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Jesse James Joins Command
JESSE JAMES, younger brother of Frank James, had now emerged from the awkwardness of youth. He was scarcely thirteen years of age, while Frank was four years older. The war made them Guerrillas. Jesse was at home with his stepfather, Dr. Reuben Samuels, of Clay County. He knew nothing of the strife save the echoes of it now and then as it reached his mother’s isolated farm. One day a company of militia visited this farm, hanged Dr. Samuels to a tree until he was left for dead, and seized upon Jesse, a mere boy in the fields plowing, put a rope about his neck and abused him harshly, pricking him with sabers, and finally threatening him with death should they ever again hear of his giving aid or information to the Guerrillas. That same week his mother and sisters were arrested, carried to St. Joseph and thrown into a filthy prison, where the hardships they endured were dreadful. Often without adequate food, insulted by sentinels who neither understood nor cared to learn the first lesson of a soldier—courtesy to women—cut off from all communication with the world, the sister was brought near to death’s door from a fever which followed the punishment, while the mother—a high spirited and courageous matron—was released only after suffering and emaciation had aged her in her prime. Before Mrs. Samuels returned to her home,132 Jesse had joined Frank in the camp of Quantrell, who had preceded him a few years, and who had already, notwithstanding the briefness of his service, made a name for supreme and conspicuous daring. Jesse James had a face as smooth and innocent as the face of a school girl. The blue eyes, very clear and penetrating, were never at rest. His form, tall and finely moulded—was capable of great effort and great endurance. On his lips there was always a smile, and for every comrade a pleasant word or a compliment. Looking at the small white hands with their long, tapering fingers, it was not then written or recorded that they were to become with a revolver among the quickest and deadliest hands in the West. Frank was four years older, and somewhat taller than Jesse. Jesse’s face was something of an oval; Frank’s was long, wide about the forehead, square and massive about the jaw and chin, and set always in a look of fixed repose. Jesse laughed at many things; Frank laughed not at all. Jesse was light hearted, reckless, devil-may-care; Frank sober, sedate, a splendid man always for ambush or scouting parties.
Scott had to come back from the South and, eager for action, crossed the Missouri River at Sibley May 20, 1863, taking with him twelve men. Frank James and James Little led the advance. Beyond the river thirteen miles, and at the house of Moses McCoy, the Guerrillas camped, concocting a plan whereby the133 Federal garrison at Richfield, numbering thirty, might be got at and worsted.
Captain Sessions was in command at Richfield, and his grave had already been dug. Scott found a friendly citizen named Peter Mahoney who volunteered to do the decoy work. He loaded up a wagon with wood, clothed himself in the roughest and raggedest clothes he had, and rumbled away behind as scrawny and fidgety a yoke of oxen as ever felt a north wind in the winter bite their bones, or deceptive buckeye in the spring swell their body.
“Mr. Mahoney, what is the news?” This was the greeting he got.
“No news, I have wood for sale. Yes, there is some news, too. I like to have forgot. Eight or ten of those Quantrell men are prowling about my way, the infernal scoundrels, and I hope they may be hunted out of the country.”
Mahoney did well, but Scott did better. He secreted his men three miles from Richfield, and near the crossing of a bridge. If an enemy came the bridge was a sentinel—its resounding planks, the explosion of a musket. Scott, with eight men, dismounted and lay close along the road. Gregg, with Fletch Taylor, James Little and Joe Hart, mounted and ready to charge, kept still and expectant fifty yards in the rear in ambush. Presently at the crossing a dull booming was heard, and the Guerrillas knew that Sessions134 had bit at the bait Mahoney offered. A sudden clinking along the line—the eight were in a hurry.
“Be still,” said Scott; “You cock too soon. I had rather have two cool men than ten impatient ones.”
The Federals came right onward; they rode along gaily in front of the ambuscade; they had no skirmishers out and they were doomed. The leading files were abreast of Scott on the right when he ordered a volley, and Sessions, Lieutenant Graffenstein and seven privates fell dead. What was left of the Federal array turned itself into a rout; Gregg, Taylor, Little, and Hart thundered down to the charge. Scott mounted again, and altogether and away at a rush, pursuers and pursued dashed into Richfield. The remnant of the wreck surrendered, and Scott, more merciful than many among whom he soldiered, spared the prisoners and paroled them.
House Occupied by Women Light of Love
Four miles from Independence, and a little back from the road leading to Kansas City, stood a house occupied by several women light of love. Thither regularly went Federal soldiers from the Independence garrison, and the drinking was deep and the orgies shameful. Gregg set a trap to catch a few of the comers and goers. Within the lines of the enemy much circumspection was required to make an envelopment of the house successful. Jesse James was chosen from among the number of volunteers and sent forward to135 reconnoiter............
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