Outlaws on Horseback: The History of the Organized Bands of Bank and Train Robbers Who Terrorized the Prairie Towns of Missouri, Kansas, Indian Territory, and Oklahoma for Half a Century

Outlaws on Horseback: The History of the Organized Bands of Bank and Train Robbers Who Terrorized the Prairie Towns of Missouri, Kansas, Indian Territory, and Oklahoma for Half a Century

Outlaws on Horseback: The History of the Organized Bands of Bank and Train Robbers Who Terrorized the Prairie Towns of Missouri, Kansas, Indian Territory, and Oklahoma for Half a Century

Outlaws on Horseback: The History of the Organized Bands of Bank and Train Robbers Who Terrorized the Prairie Towns of Missouri, Kansas, Indian Territory, and Oklahoma for Half a Century

Synopsis

Outlaws on Horseback concentrates on the long, unbroken chain of crime that began in the late 1850s with the Missouri-Kansas border warfare and ended in Arkansas in 1921 with the killing of Henry Starr, the last of the authentic desperadoes. Harry Sinclair Drago shows links among the men and women who terrorized the Midwest while he squelches the most outlandish tales about them.

The guerrilla warfare led by the evil William Quantrill was training for Frank and Jesse James and Cole and Jim Younger. Drago puts their bloody careers in perspective and tracks down the truth about Belle Starr the Bandit Queen, Cherokee Bill. Rose of the Cimarron, and the gangs, including the Daltons and Doolins, that infested the Oklahoma hills. The action moves from the sacking of Lawrence to the raid on Northfield to the shootout at Coffeyville.

Excerpt

Although Harry Sinclair Drago (1888-1979) did most of his writing within a cab ride of New York's Hudson River, he probably knew parts of the American West better than some who spent their lives there. A committed researcher, Drago once memorized the names of over a thousand counties in the western states and territories. To avoid mistakes, he kept pages of an 1890 atlas pinned to the wall of his office.

In Outlaws on Horseback, Drago concentrates on Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Indian Territory to create an in-depth look at sixty years of banditry that began with the depredations of William Clarke Quantrill in the early 1860s and ended in 1921 with the death of Henry Starr, the last of what Drago calls the "authentic horseback outlaws."

Drago covers the major badmen of the period--Frank and Jesse James, the Younger brothers, the Dalton brothers, and Bill Doolin--and adds to the mix with the exploits of Belle Starr, the career of the righteous hanging judge Isaac Parker, and the misdeeds of a host of lesser lawbreakers, plus the adventures of many of the law officers of the day.

As a former novelist, Drago could tell a good tale, but he knew the boundaries and never stretched the truth to give a story more zip. In fact, in most of his nonfiction works, he devoted considerable space to unmasking legends and correcting other writers' mistakes.

Among the myths he debunked in Outlaws on Horseback was the story that the James brothers were related to the Younger brothers and the Youngers were related to the Daltons, and therefore the same outlaw blood ran through their veins, creating some sort of inherited criminal propensity. Sheer literary nonsense, says Drago. The Youngers and the Daltons were second cousins, but that was it.

According to Drago, another misconception was that the Jameses and Youngers were not killers. On the contrary, he says; over the years the combined body count of the two clans was at least ten (eleven if you included the locomotive engineer killed in the wreck at the Adair, Iowa, express-car robbery in 1873). And Drago reminds us not to forget the long list of trainmen, bank employees, and just plain citizens injured during the James-Younger escapades.

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