Jesse Woodson James (American National Biography)

Paul G. Kooistra, "James, Jesse," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Raised in a rural Missouri county by slave-owning parents, Jesse James grew up experiencing at close hand the violent conflicts between antislavery elements in nearby Kansas and proslavery groups in Missouri before the outbreak of the Civil War. The Civil War intensified these conflicts, as the region experienced numerous atrocities carried out by rival guerrilla bands. After his parents were abused by Union soldiers and his mother imprisoned, James at seventeen joined his brother Frank James and several future criminal associates in "Bloody Bill" Anderson's Confederate guerrilla outfit and participated in several battles, earning a reputation for courage and skill.

What happened to Jesse James immediately following the war is uncertain. Widely accepted is the story that he was shot and left for dead when he surrendered to Union troops, giving rise to the belief that he became an outlaw because he was not granted amnesty. Many Confederate guerrillas, some more infamous at the time than James, did make the postwar transition to law-abiding citizen, making the tale seem more a convenient fiction than a historical fact.
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