Poor Jesse. The son of a Baptist preacher who comes of age in the midst of war and terrorism. He is shaped by both. A boy who does not swear but whose blood runs cold with thoughts of those who have wronged his family. He is one of the most famous people of the 19th century and beyond. So much has been written of Jesse's short life; he is the subject of books, films, numerous television plots. His fame is so enduring that we forget what a sad life he had.
When the Civil War ended, it did not end for the Jameses or a lot of other families. Frank James, in an 1894, explained why they kept fighting:
They wouldn't let us quit! It was after the war was over that the Pinkertons threw a hand grenade in my mother's house one night, killing my 7-year-old brother and tearing my mother's right arm from her shoulder. There is two sides to this quitting question.
Indeed, Jesse had planned to surrender and as he was riding into town to do so, he was shot.
Jesse's life was one chain of violent events after another, some his doing, some not. He was not able to live the life of the simple farmer he was raised to be, and probably would have been, at any other time in history. He had no normal time with his wife or children, no time, no place where he was safe. The war had warped his time and it had warped him.
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