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Cole Younger

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Cole Younger
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Author(s): Cole Younger
Date Published: 2009/12
Page Count: 136
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-889-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-890-2

Riding for a cause—riding with outlaws

The Civil War between the states in many ways created the outlaws of the 'Wild West' of myth and legend. Cole Younger and his brothers and the perhaps more infamous Jesse and Frank James may have won lasting notoriety on the 'wrong side of the law,' but they learned their craft during the war. Cole Younger was born on 'the dark and bloody ground'—the political hotspot that was the Missouri and Kansas border. Related to 'Lighthorse Harry' Lee, the Younger's were avowed supporters of the Confederacy and the outbreak of war was but a continuation of hostilities dating back to 1855. It seemed natural, perhaps, that he should join Quantrell's guerrilla band and that he should have taken part in the notorious Lawrence Raid. Younger's Civil War recollections make fascinating reading, as do those of his later exploits culminating in the famous Northfield, Minnesota Raid which cost him his freedom. A riveting book for those interested in the war’s raiders and the life of a famous 'bad man.'

There were a thousand men on our trail, and watching for us at fords and bridges where it was thought we would be apt to go.<br>
That night it started to rain, and we wore out our horses. Friday we moved toward Waterville, and Friday night we camped between Elysian and German lake. Saturday morning we left our horses and started through on foot, hiding that day on an island in a swamp. That night we tramped all night and we spent Sunday about four miles south of Marysburg. Meantime our pursuers were watching for horsemen, not finding our abandoned horses, it seems, until Monday or Tuesday.<br>
Bob’s shattered elbow was requiring frequent attention, and that night we made only nine miles, and Monday, Monday night and Tuesday we spent in a deserted farmhouse close to Mankato. That day a man named Dunning discovered us and we took him prisoner. Some of the boys wanted to kill him, on the theory that dead men tell no tales, while others urged binding him and leaving him in the woods. Finally we administered to him an oath not to betray our whereabouts until we had time to make our escape, and he agreed not to. No sooner, however, was he released than he made post-haste into Mankato to announce our presence, and in a few minutes another posse was looking for us.<br>
Suspecting, however, that he would do so, we were soon on the move, and that night we evaded the guard at the Blue Earth River bridge, and about midnight made our way through Mankato. The whistle on the oil mill blew, and we feared that it was a signal that had been agreed upon to alarm the town in case we were observed, but we were not molested.<br>
Howard and Woods, who had favoured killing Dunning, and who felt we were losing valuable time because of Bob’s wound, left us that night and went west. As we afterward learned, this was an advantage to us as well as to them, for they stole two horses soon after leaving us, and the posse followed the trail of these horses, not knowing that our party had been divided.<br>
Accordingly, we were not pursued, having kept on a course toward Madelia to a farm where I knew there were some good horses, once in possession of which we could get along faster.<br>
We had been living on scant rations, corn, watermelon and other vegetables principally, but in spite of this Bob’s arm was mending somewhat. He had to sleep with it pillowed on my breast, Jim being also crippled with a wound in his shoulder, and we could not get much sleep. The wound in my thigh was troubling me and I had to walk with a cane I cut in the brush. One place we got a chicken and cooked it, only to be interrupted before we could have our feast, having to make a quick dash for cover.<br>
At every stopping place we left marks of blood from our wounds, and could have been easily trailed had not the pursuers been led in the track of our recent companions.<br>
It seems from what I have read since, however, that I had myself left with my landlord at Madelia, Colonel Vought, of the Flanders house, a damaging suggestion which proved the ultimate undoing of our party. I had talked with him about a bridge between two lakes near there, and accordingly when it became known that the robbers had passed Mankato Vought thought of this bridge, and it was guarded by him and others for two nights. When they abandoned the guard, however, he admonished a Norwegian boy named Oscar Suborn to keep close watch there for us, and Thursday morning, Sept. 21, just two weeks after the robbery, Oscar saw us, and fled into town with the alarm.<br>
A party of forty was soon out in search for us, headed by Captain W. W. Murphy, Colonel Vought and Sheriff Glispin. They came up with us as we were fording a small slough, and unable to ford it with their horses, they were delayed somewhat by having to go around it. But they soon after got close enough so that one of them broke my walking stick with a shot. We were in sight of our long-sought horses when they cut us off from the animals, and our last hope was gone. We were at bay on the open prairie, surrounded by a picket line of forty men, some of whom would fight. Not prepared to stand for our last fight against such odds on the open field, we fell back into the Watonwan River bottoms and took refuge in some bushes.<br>
We were prepared to wait as long as they would, but they were not of the waiting kind. At least some of them were not, and soon we heard the captain, who, we afterward learned, was W. W. Murphy, calling for volunteers to go in with him and rout us out. Six stepped to the front, Sheriff Glispin, Colonel T. L. Vought, B. M. Rice, G. A. Bradford, C. A. Pomeroy and S. J. Severson.<br>
Forming in line four paces apart, he ordered them to advance rapidly and concentrate the fire of the whole line the instant the robbers were discovered.<br>
Meanwhile we were planning, too.<br>
“Pitts,” I said, “if you want to go out and surrender, go on.”<br>
“I’ll not go,” he replied, game to the last. “I can die as well as you can.”<br>
“Make for the horses,” I said. “Every man for himself. There is no use stopping to pick up a comrade here, for we can’t get him through the line. Just charge them and make it if we can.”<br>
I got up as the signal for the charge and we fired one volley.<br>
I tried to get my man, and started through, but the next I knew I was lying on the ground, bleeding from my nose and mouth, and Bob was standing up, shouting: “Coward!”