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Jesse James and the Civil War in Missouri

Robert L. Dyer

Publication Year: 1994

The Civil War in Missouri was a time of great confusion, violence, and destruction. Although several major battles were fought in the state between Confederate and Union forces, much of the fighting in Missouri was an ugly form of terrorism carried out by loose bands of Missouri guerrillas, by Kansas "Jayhawkers," or by marauding patrols of Union soldiers. This irregular warfare provided a training ground for people like Jesse and Frank James who, after the war, used their newly learned skills to form an outlaw band that ultimately became known all over the world.

Jesse James and the Civil War in Missouri discusses the underlying causes of the Civil War as they relate to Missouri and reveals how the war helped create both the legend and the reality of Jesse James and his gang. Written in an accessible style, this valuable little book will be welcomed by anyone with an interest in the Civil War, the legend of Jesse James, or Missouri history.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

I would like to express my special thanks to the other participants in this project who shared in the reading of this manuscript and in making suggestions to improve it. ...

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Jesse James and Robin Hood

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pp. 1-5

Jesse James is one of the most famous outlaws in American history. Many people think of him as an outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, a hero like Robin Hood. But was Jesse James really a "Robin Hood"? ...

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How the Civil War Came to Missouri

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pp. 6-10

Slavery was not the only cause of the Civil War, but it was one of the main causes. During the eighteenth century more than half a million Africans were brought to America and sold into slavery to work on big farms, called plantations, in the Southern states. ...

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Blood on the Border

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pp. 11-15

The parents of Jesse and Frank James came to Missouri from Kentucky in 1842. The father, Robert James, was a well-educated, soft-spoken Baptist minister. The mother, Zerelda, was a tall, strong woman who was not afraid to speak her mind. ...

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Opening Guns

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pp. 16-22

Missouri's governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, wanted Missouri to join the Southern states when those states began to leave the. Union in early 1861. Other people in the Missouri government wanted to keep Missouri in the Union. A state convention was held in March 1861 to· decide what to do. ...

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The Battle of Wilson's Creek

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pp. 23-26

General Price and Governor Jackson continued to march south after fighting General Sigel at Carthage. They joined forces with the Confederate army from Arkansas under General Ben McCulloch. Price and McCulloch together had about twelve thousand men. They decided to attack the Union troops at Springfield. ...

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The Battle of Lexington

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pp. 27-29

After the victory at Wilson's Creek more men joined General Price's State Guard. He decided to follow up his victory by marching north and trying to win back the towns along the Missouri River. He thought if he was successful he would try to recapture Jefferson City, so he could put Jackson back in control of the state government. ...

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The Battle of Pea Ridge

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pp. 30-31

When General Henry Halleck took command of Union troops west of the Mississippi River, he decided to drive Price out of southern Missouri. He ordered one of the main Union generals under his command, Samuel R. Curtis, to go after Price. Curtis was able to push Price into Arkansas. ...

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Guerrilla War

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pp. 32-35

The word guerrilla is a Spanish word that means a common, everyday citizen who fights to defend his home territory against an invading army. Guerrillas fight in small groups, usually led by someone with a strong personality. These guerrilla bands are not part of a regular army. They move from place to place making surprise attacks on their enemies. ...

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Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence and Order No. 11

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pp. 36-39

In August 1863 Quantrill led one of the bloodiest guerrilla raids of the war against the town of Lawrence, Kansas. This town stood for everything the Missouri guerrillas hated most. It was the home of the brutal Jayhawker Jim Lane, and many other Jayhawkers used the town as their home base. ...

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Jesse James Goes to War

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pp. 40-43

Jesse James turned sixteen in the fall of 1863, and in the spring of 1864 he left home to join the guerrillas. He had been wanting to join his brother Frank and the other guerrillas for over a year, but his mother thought he was too young to go to war. She and her husband, Dr. Samuel, also needed help on the family farm. ...

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The Last Great Rebel Raid in Missouri

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pp. 44-47

General Price's final raid through the state of Missouri began in the fall of 1864 when he marched out of Arkansas with about twelve thousand men. His plan was to attack St. Louis, but along the way he decided to take a small Union army fort known as Fort Davidson near Pilot Knob, Missouri. ...

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The War Ends and the James Gang Is Born

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pp. 48-51

With Price's defeat at Westport in the fall of 1864, the war in Missouri was nearly over. Curtis chased Price south along the Kansas border, driving what was left of his ragged army down into Texas. ...

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The First Bank Robberies (1866–1872)

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pp. 52-55

On the afternoon of February 13, 1866, about a dozen men rode into Liberty, Missouri, and made their way to the Clay County Savings Bank. Two of the men went into the bank, pulled their pistols, and demanded money. When they left they had over $60,000. ...

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Trains and Pinkerton Men (1873–1876)

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pp. 56-60

Less than a year after the Kansas City fairgrounds robbery, the James boys robbed their first train. They were not the first outlaws to rob trains. The Reno gang in Indiana was supposedly the first gang to rob a train. But Jesse and his gang became the most famous train robbers. ...

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The Final Years (1877–1882)

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pp. 61-65

After the disaster at Northfield, Minnesota, most of the gang members were either dead or in jail. Jesse and Frank decided to stay out,of,sight for a while, and they left Missouri. No one is sure where they lived for the next three years, but they were probably living in Tennessee. ...

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The Legend of Jesse James

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pp. 66-71

Jesse James was well on his way to becoming a legend before he was killed. After he was killed he became even more famous. Part of the reason for his fame was related to the emotions stirred up by the American Civil War. The James brothers and the Younger brothers fought on the Southern side as guerrillas during the Civil War. ...

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The Civil War as Living History

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pp. 72-76

The Civil War continues to be of interest. People still have strong feelings about the war and about those who fought in it. From 1986 to 1990 there were many reenactments of Civil War battles in Missouri to mark the 125th anniversary of these battles. ...

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pp. 77-80


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pp. 81-86

E-ISBN-13: 9780826273116
E-ISBN-10: 0826273114
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826209597
Print-ISBN-10: 0826209599

Page Count: 101
Illustrations: 55
Publication Year: 1994

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Missouri -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Underground movements.
  • James, Jesse, 1847-1882.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Underground movements.
  • Guerrillas -- Missouri -- Biography.
  • Outlaws -- West (U.S.) -- Biography.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- West (U.S.).
  • Readers for new literates.
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