Alexander Franklin James (January 10, 1843 – February 18, 1915) was a Confederate soldier, guerrilla, and outlaw. He was the older brother of outlaw Jesse James and was also part of the James–Younger Gang.
James was born Alexander Franklin James in Kearney, Missouri, to Baptist minister Reverend Robert Sallee and Zerelda James. He was the oldest of three children. His father died in 1851 and his mother remarried Benjamin Simms in 1852. After his death she married a third time to Reuben Samuel in 1855 when Frank was 13 years old. As a child, James showed interest in his late father's library. Census records show that James attended school regularly, and he reportedly wanted to become a teacher.
Civil War Career
The American Civil War began in 1861, when James was eighteen years old. The secessionists in Missour, attempted to drive the Union army out of the state but were eventually defeated. The James family was from the heavily Confederate western portion of the state. On September 13, 1861, the Missouri State Guard, including private Frank James, besieged Lexington, Missouri. James fell ill and was left behind when the Confederate forces retreated. He surrendered to the Union troops, was paroled, and was allowed to return home. On his arrival, however, he was arrested by the local pro-Union militia and was forced to sign an oath of allegiance to the Union.
After the withdrawal of regular Confederate troops in the fall of 1861, a bitter guerrilla conflict soon began between bands of pro-Confederate irregulars and the Union homeguards. By early 1863, Frank had joined the guerrilla band of Fernando Scott.
Union militiamen searching for Fernando Scott raided the Samuel farm and hanged Reuben Samuel (though not fatally), Frank's stepfather, torturing him to reveal the location of the guerrillas. Shortly afterward, Frank took part within the August 21, 1863 Lawrence Massacre where approximately 200 mostly unarmed civilians were killed.
Frank James was paroled July 27, 1865 in, Nelson County, Kentucky. There is a report that after his parole, Frank was involved in a gunfight in Brandenburg, Kentucky with four soldiers that resulted in two soldiers killed, one wounded, and Frank wounded in the hip. He then stole horses in Ohio and escaped.
After the war, He and his brother Jesse formed the "James Game". During his years as a bandit, James was involved in at least four robberies between 1868 and 1876 that resulted in the deaths of bank employees or citizens. Then they went to robbing trains. The most famous bank robbery was the disastrous Northfield, Minnesota, raid on September 7, 1876, that ended with the death or capture of most of the game.
He was tried for only two of the robberies/murders – one in Gallatin, Missouri for the July 15, 1881 robbery of the Rock Island Line train at Winston, Missouri, in which the train engineer and a passenger were killed, and the other in Huntsville, Alabama for the March 11, 1881 robbery of a United States Army Corps of Engineers payroll at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Among others, former Confederate General Joseph Orville Shelby testified on James' behalf in the Missouri trial. He was acquitted in both Missouri and Alabama. Missouri accepted legal jurisdiction over him for other charges, but they never came to trial. He was never extradited to Minnesota for his connection with the Northfield Raid. His New York Times obituary summarized his arrest and acquittal:
Frank James the thirty years of his life doing various jobs. Such as a Shoe salesman, a telegraph operator and a horse trainer. In his final years, James returned to the James Farm, giving tours for the sum of 25 cents. He died there on February 18, 1915, aged 72 years. He left behind his wife Annie Ralston James and one son.