Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jesse James and Bloody Bill

Several states remained neutral during the course of the War Between the States, in that neither the Union nor the Confederacy managed to maintain dominance. The war might have ended much sooner if Maryland had become a Confederate state. In Missouri and Kansas, all hell broke loose while lawlessness reigned. This is where the infamous Jesse James got his start. He was only sixteen, living in Clay County, Missouri, when Yankee soldiers came to his farm, searching for his brother, Frank. They tortured Jesse's family members, and according to legend, whipped him as well. So it's no wonder that Jesse wanted to wreak revenge on the Yankees.

In the summer of '64, he and Frank joined up with the infamous guerilla, William "Bloody" Anderson, who had been part of William Quantrill's Confederate guerrilla company. They didn't call him "Bloody" Bill for nothing. After Anderson's female family members were arrested, the prison's ceiling fell down on them, killed one of his sisters, crippled another, and sent him into insanity. In September, he led his band in what is known as the Centralia Massacre, in which twenty-two unarmed Union troops were killed, scalped, and dismembered. Anderson's guerrillas then ambushed a pursuing regiment of Major A.V.E. Johnson's Union troops, and killed over one hundred soldiers who tried to surrender. They advertised by dangling bloody scalps of their victims from their saddles.

After Anderson was killed in an ambush in October, the James brothers separated. Frank followed Quantrill into Kentucky. Jesse went to Texas. The war soon ended, and the James brothers returned to Missouri, which was in shambles. They went on to become bank robbers and mass murderers.

It's no wonder why these men became deranged, but sad, nevertheless. Millions fought in the Civil War, but few went on to become infamous outlaws. Violence reigned the times, and some soldiers went on to further their careers by driving Indians from their homes. Murder was in their blood.

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