Violence dictated the daily rhythms of Cole Younger’s life. During the Civil War he was selected to join Quantrill’s Raiders because he owned his own revolver. His participation in the brutal 1863 raid on Lawrence, Kansas, drove him and other guerrillas into hiding as Union troops sought to punish the perpetrators of atrocities including the murder of women and children.
Younger met up with Jesse James in 1866. The James and Younger families cooperated in a series of bank and train robberies over the next decade that led to a feeling of invincibility. That feeling came to an end in Northfield, Minnesota, when local citizens killed two of the gang and wounded most of the others. Cole and his younger brothers were captured, tried, and sentenced to life in the Minnesota State Penitentiary. But even a life sentence could not keep Younger in prison.
Despite a career that included thirty wounds, battles with Pinkerton detectives and Yankees, an affair with outlaw Belle Starr, and a near-fatal confrontation with Jesse James, Cole Younger survived to become a living legend in his home state of Missouri. He died peacefully, a free man.