Cole Younger's Christmas Gift 1862

Thomas Coleman Younger was one of Quantrill's earliest recruits. Yet, if it was not for a simple twist of fate he may not ever have entered the fray.

His father Colonel Henry Washington Younger, was a known Pro-Union supporter and successful farmer who owned over 3500 acres in Jackson and Cass counties. Additionally Colonel Younger was awarded the postal contract for a large portion of Jackson County Missouri long before the war was declared in 1861.  The left to the left is of Colonel H. W. Younger.                 

During the summer of 1862, Colonel Mockbe hosted a dance in honor of his daughter. Many of his neighbors attended including seventeen year old Cole Younger along with at least one of his sisters.

Missouri State Militia troops under the command of Captain Irvin Walley forced their way on to the scene. When Cole's sister refused Captain Walley, a married man's request for a dance, the enraged Walley confronted Cole demanding him to disclose Quantrill's location. When Cole responded he did not know, Walley called him a liar. Cole responded by striking him which sent the Yankee reeling to the floor. The humiliated Walley drew his pistol. However cooler heads interceded so no blood was spilled that night. Yet, it was the beginning of a series of tragic circumstances which changed destiny of the Younger family as well as history of the State of Missouri. 

After Cole shared what had happened with his Father, the elder Younger urged Cole to stay on the Farm out of site for a while to allow tempers to subside enough so he could enroll in college. Cole wrote in his autobiography “the only school I could reach was the school of war close to home."So, he rode into Quantrill's camp on the Little Blue River, joining the ranks of Quantrill’s Guerrillas, who were playing havoc with detachments of Union troops and Kansas Jayhawkers." (1).

The next day Cole left for the farm. That same night, Walley and some of his men visited the Colonel's home, claiming Cole was a spy while demanding his surrender.

A few weeks later,  after returning home from a business trip to Washington DC concerning his mail contract, Henry Younger found the hordes from Kansas had "jay-hawked" his farm. Included in the items whisked off to Kansas were forty saddle-broke horses, numerous wagons, carriages, and at least $4000.00 in cash.

On July 20, 1862 Henry Washington Younger went to Federal Headquarters in Kansas City to file a official report about the incident. After the Union officials guaranteed his safety, he began the trip back home. About one mile south of Westport, Missouri, Colonel Younger was shot and murdered by Captain Irvin Walley and six of his men.

The malicious boys in blue left his body lying in the road where it fell, they tied his horse to a tree and proceeded to rob the corpse of $500.00. The scoundrels likely hurried away because they heard people approaching, for whatever reason they failed to find Younger's money belt which contains an additional $2200.00.

Mrs. Washington Wells and her son Samuel, (later better known by his alias Charlie Pitts) stumbled upon the gruesome scene finding the  body as they watched the seven Yankee murderers riding away.

Sam galloped off to Kansas City to advise the Federal commanders while his mother bravely stood guard over the body.

Cole Younger did not learn of the murder until the following day. Immediately, he attributed the heinous crime to Union Captain Irvin Walley and six men who had a vendetta against him: (a) Based upon information provided by the Wells, (b). The fact Captain Walley knew his Father carried large sums of money, and most importantly (c) because two of his cousins, on my mother's side, "Charity Kerr and Nannie Harris first came across my Father immediately after the act, then a short distance later they passed Captain Walley with his gang of the Missouri Militia." (2)

Captain Walley, fearing Charity Kerr and Nannie Harris could identify him and his men, had them imprisoned in the house located on Grand Avenue in Kansas City. Approximately one year later after the two women had endured months in that living hell which by then also held Cole's three sisters, the Mother of Frank and Jesse James and numerous others was deliberately undermined until it collapsed upon the female non-combatants confined there. 

That, in turn, led Cole to lead a daring and deadly retaliatory strike which was one of the most daring exploits undertaken by the Missouri Minute Men.

It was a cold snowy Christmas night on December 25th, 1862.  Therefore, no one took much notice of six mounted men who rode down Main Street in Kansas City, Missouri.

After all, from the top of their weather-beaten slouch hats; to the texture of their sky-blue caped overcoats and matching trousers, down to the tips of their government issued brogans, they looked any one of the hundreds of Union soldiers who were lining the streets and saloons.

Yet these six men were very different indeed, because underneath their coats of blue they wore colorful guerrilla shirts close to their rebel hearts, along with four Colt revolvers, locked, loaded and ready for action.

Leading five of his fellow guerrillas hand picked for this assignment was Thomas Coleman (Cole) Younger.  Enjoy this hand-tinted image of Cole.

Cole had come to town to exact Biblical revenge upon the men who had murdered his father. Riding by his side were George Todd, Charles Fletcher Taylor, George Clayton Ab (Albert) Cunningham and Zach Traber. (3).

Selecting a spot close to the saloons facing towards the only road out of town, the squad halted their horses and dismounted. Zach Taber was married, so he selected to take charge of the horses.

Cole explained when he spotted Walley and/or his men, he would give them a countersign, causing them to move into position. Once everyone was in place Cole would say "Let's have a drink to Death of Quantrill and Cole Younger". Then George Todd would reply "Don't forget that cur George Todd," causing all five guerrillas to draw and discharge their weapons.
As the five brothers-in-arms wandered into the first saloon, they were immediately swept into the crowd of drunken blue-bellies,painted ladies trying to separate them from their pay, as well as miscellaneous miscreants, nee-do-wells and bar employees. The mass of humanity ebbed and flowed like a beating heart, while the pianola played assorted minstrel favorites.

Slowly working his way to the bar, Cole questioned the bartender attempting to gain useful information without having to consume the cheap alcohol which might dull his wits.

Eventually the entire room was scanned, it was determined none of the perpetrators were there, so the five masqueraders found there way out of the bar and on to the street, as they made their way towards the next rathskeller.

The ritual was repeated a dozen times, the tension mounting with each unsuccessful search.

As they re-entered the street again the cold air cleared their heads. Everyone was relieved when Cole said; "Well boys, we're down to the final two watering holes, so either way we'll soon be on our way back home soon, stay sharp, be ready. If we falter now, we likely won't make it back home."

As they entered the thirteenth bar it was so sparsely populated they had to move toward the bar.

As Cole was about to order a round of drinks, he saw Fletch Taylor flashing the countersign as Todd whispered in his ear, "Walley and five other murders have been delivered into our hands."

Without turning his head Cole saw the six men were sitting at two tables. He directed Cunningham and Clayton to cover the smaller table, he would take care of Walley and the man to his left, Taylor and Todd handling the other two.

The four Missourians moved into position while Cole grabbed a bottle of rot gut from the bar. As soon as Cole as asked the men to join him in a drink. Walley immediately recognized the voice of his arch nemesis.

Jumping out of his chair, Captain Walley attempted to draw his pistol while sounding the alarm "It's Cole Younger." Almost in unison the guerrillas pistols roared, when the smoke cleared Walley and his co-conspirators were dead. George Todd dispatched the bartender, while Fletch Taylor shot out the lights, as the five faux Yankees continued to fire as they made their way onto the dimly lit street.

Moving as swiftly as possible without running, the guerrillas made their way towards were they had left the horses, when out of the fog, like a spirit, Traber appeared. Mounting their steads and quickly forming into pairs, they quietly headed South towards home while preparing to encounter armed resistance. 

Meanwhile, behind them, the alarm had been sounded and throngs of soldiers were pouring out of the taverns into the street surrounding the Rebels. Chaos was spreading like wildfire which threatened to quickly extinguish all chance of escape.

Old hands at facing danger, the Confederates keep their focus. Somehow they continued to make progress until they found themselves a couple hundred yards from the final hindrance standing between them and the road home.

Cole bought the horses to a slow trot, wished everyone a Merry Christmas, ordering them to be prepared to fire upon his command.

Upon arrival at the check-point the sergeant of the guards request for the counter sign was met with a deadly response from the barrel of twelve revolvers. The small contingent of Yankees were overwhelmed allowing the Missourians to escape to fight another day.

Below is an unknown artist verison of this event entitle: Cole Younger Pays a Debt.                                                                       

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