It started off as a good day for the people of Corydon. Everyone was at church to hear a speech promoting the railroad coming to town, which everyone knew also meant the coming of prosperity. The speaker was to be the well-renowned orator, Henry Clay Dean.
Coincidentally, a few days ago had seen the arrival of four “cattle buyers” in the Lineville area, so people paid scant attention when those same four men, this time wearing linen dusters, rode into town on the day of the meeting. They happened to come in from the northeast corner of the town square, which just happened to be the location of the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office. The office was full of money from the tax collections that had just finished earlier that week. The lone clerk on duty was approached by one of the men, who asked him to make change for a $100 bill. Because everyone else was at the rally, the ever helpful junior clerk suggested the men go down to the Ocobock Bank, thus unknowingly saving himself a lot of grief all the tax receipts. The man thanked him and they left.
Very slowly and unobtrusively, the four men mounted their horse and rode down the street to the bank, where the lone clerk working there was not as lucky as his colleague in the Tax Office. With drawn guns, the gunmen encouraged the clerk to open the safe and then helped themselves to about $10,000
(which would be $199,738.68 in 2015 dollars)! Because he had a very perverted sense of humor, Jesse led the gang down to the rally and interrupted the speaker with taunts of “You better check the bank!” and “Someone robbed the bank!” The crowd thought it was a just a joke, and several minutes passed before the crowd realized it wasn’t. Eyewitness descriptions of the bandits indicated they were Jesse and Frank James,
Cole Younger and Clell Miller. Townsfolk soon realized the bank had been robbed by the infamous James-Younger Gang. The treasurer’s clerk had given Jesse James directions to the bank! They quickly formed a posse and pursued the bandits into Missouri, but were forced to end their search when the trail became too hard to follow, but it was too late and it is possible that knowing who they were chasing, their hearts may not have been fully in it.
Legend says the gang leader tossed a silver dollar to a 9-year old boy, Amos Sheets, and told him to tell the crowd he had robbed the bank. The famous Pinkerton Agency was hired to follow up on the robbery. Clell Miller was later returned to Corydon to stand trial, but was found innocent because of an alibi placing him elsewhere on June 3.
The James-Younger Gang continued their crimes until their defeat on September 7, 1876 in Northfield, Minnesota.
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William Clarke Quantrill is given the wound that will eventually (June 6) kill him in a barn by soldiers in Bloomfield, Kentucky.
Although it may be hard to believe, given how history remembers him, Quantrill was actually well-educated and even followed in his father’s footsteps, as he become a schoolteacher at the age of six-teen. In 1854, his abusive father died of tuberculosis, leaving the family with a huge financial debt. Quantrill’s mother had to turn her home into a boarding house in order to survive. Quantrill helped support the family by working as a schoolteacher but left home a year later and headed to Mendota, Illinois, where he took a job in the lumberyards, unloading timber from rail cars. One night while working the late shift, he killed a man. He was arrested, but as he claimed self-defense and there were no eyewitnesses and the victim was a stranger in town, William was set free. Despite being cleared, or at least not found guilty, police strongly urged him to leave Mendota. Quantrill continued his career as a teacher, moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana in February 1856. Even though the district was impressed with Quantrill’s teaching abilities, the wages remained meager and he journeyed back home to Canal Dover that fall, with no more money in his pockets than when he had left.
In 1861, William joined a group of brigands who roamed Missouri and Kansas, kidnapping runaway slaves in exchange for reward money. There he met Joel B. Mayes, a Confederate sympathizer and war chief of the Cherokee Nations, in Texas and he joined the Cherokee Nations. This association re-inforced his pro-slavery views, and his group became Confederate ‘bushwhackers’, feared for their guerrilla tactics, which used effective Native American field skills.
They included Jesse James and his brother, Frank. It was Mayes who taught Quantrill guerrilla warfare tactics. He would learn the ambush fighting tactics used by the Native Americans as well as sneak attacks and camouflage.
form his own “Army” of loyal men who believed in him and the Confederate cause. By Christmas of 1861, he had ten men who would follow him full-time into his pro-Confederate guerrilla organization. These men were: William Haller, George Todd, Joseph Gilcrist, Perry Hoy, John Little, James Little, Joseph Baughan, William H. Gregg, James A. Hendricks, and John W. Koger. Later in 1862, John Jarrett, John Brown (not the abolitionist), Cole Younger, as well as William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson and the James brothers joined Quantrill’s army.
The most significant event in Quantrill’s guerrilla career took place on August 21, 1863. Lawrence was the home of James H. Lane, a senator infamous in Missouri for his staunch anti-slavery views and also a leader of the Jayhawkers (actually, just outlaws masquerading as Union soldiers). For years, Lawrence had been seen as the heart of anti-slavery forces in Kansas and as a base of operation for incursions into Missouri by Jayhawkers and pro-Union forces. Just a few weeks prior to the raid, Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr. (who is a foster brother
to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman) had ordered the detention of any civilians giving aid to Quantrill’s Raiders. Several female relatives of the guerrillas had been imprisoned in a makeshift jail in Kansas City, Missouri. On August 14, the building collapsed, killing four young women and seriously injuring others. Among the casualties was Josephine Anderson, sister of one of Quantrill’s key guerrilla allies, “Bloody Bill” Anderson. Another of Anderson’s sisters, Mary, was permanently crippled in the collapse. Quantrill’s men believed the collapse was deliberate, and the event fanned them into a fury.
Early on the morning of August 21, 1863, William rode down on Lawrence, Kansas at the head of a combined force of as many as 450 guerrillas. Senator Lane, who was a prime target of the raid, had managed to escape through a cornfield in his nightshirt, but the guerrillas, on Quantrill’s orders, killed 183 men and boys “old enough to carry a rifle”. Quantrill, known to be armed with several French pinfire revolvers, his weapon of choice, carried out several of the killings personally, dragging many from their homes to execute them before their families. The ages of those killed ranged from as young as 14 all the way up to 90. When Quantrill’s men rode out at 9 a.m., most of Lawrence’s buildings were burning, including all but two businesses.
On August 25, 1863, General Ewing authorized General Order No. 11 (not to be confused with General Ulysses S. Grant’s order of the same name) in retaliation for the raid. The Order called for the depopulation of three and a half Missouri counties along the Kansas border (with the exception of a few designated towns), forcing tens of thousands of civilians to abandon their homes. Union troops marched through behind them, burning buildings, torching planted fields and shooting down livestock to deprive the guerrillas of food, fodder, and support. The area was so thoroughly devastated that it became known thereafter as the “Burnt District”. Quantrill and his men rode south to Texas, where they passed the winter with the Confederate forces.
Almost two years later, on May 10, Quantrill and his band were caught in a Union ambush at Wakefield Farm. Unable to escape on account of a skittish horse, he was shot in the back and paralyzed from the chest down. He was brought by wagon to Louisville, Kentucky and taken to the military prison hospital, located on the north side of Broadway at 10th Street. He died from his wounds on June 6, 1865, at the age of 27.
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