Jesse James, the Outlaw
A Black Day for the
Outlaws -- Bob Younger's Secret
But there was no "standing to it" for more than a few moments.
That would have been beyond human, or even outlaw, endurance.
Bob Younger had a bullet in his mouth, Hank Burke a load of bird shot in the
shoulder, and Charley Miller was on foot, fighting desperately for another man's
horse, his own having been shot dead beneath him. The bullets flew like rain.
Horsemen were careering frantically hither and thither in a circumscribed,
fireenvironed space that was rapidly becoming a slaughterpen.
Frank James was shot through the thigh with his foot in the stirrup, and had
to be assisted in the saddle by his brother. And the latter was no sooner
remounted than Clem Miller was shot dead out of his saddle by a rifle from the
court-house window opposite, while at the same time Bill Shadwell went to grass
with the top of his head blown away. Both of the Hites and Charley White had
been wounded at the outset; and, as the outlaw leader threw his leg over his big
sorrel, and thundered out the order for flight, Curly Pitts also hid away a
bullet in his shoulder, which, however, he was able to carry off with him for
the time being.
Then, with the exception of the two lying dead on the ground, they rushed
away on the back track, with the entire maddened population at their heels, at
least for a considerable distance.
It was at this juncture that my men and I came dashing up from the other
side of the town. Everything happened in less than five minutes. Through our
fatal mistake in our calculations, combined with the headstrong fury of the
townspeople and other causes, our plan for bagging the outlaws and saving
innocent bloodshed - had fatally miscarried. Nevertheless, we could repair the
mischief in a measure by organizing pursuit. This was effected almost instantly,
and it was at the head of more than thirty horsemen that, a few minutes later, I
hung upon the rear of the fleeing banditti.
Jess, the outlaw, had underrated the character of the Minnesotians -- had,
in other words, found them very much of his own sort with the criminal element
left out. And away up there in the Northwest, far from his familiar haunts, he
had met with a discomfiture that was to prove even more bloody and disastrous
than his Red Cut defeat.
However, the gang had taken care to make their attack with perfectly fresh
horses, which were no small advantage to them in their flight. We, nevertheless,
held our own in the pursuit. Soon after midday they made a temporary stand in a
rocky defile of the road, where we could not attack them to advantage
However, in the brief skirmish at the mouth of the pass, I had the
semi-satisfaction of drawing a bead on Jesse James with my Winchester. He was
compelled to rein his horse into a rear to save himself from the shot. But he
did so at the expense of his peerless steed, Dancer receiving the bullet in his
noble breast, and falling dead in the road. Though his master at once vaulted on
the back of a spare animal, and continued to organize his flight with unabated
vigor, I could imagine the regret with which he left his beautiful sorrel
motionless on the road.
Our pursuit was kept up all that afternoon and late into the night. We
pressed the outlaws so closely that they did not venture to force relays from
the roadside farmers. Such an interruption of their flight would have brought
them to a fight at close quarters, which would doubtless have resulted in the
destruction of the entire gang. We, on the contrary, could take our time in the
matter of relays, which were freely, even eagerly, furnished, and this gave us a
great advantage toward the end of the race.
However, though less than half a mile behind the fugitives, we came, as
night was falling, at a fork in the dusty road, where we were momentarily at
fault. Both roads seemed equally trampled, the heavy dust muffled the fugitive
hoof-beats, and we were at a loss as to which one had been selected by the
"I have it!" at last cried Gorham, who had been studying the roads at
their forking with an old trapper's scrutiny. "Look!"
He pointed to a streak, dotted and irregular, that veined the dust of one of
the roads, and continued on
and away until lost in the-gathering shadows, while the road forking away
from it showed no such indication.
"It's blood -- life-blood sprinkling from the deathwound of some one of
the gang!" he cried. "Come on!"
So once again we dashed forward, tracking our prey by its blood, as the
tiger is sometimes tracked in the jungle while trailing the hunter's spear in
But this discovery on the part of Gorham, nevertheless, lost us the two
chief fugitives that it was most desirous to capture or kill. I do not see how
it could have been otherwise, under the circumstances, but it prevented us from
dividing our force at the fork of the roads, where such a disposition would have
had a sweeping resu1t, which only became partial by our remaining together.
I will relate as briefly as possible how this came to pass.
When the fugitive robbers had approached the fork, at which our mistake was
made, it became noticeable that they were leaving a trail of blood by which they
might be tracked, in spite of the closing in of night for a bright moonlight was
in prospect. The blood was from but one of their number. This was John Younger,
who had received a wound severing an artery of the leg, during the momentary
stand in the rocky pass. It could not be effectually stanched, though he still
managed to keep his saddle, with the aid of lashings, and with his brothers
riding on either side of him.
The Hites, Charley White, Curly Pitts, Hank Burke, and Frank James had also
received shots -- the latter a most serious one -- but had thus far succeeded in
stuffing their clothing into their wounds, and riding on without the sprinkling
of any ruddy reminders by the way. John Younger was the only one who bled, and
his misfortune threatened to lead to the capture or destruction of the entire
It was on this account that Jesse, the outlaw, ordered a momentary halt at
the fork of the roads, where he coolly proposed to put John Younger to death in
the general interest, so that the flight could be no longer tracked by the
But Cole Younger had at once drawn his revolver and threatened to kill the
first man who should offer to do his brother further harm.
"But, curse it all, Cole, it's for the good of the gang," said
"Good or no good," cried Cole, cocking his pistol "the man
that first draws on my disabled brother dies in his tracks!"
"You bet!" mumbled Bob Younger, with half his teeth gone from the
bullet that had traversed them. "Murder in the gang sha'n't commence in the
Younger family, Jess."
The majority of the band seeming to side with the three brothers, Jesse
swore that his brother Frank and he would separate from the others. This the
twain at once put into execution by galloping off on the road to the left, while
the Youngers and the rest of the band took the road that we were induced to
follow in the manner alluded to.
It was in this way that the Jameses managed to elude our pursuit where a
division of our force would have perhaps included them in the captures that
It was late at night when we at last brought our
worn-out fugitives to a compulsory stand in the bright moonlight It was at a
wildly picturesque spot, where the road crossed a brook over a rude stone arch,
with a ruined mill not far o~ to the right, and where the comparatively open
country offered them no sort of cover. Four of their horses had already dropped
dead with fatigue, and there wasn't a furlong of go left in the remainder.
Nevertheless the gang drew up across the road, and showed a desperate front.
It melted to nothing almost instantly before the rain of bullets that we sent in
among them, and in the merciless charge with which we followed up the volley.
The two Hites managed to gain a rather distant thicket, under cover of the
smoke and confusion, and were seen no more. But Curly Pitts fell dead; Hank
Burke was likewise dispatched, while creeping on all fours, with a knife in his
teeth and murder in his heart toward one of our men who had been wounded and
unhorsed; Charley Miller and Charley White were shot to pieces almost at the
same instant, and then the three Youngers, riddled with bullets, were left. With
their dead horses for a breastworks they continued to fight while consciousness
remained to them.
After the fight was over, however, and when the majority of my men were
galloping toward the thicket, in which they doubtless thought that the Jameses
had found a refuge as well as the Hites, I suddenly missed Bob Younger, whom I
had until then steadily kept in view.
I questioned Gorham and Ford. They were engaged in stanching the wounds of
John and Cole Younger, preparatory to shackling them, while the rest of our men
who had not galloped away were examining the dead outlaws with a view to their
"Bob's somewhere near at hand, Lawson," said Ford. "Or he may
have crawled down to the brook to die."
Sure enough, I found the man I was seeking at the water's brink, and just
under the arch of the bridge. Wounded in eight places, he had felt his way
thither with a last effort, but had fainted away at the margin without obtaining
the cooling draught that he had so thirstily craved.
I at once began to minister to him. A dash of water on the face and head
brought a- return of consciousness. Then a deep draught of the same, which I
administered with my scooped hands, still further revived him. I then raved his
wounds, one after the other bandaged them as well as I could -- my own shirt,
torn into strips, furnishing the material -- and had the satisfaction of seeing
that he appreciated and was grateful for my attentions.
"Bob -- Bob Younger!" I whispered at last; "do you recognize
The moonlight was flooding both our faces, for I had dragged him out from
under the arch. He managed to give a slight nod in the affirmative.
"Will you not now tell me what you were once on the point of telling
me?" I went on, eagerly. "Remember, it is solely for the child's good.
I swear it! Let me have the secret of his whereabouts. He will be reared into
being an honest man and a gentleman.
What will be, what can be, the future of your dead brother's little
orphan, if left to the ordering of such a man as Jesse James?"
The wounded outlaw closed his eyes, and for two or three seconds he seemed
to be turning something over and over in his mind.
He signed me to bend nearer to him. I did so. The next instant the secret
was mine, and in less than ten words.
I started up in astonishment. Some of my men at that moment came down the
bank in search of me, and Bob Younger was carried away to keep his brothers
Then the rest of our band came dropping back into the road, one by one, with
the discouraging report that they had succeeded in making no further captures.
We had, moreover, been given to' understand before this that neither Jesse nor
Frank James had been with the outlaws at their final stand.
I will be brief in summing up the results of the raid. The three Youngers
eventually recovered from their wounds, were tried, convicted, and sentenced to
the Minnesota State prison for life. The Hites managed to get out of the
country. Their usual luck attended the two Jameses in their flight. Brothers in
crime as in blood, they clung together with a tenacity worthy of a better cause,
Jesse, the younger and abler, aiding his wounded brother, and piloting the way
through their long and arduous journey in search of the rest and liberty that
neither of them deserved. Frank recovered from his wound.
Of the raiding band, other than Dick Little and the exceptions noted in the
last two paragraphs, not one survived. The Northfield expedition had proved a
dark and bloody blunder for the James gang.
As soon as I returned to Kansas City I made all haste to Independence. I
didn't pause even for a little good natured crowing at the expense of certain
other officials, by reason of the rewards attaching to the capture of the
Youngers and the killing of their confederates which they had missed and I had
shared. For me there was no other thought or consideration just then for
anything else than the speedy utilization of the secret I had obtained from Bob
Younger, in the recovery and restoration of Judge Rideau's grandchild.
"What do you think, auntie?" I said to old Cynthy, as I entered
her cabin, which I intended to make my base of operations until I should have
accomplished this object. "What will you say when I tell you that within
two or three days I shall bring poor Blanche's child, the little Tip Younger, to
you for identification?"
"What'd I say, cunnel?" said Cynthy, rolling up her eyes
incredulously, but none the less delighted to see me back safe and sound, once
more. "Why, bress de Lor'! I say dat de good luck you's had in Mynnysoty
hate done got de tees' ob you, cunnel -- cat's all."
"Nevertheless, I shall do as I have said," I continued, laughing. "Stubborn
as you are in your unbelief, I shall yet see you acknowledge that Tip is alive,
and with the little fellow folded to your breast."
However, the event proved me to be somewhat oversanguine.