Desperado; robbed banks and trains together with his brother Jesse.
Autograph Letter Signed, Ben, one half page, at the conclusion of a five and a half page letter from his friend, Mrs. Sam Gilkey, octavo, Gallatin, Missouri, July 7, . To his wife, Annie James. With original envelope. The name Ben was an alias he used to ensure their privacy should his letter fall into the hands of reporters.
“This letter was handed me at the same time yours was. It was mailed at Independence the 24th of June, rec[eive]d here the 3rd of July. Only 9 days on the road. I think from the tone of this that Mrs. G. feels heartily ashamed in neglecting to answer yours at once. You will forgive her, wont you?”
Frank James wrote this letter while in jail in Gallatin where he was held, awaiting trial for the murder of Frank McMillan, a stone quarry laborer, during the robbery of a Rock Island train at Winston, Missouri in 1881. He had been for six months, until his surrender, a fugitive from justice. In the ensuing trial, the state sought to prove that Frank was seen near the scene of the crime, masquerading under the name of Woodson, and that he had fatally shot McMillan. However, they had to contend with a formidable witness, Confederate General and peerless rebel cavalry leader, Joseph O. Shelby, who was known for his sincerity and earnest convictions, and who maintained a loyalty to any man who had fought under him. The James boys had, at various times, served under William Clarke Quantrille, the notorious guerilla, who had in turn operated under Shelby’s command. The James boys therefore fought and campaigned for Shelby on several occasions. In addition, there was a special reason for his feeling for them. At the Battle of Lonejack, Shelby’s body servant, Billy Hunter, was captured by the Yankees and it was the James boys who recovered him for Shelby. When he was called to the stand, Shelby testified that at the time of the train robbery, he had met Jesse James, Dick Liddil and Bill Ryan at his home, when Jesse told him that Frank was not with them, but was in the South, and that he had not been with the gang for five years. The general’s testimony held tremendous weight with the people and created a sensation, and it was ultimately responsible for Frank James’s acquittal.
This item is associated with these categories in our inventory:
- Western Americana