My new book, Civil War Rogues, Rascals, and Rapscallions, is the second in my series, “Civil War Personalities, 50 At a Time.” Here is another sample from the book, which is available, along with all my other books, at
“Few are more deserving of the titles rogue, rascal, and rapscallion than Jesse James. He had no redeeming attributes, and he killed dozens of people for no particular reason. Yet today he is better remembered than many men who fought on the side of the law. He was not, by any stretch of the imagination, an American Robin Hood. He robbed from everyone and gave the proceeds only to himself and his gangs.
Jesse was 17 in 1864 when he and his brother Frank joined bushwhacker William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, whose viciousness rivaled that of William Quantrill, Frank’s former gang leader. All of them were involved in what was called the “Centralia massacre” on September 27. After looting the town, they stopped a train transporting Union veterans and killed and desecrated the bodies of 24 men. They then defeated a following group of Union troops and killed all who tried to surrender. Afterward, Frank and Jesse split for a while, and in April 1865, reportedly while trying to surrender, Jesse was shot and nearly died.
After the war, Jesse continued his “trade” by engaging in a variety of crimes. He became “famous” after an 1869 robbery when he killed a bank cashier. He also allegedly wrote a series of public letters denouncing Reconstruction and vaunting his continued sympathies for the Confederate cause. In the late 19th century he became mythologized in “dime novels” as a symbol of resistance, his many vicious crimes ignored. ”
Below is a picture of the book, with Jesse on the cover (bottom right), and a “production” of Jesse’s life.