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Jesse James, Last Rebel of the Civil War (2002)

de T. J. Stiles

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377751,906 (4.15)4
Stripped of the familiar myths surrounding him, [in this book, Jesse] James emerges a far more significant figure: ruthless, purposeful, intensely political; a man who, in the midst of his crimes and notoriety, made himself a spokesman for the renewal of the Confederate cause during the bitter decade that followed Appomattox ... account of his life, he emerges as far more complicated. Raised in a fiercely pro-slavery atmosphere in bitterly divided Missouri, he began at sixteen to fight alongside some of the most savage Confederate guerrillas. When the Civil War ended, his violent path led him into the brutal conflicts of Reconstruction. [The reader] follow[s] James as he places himself squarely in the forefront of the former Confederates' bid to capture political power with his reckless daring, his visibility, his partisan pronouncements, and his alliance with a rising ex-Confederate editor, John Newman Edwards, who helped shape James's image for their common purpose. In uniting violence and the news media on behalf of a political cause, James was hardly the quaint figure of legend. Rather, as his life played out across the racial divide, the rise of the Klan, and the expansion of the railroads, he was a forerunner of what we have come to call a terrorist. -Dust jacket.… (més)
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Really fascinating biography, despite not having much documentary evidence from the man himself—Stiles instead explains how James was a product of the Confederacy. He shows how white Missouri was internally torn by the conflict that trained James in brutality—a young teen at the time, James learned to kill in cold blood and brutally executed people both during the war and after—but how Confederates managed to create a post-war narrative about invading Yankees, in which James was a populist/Robin Hood figure. Recommended. ( )
1 vota rivkat | Jun 2, 2020 |
More an account of the Civil War in Missouri with the occasional mention of Jesse James for the first half of the book. No what I had hoped for. I didn't need all of that background. The author appears to be trying to impress everyone with his research. ( )
  Rich_B | Jun 2, 2016 |
I am enjoying this book immensely. Jesse James in the minds of most folks I think is a legend and more mythical than a real person understood within his context as someone like George Washington or Johnny Cash is on a common level. This book reaches into past before Jesse James emerges as the general understanding most people have of him. This account lays the ground work that made his world, invented his context and shaped the way he saw existence amidst the tumultuous times in which he lived...

The author brings to life an entire environment surrounding Jesse James with quotations from letters, orders, newspaper accounts involving politicians, soldiers, personal friends and family. Many notorious individuals of the period figure into the times and direct interactions of Jesse James which otherwise are stand alone: contextualless for many. William Quantrill, General Sterling Price, "Bloody" Bill Anderson, William T. Sherman and countless others enter into this story of Jesse James.

Without Jesse James and T.J. Stiles handling of both James and his context in a conflicted state, one would not have a comprehensive picture of the Civil War nor how things were outside of the specific battles and personages that made it a historical event. Missouri and Kansas figure big into the overall picture of the Civil War, even though they did not represent the huge battles like Vicksburg, Pea Ridge, Gettysburg or Antietam. Even so, Missouri and Kansas were a steadily boiling cauldron of conflict, barbarity and wavering loyalties: an entirely different type of war which was fought and lived through by many more than just soldiers.

Jesse James never waivered in his perspective, which is what made him perhaps the most notorious figure in Missouri's history for sure and perhaps of post Civil War in the entire country. This book is gripping, detailed but not tedious.
f ( )
  SlickPen50 | Dec 25, 2013 |
An inspiring biography of Jesse James which illustrates the "historic figure" of the outlaw against the background of Missouri before and after the American Civil War (1861-1865). The author "pulls no punches" in detailing the crimes of Jesse James but as the title of the book suggests - this was played out in the political sphere of Missouri post Civil War with the outlaw having both community and political support and where the struggle continued after 1865 to overcome the Reconstruction and the imposition of Federal power on the state of Missouri. From my reading of this biography ,one can only admire and marvel at the detailed historical research carried out by T.J. Stiles and congratulate him on the result of his work. As a footnote , the description of the Northfield disaster for the outlaw gang and the escape of the James brothers over hundreds of miles of hostile territory outwitting up to 1000 pursuers testifies to their endurance and mastery of a bad situation. Of such journeys are "Western myths" created. ( )
  tbrennan1 | Jul 1, 2011 |
One of my all-time favorite books on the life of Jesse James, and an excellent source either as a "for dummies" introduction, or as a well-argued thesis to consider as an expert. Stiles argues that James was, rather than the hero/Robin Hood-figure he was billed as by contemporaries, more of what today's media would deem a terrorist. It's an interesting argument, and one that the writer backs up well with primary sources. ( )
  KLmesoftly | Oct 27, 2009 |
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I consider Jesse James the worst man, without any exception, in America. He is utterly devoid of fear, and has no more compunction about cold blooded murder than he has about eating his breakfast.
--Robert A. Pinkerton
Richmond DemocratNovember 20, 1879
[Jesse James] laughed and remarked that he might have to go under eventually, but before he did he would shake up the country.
--Robert Ford
St. Louis RepublicanApril 7, 1882
You're going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.
--Philip Caputo
A Rumor of War
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Stripped of the familiar myths surrounding him, [in this book, Jesse] James emerges a far more significant figure: ruthless, purposeful, intensely political; a man who, in the midst of his crimes and notoriety, made himself a spokesman for the renewal of the Confederate cause during the bitter decade that followed Appomattox ... account of his life, he emerges as far more complicated. Raised in a fiercely pro-slavery atmosphere in bitterly divided Missouri, he began at sixteen to fight alongside some of the most savage Confederate guerrillas. When the Civil War ended, his violent path led him into the brutal conflicts of Reconstruction. [The reader] follow[s] James as he places himself squarely in the forefront of the former Confederates' bid to capture political power with his reckless daring, his visibility, his partisan pronouncements, and his alliance with a rising ex-Confederate editor, John Newman Edwards, who helped shape James's image for their common purpose. In uniting violence and the news media on behalf of a political cause, James was hardly the quaint figure of legend. Rather, as his life played out across the racial divide, the rise of the Klan, and the expansion of the railroads, he was a forerunner of what we have come to call a terrorist. -Dust jacket.

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