The James Gang and Kentucky


Part 2

Yankee Bligh was an unusual man. He was about six feet four inches tall, weighed 259 pounds and had dark almost black hair. He came from New York, hence the sobriquet “Yankee.” There he was a laborer carrying Hod (mortar) for brick layers, and had been reading about the mountain men out west. Desirous of excitement, he decided to become one. When he got to Louisville, he had run out of money and worked construction until he was given an appointment as a constable on the rough and tumble Louisville wharfs. He loved it and stayed. Over time, Bligh broke a counterfeiting ring, solved a government postal crime, and killed a Chinaman named Bing, who he was trying to arrest when Bing came at him with a machete or cleaver. Later he was in on the killing of Oliver Shepherd in Russellville, Kentucky. Bligh’s best friend was Allen Pinkerton, who tried to hire him many times, but Bligh demurred. Pinkerton served as one of Bligh’s pallbearers when he was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery. Oddly, that was also the final resting place of Bing the Chinaman.

In 1858, Brandenburg had some business dealings with the famous Yankee Bligh. A slave, Charles Ditto was aided in his escape by David Bell the former abolitionist who owned the Brandenburg Ferry. Horace, in a shootout with some Meade County citizens, broke his father and brother, David out of the Meade County Jail, and all three men made their escape to Indiana, where they went into hiding. It was known that Horace had a girl friend in New Albany, Indiana with whom he often visited, and that he was going to visit her on a certain evening. Brandenburg and Meade County wanted Horace and the others captured and returned. Directly or through the use of intermediaries, Yankee Bligh was contracted to effect Horace Bell’s capture. Bligh could legally make an arrest on Kentucky soil, or aboard a boat on the Ohio River. By careful investigations, Bligh prepared a plan to capture Horace Bell. When Bell visited his girlfriend, Bligh knew they would have dinner and take a stroll by the river. Kentucky’s border is the north side of the river at the low water mark established in 1792. Although no one knows exactly what happened, it is likely Bligh and two City of Louisville policeman and one or two bounty hunters contracted by Brandenburg, paid Horace Bell’s woman to turn Jezebel and lead him into a trap by getting him to step foot on a boat where he was subdued by Bligh. She did, and the posse led by Bligh captured Bell. Horace was returned to Brandenburg, but it was thought that his supporters in Indiana would come to his rescue. So, they decided to take him to Big Spring and place him under guard.

It is well known that Frank and Jesse liked Kentucky, they had friends and family here and an entire network of Confederates to assist and hide them. It must be remembered that the Union Army occupied Kentucky most of the war, and treated Kentucky not as an ally, but rather a conquered territory. The Confederate guerrillas were looked on, especially in the rural communities, as patriots and saviors. Often times this sentiment backfired, but for the most part held true; however, this doesn’t explain how Jesse and Frank as well as the Youngers came to Kentucky in the first place.

William Clarke Quantrill, Bill,” Anderson, and George Todd were the Missouri leaders of Quantrill’s Raiders. Quantrill only irregularly directed their combined actions, with the possible exception of the Lawrence, Kansas raid. And, this was the idea of Bill Anderson. He suggested the raid to get even for the deaths and crippling of his female relatives, and those of other guerrilla raiders, by the Union Army. William T. Anderson was born in Hopkins County Kentucky in 1839. His family moved west when he was a child and settled in Kansas. He had three sisters who in 1863 were arrested for supporting Confederates. The Union Army began arresting the wives, sisters, mothers of the rebel fighters. These captives were housed in a three-story brick mercantile building in Kansas City, Missouri, only six years old.

(Next week, read how the women were crippled and killed, and how Quantrill’s Raiders and 104 Confederate soldiers evened the score.)

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