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The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid

"The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" by the James-Younger Gang.

The gang was a legendary 19th century band of American outlaws that included Frank & Jesse James. The final act in the history of the James-Younger Gang was the famous Northfield, Minnesota raid. The target was the First National Bank of Northfield, located far outside of the gang's usual territory, which previously had included only the South and the Border States.

Frank and Jesse James, Cole, Jim and Bob Younger, Charlie Pitts, Clell Miller, and Bill Chadwell took the train to St. Paul and Minneapolis at the beginning of September 1876. They divided into two groups, one going to Mankato, Minnesota and the other to Red Wing, on either side of Northfield. They purchased horses and scouted the terrain around the town. On September 7, 1876, at 2 p.m., they attempted to rob the bank. Three outlaws entered the bank, and the other five stood guard outside. The citizens realized a robbery was in progress and took up arms. Shooting from behind cover, they poured a deadly fire on the outlaws, killing Miller and Chadwell, and wounding the Youngers (particularly Bob, who suffered a shattered elbow). They also shot Bob Younger's horse. One of the outlaws shot a bystander dead. Inside the bank, cashier Joseph Lee Heywood refused to open the safe, and was murdered in cold blood for his resistance. The infamous failure of the raid is celebrated every year in Northfield as Defeat of Jesse James Days.

The surviving outlaws rode out of town and took to the woods. After several days of dodging the pursuing Minnesotans, who had joined posses and picket lines by the hundreds, the gang had only reached the western outskirts of Mankato. They decided to split up. (Despite persistent stories to the contrary, Cole Younger told interviewers that they all agreed to the decision.) The Youngers and Pitts remained on foot, moving west, until finally they were cornered near Madelia, Minnesota. In the gunfight that followed, Pitts was killed and the Youngers wounded further. The Youngers surrendered, and pleaded guilty to murder in order to avoid execution.

The James brothers, on the other hand, secured horses and fled west across southern Minnesota, turning south just inside the border of the Dakota Territory. In the teeth of hundreds of pursuers and a nationwide alarm, they successfully returned to Missouri. The James-Younger Gang, however, was no more.

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