Jessie James: Murdering Outlaw or American Hero There are two sides to everything. Coins have both heads and tales, the moon has a dark side and a face that we are so familiar with, and yes, the Loch ness Monster has both a head and a tail. To every opinion, or story, there will always be one that contradicts it. This is the case with conceptions regarding Jesse James. Jesse Woodson James was born on the cold and early morning of September 6, 1847 in Kearney, Missouri.
At the age of fourteen, Jesse joined the Confederate effort during the Civil War and fought until a Union bullet injured him in 1865. Instead of becoming a farmer like most of the rest of the beaten Confederacy, Jesse turned to crime. From 1866 to 1882, Jesse, his brother Frank, and other ex-Confederates robbed over fifteen different banks and trains. The James Gang operated in the Mid-west until a fellow gang member shot Jesse in the back of the head. There are two different schools of thought regarding James. Most people consider Jesse James a murdering outlaw who was driven by a greed for money, while others sympathize with Jesse and view him as an American hero who had no choice but to turn to crime...
Ironically Jesse's father was a Baptist preacher, but he did not have much if any influence on Jesse considering that his mother married three times. Jesse's childhood abruptly ended when he was 14 years old. During this time, Civil War had broken out, dividing the United States into two parts. Not wanting to be left out, Jesse joined a Confederate regiment led by Lieutenant Bloody Bill Anderson.
Unlike most other confederate regiments, Bloody Bill Anderson's regiment would 'use small gang hit-and-run attacks' and raid mostly northern cities in Kansas and Missouri (Bruns 35). James rode with Anderson until he was wounded and sent home in 1865. After Jesse's recovery, he and his brother Frank began to work on their family farm. As time wore on however, the James boys grew tired of this and living under the control of 'Yankees'. Thus, Jesse James, along with Frank, his cousins Bob, Cole, and Jim Younger, and about seven other ex-confederate soldiers, turned to crime. The 'James' gang committed their first robbery on a cold February day in 1866.
The gang masqueraded in Union Army issued uniforms and entered the bank in Liberty, Missouri. Minutes later, shots were fired and the gang left town with over $60, 000 in currency, government bonds, gold, and silver. From this time to 1872, the James Gang terrorized a number of different banks in the Mid-west. The locations of these banks include Richmond, Savannah, Lexington, Galli ton (Missouri), Russellville, Columbia (Kentucky), and Corydon (Iowa).
In September of 1872, the gang even robbed a ticket office at the Kansas City Fair, in broad daylight. In 1873, the James Gang 'extended it's repertoire' to trains (Bruns 35). Their first train robbery took place near Adair, Iowa. Here, the gang loosened a railroad tie and attached a rope to the end. When the train approached the tie, the gang pulled on the rope and the steam engine landed on its side. Here, the bandits made off with the express company safe and valuables from the passengers.
After this robbery, the gang robbed banks and trains in Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa, and even Texas. Many lawmen tried to bring the James gang to Justice, but they all failed. A Kansas City times newspaper article wrote 'They know every foot-path and by-road... they are cool, determined, desperate men, well mounted and well armed, (Bruns 34).