The Life and Trial of Frank James

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But shot-guns lost their novelty after awhile, and they yearned for pistols. They had read or heard of the skill of the adventurers away out on the borders, and they dreamed of rivaling them some day. At last by dint of self-denial and persistent saving, Frank and Jesse were made glad by an opportunity which was offered to procure pistols, on the occasion of a visit to St.

Joseph, which they were permitted to make in company with Dr. We may safely conclude that the pistols were not of the pattern which the outlaws of the present day most esteem. But they had pistols, and the neighbors in the vicinity of the Samuels' residence very speedily became painfully aware of the fact, by the perpetual reports of their weapons while they were out "at practice," which was nearly every hour of daylight. This constant practice gave them proficiency in the use of such weapons, and long before they had arrived at manhood's estate they were masters of the art of pistol shooting.

They became noted throughout the neighborhood for their skill. So accurate had become their aim that they would measure a distance of fifteen paces from a tree standing in an open space, and commence 23 24 walking around it, firing glancing shots as they walked, and so continuing until they had completely girdled the tree. Later in life they acquired such skill that they would ride at a full gallop around a circle, with a tree in its center, at a distance of seventy-five paces, firing as they rode, and entirely girdle the tree with revolver bullets, never losing a single shot.

Thus Frank and Jesse had become masters of an art which rendered them dangerous foes when the days of turmoil came. So the years passed away, and the lads had already grown to be tall and shapely, when the tocsin of civil war rang throughout the land.

They were not then old enough to enter at once upon the duties incumbent upon soldiers. But they were growing apace, and the days of strife and bloodshed were not destined to pass away ere they grew strong enough to ride with the strongest, and bold enough to face danger with the most daring. We may well suppose that all their dreams at that momentous period were of war, bloodshed, and all the concomitant horrors of warfare.

The shadow of Destiny had fallen athwart their pathway when the first gun was fired—the pandemonium of passion, still dormant in their breasts, was ready to be kindled in all its baleful fury. At last the war-cloud, which had been hovering for months over our fair land, burst with a fury that was appalling. Cheeks were blanched and hearts were made tremulous in agony. Missouri was destined to realize a season of despair, such as has fallen upon few people in modern times. It was neighbor against neighbor, kinsman against kinsman, brother against brother, and vengeful hate burning up all that was merciful and good in human nature.

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The night of woe had descended. The appearance of the renowned Guerrilla chieftain, Quantrell, on the border; the stories which were circulated concerning his achievements; the feverish state of the public mind, and the circumstances in which the people of this State were involved, all contributed to exert a large influence over the minds of the youths and young men just coming upon the stage of life in the Western counties.

Cole Younger, who had not then been regarded as "a wild lad," equally with Frank James, who had been so regarded, was attracted to the 26 standard of the daring Guerrilla. In the vortex of passion which whirled through the land, all principles, love, justice, mercy and hope were swallowed up.

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Men were transformed by the baleful influence. Previous to the departure of Frank James for Quantrell's camp, there is no evidence that Dr. Samuels had been mistreated or in any way insulted by the Federal militia.

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The Samuels family were intensely attached to the Southern cause, and the very appearance of soldiers in the blue uniform of the United States was not a little galling to the sectional pride and native passion of Mrs. Samuels, who did not hesitate at any time to abuse the cause which they represented. In this pleasant pastime she was always emphatic and unamiable in expression. It was early in that Frank James bid adieu to all peaceful pursuits, and rode away in the dim twilight hour to seek the camp of the Guerrilla Chieftain.

He had made a start toward becoming an outlaw. It was in the spring-time. Frank was away with Quantrell's reckless band, and Jesse, who had attained the age of sixteen years, was ploughing in a field on the Samuels estate, near Kearney, when on a bright day a band of Federal militia approached the homestead. They first encountered Dr.

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Samuels, and him they laid violent hands upon, bore him away to a convenient tree, adjusted a rope about his neck and hanged him to a projecting branch until life was almost extinct, and so they left him for others 27 to relieve. Not content with this exhibition of prowess, the valiant warriors proceeded to the field where Jesse followed his plough, and laid hold upon him, and placed a rope around his neck and told him his hour had come, and while they tormented him in this manner, some of them pricked his body with their bayonet-points or their sabres. The reason assigned by the militiamen for this exhibition of violence, was that Jesse James was accustomed to ride fast and far when the shades of night fell upon the earth, to convey intelligence to the Guerrilla Chieftain of the movements of the militia.

When they had chastised him, and warned him that if he rode any more to carry the news they would kill him, they let him go his way. But Jesse James was not to be intimidated. He rode again and again to the hidden camp. His bad passions were aroused. The boy had become a savage. That same week the militia made a descent upon the farm-house of Dr. Samuels, and finding Mrs. Samuels and her daughter, Miss Susie James, at home, they were placed under arrest and conveyed to the jail at St.

Joseph, at that time a place reeking in filth, where they were detained for a number of weeks, all the while subjected to the coarse jests and cruel jeers of the unfeeling guards. This last act on the part of the Federal militia determined the future course of Jesse James. While his mother and sister languished in jail, Jesse mounted a horse, fleet of foot, and rode away, nor did he stop until he 28 drew rein in Quantrell's camp.

At this time he was described as not yet sixteen years of age, with a smooth, handsome face, with deep blue eyes, and a complexion as soft, as delicate and fair as a school girl's. But even then the bright blue eyes were never at rest, and about the mouth were the lines of strong determination, and a certain expression of countenance that indicated cool courage.

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He, perhaps, had the susceptibility of being merciful, but his mercy was a mere whim—a passing fancy and not a quality. Frank and Jesse had both entered upon their career—a course in life destined to blight all that was noble, or susceptible of becoming noble and grand in character. The old life, with all its promise, and all its dreams and hopes, was past.

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Frank James' life and freedom were in considerable peril during as too many people who knew him, his habits, and connections, had been compromised. Alexander Franklin "Frank" James (January 10, – February 18, ) was a Confederate . In the last thirty years of his life, James worked a variety of jobs, including as a James-Younger Gang: Frank James Trial; ^ Craig, Berry ().

Henceforth a new life, fraught with danger and sufferings, and crimes which should make their very names a terror, was to animate them. The hard lines were drawn, and the men who might have served well the interests of a peaceful society, had more favorable circumstances surrounded them, cast loose all the restraints of civilized life, and in a day, as it were, returned to that condition of savage existence from which the race had been raised by ages of struggle. They were not long in proving to their comrades that they were worthy to be numbered among their desperate ranks.

Their efficiency as daring and dangerous partisans was soon made manifest. The presence of armed men wearing the blue uniform of the Federal army in the counties of Platte, Clinton and Clay, Missouri, was commingled gall and worm-wood to the souls of that portion of the population which was devoted to the Southern cause. These constituted probably more than two-thirds of the inhabitants. The passions of the people on both sides were at a white heat. Neighbor was contending with neighbor, and friends were ready to strike down the friends who opposed, and old associates divided by politics, had become the bitterest of foes.

Anarchy prevailed. Society was rent into fragments and the law of hate was triumphant. Frank and Jesse James were with Quantrell's band, and were selected to go on an expedition with a scout under Captain Scott, to the north side of the Missouri river. The town of Richfield was garrisoned by a company of some thirty men under command of a Captain Sessions, of the Federal State militia.


Scott's command consisted of only twelve. Yet with this feeble force he determined to attack Richfield.

Frank James was one of the men 30 appointed to lead the attacking party. A desperate fight ensued. Captain Sessions and Lieut. Graffenstien, of the Federal garrison, were killed at the first fire. The Guerrillas gained a complete triumph. Ten of the militiamen were killed, while Scott did not lose a man.

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The survivors of the fray surrendered to the partisan, Captain Scott, and he paroled them. After the morning fight, Scott moved about twenty miles that day to the house of one Pat McGinnis, in Clay county.

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It was made the duty of Frank James to scout through the country that night, and he rode away from the camp of the partisan in the black night—rode straightway to the home of his mother. That lady was at home. She had been collecting information for the use of the Guerrillas, and was pleased to see her son.

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To him she opened her budget of intelligence. The movement of Scott on Richfield had startled the Federal militia. The small bands were rapidly concentrating, and were strengthening their position every day. Plattsburg, the county seat of Clinton, had been stripped of its garrison, which had been sent out to hunt for the bold raiders, and was at that very time defenseless. Such was the character of the information gathered by Mrs. Samuels, and imparted to her son, who, in company with a comrade, Mr. Fletcher Taylor, rode hastily back to Scott's camp to report the character of the information which he had gained.

On receiving the information, Scott resolved to 31 make an attempt upon Plattsburg. During the succeeding day it was ascertained that Captain Rodgers had left Plattsburg to make an effort to discover and capture Scott, taking with him most of the garrison. In the first watch of the second night after the affair at Richfield, Scott's little band silently deserted 32 their camp and rode rapidly toward Plattsburg.

Two o'clock in the morning found them within four miles of that place, on Smith's fork of Grand river. Here they halted and slept until daylight. They were in a deep forest, and quite secure from observation. Until three o'clock in the evening they remained quiet, feeding their horses and resting. Then the scouts brought intelligence concerning the situation at the town, and the Guerrillas, mounting, set out to capture it.

There were a few men left as a guard at the Court-house, under the command of a Lieutenant.