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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: Jesse Woodson James

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Jesse Woodson James

In my twenty-one years as a Baptist preacher, I have participated in more funerals than I can imagine. I have officiated at funerals of close personal friends, relatives and also for total strangers. I have spoken at funerals with capacity crowds and also when no one was present but the immediate family. I have even had funerals of notoriety such as well known cases of murder.

But in 1990,1 accepted a position as Chaplain for the Military Order of the Stars and Bars: a historical, hereditary society for the descendants of the Confederate Officer Corps. I am a member on account of my ancestor Captain Solomon Smith Clayton of the 9th Alabama Cavalry who rode with Fighting Joe Wheeler. Other members of the MOS&B include U.S. Senator Trent Lott and General William Westmoreland. Little did I know where this would lead me. I expected to write a few letters of bereavement and speak at a memorial or two.

I never expected the thrill I received in 1994 to be invited to speak at the rebuiial of Ensign Simeon Cummings of the CSS Alabama. Ensign Cummings was originally buried on a farm in South Africa. His remains were transferred to the Headquarters of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Elm Springs, Columbia, Tennessee. Approximately a thousand people were there as well as national news. This was truly a Dixie Day.

And then in 1995, Attorney Robert L. Hawkins of Jefferson City, Missouri called me to ask if I would participate in the reburial of a Confederate private from Missouri. That private's name was Jesse Woodson James.

Jesse James is known as probably America's best known outlaw. Yet, I counted it a great honor, yea, the honor of a lifetime to be part of a gathering in honor of Jesse James. Why would I honor Jesse James?

Please allow me to give you three reasons why I admire Jesse James:

I Jesse James the Confederate

Jesse James grew up in Kearney, Missouri just north of Kansas City near the Kansas border. Major John Newman Edwards, a Confederate and journalist after the War, declared " the border was aflame with steel and fire and ambuscade and slaughter. For the Southern men in the border area, the War effort was strictly a war of retaliation."

In September 1861, Jim Lane with a band of Kansas Jayhawkers ruthlessly burned the town of Osceola in St. Clair County. Later in the year, the Union commander in Northeast Missouri took ten Confederate prisoners at random and had them shot because a Union sympathizer named Andrew Allsman had disappeared without a trace. On

December 17, 1861 the St Louis Democrat stated that the Union military leadership was no longer taking prisoners in Missouri.

At the outset of the War, Jesse's older brother, Alexander Frank James enlisted with The Confederacy. He did so over his mother's objections. Frank was determined to fight for Missouri in their struggle for independence. The Kansas Jayhawkers had raided into Missouri and done terrible damage. The peace loving people of western Missouri had been the recipient of the hate of John Brown's movement to murder and pillage all in the name of God. To understand these border wets, you would do well to read The Secret Six by Otto Scott. Families were not coming to Kansas to settle in great numbers. Rather, men with weapons were funded by the New England abolitionists. Even religionists like Charles G. Finney raised money to fund weaponry for the Kansans.

Jesse wanted to join and even sought to enlist. General Sterling Price personally refused the young, baby faced Jesse James saying "we are not yet recruiting babies."

By age nineteen, Frank was an accomplished soldier. He had displayed great bravery in battle. Whether a regular or irregular soldier, Frank James considered himself a Confederate soldier. He distinguished himself in battle at Wilson's Creek where General Sterling Price led his men to a victory, at great cost to our troops. As Price's stoops went on to Kentucky, many of his men demitted to maintain the fight in Missouri. Hence, Frank ended up with Quantrell's raiders. Quanttell is known for his bloody tactics in guerrilla warfare. What you don't often hear is that Quantrell had been ambushed in 1859 by a Kansas Jayhawker who had killed Quantrell's brother and left Quantrell for dead. Quantrell swore vengeance on the Jayhawkers.

When Quantrell began his operation there was not an organized Southern resistance in the area. The first organization was put together by Quantrell in January, 1862 with seven men. That month Captain William Gregg brought thirteen men to give Quantrell's company a total of twenty men. They had many fights and took many prisoners, but always paroled them. At Little Santa Fe, Quantrell and his band were surrounded in a house that was set on fire and they fought h@eir-w-ay but of the house, one man beinwounded and captured. Shortly afterward, Quantrell captured a Federal Lieutenant. Quantrell made an offer to the Federal Commander to exchange the lieutenant for the captured member of Quantrell's band. The Federal Commander refused to discuss the exchange. Quantrell then unconditionally released the lieutenant who asked for the release of Quantrell's man. The Federal commander promptly had the prisoner shot.

On the night of 20 March 1862 Quantrell and sixty men camped on Blackwater, four miles from California, Mo. The next morning, Quantrell obtained a copy of the St. Louis Republican, which contained a copy of General Halleck's proclamation outlawing all bands of partisan rangers and ordering Federal officers not to take them prisoners but to kill them under all circumstances. The next morning, Quantrell called his men together to read them the proclamation. He told them it meant the black flag and gave every man who could not stand that kind of warfare permission to retire and return to his home. After a short time of consideration, about twenty of them left. The black flag of Quantrell was forced on these men who fought for a free Missouri.

The capture and sacking of Lawrence Kansas was in retaliation for the sacking and burning of Osceola by Jim Lane and his men a year earlier. The fight at Centralia was in retaliation for one of Anderson's sisters and the crippling for life of another by undermining and throwing down a house in Kansas City in which Southern women were confined.

Remember, that Missouri was isolated and cut off from the rest of the Confederacy. There was a Federal garrison in nearly every town and at nearly every crossroads. Any resistance was answered by repression, banishment, the destruction of property and death. The law and the rights of the people were trampled underfoot by the occupying military power. Arson, rape, murder and theft were standard operation by the Federal forces. The only defense the Missouri patriots had was the guerilla fighters like Quantrell and Bill Anderson who paid back the Federals for the insults and wrongs suffered by the people of Missouri.

In the Spring of 1863, the James farm was visited by Captain Culver of the Union Army. Robert James, father of Jesse and Frank, was dead by then and their mother Zerelda Cole James had married a medical practitioner, Dr Robert Samuels. Captain Culver crept up on Dr Samuels, grabbed him and placed a gun to his head and said, "Where is Frank James? I know you are all slave lovers and you are hiding him somewhere." A noose was placed around the neck of Dr Samuels and he was left suspended in the air. Later, Samuels was taken barely conscious and dragged into the bam. A Union soldier went in and roughed up Zerelda who was expecting a baby at the time. The ruffians then took the suffering Dr Samuels to jail as well as Mrs James and the three smaller children.

Being a young, brash man that he was, Jesse went to the jail and told them that Quantrell had promised to kill a Union soldier a day until the family was released. The Federals promptly released the family. Jesse then went to Quantrell and informed him of the ruse. Needless to say, Quantrell was pleased.

Young Jesse was determined to join the guerilla band. But his older brother Frank convinced him that he was more needed at home. This went on for a time, but later on, young Jesse James went to Bloody Bill Anderson and requested that he be allowed to enlist. Anderson assigned his request to Lt. Fletch Taylor who said, "Well, I guess it's my turn to babysit. But one problem and you're out."

Aside note is due on "Bloody" Bill Anderson. This was a man who lived to kill Yankees. FEs scarf had 54 knots in it, symbolic of the number of Yankees he had killed. Whenever "Bloody" Bill Anderson would kill, he would scream "I'm here for revenge and I've got it."

Between 4 August and 21 September 1864 Jesse James participated in eight battles between the guerrilla forces and the Yankees. In one raid, Jesse was shot through the lung. His Lieutenant knew of a Southern sympathizing doctor in the area who treated him and saved Jesse's life.

After he healed from the wound, Jesse participated in Anderson's raid of Centralia, Missouri, a town known for support of the Federal cause. Anderson's men found twentytwo Federal soldiers debarking from a train and ceremoniously executed each one. At that point a contingent of three hundred Union soldiers came marching from behind the men. They began to ride away when the Union commander shouted, "We are ready. Come on, you damned cowards!"

With that challenge, Jesse rode into the Union forces and shot the Union commander in the brain and killed him instantly. A terrible battle ensued with the "cowards" attacking the Federals. And when the battle ended 282 of the 300 Federal troops were killed with only four of the guerrillas killed.

Shortly after this experience, Anderson was killed and the Federals buried him with a sign "Bloody Bill Anderson: Let this be a warning to the guerrillas that this is how they will end up if they do not surrender." Federal oppression continued as the Yankee Army issued Order Number I I that decreed that all residents of Clay, Jackson, Cass, Bates and Vernon Counties-whether Union or Confederate-were to abandon farm and stock, sell nothing and betake themselves to fortifications within the jurisdiction of the Union Army. All who disobeyed the order were outlawed or imprisoned.

Order Number I I turned a once prosperous looking countryside into a scorched and dried piece of bare earth. Eyewitness reports tell of babes in the mothers' arms, wagon wheels creaking dismally and children crying as these citizens left their homes as fugitives. This order demoralized the guerrillas so that the guerilla forces split into two groups. Quantrell led a group, including Frank James to Kentucky where they fought until the War's end. Jesse did not want to go with Quantrell, as Quantrell had initially rejected him. Hence,_ Jesse went with another,Missouri faction who joined a. Texas unit and remained with them until the end of the War.

As the War ended, Jesse went with a group of twenty-eight from his unit to discuss terms of surrender. The company commander for the Missouri men was Archie Clements, a short fiery man. Clements did not want to surrender without agreement that the reconstructed state government would not give them a pardon of any supposed war crimes. The Drake Constitution of Missouri did not allow pardons for Confederates. So the men, under Arch Clements left and pledged to consider the terms of surrender and return in a week if they chose to surrender. As the men departed, a Wisconsin unit charged and opened fire. Five Federals pursued Jesse James. He was cornered by two men who decided not to risk a gun battle with Jesse. Having been hit, Jesse passed out in his flight as he went through a cornfield. The farmer was a Southern sympathizer who

helped Jesse get to a Mr Bowman who knew him. Having healed, he found his way to his family in Nebraska where they had fled, having been banished by Order Number 1 1.

As Jesse was reunited with his family, he finally saw his brother Frank. He found out that Frank had surrendered, giving the Oath of Allegiance only to have Federal forces arrest him on a trumped up charge of horse thievery as he sought to return home.

Now consider the situation:

* His family had been harassed to the point of losing their homes by Federal forces.

* He had known harassment when supposedly the war was over.

* His brother had been arrested, when again, the war was supposed to be over.

* I-Es entire home region was gone.

Would you think the War was over? Jesse James was a Confederate and a true believer in the Cause of the Southland. He truly opposed the tyranny of the Yankee government. In a letter written late in life, Jesse James discussed his plight and talked about the good men that he fought with for the Southern Cause. He said (and I read this at his funeral) "Some of us are still fighting the War."

After Jesse was killed, Frank met with the Governor of Missouri and surrendered. When Frank handed over his gun he told Governor Crittenden that no one else had touched that gun since 1861. Crittenden exclaimed "1861?" You see, Frank James never quit being a Confederate.

Remember, that the largest crime of the James boys was in Northfield, Minn as the James gang robbed the bank which belonged to Yankee General Benjamin "Beast" Butler of the New Orleans siege fame. Butler was so cruel that he allowed women who resisted the Union soldiers to be considered as prostitutes. This Order Number 28 was hailed by the British press as a "right to rape" order. Confederate Veterans, molded in their thinking by men like Anderson and Quantrell, brought Southern vengeance on Butler.

While in North Alabama, the James boys were arrested on a robbery charge. Remember they only robbed Federal banks and railroads. Stories are numerous of old veterans having being given money by Jesse and Frank to buy back land from Federal banks, banks which had been robbed by the James boys.

But in North Alabama, Frank James secured the services of Confederate Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker as the attorney for the defense. Walker made a closing argument-not on the innocence of the Frank James-- but on the horrors of the War and Reconstruction. The jury full of old Confederate veterans certainly acquitted Frank James.

Was Jesse still fighting the War? We know the Yankees were still fighting with Jesse as they hired Lincoln's secret service man, Allan Pinkerton to try to apprehend Jesse James.

In his flight, he used the name of Thomas J. Howard in honor of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. While staying in Mt. Willing, Lowndes County, Alabama for a

month to recuperate from a gunshot wound, he used the name T. J. Jackson. The Southern people loved the James boys. They considered them freedom fighters. That is why the Federals knew they must not take Jesse alive as a Southern jury would never have convicted Jesse and Frank. Even today, many Southerners boast of a family connection to the James family.

Ibelieve that Jesse James could have proudly sung "I'm a good ole' Rebel and that's just what I am, for this fair land of freedom, I do not care a well, you know the song.

II. Jesse James the Celtic Warrior

Jesse's great grandfather William James was bom in Wales and settled in Virginia, having found the Pennsylvania area not suited for him. The James family spread across the South and the descendants of William James settled all across the upper South. Jesse had many cousins in South Central Tennessee, in Virginia and in Kentucky.

Jesse James was of Celtic stock. His background was that of a true Southerner. His father came to Missouri in the gold rush of 1848. He did not come, however, for gold. He came for God. Robert James was a well educated Baptist minister with a Master's Degree in Theology from Georgetown College in Kentucky.

But not only did Jesse have Celtic ancestry but Jesse had Celtic attitudes. He refused to run in a fight. He never turned his back in battle. Jesse understood that he had to fight each time for his life, else his life would be lost. Fighting for gain would not have motivated Jesse James. Fighting for a cause was something he would give his life for.

Jesse James knew the value of teamwork. He fought with compatriots and fought to the bitter end. Jesse James understood the principle of righteous retribution.

Jesse James was cut from the same piece of humanity as William Wallace and Nathan Bedford Foffest. He was a true Celtic warrior.

111. Jesse James the Christian

On two prior occasions before this audience, I have dealt with the issue of the religion of Abraham Lincoln. Normally, discussions of this type can be offensive.

In discussing Jesse James' Christianity, people are shocked. They cannot believe that a man who robbed banks and killed people in revenge could ever know a place in Heaven.

Excuse me, but think about that the next time you drop a dollar into the offering plate at your liberal church where money goes to the World Council of Churches that has funded militant, Marxists in third world countries.

Think about that the next time you stand in church and sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" with it's glorying in the looting and murdering of Southerners and attributing that as a move of God. Thank about that the next time your preacher praises the greatest tyrant and murderer in the history of the American people-Abe Lincoln.

When you pledge to a flag representing "one nation ... indivisible", remember that it is your ancestors blood on a bayonet that made it "indivisible".

Jesse James professed Christ at an early age. He was a member of what is now the First Baptist Church of Kearney, Missouri - a. church founded by his father, Robert James. Jesse's favorite song was "What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Ihave a letter written to me by Jesse's great grandson, retired Judge James R. Ross from California. Judge Ross said, "Jesse was not kicked out of the Baptist Church. I have a copy of the original minutes of the church meeting. Instead he voluntarily withdrew because the Drake Constitution of Missouri. He remained a Christian and a Baptist until his death."

In a letter written shortly before his death, Jesse said, "Only God knows our hearts."

In 1995, Dr. James Starrs of Georgetown University of Washington, DC asked that forensic tests be done to determine the true identity of Jesse James. This was necessary because since Jesse's murder by federal informant Bob Ford in 1882, there had been rumors that Jesse faked his death and actually attended his own funeral and even sang in the choir.

J. Frank Dalton lived on until 1950 in a cave near St Louis claiming to be the real Jesse James. Claims were made for a Jacob Geralt in southern Missouri that he was the true Jesse James. A man was buried in Texas, actually using the name of Jesse James. The family never recognized any of these claims. But strong cases were often made by some of the claimants. One mar. professed to be Jesse James and his wife Zerelda (same name as his mother) had him try on a pair of Jesse's shoes. They did not fit as Jesse had very small feet.

So the James descendants agreed to exhume the body and do DNA testing. On 18 July 1995 the body was exhumed. The testing was done and the experts agreed that the Jesse James killed in 1882 is the true Jesse James.

So, the Missouri SCV took the responsibility of burying Jesse James. They sought a place for the funeral service. They were rejected by Kearney First Baptist Church, which was founded by Jesse's father and where Jesse had been a member. William Jewell College in nearby Liberty agreed to hold the funeral in Gano Chapel. Jesse's father had helped found the College. They agreed, but then made demands that no Confederate flag be displayed. Even the Missouri Confederate flag, a flag with a Cross and a blue field

was rejected because it was a symbol of the Confederacy. The family and the SCV refused to compromise and the arrangements were canceled the week of the funeral. This same college recently had a movement to allow a homosexual club on campus. A faculty member of the College was offering to sponsor the club and participated in a debate in favor of the homosexual lifestyle in a campus forum.

At the last minute the Knights of Columbus invited the SCV to use the facilities and even fed the funeral party. Six hundred people from 29 states filled the auditorium. Reenactors were there in full regalia. The Sons of Confederate Veterans handled the service and the details through the Fry Funeral Home in Kearney. Jesse James was honored as a Confederate veteran and buried, hopefully permanently, at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

No, I don't agree with his post war tactics, just as I don't agree with vigilante @-actics now. I do not defend Jesse James any more than I defend Carrie Nations for wielding an ax in her anti-saloon crusade or Father Markley who went into an abortion clinic and destroyed a vacuum used in abortions or the young man from my high school who was converted and went to a shop selling child pornography and broke out a window in protest. No, I can'tjustify these actions.

But these individuals at least cared enough to do something. They were willing to challenge a great evil and stake their reputation in opposition to great evil.

And just as the saloons were evil and the child pornography and abortions even so, Reconstruction and the horrors perpetuated were an evil fruit from the tree of tyranny and centralized government.

Ionly pray that my son and daughter will have the conviction of a Jesse James. And as time rolls on, may the courage of Jesse James once again stir in the hearts of Southern people.

Deo Vindice

Rev John H Killian
Chaplain, Alabama Division
Sons of Confederate Veterans

Jesse Woodson James
Photos From 1995 Interment


Blogger Unknown said...

My ancestor's came from Lowndes Co. Al The story I got was Frank and Jesse were pretending to be cattle brokers. They had fine horses and saddles and had S&W Russian break barrel mdl. pistols. They taught the local youngsters how to shoot them and the local grown-ups became auspicious of them. The locals however would never turn in ex-Confederates. My ancestor was a partisan ranger and Lowndes County people were hard-core Rebels. Even today unless they know your own ancestry they won't tell you much. They would not tell my older brother from Atlanta where the grave yard was located. I scratched a farmers dog behind the ear told him my lineage and that G Granddaddy rode with Moses Hannon and they were happy to oblige me.

4:49 PM  

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