It was the beginning of the end for the James gang. In the past ten years Frank and Jesse James had gone from unknown ex-Confederate guerrillas to the most famous outlaws in the world. A string of daring robberies of banks, trains, and stagecoaches had brought them fame, admiration, hatred, and a surprisingly small amount of wealth. In 1876 they planned their most daring raid yet--to ride hundreds of miles from their home state of Missouri to rob the First National Bank at Northfield, Minnesota. Riding with them were Cole, Bob, and Jim Younger, famous outlaws in their own right and ex-bushwhackers like themselves. Charlie Pitts, Bill Chadwell, and Clell Miller, no strangers to gunfighting and outlawry, rode with them. They hit the bank on 7 September 1876.
At least they tried. The tellers fooled the outlaws into thinking they didn't have a key to the safe, and as half of the gang wasted time inside arguing, the outlaws standing guard outside were attacked by the enraged citizenry. A bloody gunfight ensued on Northfield's town square, and before the smoke cleared Chadwell and Miller lay dead and nearly all of the gang had been wounded. They hurried out of town with a posse hot on their trail. Bob Younger was badly hurt, and when Frank and Jesse James suggested they leave him behind, the Younger brothers nearly drew their guns on them. The two parties went their separate ways. Frank and Jesse James had a running battle with several posses before making it back to Missouri and safety, but the Younger brothers and Pitts made slow progress. They only had stolen plough horses as mounts. A young boy spotted them and called for a posse to chase them. The outlaws got cornered in a growth of trees and after a long shootout in which Pitts was killed, they surrendered and ended up in prison.
This book will tell the story of one of the most daring bank jobs in American history. With most of the gang being former bushwhackers, they used many guerrilla tactics in the planning and execution of the raid, yet failed because of poor discipline and their own fame, which meant that every town in the Midwest had their guns loaded waiting to fight off bandits.
Just before the Northfield job, the James gang robbed the Missouri Pacific No. 4 train in order to get money for horses, equipment, and traveling expenses. Since this was preparation for the raid, it should be included in this book. It will add to the book's appeal because it gives the reader a classic Jesse James train robbery in addition to a bank holdup.
Read an extract of The Last Ride of the James–Younger Gang