eight who had gone on the disastrous expedition to Northfield, Minnesota, who escaped.

They were pursued vigilantly to the very border lines and far beyond; but no man can yet boast that he has ever captured one of the wonderful James Boys. A price was set upon their heads, and they seemed never to forget it, as their atrocious acts since bear witness.

Another Dime Novel “Jesse James, The Outlaw” on-line from Stanford University


More information on the Northfield robbery will be forthcoming.

Ste Genevieve Robbery

The Ste. Genevieve, Missouri Robbery

Ste. Genevieve, Missouri – Ste. Genevieve Savings Association

May 27, 1873

about $4000 taken


“Ste. Genevieve is an old French town situated upon one of the gently sloping bluffs of the Mississippi River. Built under the French regime it still retains the distinguishing characteristics of that race. Its people and institutions are generally Catholic, and there is a strange rest and dreamy quiet pervading even the atmosphere, and widely at variance with the rush and bustle of the unadulterated American. Quaint, gabled houses, surrounded with spacious gardens, where roses and honey-suckles perfume the mild May air, one can almost fancy one’s self in some outlying province of sunny France.

Genial, hospitable people meet with a lingering cordiality, at least of words, unknown to the more dashing American citizen. Neighbor languidly chats with neighbor from adjoining gardens, and chatter in their Creole French as volubly as the saucy sparrows which are adjusting their quarrels and love affairs just without the window, upon its narrow ledge.

On this this particular May morning [May 27, 1873], however, these dreamy people are doomed to be rudely awakened by a terrifying incident…

The Life, Times & Treacherous Death of Jesse James

by Frank Triplett, 1882


From a St. Louis newspaper account of the robbery:

St. Louis Weekly Globe May 30, 1873:

Sublime Audacity

One of the boldest Bank Robberies on Record

Thieves enter a bank in the day time

Flight of the robbers and their pursuit by citizens armed with shot-guns

If there is any operation in which the audaciousness of pure deviltry ever be displayed, it is in the exercise of robbing a bank in broad daylight. …

Situated upon the corner of Merchant street and Main stands a two-story brick house, formerly occupied as  dwelling but now used as a banking-house by the Ste. Genevieve Saving Association; General F. A. Rosier is President and O. D. Harris, Esq..,, Cashier

Rozier bank in Ste. Genevieve

This may not be the bank that was robbed May 27, 1873, but instead may have been one later purchased by F. A. Rozier, previous owner of the Ste. Genevieve Savings Association. The above building was built in 1820. From the location description it appears to be on the same street, but a block away, from the bank that was robbed.

…When halfway in the room the Cashier happened to turn his head and was startled at sight of two pistols pointed at his temples, and was most thoroughly aroused to the delicacy of the situation, as he felt the cold muzzles  quickly pressed to them. The force used by the robbers was so great that for houses afterwards one of his temples showed the mark of the pistol barrel. Before he could remonstrate he was saluted with a stirring command, “open the safe or I’ll blow your d—d brains out.’’ Mr. Harris hesitated about opening the safe, which being observed, cause the robbers to level their pistols at Rozier, threatening to shoot him if he should run.

But Rozier broke away and was confronted by the two other men on horseback, who were concealed from observation.

…The robbers speedily released Mr. Harris, mounted their horses, and the four commenced firing in all directions in intimidate pursuers. Above the report of shots was heard a wild “Hurrah! For Sam Hildebrand, catch the horse-thieves if you can,” and the rapid hoofbeats of the retreating horses showed that the “job” was finished..

…Two of the robbers slept the night before at a farm house two miles out. They knew that General Rozier, the President, whose room was on the same floor with the bank room, was absent…

The robbery, one of the boldest on record,, did not pan out very handsomely, as the booty amounted to only $3600.


From the Ste. Genevieve Fair Play, May 29, 1873:

Daring Robbery!

A Four Thousand Dollar Haul!

Four Men Walk into the Merchants Bank of Ste. Genevieve in Open Daylight and Rob the Safe of it Contents and Escape!!

Tuesday morning at 10 o’clock… Four men rode into town on horseback and hitched their horses in the vicinity of Mr. Anderson’s store, they walked leisurely up to the bank; two of them stopped outside and two of them started into the bark…

…each one drew a pistol and presented it to Mr. Harris’ head and said, “Open the safe, damn you, or I will blow your brains out.”


From a St. Louis newspaper following the Adair County, Iowa train robbery:

Information was received yesterday at the police headquarters which taken with facts before known, leave not the shadow of doubt but that several members of the party who robbed the train on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad near Adair, Iowa, on Monday night, were the gang who robbed the Ste. Genevieve Bank last May and have been connected with other villainies of a similar character, perpetrated during the past three or four years.

[Arthur McCoy] was the one who held the pistol to the head of the Cashier of the bank… More on Arthur McCoy


“Branded as Rebels” by Joanne Chiles Eakins says Arthur McCoy led this robbery with a couple of the Youngers with him.

From my research into McCoy’s background and movements it became clear McCoy knew Ste. Genevieve intimately, having numerous relatives there, many of whom owned the bank or were major contributors until, at least, shortly before this robbery. McCoy had also lived in Ste. Genevieve for several years after the war.

Russellville, Kentucky Robbery

The Russellville, Kentucky Robbery

Illustration from “The Border Outlaws,” 1882, by J. W. Buel

Russellville, Kentucky – Nimrod & Co. Bank

March 20, 1868

about $12,000 taken


Named as participants by various sources:

  1. George Sheperd
  2. Oll Sheperd
  3. John Jarrette
  4. Arthur C. McCoy
  5. Cole Younger
  6. Jim White
  7. Dick Little
  8. ___ Saunders
  9. Frank James
  10. Jesse James

Of these, between five and eight were actually there.

George Sheperd initiated this robbery, bringing in his cousin Oll. George invited his wife’s first-cousin, and his war-time comrade, John Jarrette. Alternately, it may have been a joint venture between the three from the start with the original idea coming from any of the three. Jarrette, in an account published after the Northfield robbery, is blamed for having led Cole Younger into crime by bringing him into this robbery. A family member confirms it (see Settle, pg 97). Jarrette is also the connection that brought in Arthur McCoy–both had been captains under Shelby and knew each other well.

Were Jesse and Frank James involved? It is possible but, as with many of the robberies attributed to them, their involvement seems to have come up as an afterthought–after the “legend” is established their names are attached in retrospect to robberies that they weren’t connected with initially. This is the case in Russellville. Detective Bligh, from whom most of the identifications of the robbers comes, later decided Frank and Jesse James were involved. If Frank and Jesse James did take part it was through the Sheperds that they would have been brought in. During the war, when Frank James followed Quantrill into Kentucky, Jesse James stayed in Missouri with the Sheperds.

Looking at the realities of the people involved, certain factors regarding the famous Jesse James are impossible to ignore. Even if involved, he was not the leader, not in this nor several following robberies. In 1868 Jesse James was 20 years old and had seen war-time service only toward the end of the war. The Sheperds were 27 and 26 years old. John Jarrette was 32 and had extensive war experience; had been a leader of men. Arthur McCoy was 38. He’d been a leader during the war and even before. He’d led raids and commanded men. There is no way these men would be taking orders from a relatively inexperienced boy like Jesse James.

If Jesse and Frank James were involved, it does, however, provide the connecting link between them and McCoy that gives credence to their later associations.

Description of the robbers who were in the bank from a contemporary newspaper account:

26 years old, black hair and whiskers, florid complexion, 5’8″ tall, weighs about 140 pounds… [This is probably John Jarrette]

5’7″ in height, short curly, sand hair, round bull-dog head, prominent eyes, red face, weights about 160 pounds. [Oll Sheperd? A bit short to be taken for Younger, or either of the James. Maybe Jesse James?]

5’6″ high, thin visage, 32 or 33 years old, shabbily dressed in light clothes, defect in one eye, light hair and whiskers, weighs about 150 pounds… [This is George Sheperd. He had one eye. Also, witnesses later identified him, leading to his conviction for the robbery.]

6′ high, weighs 140 pounds, 33 or 34 years old, light hair, inclined to curl, thin whiskers… [This is may be Arthur McCoy. McCoy’s description would match that of Frank James reasonably well, except at this time Frank James was no more than 25 years old and McCoy was 37 or 38.] More on Arthur McCoy.

This leaves Oll Sheperd and, possibly, Cole Younger covering the outside. If the James brothers are worked into the scenario, they may have been covering their escape from town further out from the bank–unseen by any witnesses.


“At the time of the Russellville 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.”–Cole Younger, November 15, 1874


From the Nashville Banner, March 22, 1868

About ten days ago, a man calling himself Colburn, and claiming to be a cattle dealer, offered to sell to Mr. Long a 7-30 note of the denomination of $500. As none of the coupons had been cut off, and the stranger, who pretended to be from Louisville, where the notes were worth a premium, offered it at par and allowed interest, Mr. Long became suspicious and refused to take it. On the 18th he returned again and asked Mr. Long to change him a $100 bill. He was accompanied by a man of forbidding aspect, and suspecting the note to be counterfeit, Mr. Long declined changing it. On the 20th, about 2 P. M., as Mr. Long, Mr. Barclay, clerk in the bank, and Mr. T. H. Simmons, a farmer living near Russellville, were sitting behind the counter, Colburn and another man rode up to the door, hitched their horses and entered the bank, three companions remaining outside. They asked for change for a $50 note. Mr. Long pronounced it counterfeit, but was about making a more careful examination, when Colburn drew a revolver, placed its muzzle against his head, and cried out, ‘Surrender!’ Mr. Long wheeled around and sprang toward the door leading into a room in the rear of the banking office. He hoped thus to make his exit from the building and give the alarm. He was, however, anticipated by one of the robbers, who intercepted him at the door already mentioned, placed a pistol within six or eight inches of his head and fired, without having uttered a word. The ball did no greater injury than grazing Mr. Long’s scalp for about two inches, tearing away the hair and flesh, but not fracturing the skull. Mr. L. seized hold of the weapon, and made an effort to wrench it from his assailant, but the robber succeeded in regaining possession of his pistol. He immediately commenced to beat Mr. Long over the head with the butt, and, after a few furiously dealt blows, felled him to the floor. The latter, however, sprang to his feet and again got hold of the pistol, just as the robber was about to cock it for the purpose of giving him the finishing touch. During the scuffle which now took place, Mr. Long managed to reach the back door of the rear room. Here he concentrated his almost exhausted strength into a final effort, freed himself from the clutches of the robber, sprang through the door and closed it after him. He then ran around toward the front part of the building, shouting for assistance. When he reached the street, he found two men sitting on their horses before the entrance to the bank. They were all armed with Spencer’s rifles and pistols, and were shooting up and down the street at all citizens who came within range. As Mr. Long ran by, they also fired twelve or fifteen shots at him, but, fortunately, without effect.

Inside the bank, while Mr. Long was struggling with the fellow above mentioned, and before Messrs. Barclay and Simmons could rise from their seats, the latter were confronted by Colburn and his companion with cocked revolvers and threats of instant death in case the least show of resistance was made. Neither of the gentlemen was armed and they had to accept the situation with the best grace they could command. As soon as Mr. Long made his retreat by the lack door, his antagonist returned to the banking office and assisted in the work of plunder. One of the robbers stood guard over Messrs. Barclay and Simmons, while Colburn and the other proceeded to clean out the establishment. They appeared to have an exact knowledge of its resources. As was afterward ascertained, Colburn had made some cautious inquiries as to its capital, deposits, etc., and we have already shown that his previous visits had enabled him to make a thorough inspection of the interior. In the cash drawer they found over nine thousand dollars in currency. From the vault, the door of which was standing open, they took several bags of gold and silver. This specie consisted principally of dollars, half-dollars and quarters, and had been placed in the bank on special deposit by several of the neighboring farmers. The amount has never been ascertained, but it will’ not, we understand, exceed five thousand dollars. Several private boxes which were on a shelf in the vault and contained bonds were broken open, but none of the bonds were carried off-doubtless because of a fear that they had been registered and would lead to the detection of the robbers. Two robbers kept guard outside while the work of pillaging was going on, and, though the alarm had spread, kept the citizens at bay until a Mr. Owens had the courage to begin firing upon them with a pistol. He was seriously but not dangerously wounded. Finally the sentinels became alarmed and called for their accomplices inside to come out. They quickly complied, bringing with them saddle-bags crammed with gold and greenbacks.

” They were greeted with a heavy volley by a squad of citizens who were advancing up the street. All were soon in their saddles, and, at a signal from Colburn, the party dashed at full speed out of town by the Gallatin pike. Many a leaden missile was sent after them, but beyond the report that one had his arm broken, there is no ground for supposing that any of the shots took effect. Ten minutes later, some forty citizens, mounted on such animals as they could collect from buggies, wagons and hitchingposts, started in hot pursuit. All the advantage, except in point of numbers, was with the robbers. They rode splendid horses, and were as completely armed and equipped as the most daring and accomplished highwayman could desire. Five miles from Russellville the trail was lost in the woods, nor was anything heard of Colburn and his men until the 21st, when a dispatch was received here stating that they had crossed the Louisville and Nashville Railroad early in the morning, near Mitchellsville.


“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…”

-Cole Younger “The Story of Cole Younger,” 1903

Missouri Jayhawking Raids into Kansas by Albert Castel

©Albert Castel, published with permission

“KANSAS JAYHAWKING RAIDS INTO WESTERN MISSOURI IN 1861”

by Albert Castel

Copyright 1959 Albert Castel. Used with Permission.

This is copyrighted material–the article, the pictures, and the introduction–and may not be copied or reproduced in any form, including on other websites, without permission of the authors.
Books by Albert Castel

available from Amazon.com

Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both During the Civil War

Tom Taylor’s Civil War

General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West

Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla

William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times

Decision in the West

More books by Albert Castel

Introduced by G. E. Rule

Albert Castel, over a published career that is approaching fifty years, has proven himself to be the leading historian of the Civil War in the West. With titles like General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West (1968), William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times (1962), and Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla (with Thomas Goodrich, 1998), none of those who are serious about studying the war in Missouri can consider themselves well-read on the subject if they have not read Castel. His other titles on the war in the West will also be read for many years to come, and his Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 (1992) is an award-winning title that is likely to remain the definitive statement on what was arguably the most important campaign of the war. Dr. Castel’s most recent title, Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both in the Civil War, Stackpole Books, 2001, is available from Amazon.com.

“Kansas Jayhawking Raids into Western Missouri in 1861” originally appeared in the Missouri Historical Review 54/1 (State Historical Society of Missouri, October 1959). Castel, as both pioneer and leading authority on Kansas and the Civil War, provides an interesting account of the early history of the Kansas-Missouri war-within-a-war. This war would continue to build in intensity and tragedy until culminating in August of 1863 in the Lawrence Massacre and Order No. 11 depopulating three western Missouri counties (see also Castel’s “Order No. 11 and the Civil War on the Border”). It is worth noting that T.J. Stiles recent and critically acclaimed Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War has challenged, at least to a degree, the traditional reading of the relationship between Jayhawking and the motivation of the Pro-Confederate guerrillas of western Missouri. Unlike Castel and the traditional school of thought on this issue, Stiles puts more emphasis on Lawrence as “the abolitionist center” of Kansas rather than as “the Jayhawking center”.  It was both, of course, and it will be interesting to see if future historians continue to accept Castel’s analysis of the guerrillas, or take Stiles’ reading and generalize it beyond Jesse James. Our own opinion is that the average Missourian of the time, although unfairly in many cases, would have seen “Jayhawker” and “abolitionist” as nearly interchangeable terms, with the former being merely a subset of the latter.



Kansans watched Missouri closely during the early months of 1861, anxious as to the course it would pursue in the crisis between North and South. They retained bitter memories of the “Border Ruffian” raids of the ’50’s and feared that if Missouri joined the Confederacy these would be repeated on a greater and more devastating scale. Many Missourians, they knew, harbored an intense hatred of the “horse-stealing abolitionists” of Kansas.[1]

The direction Missouri would take, North or South, long remained uncertain. Torn by conflicting sympathies and interests, most Missourians hoped that their state could be neutral. Finally, however, open warfare broke out in June between the Unionists headed by Brigadier General Nathaniel B. Lyon and the pro-­Southern followers of Governor Claiborne F. Jackson. Lyon drove Jackson from the State capital at Jefferson City, and Jackson countered with a proclamation calling for 50,000 men to resist the Northern “invasion.” The Missouri State Guard, commanded by Major General Sterling Price, gathered in Southwest Missouri for a campaign against Lyon in conjunction with Confederate forces from Arkansas.[2]

Governor Charles Robinson of Kansas regarded Jackson’s proclamation as tantamount to a declaration of war. At his order, hundreds of armed Kansans gathered along the border and prepared to repel invasion.[3] Some Kansans, however, declared that the best policy was to take the offensive against the Missourians in order to “keep them from our doors by giving them something to do at home.”[4] Foremost among this group were the “jayhawkers” of “Captain” James Montgomery and “Captain” Charles Jennison, who for several years had been harassing alleged proslavery settlers in southern Kansas and making occasional raids into Missouri. Their activities had gained them notoriety as “the scourges of the border,” and they had the support of influential Kansas and New England abolitionists. But although they claimed to be inspired by only the highest motives, it was often difficult to determine whether their hatred of slavery equaled their love of plunder. They wel­comed the coming of war in Missouri as opening up new and greater opportunities.

Jennison was the first to act. On June 19, with about 100 men “well-versed in guerrilla war­fare,” he accompanied a regular army expedition to Kansas City and participated in a Union flag-raising ceremony. The fol­lowing day he went on an “independent scouting mission” to Independence, where he forced “several of the leading rebels” to take the oath of allegiance.[5] Shortly afterwards Montgomery made a quick dash across the border, fought a skirmish with “rebel guerrillas,” then marched back loaded with plunder and accompanied by “contrabands”–slaves who “happened to walk off on their own accord.”[6] In July, Jennison struck at Morristown, Missouri, where his men reportedly killed a number of “secesh,” and in August he looted the stores of Harrisonville.[7] Throughout the summer other jayhawker bands led by John Stewart and Marshall Cleveland followed the example of Montgomery and Jennison on a lesser scale.[8]

Late in August a force of 1,200 troops, entitled the “Kansas Brigade,” assembled at Fort Scott under the command of Senator James H. Lane, leader of the extreme antislavery element in Kansas. Its ostensible mission was to defend southern Kansas from Price, who had defeated Lyon at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10. However Lane openly proclaimed his intention of marching into Missouri, declaring that as he did so he would not object to seeing “an army of slaves marching out.”[9] Montgomery, who had procured a colonel’s commission, was second in com­mand to Lane, Jennison, Stew­art, and other jayhawkers attached themselves informally to the brigade.

Price, having heard that the Missouri counties east of Fort Scott were “infested” with the “marauding and murdering bands” of Lane, decided to “clear them out.” On September 2 he defeated a portion of Lane’s troops in a skirmish at Drywood Creek near Fort Scott, which Lane evacuated. Content with thus “chastising” the Kansans, he marched on to Lexing­ton, Missouri, where he successfully besieged the Union garrison.[10]

Lane remained in a fortified camp near Fort Scott, fearful for the safety of his army and Kansas, until assured that Price had gone on to the Missouri River. He then sent a detachment under Jennison in “pursuit.” Jennison followed Price at a respectable distance as far as Papinsville, Missouri, then returned with 200 cattle and a number of “contrabands.”[11]

On September 10, “with a smart little army of about 1,500,” Lane started northward along the Missouri line. His avowed objective, however, was not to pursue Price but to “clear out” the valley of the Osage and to “pitch into” the towns of Butler, Harri­sonville, Osceola, and Clinton. On September 12 he reached Trading Post, Kansas, and from there turned eastward into Missouri. As soon as they crossed the border his men began to loot, burn, and perhaps murder and rape.[12]

The climax of Lane’s march occurred at Osceola on Septem­ber 23. After exchanging a few shots with some Confederates on the outskirts, his men entered the town and proceeded to ransack it. They robbed the bank, pillaged stores and private houses, and looted the courthouse. Captain Thomas Moonlight bombarded this last building with a cannon, and others set fire to the town, almost totally destroying it. Many of the Kansans got so drunk that when it came time to leave they were unable to march and had to ride in wagons and carriages.[13] They carried off with them a tremendous load of plunder, including as Lane’s personal share a piano and a quantity of silk dresses.[14] The “Sack of Osceola” henceforth was a prime cause of bitter hatred of Lane and Kansans by the people of West Missouri.

The self-proclaimed purpose of Lane’s expedition was to sup­press secessionist sentiment in western Missouri and to hamper Price’s operations. But his real objective, besides plunder, was to give a practical demonstration of what he had told his Senate colleagues in July, that slavery could not survive the march of the Union armies.[15] By the time his brigade had completed its march scores of Negroes were present in its ranks as teamsters, cooks, and even as soldiers.[16] Probably most of the Negroes came along on their own accord. As early as July, Montgomery wrote that “Contraband Brigades are coming in hourly” and that he did not know what to do with them.[17] Other reports told of large numbers of Negroes, either singly or in groups, fleeing into Kansas.[18] Later, in November, chaplains H. H. Moore and H. D. Fisher of the brigade led a “Black Brigade” of 160 wagons, all filled with Negroes, into Kansas, where they distributed the ex-slaves as laborers among the farms and towns of the southern part of the state.[19]

Lane completed his march at Kansas City on September 29. After remaining three weeks, he joined Major General John C. Fremont’s army in a southward pursuit of Price’s retreating forces. “Our march through Missouri,” later wrote the commander of Lane’s cavalry, “was noted for nothing very remarkable except that our trail was marked by the feathers of ‘secesh’ poultry and the debris of disloyal beegums.” The brigade arrived at Springfield on November 1 but advanced no further. At Lincoln’s order Major General David Hunter replaced Fremont and dispersed the army into defensive positions. Lane and his men headed back to Fort Scott.[20] Thus ended the garish career of the Kansas Brigade.

In the meantime Jennison, through the good offices of Governor Robinson, had acquired a commission as colonel of United States Volunteers. Robinson hoped, fatuously, that if Jennison were given a legitimate outlet for his warlike propensities he would cease his marauding and be of service to the state and the Union.[21] Jennison set about recruiting a regiment which he called the “Independent Mounted Kansas jayhawkers” but which was officially designated the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.[22] Second in command of the regiment was Lieutenant Colonel Daniel R. Anthony, brother of Susan B. Anthony, a hotheaded abolitionist and publisher of the Leavenworth Daily Conservative, which despite its name was the most radical newspaper in Kansas.

Jennison did not have a complete regiment until November 7. Many of his men were Missourians, and several units came from Illinois. The most notable company, however, was from Ashtabula County, Ohio, and was commanded by John Brown, Jr. The members of this company were all fanatical abolitionists. Another organization of more than passing interest was Company H, which consisted mostly of criminals and ruffians, commanded by the notorious jayhawker and ex-convict, Marshall Cleveland. Many of the other officers were hardly better than Cleveland.[23] Jennison himself was “in reality unfit for any position [of authority] on account of his poor education.” Anthony and the other staff officers were “very careful not to permit him to write or do anything unless done under the supervision of some of his friends who have good judgment [sic].”[24]

After exercising their martial prowess in sacking the saloons of Leavenworth, eight companies of the Seventh Kansas crossed into Missouri at Kansas City on November 11 and 12. Anthony was in command, as Jennison remained behind “to perfect the organization of the regiment. The announced purpose of the expedition was to protect Union supply trains in Jackson County against bush­whackers, put down “rebels,” and “loyalize” the people of that section. [25] Company H rode one-fourth mile ahead of the main column as the advance guard. Its movements were marked by the flames of burning houses and wheatfields and by the flight of women and children into the woods.[26] Near the Little Blue, Anthony encountered a band of armed Missouri irregulars headed by the “notorious” Upton Hayes. After a sharp fight in which he lost nine killed, Anthony drove Hayes’ men from their camp. He next marched to Pleasant Hill, near where his men killed eleven guer­rillas and recaptured most of a wagon train.[27] Then followed a raid on Independence, where “the citizens were given a little touch of the misfortunes of war,” after which the jayhawkers, as the Seventh Kansas was popularly known, marched back to Kansas City, carry­ing much plunder and accompanied by many Negroes.[28] Some of the former slaves, reported Missouri artist George C. Bingham, were armed and serving as soldiers.[29]

Late in November, Brigadier General James W. Denver, com­mander of the District of Kansas, ordered the Seventh Kansas to West Point, Missouri, to protect against a threatened northward thrust by Price. Its march to that town followed the pattern of its earlier operations, as a member of the Ohio company wrote that “Every house along our line of march but one was burned and off on our left flank for miles, columns of smoke from burning houses could be seen.”[30] On reaching West Point, Anthony wrote to his father that his men had taken on the way 150 mules, 40 horses, and 129 Negroes, and that he had given the Negroes 60 horses and mules,  some oxen, and ten wagons and two carriages, “all loaded down with Household Furniters [sic]….” “The Negroes [sic] train into Kansas,” he added, “was one mile long. . . .”[31] In a letter written several weeks later to sister Susan, he declared: “In our march we free every slave … and arm or use them in such manner as will best aid us in putting down rebels. . . . We hope to stir up an insurrection among the negroes. . . .”[32]

Although Price’s invasion failed to materialize, the Jayhawkers remained in the vicinity of West Point well into January. Com­manded by Anthony, sections of the regiment plundered Pleasant Hill, Morristown, and Rose Hill and burned Dayton and Columbus. General Hunter “read with surprise” Anthony’s reports on the destruction of these villages and wrote him that he found no evidence in them “of a state of facts sufficient to warrant these extreme measures.”[33]

Late in January the Seventh Kansas was ordered to Humboldt, Kansas. There, in April, Jennison resigned his commission in a huff over not being promoted to brigadier general. Before resigning he made an “intemperate speech” to the regiment in which he denounced the President and the commanding general and practi­cally urged his men to desert. A number of them, mainly from Company H, took his advice.[34] On learning of Jennison’s speech, General Hunter had him arrested and confined in the military prison at St. Louis. Pressure from influential abolitionists, to whom he was a hero, prevented a court martial and secured his release.[35] He then entered the “live stock” business in Leavenworth–an enterprise which perhaps gave rise to the saying that the horses of Kansas were mostly “out of Missouri, by Jennison.”

Although Jennison’s name was identified with the activities of the Seventh Kansas by both Kansans and Missourians, he had actually exercised little direct command over the regiment. Accord­ing to a letter of Anthony’s, dated March 1, 1862, “Col. Jennison has been Col of his regiment six months and has yet to give the first command to them. I have always commanded them.[36] Therefore, on the basis of his own testimony, as well as other evidence,[37] Anthony deserves most of the “credit” for the operations of the Jayhawkers in Missouri. He himself admitted as much when, in writing to a brother about Jennison’s arrest, he remarked uneasily that if Jennison were brought to trial for “his Missouri policy,” then “we are all in the same boat.”[38]

It is difficult to assess precisely and completely the personal motives which lay behind the conduct of Jennison, Montgomery, Lane, and Anthony in Missouri. With Jennison it was probably a desire primarily for the profits of plunder: in one instance he is reported as selling his loot at a public auction.[39] As for Montgomery, while the plunder motive was present, it seems that he was a sincere, if unscrupulous, antislavery zealot.[40] Lane and Anthony, however, although doubtlessly abolitionists, were impelled mainly by military and political ambition. This was especially true of Lane, who hoped to become President with radical backing and who declared to the New England abolitionist, George L. Stearns, that if given the chance he would march to New Orleans, “stir­ring up slave insurrections on the way.”[41]

Kansans generally approved the forays of the jayhawkers through the border counties of Missouri. Their growing anti­slavery fervor caused them to applaud the slave-liberating aspect of these operations, espe­cially since the freed Negroes relieved the labor shortage in Kansas. True, exaggerated, and false reports of outrages suffered by Kansans and Missouri Union­ists at the hands of Missouri secessionists seemed to warrant retaliation in kind. In addition, the people of Kansas had a distorted concept of the object and nature of the activities of Lane, Jennison, Anthony, and James H. Lane. They believed that their campaigns and raids were designed to put down “treason” and guard against invasion, while the newspaper correspondents who accompanied Lane’s brigade and the Seventh Kansas wrote up the supposedly heroic exploits of these commands and either ignored or glossed over the looting and killing. Finally, there was a rather sizeable element in Kansas which out of economic and moral poverty was quite willing to advocate and practice the plundering of the farmers of western Missouri, who had “a dangerous reputa­tion for wealth.”[42]

The majority of Kansans tended to classify all Missourians, at least those living in the border counties, as rebels. This viewpoint ran counter to the facts and largely reflected prejudice, ignorance, and a desire to rationalize the depredations in Missouri. Probably from one-third to over one-half of the people residing in western Missouri were loyal to the Union or at least neutral in 1861.[43] One of the main results of the raids of Lane and Anthony was to turn many of these Unionists and neutralists into Confederates. By the end of 1861 Major General Henry W. Halleck, then in command of all Union armies west of the Mississippi, expressed the opinion that a few more such raids would make Missouri “as Confederate as Eastern Virginia.”[44]

Another serious consequence of the jayhawking incursions was that they transformed the already existent animosity of the people of western Missouri toward Kansas into an embittered and impas­sioned hatred. This feeling was not confined to pro-Confederate Missourians, but it also affected pro-Unionists. On at least one occasion Missouri State Militia in Federal service warned that they would fire on Kansas soldiers if they did not stay on their side of the line.[45] By the spring of 1862 the situation along the border was so tense that Brigadier General John M. Schofield, commander of the Department of Missouri, feared “open hostility between the Union troops of Kansas and Missouri.”[46]

Scores, perhaps hundreds, of Missourians in the country devas­tated by Lane, Jennison, and Anthony formed guerrilla bands or joined the Confederate army. The force under Upton Hayes which Anthony encountered on the Little Blue had been raised in the locality to defend it against Jennison. Hayes was a freighter engaged in the Santa Fe trade when the war began, operating out of the town of Little Santa Fe near Kansas City. He turned bushwhacker after jayhawkers captured one of his wagon trains, burgled his house, and took his cattle, horses, carriages, and slaves. The famous Cole Younger similarly “took to the brush” when Jennison’s men robbed and killed his father, who had been pro-Union. Far from stamping out such bands as Hayes’, the marches of Lane and Anthony served only to increase their number and intensify their desire for vengeance.[47]

Early in the spring of 1862 a gang of bushwhackers made a shockingly brutal raid on the little village of Aubry in Johnson County, Kansas. The

Membership in the State Historical Society of Missouri, publisher of the
Missouri Historical Review for almost 100 years, is an inexpensive and
effective way to support the preservation of Missouri’s Civil War heritage.

State Historical Society of Missouri

raiders not only took horses and other property, but they shot down helpless civilians in cold blood. Their leader had a strange, sinister-sounding name: Quantrill.[48] The seed sowed by Lane at Osceola and by Jennison and Anthony in Jackson County would be harvested by this man at Lawrence.
Notes:


[1]S. J. Reader to “Frank,” June 2, 1861, Kansas Historical Quarterly, IX (February 1940), 33; John Ingalls to “Father,” May 15, 1861, William E. Connelley, editor, “Some Ingalls Letters.” Kansas Historical Collections, XIV (1910-1918), 122; Charles Robinson to Mrs. Charles Robinson, June 17, 1861, Charles and Sara T. D. Robinson Papers, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas; Floyd C. Shoemaker, “Missouri’s Proslavery Fight for Kansas, 1854-18:15,” Missouri Historical Review, XLVIII (April-July 1954), 221-36,325-40, XLIX (October 1954), 41-54.

[2]A good brief account of the secession crisis in Missouri is Edward Conrad Smith, The Border­land in the Civil War (New York, 1927), 240-60.

[3]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, June 18, August 4, 1861; “Military History of Kansas Regiments,” Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865 (Topeka, 1896), 73.

[4]James Montgomery to George L. Stearns, June 21, 1861, James Montgomery Papers, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

[5]Leavenworth Daily Times, June 9, 18, 23, 1861; Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, June 14, 15, 16, 20, 1861.

[6]Montgomery to Stearns, June 26, July 5, 1861, George L. Stearns Papers, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

[7]Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, July 25, August 12, 1861.

[8]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, July 11, 17, 27, 30, August 20, 1861; Atchison Freedom’s Champion, August 10, 1861; Elwood Free Press, August 10, 1861; Lawrence Kansas State Journal, August 8, 15, 1861; Lawrence Republican, July 17, 1861; White Cloud Kansas Chief, September 5, 1861; Olathe Mirror, June 27, July 25, 1861.

[9]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, August 16, 1861. Lane had been appointed a brigadier general by President Lincoln but had been forced to relinquish the commission or else resign his Senate seat. However, he possessed a brigadier general’s commission from the Governor of Indiana and signed his military correspondence and was addressed by the Federal military authorities as “Brigadier General.”

[10]The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D. C., 1881-1901), Series I, III, 162, 185; LIII, 435-36. (This publication henceforth shall be cited as O. R.).

[11]Ibid., III, 163-64, 475; A. T. Andrews, History of the State of Kansas (Chicago, 1883), 1,071.

[12]O. R., Ser. I, III, 485, 490; Jacob Stringfellow (Nicholas Verres Smith), “Jim Lane,” Lippin­cott’s Magazine, V (March 1870), 274. Lane’s men are charged with committing murders and molesting women in the following sources: Charles Robinson, The Kansas Conflict (Lawrence, Kansas, 1898), 447; John McCorkle, Three Years with Quantrill (Armstrong, Missouri, 1915), 10-11, 75; William H. Gregg, “The Gregg Manuscript”, (State Historical Society, Columbia, Missouri), 48, 62; John C. Shea, compiler, Reminiscences of Quantrell’s Raid upon the City of Law­rence, Kas. (Kansas City, Missouri, 1879), 5; Council Grove Press, September 14, 1863.

[13]O. R., Ser. I, III, 196; Henry E. Palmer, “The Black-flag Character of the war on the Border,” K. H. C., IX (1905-1906), 456; W. S. Drought, “James Montgomery,” ibid., VI (1897-­1900), 243; John Speer, “The Burning of Osceola, Mo., by Lane, and the Quantrill Massacre Contrasted,” ibid., 306-308; Robinson, Kansas Conflict, 452-54; William E. Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1910), 199-200.

[14]Lawrence Kansas State Journal, November 28, 1861; White Cloud Kansas Chief, October 6, 1864. One of Quantrill’s men who participated in the Lawrence Raid of August 21, 1863, wrote years later that the raiders found three pianos in the parlor of Lane’s home in Lawrence, two of which were recognized as having belonged to Southern people in Missouri. See McCorkle, Three Years with Quantrill, 87.

[15]Congressional Globe, 37th Cong., 1st Sess., 187.

[16]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, October 8, 9, 1861.

[17]Montgomery to Stearns, July 26, 1861, Stearns Papers.

[18]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, September 20, 1861.

[19]Ibid., November 21, 1861.

[20]O. R., Ser. I, III, 559, 748; James G. Blunt, “General Blunt’s Account of His Civil war Ex­periences,” Kansas Historical Quarterly, I (May 1932), 216-17.

[21]Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, August 9, 1861; Leavenworth Daily Conservative, August 21, 1861; Robinson, Kansas Conflict, 434-35.

[22]William A. Lyman, “Origin of the Name ‘jayhawker’ and How It Came To Be Applied to the People of Kansas,” K. H. C., XIV (1915-1918), 206-07; Simon M. Fox, “The Story of the Seventh Kansas,” ibid., VIII (1903-1904), 27.

[23]Ibid., 19-23, 26. Cleveland resigned his commission on November 1, following a quarrel with Anthony.

[24]Anthony to Aaron Anthony, March 1, 1862, Daniel R. Anthony Papers, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

[25]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, November 10, 12, 13, 1861; Anthony to “Father,” Novem­ber 5, 1861, Anthony Papers.

[26]War Diary of Fletcher Pomeroy (typewritten copy of the original MS, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas), 15. Pomeroy was a member of John Brown, Jr.’s company. This section of his diary was written in a summary fashion and is not under chronological headings.

[27]Anthony to “Father,” November 24, 1861, Anthony Papers. In this letter Anthony states that one of his men was to be shot for having stolen some property.

[28]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, November 19, 1861

[29]George Caleb Bingham to James S. Rollins and William A. Hall, February 12, 1862, M. H. R. XXXIII (October 1938), 52.

[30]Pomeroy Diary, 18.

[31]Anthony to “Father,” December 22, 1861, Anthony Papers.

[32]Anthony to “Sister,” February 3, 1862, Anthony Papers.

[33]Hunter to Anthony, January 20, 1862, O. R., Ser. I, VIII, 508.

[34]Anthony to “Brother,” April 25, 1862, Anthony Papers.

[35]Jennison to George L. Stearns, April 21, 1862, Stearns Papers; Leavenworth Daily Conservative, April 8, 30, June 3, 1862.

[36]Anthony to Aaron Anthony, March 1, 1862, Anthony Papers.

[37]Pomeroy Diary, 34; Fox, “Seventh Kansas,” K. H. C., VIII, 24, 27-30.

[38]Anthony to “Brother,” April 25, 1862, Anthony Papers.

[39]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, January 12, 1862.

[40]Theodosius Botkin, “Among the Sovereign Squats,” K. H. C., VII (1901-1903), 433; John N. Edwards, Noted Guerrillas, or the Warfare on the Border (St. Louis, 1877), 38.

[41]Frank L. Stearns, The Life and Public Services of George Luther Stearns (New York, 1907), 251-52.

[42]The above discussion of the Kansas attitude toward jayhawking raids in Missouri is based on a complete survey of the Kansas press of the period and of other contemporary records.

[43]Wiley Britton, Memoirs of the Rebellion on the Border—1863 (Chicago, 1882), 114-18; Wil­liam L. Webb, Battles and Biographies of Missourians (Kansas City, Missouri, 1900), 263.

[44]O. R., Ser. I, VIII, 449-50, 507-08, 819; III, 742-43.

[45]Ibid., 433-35, 457-461, 467-68; XXII, Part I, 798-801, 808, 824.

[46]Ibid., 386-87.

[47]Webb, Battles and Biographies, 324; Leavenworth Daily Conservative, November 13, 26, 1861; George Miller, Missouri’s Memorable Decade, 1860-1870 (Columbia, 1898), 76, 89; A. Birdsall, The History of Jackson County, Missouri (Kansas City, 1881), 208-09, 271-73; W. Z. Hickman, History of Jackson County, Mo. (Topeka, 1920), 208-09, 214, 299; Pomeroy Diary, 16; Bingham to James S. Rollins, M. H. R., XXXIII, 46.

[48]O. R., Ser. I, VIII, 335-36.

Arthur McCoy

Arthur C. McCoy

by D. H. Rule

© D. H. Rule

Arthur C. McCoy, who became known as the “Wild Irishman” under Jo. Shelby, was born in Ireland about 1825. After coming to America he went to California where, according to a family history, he was a Forty-Niner in the goldfields. In 1850 he was in Centerville (now called Pilot Hill) in El Dorado County, California. Not far away, in Placerville, was Drury James, uncle of Frank and Jesse James. Their father, Robert James, had died shortly before in California. Whether Arthur McCoy met any of Missouri James family members in 1850 is unknown. It may have been coincidence that he came so near to crossing paths in 1850 with the family with whom his fate would be tied in the 1870s.

Before the Civil War McCoy lived in St. Louis, Missouri where he worked for a time as a coppersmith in “Blackman & McCoy,” a stove and tinware business he shared with William L. Blackman. Shortly before the outbreak of the war he had changed occupations, going into business as a painter, painting steamboats as well as houses. This line of work gave him the working knowledge of steamboats that made him an able boat-burner later.

McCoy was a member of the Liberty Fire Company, one of the volunteer fire departments in the St. Louis until paid fire fighting companies were established in 1858. Liberty Fire HouseThe Liberty Fire Company was known for its rowdiness and combativeness, fighting with other volunteer fire companies. Being in the fire company gave McCoy connections to both the business and political side of St. Louis, with John M. Wimer, a mayor of St. Louis, being one of its prominent members. Many of the early secessionists were connected to the fire company. McCoy had made the connections for his painting business, called “Farmer and McCoy” with Thomas Farmer, by way of the fire department as his partner’s father-in-law, a hardware store owner, had been a member.

McCoy seems to have met his wife through the fire department as well. In December of 1855 he married Louisa Gibson (baptised Heloise), youngest daughter of a well-to-do St. Louis family. His brother-in-law, Robert Louden, who also became a notorious Civil War spy, mail runner, and saboteur, met his wife Mary Gibson, Louisa’s sister, through the fire department connection he shared with Arthur McCoy. Family history says that McCoy spent some time living and operating a business in Alton, Illinois before returning to St. Louis. By 1859 he was again in St. Louis.

By 1860, Arthur and Louisa had two sons, Joseph, born in October 1856, and Arthur Willam, born in May 1858. Their first daughter, Elizabeth, was born in July of 1861.

Berthold MansionAccording to Basil Duke, Arthur McCoy was one of the founding members of the Minute Men, the secessionist organization formed in response to the Unionist Wide Awakes. McCoy’s brother-in-law Robert Louden was also known as a strong Minute Man. It was Arthur McCoy’s wife, Louisa, who is said to have sewed the secessionist flag that flew tauntingly over the Berthold mansion. McCoy was one of those who helped raise the Missouri state flag over the courthouse.

The passages below by John N. Edwards describe McCoy’s military service under Shelby during the Civil War. McCoy’s capture by the Federals took place just days after his son, Arthur William died in St. Louis. It’s possible the two events were connected as McCoy was known to pass in and out of St. Louis several times during the war, often carrying mail with him.

Further Reading: Jesse James Was His Name by William A. Settle, Jr.

General Jo Shelby: Undefeated Rebel
by Daniel O’Flaherty

General Jo Shelby

More books on the James-Younger gang

After the war, McCoy’s life and career are necessarily hazy. He was said to have been a member of the James-Younger gang of bank and train robbers. McCoy is believed to have been one of those involved in the killing of a Pinkerton agent investigating the James. Arthur McCoy is identified as one of those who participated in the robbery of the Russellville, Kentucky bank in 1868, the Adair, Iowa train robbery, as well as the Gad’s Hill train robbery, and numerous others through the first half of the 1870s. The one with the highest likelihood of attribution to McCoy is the Ste. Genevieve, Missouri robbery.

McCoy, though a city-boy from the eastern border of Missouri, would have made his connection to the western border train and bank robbers (most of whom were former Quantrill guerrillas) by way of John Jarrette. Jarrette was also a captain under Shelby in the last part of the war and was married to Cole Younger’s sister, Mary Josephine. More on this part of McCoy’s life.

For a time after the war, Arthur and Louisa McCoy lived in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. In the 1870s they had a farm in Montgomery County, Missouri. Two more sons, Lee and Eugene, were born to them. Family history tells it that Arthur did not particularly enjoy farming and so went to Texas to see about getting into cattle and living there. Other (published but unconfirmed) history says he was arrested for a stage robbery near Austin, Texas in 1874 for which one of the robbers confessed and named McCoy. By late 1874 or 1875 McCoy effectively vanished.

There is no confirmed death date for Arthur C. McCoy. The family believed he had died in Texas in the early 1880s. Other sources place his death in early 1874, several weeks before the Gad’s Hill train robbery in which he is often named (source: “Jesse James: The Man and the Myth” by Marley Brant–footnote unsourced). A reliable St. Louis source places his death as having been by 1880. Louisa McCoy also lists herself as a widow at this point.

Louisa Gibson McCoy remarried, lived briefly in the Oklahoma Territory where her second husband died, before returning to the St. Louis area. Around the turn of the century she and most of her children moved to Oregon and Idaho, where she remained until her death at age 81.

Related pages:

The Boat-Burners (McCoy’s brother-in-law, Robert Louden)

Rock Champion(a fellow Minute Man)

Minute Men(describing the St. Louis secessionist organization)

The James-Younger gang pages



Arthur McCoy: Confederate “Wild Irishman” of St. Louis

By

John N. Edwards

Introduction to author John N. Edwards

with notes by G. E. Rule

[Noted Guerillas]

All legs, and eagerness, and animal spirit McCoy reported to [William H.] Gregg [for duty in hunting down a group of bandits behind Confederate lines] as a schoolboy might report to his master for a holiday. McCoy laughed a great deal, Gregg scarcely at all; McCoy sang a song now and then that was next of kin to a bird’s song, Gregg was a taciturn, unmusical man; McCoy’s face was always mirthful, Gregg’s always in repose and as strong as Cromwell’s. As steadfast, heroic, and unconquerable fighters, neither could be surpassed.


Shelby’s advance [during Sterling Price’s raid into Missouri in 1864] had been led valiantly by Captain Arthur McCoy, and he associated [famous Confederate guerilla George] Todd with him and bade them fight together. McCoy had never been a Guerrilla. He had nothing in common with the Guerrillas except their desperation. He was a tinner [Actually, McCoy was a painter before the war but had worked as a coppersmith at a tin/metal working business before that] working in St. Louis when the war commenced. At the first tap of the recruiting drum, impetuous as a boy and as eager, he espoused the cause of the South and joined the 1st Missouri Confederate Infantry, Bowen’s immortal yet decimated regiment –that regiment with Beauregard lifted his hat to as it was marching past—or, rather, to what was left of it—after Shiloh, and exclaimed: “I salute the 1st Missouri. I uncover to courage that has never yet been surpassed.”

In the infantry, however, McCoy would have dwindled into a consumptive—for his chest was weak, and had that hectic flush, and that dry, short, rasping cough that were ominous. He needed the air and the exercise of a Comanche. He had to breath where there were no canvas house, no shelter, no covering save a blanket, and no habitation save the leaves on the trees.

After Shiloh, the name and fame of Shelby were beginning to fill the West, and there came to him, attracted by the unexampled enterprise and heroism of the man, quite a large number of daring spirits who asked only esprit de corps and a leader that would fight every hour in every day for a year and a day. Among them was Arthur McCoy, six feet and over, a little stooped about the shoulders, very long in the arms, having a stride like a racehorse, and a nervous energy that was expending itself even while he slept. All the lower face was massive—the lower jaw especially square cut and huge. The eyes were of that cold, glittering, penetrating blue that might be cruel as a serpent’s, soft and tender as the eyes of confidence or trust. When the battle was dubious or desperate, or when the wreck was darkest and thickest, and the dead lay rank and plentiful, the eyes seemed to transform themselves and become absolutely scintillant. About the man’s whole nature, too, there was an element of grotesqueness impossible to analyze. He sang little snatches of song in battle; he rode out in advance of his own skirmish line and challenged Federal skirmishers to single combat; he would get down on his knees under fire the most pitiless, uncover himself, and pray fervently beside some comrade mortally wounded; he seemed never to have known what the meaning of fear was; he begged incessantly to be sent upon forlorn and desperate service; he was a spy without a peer in either army; he was a scout that seemed to have leagued with the devil and received from his majesty invaluable protection papers; he charged pickets for pastime, and rode yelling and shooting through Federal outposts, at the head of fifty or sixty followers, at all hours and in any weather. Shelby’s division gave him the soubriquet of the “Wild Irishman”, and yet for cold calm, penetrating soldier-sense—for acuteness, military logic and undoubted strategy, McCoy had the head of Vidocq and the nerve of d’Artagnan. Seven times during the war—through the Federal lines, and past scouts, patrols, cantonments, and militia and predatory bands—McCoy came into St. Louis with a thousand letters at a time, and departed hence with as many more.



[Shelby and His Men]

Shelby broke ground first with unceasing activity. The second day after the arrival at Cane Hill, Lieutenant Arthur McCoy, with fifty picked men, was sent to look up one hundred Pins [Indians], reported to be encamped near a little town twenty miles in the Cherokees Nation. This Arthur McCoy was a gay, dashing, devil-may-care St. Louisan who joined the old 1st Missouri Infantry, Bowen’s immortal regiment, Duffee’s company, in St. Louis, and had won red laurels at Shiloh, but being attracted by the rising star of Shelby’s genius, came over to join his galaxy of knights. Like some of the cuirassiers of Napoleon’s Old Guard, he always doffed his plumed hat to this adversary just as he murmured through his moustache, “En Garde.” McCoy, above all others, suited exactly for the enterprise, and ferreting out, by good luck, and excellent guide, he succeeded in completely surprising the Indian encampment. The sleepy pickets were cut off and sabered silently. The doomed warriors lay rolled up in their blankets alongside of a heavy rail fence, which had been fired in a hundred corners to give heat during the night, when the silent horsemen rode upon them without the ringing of a musket. The work, short and bloody, lasted on a few moments. McCoy sabered seven with his own hand, and but ten of the whole number escaped. The next morning he rode quietly into camp with not a rose on his fresh, blooming face withered or fled.


Captain Blackwell, in command of Marmaduke’s escort, entered Marshfield suddenly, picked up a dozen of or rusticating Federals, and took possession of five large stores filled with everything needed by soldiers. Finding their proprietors unwilling to take Confederate money at par—although the notes were worth something as containing correct photographic likenesses of President Davis—and possessing a very conservative disposition with his many other good qualities, Captain Blackwell detailed five accurate salesman, Peter Turley, James Walton, Arthur McCoy, James Herndon, and Joel Whitehurst, to wait upon those customers having the “six months after a treaty of peace” bills. Business, previously quite dull, expanded visibly under this new commercial arrangement, and soon every store became crowded with anxious buyers. At night a large auction followed, the Southern ladies attending in crowds and having heavy amounts of the proscribed money in their possession. The uses made afterward of these funds by the bona fide merchants were never ascertained, yet it is highly probably they were put carefully away until a day of redemption came, which every one among them believed was near at hand, if their vociferant assertions of loyalty to the Confederacy could be relied upon.


[Edwards reminiscing about sitting around a campfire in Arkansas listening to various men tell their stories . . .]

. . .McCoy telling some galloping story of border foray, and how he went snugly into St. Louis and brought out seven hundred thousand musket-caps.


The restless and insatiate Arthur McCoy—whose energy and battle-intellect were Titanic—hovered around Clayton for three days, cut off two picket posts, captured seven wagons, killed a notorious Union bushwhacker living near Pine Bluff, and returned loaded with arms and accoutrements.


After the capture of the Queen City, and after the battle with the Tyler and her consorts, a man presented himself to Shelby’s picket line, weak, emaciated—but wary and defiant—his clothes dripping with moisture and covered by the mire and the sand of the swamps. Not recognized by the officer on duty, he was sent into camp. When the dirt was washed from his face, and his long lank hair combed out, he proved to be Captain Arthur McCoy, before spoken of as one of the most daring, debonair, heroic scouters and fighters in the whole brigade. His escape had been romantic, and in every way characteristic of the indomitable Confederate. Captured several months before, on an expedition toward the Arkansas river, because his horse had been shot dead under him, after his five men had fought seventy-eight Federals for eleven miles, he had been carried first to Pine Bluff, where Clayton, although a Kansan, treated him soldierly; thence to Little Rock, where the penitentiary was too good for him, had finally arrived at Duvall’s Bluff, on his way to Alton, and maybe that dark, mysterious death suffered by so many.

The roar of Collin’s guns, which had shattered the life out of the Queen City and the fight out of the Tyler, told to McCoy’s quick ears the tale of Shelby’s attack, and the rumors about the town, and the hasty mustering of the garrison, told equally well that the attack had been successful. He determined at every hazard to escape, and was greatly favored by some friends on board the boat upon which he had been confined, and the mention of whose names here can do no good. [McCoy and his brother-in-law –Confederate spy, courier, and saboteur Robert Louden– had worked at painting steamboats on the St. Louis levee before the war, and both of them would have had many friends on the boats working the rivers.  In addition, Louden’s partner, Ab Grimes, was a steamboat pilot and had even more river friends–these would certainly be available to Louden, and probably by extension to McCoy. The Federals had noted many times that the majority of the river men were Southern-leaning.] The time for action came. He stood on the hurricane roof of the boat in earnest conversation with an engineer—his friend and accomplice. Suddenly the engineer exclaimed to McCoy, who had dressed himself in the working suit of one of the hands of the boat:

“I tell you we can not move from the wharf unless the thing is fixed,” mentioning the name of some part of the machinery.

“And I tell you,” answered McCoy, “that the d—-d thing can’t be fixed until you send to the Little Rock foundry.”

“I know better,” replied the engineer. “Come with me and I will prove it.”

The guard, calmly pacing his beat during the time of the conversation, had heard every word, and naturally enough supposing they were two engineers disputing about some machinery needing repair, scarcely noticed them as they went below. Quick as lightning McCoy descended through the wheelhouse and into the water with a noiseless motion. Floating quietly along, his head barely enough above the waves for respiration, he passed the lowest boat, the lookouts on the batteries, around a bend in the river, and at last beyond sight, without his escape being noticed. At length, wearied from incessant exertion, he drew upon the nearest shore for rest and observation, when, horror of horrors, a grim ironclad lay quietly at anchor about three hundred yards below. To go back was simply impossible, to take to the woods seemed madness, as White river spread out ten miles wide at this point, and the bottoms on either shore were a wilderness of water—so McCoy gathered a large bundle of dry canes, launched them very quietly, and boldly floated past the gunboat in safety, and for eight miles further, until he reached the shelter of his old ark, worn out, haggard, and exhausted.

Three days in camp furnished all the rest he required, and after this time had been spent lazily, it was ascertained that tin the Mississippi River about thirty miles above Helena, a large steamboat, the Mariner, loaded with coal for the fleet, stood hard and fast aground, and that by a little wading she might be captured. Taking seventy-five picked men, he made a forced march, surprised the guard of five men on the bank watching the steamer, waded waist deep two hundred yards to her, and finally gave the boat and cargo to the flames—sending the officers and crew on board to the commanding general at Helena.

Arthur McCoy returned with his spoils in the shape of two or more dozen fine carbines and revolvers. . .


Marmaduke was resting after Springfield and Hartville, preparing for Cape Girardeau. Musket caps were fearfully scarce in the department and none anywhere in reach nearer than St. Louis. The detail came originally to Shelby for a lieutenant and ten men, and he sent McCoy, who had been twice before into St. Louis. McCoy reported to Marmaduke and suggested that two men where sufficient, as the chances would be better for getting through and accomplishing the object of the mission. A young St. Louisan, brave, cool, wary and accomplished, Captain John W. Howard, was selected by McCoy to accompany him, and about the 13th of January [1864?] these two devoted officers started northward through the snow and the ice, with no passport save their wonderful assurance, and no diplomatic documents in addition to several hundred letters from Confederate soldiers to their friends in the loyal States.

Slowly and painfully they toiled through the drifted snow and the barren wastes along the dreary road until after three days’ hard traveling the State line was reached. Davidson’s cavalry division was scattered and roaming about in squads promiscuously over the country, and caution became not only necessary but so extreme as to be absolutely painful. At Current river a scout of fifty were encountered, but they were avoided by taking to the woods. Near Pilot Knob an old man was seen who mistook the two Confederates for Federal, as they were dressed in complete Federal clothing, except the pants of Howard, which were gray. The old man was very glad to see the “boys in blue”; had two precious cut-throats in the militia, and wanted McCoy to take some letters for him into Pilot Knob. “Money in them?”, asked Howard. “Oh! No, only on business.” “All right,” said McCoy, “the d—-d Secesh might rob us if it were supposed we had valuables.” They further imposed upon him by making inquiries about some sick Federals they had accidentally heard of as being in the neighborhood, and he gave them ample directions for a day’s journey. In Washington county they were hard put to it. The militia were swarming, and for information they called upon Mr. Pleas. Johnson. Mr. Johnson had gone to a funeral somewhere, and nothing could be found out there. All one night was spent in riding around Potosi—they were four miles south of it at dark and were four miles north of it at daylight. After daylight came broad and good they called upon another Mr. Johnson, and he sent them to a Mrs. Smith who had two sons in the militia, but was a true Southern lady. The tired, hungry men asked for food and sleep. In a short time her militia sons returned, but only to stand picket over the sleeping Confederates, and after three hours of sleep, they were awakened, fed, and sent on their toilsome way. The next house visited belonged to a Mr. Stovall.

Mr. Stovall gave them food and fire-water. Howard watched the horses and McCoy did the talking. “Are you a good Union man, Mr. Stovall?” “As good as the best, Captain.” “Well,” said McCoy, “have you seen pass here lately a red-headed man riding a little shave-tailed mule?” (He had heard of this fellow two houses back from Stovall’s). “Yes,” said the host. “Well, he is a deserter from General Davidson’s forces. I am after him hot, and must have a guide on the most direct road leading to St. Louis.” “I can’t go myself, captain, but my neighbor, Captain —–, has a good horse and is long in these parts.” “Go for him,” said McCoy sternly. The captain soon came, splendidly mounted, armed, and equipped. He was a vicious militia man, too, and McCoy’s eyes had a bad look when resting upon him. “You are a good guide, I hear”, said McCoy, “and I desire you to accompany me.” “I can not,” replied the Federal. McCoy straightened up, towered over the militiaman and drew out a huge paper in an official envelope and said ominously: “General Davidson has given me this document for my authority; it empowers me to impress and to kill; I shall do one or the other, or my name is not Captain McKeever.” This threat had its effect. A little before dark they started in a terrible rainstorm, which penetrated to the skin, although opposed by heavy and excellent overcoats. The Federal captain did his duty well, and took them to within eight miles of the Merrimac bivouacking was encountered. The rain which had been cursed and blasphemed, save the two spy heroes. God does not always destroy those who violate the seventh commandment, or from an army of fifty thousand there would scarcely survive ninety and nine. This rain had driven the cavalry from the road to the shelter of the timber, some thirty rods away, yet they halted loudly when the party came in sight. “Trot fast,” were the low, calm words of Howard, his right hand toying with the heavy dragoon under his coat. “No, no”, replied the Federal, “we must halt; they will fire else.” “Let them fire and be d—-d”, sneered McCoy, “do you suppose I would halt in such an infernal rain as this? Close up, Howard.”

Howard struck the Federal officer’s horse fiercely with the long reins of his bridle, and altogether, the three steeds bounded off at a sharp canter.

Carondolet was reached about three o’clock the next day, and the town was full of soldiers. The two daredevils dismounted leisurely, got shaved, and then went sauntering into a public barroom. Twenty Federals were drinking—they were infantry bear in mind. “Hallo, infantry”, shouted McCoy, “come and take a drink with some of the crack fellows of Davidson’s cavalry”. This bluff frankness told well with the soldiers, and the infantry came crowding around with five hundred questions about the Rebels in Arkansas—about Price, Marmaduke, Shelby, Kitchen, the bushwhackers, and what not. A brawny, burly fellow, with rough cheekbones and a bright, bad eye, peered long at Captain Howard, with some straggling instincts of recognition. “Who are you?”, he asked at length; “I have seen you in St. Louis”. Howard knew the fellow well, yet his composure was wonderful, and his voice clear and distinct as the ring of a silver anvil: “Likely, comrade; I have been there often. I am Captain Beard, of Hubbard’s 1st Missouri Cavalry Battalion”. The rank imposed upon the crowd—they had never been to the front and were privates—so they became reticent instantly. After another drink at Howard’s expense—the two improvised Federals rode boldly for St. Louis, which they entered without remark or comment, passing within two feet of the sentinel at the arsenal mechanically walking his beat. [Gee, I wonder what happened to their scout? They seem to have misplaced him somewhere.]

Once inside and these gay gallants threw away almost the simplest precautions. Both of them had fine Confederate cavalry uniforms mad, which, consistent with regulations, were gaudy and attractive. “I’ll get the caps,” said McCoy, “but I must have some fun.” One night the two were enjoying an hour’s tête-à-tête with five or six Rebel ladies, when in came two Federal majors. McCoy felt invigorated by some rare old Krug, and the devil danced about his cold gray eyes till they sparkled and glittered. Excusing himself a moment, he stepped into an adjoining room, unpinned the skirts of his uniform coat, threw off the great blue overcoat, and burst back upon the astonished Federals in all the glory and horror of buff and gold lace. “This farce of being Yankee is about played out”, said McCoy; “please give us Dixie, Miss —–“. The beautiful girl, catching inspiration from the sight of the “darling gray”, sprang like a with upon the piano, and tangled her white fingers in among the keys until the air gave out Rebel infection and the whole house joined in the chorus. The [Federal] officers started simultaneously for the door. “Not this night”, said McCoy; “we have no desire to hang for an useless frolic. Be quiet, gentlemen, and let’s make a night of it,” and his pistol and Howard’s were out in a twinkling. The Federals, who were really sensible fellows, remained quietly, drank deeply, and were finally carried to bed in a state of blissful ignorance.

Long before day the Confederates were moving. Two splendid horses had been procured, forty thousand musket caps were stowed away in saddlebags. Howard carried from the city an elegant saddle and bridle for General Shelby, and, after seeing McCoy well on his way Southward, returned quietly to organize and take out to Arkansas a company of recruits.


[Noted Guerillas –same trip into St. Louis as above. Note that in the above telling, Howard had accompanied McCoy “well on his way Southward”, but there is no mention of him as McCoy passes Benton Barracks and baits the sentinel. Noted Guerillas also has a shorter but more flamboyant telling of the encounter with the Federal officers given above, with McCoy forcing one of the Federals to wear a Confederate uniform and dance to Dixie.]

As McCoy rode out from St. Louis, in the cold gray of the following morning, the devil still seemed to have possession of him. As he passed Benton Barracks a sentinel stood by the roadside with his gun at a right, shoulder shift. McCoy rode up to him and halted: “I am a Confederate officer. I represent the Confederate President—if you should present arms to me I should consider that you had presented them to Mr. Jefferson Davis. Present arms!” The sentinel thought the man was evidently mad. It was still early morning. No soldiers were astir anywhere about the barracks. McCoy’s revolver was at the soldier’s breast before he could take his musket from his shoulder. “You will not present arms to me?” “Not to save your life.” “But you see I have the drop on you! Do you want me to kill you?” Still thinking McCoy was one of his own uniform, and being drunk or mischievous, was trying to play a prank on him, the sentinel replied, “shoot and be d—-d!”

McCoy’s face darkened instantly, and he cocked his pistol, “I will not shoot you so,” he said, “nor will I shoot you at all without giving you a chance for your life. Listen, I shall ride back fifty paces, turn my horse, and charge you. As I come by I shall fire at you once. You have but one shot and I who have eighteen will take but one also. Get ready.”

The sentinel, as he saw McCoy deliberately countermarch and wheel about to charge, began, at last, to have his suspicions aroused. He took his musket from his shoulder and cocked it and waited. McCoy dashed furiously down upon the sentinel, and the sentinel, when he was with about ten paces of him, fired at point blank range and missed. As McCoy passed him, he put out his pistol suddenly and shot him down where he stood, the garrison turning out in force, and hurriedly saddled, cavalry coming on in rapid pursuit. The sentinel, however, although badly wounded, finally recovered and McCoy, scarcely quickening his pace, rode on southward unmolested.



[Shelby and His Men –after McCoy left St. Louis on this trip]

At a bridge some twenty miles from St. Louis, McCoy met trouble—one company of Federals held it. He was on the bridge before he discovered the guard, an almost right on him. “Halt!”, was the challenge. “Well”, says the unabashed adventurer, “what do you want?” “I want you to get down and show your pass”, says the “boy in blue”. “What, Sir?”, says McCoy in a voice of thunder, “do you dare to insult an officer of the day, with his saber by his side, by such a piece of insolence as this? Can’t you see my rank, sir?” “Well”, says the abashed Federal in an exculpatory tone, “I was only trying to obey the order of my captain.” “Your captain, eh! Where is your captain, sir? Had he did his duty this thing would not have happened to you. He should have taught you to say, ‘Halt! Who comes there?’ and let me answer the challenge in that shape. Instead of that you halt me improperly, and show at once that you have not been well instructed. Where is your captain, sir?” “He has just passed the bridge with the rest of the company to put them on picket”. “Very well, sir”, said McCoy, somewhat mollified, “I can excuse you, but I can not overlook such negligence in your captain. I will go and see after him.” And thereupon he put spurs to his trusty steed, and rode off past the guard at a brisk canter. As soon as he came to a turn in the road he darted out into the woods and fields, every foot of which he knew too well to venture upon giving “that captain” the lecture he had promised, and made his way safely to Shelby’s headquarters in Batesville.

Of course there must have been staunch Southern sympathizers in St. Louis, or McCoy and Howard would have gone to the wall; and to two men these officers went for material aid—Mr. John King and Captain William D. Bartle. It would be difficult to make an accurate estimate of the assistance furnished by these two devoted “Rebels”. McCoy was in St. Louis three times during his connection with Shelby, and John King upon every occasion gave him money, pistols, horses, and better than all, information, for is a keen, observant man, and a shrewd tactician. So also did Captain Bartle. St. Louis is filled with generous people who aided the Confederate in every possible manner, and who, many of them, endured exile for their sympathies; but there are none who excelled these gentlemen in the secrecy of their operation, the munificence of their gifts, and in the indefatigable manner by which they equipped and hurried to the army young men unable to purchase the necessary accouterments.


[Noted Guerillas]

Later, in 1864, a deed was done by McCoy which attracted the attention and won the admiration of two opposing forces. General John B. Clark was attacking Glasgow from one side of the river, in 1864, and General Shelby from the other. Between the two lines drawn about the doomed town were the Federal forts and garrison commanded by General Chester Harding. A large steamboat lay at the wharf and Shelby desired to know if it were serviceable; if it were, he intended to man it and ferry over his command, and to attack from the north side. He did not want to sacrifice over one man in the perilous undertaking, and he did not desire to order any soldier to perform the desperate duty. Volunteers were called for, and while fifty came to the front, McCoy was chosen because he knew more than any of them about steamboats and their machinery, and because he pleaded so hard to be permitted to take the risk. He started in a skiff as slight as a pasteboard. Having to pull himself, his back was necessarily to the town, thus depriving him of whatever advantage he might have attained by watching the operations of the enemy. Glasgow is built upon a hill, and from the foot of the bluff to the river there is probably a stretch of bottom land a dozen paces across. Closely engaged from the south, the Federal skirmishers did not descend from the hill tops, where, half hidden and partially entrenched, they fired closely and vigorously upon McCoy. He kept right onward. As he left the shelter of his own lines, the bullets thickened in the water about him and fairly plowed up the surface of the river with lead. Collins, with two guns of his memorable battery, succored him all that was possible and threw canister rapidly into the skirmishers. Once when the fire was desperately hot, McCoy turned around upon his seat, ceased rowing, and lifted his hat to the Federal skirmishers. Both sides cheered spontaneously. How he escaped is a matter yet unexplained. Probably two hundred men fired at him, each man firing five shots, or one thousand shots in all. Blood was not drawn once from his body, miraculous to relate. One bullet cut off a lock of his hair, another knocked his cap into he river, which he deliberately stopped to pick up, seven balls struck the skiff in various parts, four more went through is clothes, and one cut almost in two at the oarlock the left hand oar. In despite of everything, however, McCoy gained the northern bank, landed the boat, obtained what information he desired, and actually returned as he had crossed under a tremendous volley of small arms.

Once he fought a duel—a duel to the death—but not one of his own seeking. In the Western army there were many Confederate Indians, and in a Choctaw regiment there was a young half-breed captain who had a pony sensible enough to have been a circus pony. It would dance, talked with its head, fire off a pistol, and do other and numerous tricks at the bidding of its master. McCoy owned a savage stallion, a favorite, however, because of its fleetness and strength. The pony and the stallion got together one night, and the next morning the Choctaw had no pony—McCoy’s horse having literally devoured him. The Indian was furious. He would have revenge. He would kill the horse that killed his horse. He would have revenge. He started to execute his threat. McCoy stood across his path with a drawn, saber in his hand, and said to the Choctaw: “Arm yourself. Shall it be sword or pistol? You want satisfaction and shall have it. My horse’s hide is more precious than my own, therefore not one hair upon it shall be ruffled.” The Indian chose a saber also, a ring was formed, seconds appointed, and probably half a brigade gathered to see the desperate work. McCoy fenced warily; the Indian, quick and savage. Both were wounded. McCoy had an ugly cut on his right temple and another on his left hip. The Indian had been slashed twice severely, and once across the saber arm. Each was getting weak. Finally McCoy made a feint as if he would deliver the right cut, shortened his sword arm, and ran the Indian squarely through the body. Thus ended the fight and the life of the Choctaw as well. He died before midnight.

Curtis heavy division, retreating before General Price [in the 1864 raid] all the way from Lexington to Independence, held the western bank of the Little Blue, and some heavy stonewalls and fences beyond. Marmaduke and Shelby broke his hold loose from these, and pressed him rapidly back to and through Independence, the two Colorado regiments covering his rear stubbornly and well. Side by side McCoy and [George] Todd had made several brilliant charges during the morning, and had driven before them with great spirit and dash every Colorado squadron halted to resist the continual marching forward of the Confederate cavalry. Ere the pursuit ended for the day, half of the 2nd Colorado regiment drew upon the crest of a bold hill and made a gallant fight. Their Major, Smith, a brave and dashing officer, was killed here, and here Todd fell. General Shelby, as was his wont, was well up with the advance, and leading recklessly the two companies of Todd and McCoy. Next to Shelby’s right rode Todd, and upon his left was McCoy. Close to these and near to the front files where Colonel Nichols, [John] Thrailkill, Ben Morrow, Ike Flannery and Jesse James. The trot had deepened into a gallop, and all the cloud of skirmishers covering the head of the rushing column were at it, fierce and hot, when the 2nd Colorado swept the road with a furious volley, broke away from the strong position held by them, and hurried on through the streets of Independence followed by the untiring McCoy, as lank as a foxhound and as eager.

That volley killed Todd.



[Shelby and His Men –on the retreat from Missouri, thru Kansas, after the 1864 raid]

Shelby moved this day with his division in advance, making desolate a broad track through the fertile fields of Kansa, and leaving behind him long trails of fire and smoldering ruins. Scattered militia were captured at nearly every house, and McCoy, with one hundred and fifty men, stormed Fort Lincoln, took its garrison of one hundred prisoners, burned it and all its surrounding houses, and returned to the column loaded with horses and supplies. [The accounts of McCoy do seem to have a consistent thread of booty. . .uh, acquired. . . to them.]


The advance, composed of two hundred volunteers from all the regiments in the brigade, and superb body of soldiers they were, lost one hundred and twenty in killed and wounded. It was led by McCoy. At Newtonia, Slayback from three hundred and twenty men lose in killed forty-nine, besides a large number wounded. These statements may show to a small extent the sacrifices Shelby was called upon to make.


General Magruder commenced about this time [early 1865] the organization of a secret corps for operations within the enemy’s lines, and, as usual, Shelby was called upon for some of his best and truest of men—those he had trained, hardened, and schooled in every species of desperate and reckless warfare. McCoy plead so earnestly for the mission that General Shelby—whose own ambitious heart was ever soft and yielding to the daring wishes of his men—gave it to him. McCoy took fourteen men—Jim Kirtley, Sam Redd, James Cather, Dan Franklin, Jim McGraw, At Persinger, Nick Coil, Bob Allen, Sam Downing, Asa Tracey, John Manion, Sid Martin, Ed Ward, and a little boy scarcely fifteen year old—Lem Stevenson—but acute and intelligent to a most wonderful degree. His fresh, guileless face and soft, amiable manners made him invaluable as a spy, and McCoy used him constantly to great advantage. A record of the adventures of these daring Confederates would be marvelous, indeed, and almost beyond belief. McGraw spent most of his time at the Federal naval station, near the mouth of White River, and managed always to keep McCoy posted regarding the movement of all detachments sent out for his capture. Sid Martin, another boy, about eighteen years of age, but cool and wary as a grenadier of Napoleon’s old guard, went twice into Memphis and once into St. Louis, and brought back to his captain, in addition to valuable information, twenty-three revolvers and a large sack filled with Ely’s pistol caps—more precious than greenbacks. He was captured twice, but on both occasions eluded his guards and returned to camp riding the best horse in the squad having charge of him. Lem Stevenson visited St. Louis twice, was lionized, petted, spoiled, and concealed by the Southern ladies there and returned each time with a great budge of news for Magruder. Ed Ward, James Cather, At Persinger, Jim Kirtley and Sam Redd did the scouting from Napoleon to Pine Bluff; Coil, Sam Downing, and Asa Tracey, were the river detail—especially commissioned to burn transports and trading-boats. Two fine steamers and tree little Yankee coasters—loaded with jews-harps, gew-gaws, and, maybe a few wooden nutmegs—were given to the flames, the crews were give to the sword, and the supplies that were valuable distributed to the suffering and heroic Southern women in the neighborhood of the captures. [There’s McCoy and his booty again]

Such was the terror and annoyance inspired by the reckless and unceasing efforts of McCoy’s partisans that General McGinnis, the Federal commander in that portion of the country, sent daily detachments in quest of them. Major Davis, of the 15th Illinois cavalry, leading a squadron one day in this kind of pursuit, was ambushed by War, Cather, Coil, Persinger, Redd, Downing and Tracey, at the mouth of a long lane and completely routed. It happened just at dark, and five men falling at the first close, deadly fire, the Illinoisans were seized with a panic, thinking they were outnumbered and enfiladed, and fled franticly back followed by the seven back followed by the seven Confederates shooting everything they could overtake. Superbly mounted, they overtook many, too. Captain Norris, of the same regiment—the 15th Illinois—came out the next day and fared even worse. He had twenty-two men killed, five wounded, and lost ten horse and fourteen prisoners. This time McCoy had his whole force concentrated and on the alert.

Mrs. Douglass, an estimable and hospitable Southern matron, living in the heart of the “dark and bloody ground,” had her house used as a hospital for both parties—and often wounded Confederated and Federals would be lying side by side in the same room, receiving alike from her hands nourishment and sympathy. Her young and beautiful daughters emulated the example of their mother, and tried to outdo her in acts of mercy and benevolence. They often deprived themselves of their scanty supplies of provisions for the soldiers, and were in every particular angels of good deeds.

Cotton speculators, Yankee agents, itinerant preachers, and psalm-singing schoolmasters fled from McCoy’s scene of operations in ludicrous hast, spreading the most frightful repots of guerrillas, demons, giants, and what not. McCoy once suggest to a Federal Colonel, under flag of truce, that, as the vocabulary of epithets had been exhausted upon him men and himself, he would ask thereafter, as an especial favor, that they might be called gorillas.

Until the downfall of the Confederacy, McCoy’s little band kept watch and ward upon the river, keeping General Smith advised of every military movement upon the Mississippi.

Manly Missouri Crossdressers of the Civil War

One of our visitors’ all-time favorite articles!

Manly Missouri Cross-Dressers of the Civil War

by

John N. Edwards,

John Fiske,

Cole Younger,

Absalom C. Grimes

Excerpted and introduced by G.E. Rule, from “Noted Guerrillas or the Warfare of the Border”, by John N. Edwards, 1877; “The Mississippi Valley in the Civil War”, by John Fiske, 1900;  “The Story of Cole Younger”, by Himself, 1903; “Confederate Mail Runner”, by Absalom C. Grimes, edited by M. M. Quaife, 1926

Introduction to John N. Edwards

Introduction to John Fiske

Introduction to Absalom C. Grimes

Introduction to Cole Younger


The Manly Missouri Cross-Dressers of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate, engaged in a time-honored tradition. In 62 B.C., the Roman politician Clodius put the empire on the road to civil war when he disguised himself as a woman and snuck into Caesar’s house.  Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stuart heir to the British throne, dressed as a woman to escape the English in 1746 after his invasion to reclaim the throne of his father failed.  In modern times, early in his army career, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak cross-dressed (complete with explosives-packed purse) in order to carry off an attack on a terrorist group suspected of being responsible for the 1972 attack on Israel’s Olympians at Munich.

The curious thing is, every one of the accounts given below –told by four different authors– has the same thing in common.  Apparently, in Missouri, wearing your cavalry boots under your dress signified a fellow who was just engaging in a stratagem as opposed to one who was indicating an alternative lifestyle choice.  Or possibly they all just really liked the feel of leather against their skin beneath their frillies…. on second thought, let’s stick with the stratagem theory.


We start with the purtiest guerrilla of them all; Jesse James, courtesy of John N. Edwards:

Four miles from Independence, and back a little from the road leading to Kansas City, a house stood occupied by several women light of love. Thither regularly went Federal soldiers from the Independence garrison, and the drinking was deep and the orgies shameful. Gregg set a trap to catch a few of the comers and goers. Within the lines of the enemy, much circumspection was required to make an envelopment of the house successful. He chose Jesse James from among a number of volunteers and sent him forward to reconnoiter the premises. Jesse, arrayed in coquettish female apparel, with his smooth face, blue eyes, and blooming cheeks, looked the image of a bashful country girl, not yet acquainted with vice, though half eager and half reluctant to walk a step nearer to the edge of its perilous precipice. As he mounted, woman fashion, upon a fiery horse, the wind blew all about his peach colored face the pink ribbons of a garish bonnet, and lifted the tell-tale riding habit just enough to reveal instead of laced shoes or gaiters, the muddy boots of a born cavalryman. Gregg, taking ten men, followed in the rear of James to within half a mile of the nearest picket post, and hid himself in the woods until word could be brought from the bagnio ahead. If by a certain hour the disguised Guerrilla did not return to his comrades, the picket were to be driven in, the house surrounded, and the inmates forced to give such information as they possessed of his where­abouts. Successful, and Gregg neither by word nor deed, was to alarm the outpost or furnish indication in any manner that Guerrillas were in the neighborhood.

Jesse James, having pointed out to him with tolerable accuracy the direction of the house, left the road, skirted the timber rapidly, leaped several ugly ravines, floundered over a few marshy places, and finally reached his destination without meeting a citizen or encountering an enemy. He would not dismount, but sat upon his horse at the fence and asked that the mistress of the establishment might come out to him. Little by little, and with many a gawky protest and many a bashful simper, he told a plausible story of parental espionage and family discipline. He, ostensibly a she, could not have beaux, could not go with the soldiers, could not sit with them late, nor ride with them, nor romp with them; she was tired of it all and wanted a little fun. Would the mistress let her come occasionally to her and bring with her three or four neighbor girls, who were in the same predicament? The mistress laughed and was glad. New faces to her were like new coin, and she put forth a hand and patted the merchantable thing upon the knee, and ogled her smiling mouth and girlish features gleefully. As she-wolf and venturesome lamb separated, the assignation was assured. That night the amorous country girl, accompanied by three of her young female companions, was to return, and the mistress–confident in her ability to provide them lovers–was to make known among the soldiers the attractive acquisition.

It lacked an hour of sunset when Jesse James got back to Gregg; an hour after sunset the Guerrillas, following hard upon the track made by the boy spy, rode rapidly on to keep the tryst­ing. The house was gracious with lights, and jubilant with laughter. Drink abounded, and under cover of the clinking glasses, the men kissed the women. Anticipating an orgy of unusual attractions, twelve Federals bad been lured out from the garrison and made to believe that bare-footed maidens ran wild in the woods, and buxom lasses hid for the hunting. No guards were out; no sentinels were posted. Jesse James crept close to a window and peered in. The night was chill and a large wood fire blazed upon a large hearth. All the company was in one room, five women and a dozen men. Scattered about yet ready for the grasping, the cavalry carbines were in easy reach, and the revolvers handy about the person. Sampson trusting everything to Delilah might not have trusted so much if under the old dispensation there had been anything of bushwhacking.


Next up, that grand dame with a commanding presence; Nathaniel Lyon, as given by John Fiske:One of the visitors [to Camp Jackson, St. Louis] next day came in a light open carriage then known as a “Jenny Lind,” and was leisurely driven by a colored servant up and down the avenues “Jeff Davis”, “Beauregard”, and “Sumter”, and the rest. This visitor, dressed in a black bombazine gown and closely veiled, was a familiar sight on the streets of St. Louis, as she took the air daily in her light carriage. Everybody recognized her as Mrs. Alexander, the mother of Mrs. Blair, but nobody accosted her or expected recognition from her because she was known to be blind. What should have brought this elderly lady to Camp Jackson? Was it simply the Negro coachman gratifying some curiosity of his own?

A couple of hours later, as Blair was sitting in the porch of the southern house of the arsenal, chatting with Colonel Simmons and a few other friends, the Jenny Lind carriage drove up, and the familiar figure, in its black gown and veil, alighted and came up the steps. It was natural enough that Blair should greet his wife’s mother and escort her into the house. But as they stepped upon the threshold, a slight uplifting of the bombazine skirt disclosed a sturdy pair of cavalry boots to the eyes of Colonel Simmons and another gentleman, who glanced at each other significantly but said never a word.

Had the close veil been lifted, it would have revealed the short red beard and piercing blue eyes of Nathaniel Lyon, the “little Connecticut abolitionist,” as some called him.


Cole Younger, the crone, from his memoirs:

The Story of Cole Younger by Himself : Being an Autobiography of the Missouri Guerrilla Captain and Outlaw, His Capture and Prison Life by Cole Younger

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.


Edwards again, this time with a Union soldier who’s a real cutie-pie.  The Confederate guerrillas raided a bawdy house and used a trick to separate the 11 Federal soldiers inside from the 5 prostitutes.  However, this resulted in only 10 dead Federals. . .and now there were 6 women.    According to Edwards, Frank James spared the imposter’s life.

East of Wellington four miles there was a large house occupied by some lewd women notorious for their favors and their enticements. Poole knew the situation well, and suggested to Jarrett that a sufficient detour should be made to encompass the building. Arriving there about eleven o’clock at night, it appeared from the outside as if some kind of a frolic was going on. Lights shone from many of the windows. Music could be heard occasionally and the sound of dancing feet. Frank James crept to a back door, peered in for a few moments, and counted five women and eleven men. Some of the men were in the laps of the women, and some were so close to them that to risk a volley would be murderous. The Guerrillas waited an hour for a more favorable opportunity to fire, but waited in vain. At no time without hitting a woman could they make sure of shooting more than a single man, but Jarrett solved the problem speedily. He was dressed in Federal uniform, and after placing his men so as to cut off from the house its occupants if they once came outside, he rode boldly up to the fence in front of the premises and cried:

“Hello!” A soldier came to the door with a gun in his hand and answered him. Jarrett, authoritatively and positively, continued: “Who are you that come to this place in defiance of every order issued for a month? What business have you here tonight? Who gave you permission to come? Where are your passes? Come out to me that I may read them?”

Thinking Jarrett a provost captain scouting for runaways from the Lexing­ton garrison, ten of the eleven militiamen started confidently for the fence, receiving when half way the crushing fire of twenty concealed Guerrillas. In a space four blankets might have covered, the ten fell and died, only one of the lot discharging a weapon or making the least pretence at resistance. Frank James counted them, stooping to do so, and as he arose he remarked, sententiously: “There are but ten here; awhile ago there were eleven.” The building was entered, searched from bottom to top, minutely examined in every nook and corner­-no soldier. The women were questioned one at a time and separately. They knew only that when the man at the fence called the whole party went out together. Frank James, whose impassive face had from the first expressed neither curiosity nor doubt, spoke up again and briefly. “Awhile ago I counted but five women, now there are six.” Save four sentinels on duty at either end of the main road, the Guerrillas had gathered together in the lower large room of the dwelling house. The fire had burned low, and was fitful and flickering. Where there had been half a dozen candles there were now only two. “Bring more,” said Poole, “and we will separate this wolf from the ewes.” “Aye, if we have to strip the lot,” spoke up a coarse voice in the crowd.” “Silence!” cried Jarrett, laying a hand upon a pistol, and turning to his men in the shadow, “not a woman shall be touched. We are wild beasts, yes; but we war on wild beasts.

More lights were brought, and with a candle in each hand Poole went from woman to woman, scanning the face of each long and searchingly, and saying, when he had finished, “I give it up. If one of the six here is a man, let him keep his dress and his scalp.” Frank James, just behind Poole, had inspected each countenance also as the candles passed before it, and when Poole had done speaking, he laid a finger upon a woman’s shoulder and spoke as one having authority. “This is the man. If I miss my reckoning, shoot me dead.”  The marvelous nerve, which up to this time had stood with the militiaman as a shield and a defense, deserted him when the extremity came, and he turned ghastly white, trembled to his feet, and fell, sobbing and praying, upon his knees. Horrified by the slaughter of his comrades in the yard, and afraid to rush from the house lest he be shot down also, he hurriedly put on the garments of one of the women, composed his features as best he could, and awaited in agonized suspense the departure of the Guerrillas. Almost a boy, his smooth, innocent face was fresher and fairer than the face of any real woman there: His hair, worn naturally long and inclined to be brown, was thick and fine. The dress hid his feet, or the boots would have betrayed him at the start. Not knowing that an observation had been made before the firing, and the numbers accurately taken of both men and women, he hoped to brave it through and laugh afterwards and tell to his messmates how near death had passed to him and did not stop.


Lastly, Ab Grimes, on a Confederate attempting to escape from Myrtle Street Prison in St. Louis. This same story, without naming the prisoner, is also in Churchill’s THE CRISIS:Among other prisoners who received much attention was Captain Hampton Boone, a very handsome young man and a great favorite with the ladies. One day some of his lady friends brought in a suit of feminine attire, and dressed Boone in it, to attempt an escape. He refused to take off his cavalry boots and don the slippers they had provided for him. He thought the boots would be of value to him if he succeeded in escaping. At the outside door a guard stood on either side of the three steps leading to the street. As Boone passed out with a lady on either side of him the wind blew his dress to one side and exposed his boots to the gaze of the guard. After Boone had walked a few steps the guard started after him and Boone ran down Broadway. When he started running he began tearing the dress off with both hands. He tore off the outside skirt, but a big, old-fashioned hoop skirt, then the height of fashion, was like a birdcage and he could not tear it off. As he sprang from the street to the pavement one foot went through the hoop skirt and he turned a double somersault upon the pavement, one guard falling over him. This ended his exhibition of speed. It was in the afternoon and the streets were filled with people. Everyone laughed, including Boone. He came back swinging his poke bonnet by the strings, a guard on each side of him.