By Bob Jamison

          When a sixteen year old boy from Missouri decides on a career, you might bet it would include the cute blond next door or next town, or the fanciest mode of transportation. It was neither. In this case James became a terrorist with many notches on his gun. It was the beginning of the American Civil War. His family owned a farm that was successfully operated with many slaves. But it was threatened by the soon to invade powerful union army.

          Not unlike Washington’s rag tag group of guerilla warriors of the American Revolution, the James gang’s prime enemies were in fact, many of his neighbors. Similar was with the loyalist and the British in Boston who were avid foes of the rebels. In James’ time the unionist of Missouri were joining up to hasten the victory for the north. In comparison the Battle of Bunker Hill near Boston under Washington’s command, was a careful bluff that saved many citizens from the vicious bombardment off the hill side rebel emplacements. Upon daylight the sight caused the evacuation of Boston with little bloodshed. But James didn’t see it that way. He wanted to kill the union sympathizers and did.

          He continued to fight the north (or their influence) on the side of the confederacy though not as a soldier, but simply a guerilla warfare expert with a fast gun. Many historians indicated that he never shot a union soldier. With this background and his continued relish to even the score for what he considered union aggressions, he continued after the civil war and became a legendary hero of a questionable award of fame.

          Railroads, national banks and most any other establishments, whether sponsored by the industrialized north or their representatives, James considered the likes of them fair targets. He used the organizational ability of terror and bold banditry and with his war time experiences, showed little regrets or sympathy. Gun play was common, particularly during bank robberies. This was often carried out with well organized planning.

          Modern authors have elaborated on the many misadventures of James and his outlaw friends. Some even allude to his favorite self designed personality as a nineteenth century Robin Hood. Of course, there is evidence that he was kind to those in need with gifts and food. Apparently, this Robin Hood characteristic was propelled with his ill gotten financial gain from robbing and even killing.

          James received national attention for his countless crimes. The Governor of Missouri, T. Crittendon set a fabulous reward of those days in the amount of $l0,000 for James, dead or alive. But another shooting happened between two recent members of James gang, Wood Hite and Dick Liddel. This unique turn of events in the continued drama of terror became almost comical. Each fired many times at each other at close range with little injury other than an arm and a leg. At this point, one of the youngest members of the gang Robert Ford, pulled his gun and shot Dick Hite in the head killing him.

          Ford was arrested and was to be tried for murder. But he asked for a meeting with Governor Crittendon and told him he could arrange a meeting with James and agreed to kill him in exchange for a pardon for killing Hite and of course, collecting the reward.

          So it happened in March l882 that while James was adjusting a tilted picture on the wall, he turned around at the sound of a click of a pistol’s hammer. One shot hit James in the neck killing him on the spot. James, or as most of us remember him, was Jesse James, dead at age 34.