Bandit Sons of Illinois?

My post yesterday on Governor Ford caused me to be curious about how his sons ended up being lynched in Kanas in 1872 by Kansas Regulators, a group of vigilantes active in Kansas at that time.

Information is sparse as to the two sons, Thomas and Seville, called Charles, but apparently they fought for the Union during the Civil War.  Seville Ford lost an arm during that conflict.  After the war they went to Kansas.  Seville Ford became known as One-Arm Charlie, a bartender and leader of a band of outlaws who specialized in rustling cattle.  Tom, who may have been associated with the gang, was caught by Kansas Regulators riding in a buggy with a member of his brother’s gang and lynched in 1872.

One-Arm Charlie was put on trial and acquitted of cattle rustling due to lack of witnesses.  After the trial Kansas Regulators found him at the bar where he was bartending and lynched him, his death also occuring in 1872.

In 1912 a sister of the brothers wrote an article which I have not been able to read in which she claimed her brothers were hung by mistake by the Regulators.  Who knows at this point?  A gang of vigilantes is certainly not the most reliable of fact finders as to guilt or innocence, but One-Arm Charlie does seem to have been involved in cattle rustling.  The involvement of his brother is much less clear.  The historical data simply isn’t there to make a clear determination as to the sons of Governor Ford being bandits or innocent victims of a lynch mob.

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 4:43 am  Comments (3)  
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  1. Kansas/Missouri was certainly one dark part of the history of the USA. One of the things that brightens our history is the lack of lingering guerrilla conflict that seems to be part of other wars. I have read in the past that some of Lee’s generals offered to escape into the mountains of WV, KY, TN and NC and effectively carrying the conflict into the next generation… but that Lee forbade it.
    Interesting blog, follow it faithfully.
    Dennis McCutcheon

  2. Thank you Dennis and thank you for giving me an idea for a future blog post! Lee did indeed put the kibosh on the idea of waging a guerrilla war. He believed that such a war would lead only to unending blood and hatred and destroy America. I have no doubt that if he had chosen otherwise our country would still be engulfed in a cycle of civil wars. There have been a few greater generals than Robert E. Lee, there have been precious few greater men.

  3. […] Hattip to commenter Dennis McCutcheon for giving me the idea for this post.  We Americans today view the Civil War as part of our history.  If different decisions had been made at the end of that conflict, the Civil War could still be part of our current reality.  Just before the surrender at Appomattox, General Porter Alexander, Lee’s chief of artillery, broached to General Robert E. Lee a proposal that the Army of Northern Virginia disband and carry out a guerrilla war against the Union occuppiers.  Here history balanced on a knife edge.  If Lee had accepted the proposal, I have little doubt the stage would have been set for an unending war between the North and the South which would still be with us.  Douglas Southall Freeman, in his magisterial R. E. Lee, tells what happened next, based upon Alexander’s memoirs, Fighting for the Confederacy. […]

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