Wheeling, W.V. Lewis Baker & Co., Printers, 1874. 176pp. Original printed brown wrappers, side- stapled. Wear and several chips to wrapper edges, some loss to spine paper. Contemporary ink ownership inscriptions on front wrapper and titlepage. Small closed tear to bottom of titlepage (no text affected), occasional tanning and soiling, a few leaves dogeared. Good plus. Item #WRCAM55921
An apparently unrecorded pamphlet setting forth the exploits of John Jennings, supposed outlaw and leader of the Jennings Gang, and his assassination by a "band of Red Men." Some contemporary and later accounts suggest that Jennings may not have been directly involved in the band's activities, but the pamphlet's anonymous author (who dedicates this work to "Captain Jack and his Brave Associates, the Red Men") argues that this was all part of Jennings' savvy - he directed the gang and provided them cover, but never got his hands dirty. According to this account, Jennings' troubles started during the Civil War; he enlisted in the 15th West Virginia Infantry, but after about six months, he deserted and went into hiding. He then lured his family and children into his criminal ways, first by forcing them to help him stay hidden, and later by committing any number of crimes at his command including burglary, robbery, and murder. The author details the crimes and often salacious biographies of the members of the gang as well, naming names as he goes along. The author happily reports how Jennings was finally hunted down by a vigilante group known as the "Red Men." In their attempts to capture and hang him, Jennings resisted and they shot him. While the Red Men was founded as a legitimate fraternal organization, there were radical offshoots in the later 19th century that evolved into vigilante groups, keeping the peace as they saw fit. Contemporary accounts often confused the Ku Klux Klan and vigilante Red Men, as they used similar tactics and disguises. But although there seems to be widespread agreement about the Jennings Gang's criminality, there was not universal support for the Red Men's actions. A letter published in the WHEELING REGISTER (June 16, 1873) states, "During three or four weeks past the LABOR VINDICATOR, a weekly newspaper published in New Martinsville, has printed communications calling upon the citizens to band together and by the summary process of lynching break up the company of the robbers. These papers have, without any disguise or concealment, exhorted the people to violence, but the officers of the law seem to have been either unwilling or unable to repress the threatened tumult....At last, one of the accused parties, an old man, prayed for and defended by his wife and children, has been put to death in his own house and under peculiarly distressing circumstances, by an armed mob, and now the question to be considered by the people of Wetzel county is, is not the remedy as bad as the disease?" No copies are listed in OCLC, nor do we find any in auction records. A rare and intriguing account of outlaws in post-Civil War Appalachia.