DescriptionCole Younger Autograph Note Signed "Cole Younger" with related letter. One page, 8" x 11", at the bottom of "State of Minnesota/Executive Department" letterhead, [Minnesota State Prison], circa April 23, 1898. Cole has written a short note to his friend Cora McNeill on the bottom of a typed letter he has received from Minnesota Governor David M. Clough who has also signed. Cole's note reads in full: "Cora you can keep this for me and rest assured if I get to go to Cuba I will win as many honors as any one of my rank or get killed on some battlefield trying."
A conflict with Spain had been looming for months and came to a head with the mysterious sinking of the USS Maine. Cole and Jim have both offered to join the army in any upcoming conflict in exchange for their release from prison. Three days before Madrid officially declared war on the United States, Cole wrote a letter to Governor Clough offering his services to the United States. On April 23, 1898, Clough sent a confirmation of receipt of Cole's letter to the State Prison, reading: "I am in receipt of your letter of the 20th inst., expressing your desire to fight for your country in the event of war with Spain. Your request will be given careful consideration." The page is lightly toned with smoothed folds.
With a George C. McNeil Autograph Letter Signed to Judge George M. Bennett, two integral pages, Kansas City, 8" x 12.5", where he offers to take Cole's place in prison so he can travel to Cuba to fight against the Spanish. In part: "My proposition as stated in another letter is this: If the Board of Pardons have any doubts as to Cole's sincerity in his offer to raise a regiment to go to Cuba I freely offer myself as a hostage for the fullfillment [sic] of agreement. That is I will take his place in prison and serve as any other convict until Cole shall receive his commission as commanding officer of a battalion or regiment; or if that will not satisfy the Board I will agree to serve time until his return or official notice of his death in the line of duty is received." He goes on to compliment Cole's character: "I have contemplated enlisting as an army nurse but knowing Cole's ability to command and his bravery in warfare, I believe he would be of far more service to the Government than I would." He ends his offer with the following postscript: "While I have mentioned Cole's name only, I am ready and willing to make the same offering for Jim." The offer was denied and Cole and Jim sat out the war in the Minnesota State Prison until they were released in 1901.
More Information: Cora McNeill was born in St. Clair, Missouri, in 1862. She was an admirer of Cole and Jim Younger, and it is believed that she was a sweetheart of Jim's before he went to prison. She continued her correspondence to both Jim and Cole while they were incarcerated in Minnesota following the botched Northfield bank robbery. She was married to Minneapolis judge George M. Bennett who attempted to secure a pardon for the Younger brothers.
Cole and Jim Younger began their life of crime during the Civil War as members, along with the James Brothers, of the notorious Quantrill's Raiders. After the war, they may have been associated with the gang of Archie Clement, who led the first daylight, peacetime armed bank robbery in U. S. history on February 13, 1866. While the exact date of their association with the gang is uncertain, by 1868, they, as well as the James Brothers, were unquestionably part of the bank-robbing gang. The Jameses and Youngers were able to avoid arrest longer than many outlaws of the day, largely thanks to the sympathy and support of many of their fellow Confederate veterans. But in 1876 the Younger's luck ran out. Their attempted robbery of the bank at Northfield, Minnesota went famously awry when armed townsfolk interrupted the robbery and chased them off. In the melee two townspeople were killed, and when the Youngers were subsequently captured, they were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Minnesota State Prison in Stillwater (a guilty plea saved them from the hangman's noose). Bob Younger died in prison in 1889; however, Cole and Jim continued to languish in prison, while sympathizers periodically lobbied for their release. In 1899 a bill was before the Minnesota Legislature to secure their freedom. Despite the best efforts of their supporters, the Youngers would not be paroled until July 1901. Upon release, Cole published his memoirs and, in 1903, was fully pardoned and toured throughout the south with The Cole Younger and Frank James Wild West Company. In 1913 he became a born-again Christian and died in 1916.
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