The Story of Cole Younger – 10 A Price on My Head


When Col. Hays went south in the fall to join Shelby, Capt. Jarrette went with as many of his company as were able to travel and the wounded were left with me in Jackson county.

Missouri militia recognized no red cross, and we were unable for that reason to shelter our men in farm-houses, but built dug-outs in the hills, the roofs covered with earth for concealment.

All that winter we lay in the hollows of Jackson county, while the militia sought to locate the improvised hospitals.

It was a winter of battles too numerous to be told here, and it was a winter, too, that laid a price upon my head.

Capt. Quantrell and his men had raided Olathe and Shawnee-town, and among the killed at Paola on the way out from Olathe was a man named Judy, whose father had formerly lived in Cass county, but had gone to Kansas as a refugee. Judy, the father, returned to Cass county after the war as the appointive sheriff.

It was a matter of common knowledge to the guerillas, at least that young Judy had been killed by Dick Maddox and Joe Hall, and that as a matter of fact at the time of the fight I was miles away at Austin, Mo. But Judy had secured my indictment in Kansas on the charge of killing his son, and threatened me with arrest by a posse so that from 1863 to 1903 I was never in Cass county except as a hunted man. Years afterward this killing of Judy turned up to shut me out of Missouri.

Frequent meetings with the militia were unavoidable during the winter and there was fight after fight. Clashes were almost daily, but few of them involved any large number of men.

George Todd and Albert Cunningham, who were also caring for squads of soldiers in our neighborhood, and I made an expedition early in the winter across the Kansas line near New Santa Fe, where our party of 30 met 62 militiamen. Todd led the charge. With a yell and a rush, every man with a revolver in each hand, they gave the militia a volley at a hundred yards, which was returned, but no men could stand in the face of a rush like that and the militia fell back. In their retreat they were reinforced by 150 more and returned to the attack, driving Todd and his comrades before them. With six men I was holding the rear in the timber when a detachment of 52 ran down upon us. It was a desperate fight, and every man in it was wounded more or less. John McDowell’s horse was killed under him and he, wounded, called to me for help.

Packing him up behind me, we returned to our camp in safety.

This was the McDowell who less than three months later betrayed one of our camps to the militia in Independence and brought down upon us a midwinter raid.

Todd had his camp at Red Grenshaw’s, Cunningham was on the Little Blue, and mine was near Martin O. Jones’ farm, eight miles south of Independence.

Todd’s spirit of adventure, with my hope to avenge my father’s murder, combined in a Christmas adventure which has been misrepresented by other writers.

Todd said he knew some of the band who had killed father were in Kansas City, and Christmas day six of us went in to look them up.

Leaving Zach Traber with our horses just beyond the outposts, the rest of us hunted them until it must have been nearly midnight. We were in a saloon on Main street. I had called for a cigar, and glancing around, saw that we had been recognized by a trooper who had been playing cards. He reached for his pistol, but he never pulled it.

I do not know how many were killed that night. They chased us well out of town and there was a fight at the picket post on the Independence road.

Col. Penick, in command at Independence, hearing of the Kansas City adventure, put a price of $1,000 on my head and other figures on those of my comrades.

It was to get this blood money that six weeks later, Feb. 9, the militia drove my mother out of her house and made her burn it before their eyes.

I was a hunted man.

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