The day after they burned my mother out of her home they made another trial for the $1,000 reward, and this time they had a better prospect of success, for they had with them the traitor, McDowell, whom I had carried out on my horse in the fight at New Santa Fe a few weeks before. McDowell said he wanted to go home to see his wife and assure her he was all right, but he did not go near her. Instead he hurried into Independence and that evening the militia came out, eighty strong, to take us prisoners. Even they did not trust McDowell, for he, closely guarded, was kept in front.
Forty of them had come within twenty yards of us on the south when my horse warned me, and I called out: “Is that you Todd?”
“Don’t mind us; we’re friends,” came the answer, but I saw they were not, and the lieutenant in command fell at the first fire. The boys swarmed out of the dug-outs, and the fighting was hot.
Retreat to the north was cut off by the other forty and they had us between them. We made for the west, firing as we went, and the soldiers fell right and left. I stayed by Joe Hardin till they dropped him in his tracks, and fought fifteen of the militia while Otho Hinton stopped to get his heavy boots off. Tom Talley, too, had one boot off and one foot stuck in the leg of the other. He could not run and he had no knife to cut the leather. I yanked his boot off and we took to our heels, the militia within 20 yards. Talley’s pistol had filled with snow and he could not fire a shot. But we reached the timber and stood at bay. George Talley was shot dead at this last stand, but when the militia fell back, their dead and wounded numbered seventeen. Nathan Kerr, Geo. Wigginton, Bill Hulse and John McCorkle did well that day.
We were all in our socks, having taken off our overcoats, gloves and heavy boots to lighten our burdens, and the icy road promised to cut our feet to pieces, but we made our way to a rock bridge where a hog trail would hide our tracks, and when we left this trail, I made every one of the boys follow in my footprints, leaving but the one trail till we got to the cedar bluffs. For a stretch of three miles here, these bluffs were practically impassable to horsemen, but we climbed down them and found our way to the home of Mrs. Moore where we were safe again.
The soldiers took back to Independence a pair of gloves marked “Presented to Lieut. Coleman Younger by Miss M. E. Sanders” and they thought Cole Younger was dead for a time. Her brother, Charles Sanders, was one of my company.
Making our way out to Napoleon and Wellington we got new coats and gloves and also located some of the red sheepskin leggings worn by the Red-leg scouts, with which we made a trip over into what was known as “Hell’s corner” on the Missouri, near Independence. Col. Penick’s men, who had in many cases “collected” more horses than they really had use for, had left them with friends at various points. As we went in we spotted as many of these as we thought we could lead out, and took them out with us on our way back.
One of the horses I got on that trip was the meanest horse I ever rode and I named him “Jim Lane” in honor of one of the most efficient raiders that ever disgraced an army uniform. This horse a young woman was keeping for her sweetheart who had left it with her father for safety, as he feared it might be shot. As I mounted the nag, she suddenly grasped the bridle reins. The horse always, I found afterwards, had a trick of rearing up on his hind feet, when he was about to start off. Evidently the young woman was also ignorant of his little habit or else she would never have taken hold of his bridle in an effort to detain me. He was no respecter of persons, this horse of her sweetheart, and he rose high in the air with the young woman still clinging. He turned around and made almost a complete circuit before he came down and again allowed her to enjoy the security of having both feet upon the earth. She was a little frightened after having been lifted off her feet in this way and dangled in the air, and somewhat piqued, too, that I was about to ride away on her sweetheart’s horse, and when I suggested that the horse was not as quiet as he might be and she had better not catch hold of his bridle any more, she called to me as a parting shot, “You horrid old red-leg, you are meaner than Quantrell or Todd or Cole Younger or any of his gang!”
The night we made our escape, they burned the homes of Grandmother Fristoe, and her neighbor, Mrs. Rucker, and gray heads suffered because younger ones had not been noosed.