This is not technically military history. The Northfield raid was a criminal act - a botched and violent bank robbery. The criminals had some military experience as members of Confederate guerrilla bands, but they don't appear to have used any of their military skills during this raid. The approach to the town was fairly chaotic, half the gang got drunk before the robbery and their actions within the bank and when they came under attack outside the bank they fell apart. They were lucky to escape from the immediate area, and only the James brothers managed to escape.
The coverage of the robbery is excellent. We start with a brief history of the James-Younger gang and its members, and their previous crimes. Their decision to move away from their normal stamping grounds and the route to Northfield is covered nicely. There is a detailed account of the fighting in Northfield, where the townspeople took up their guns and prevented the robbery. We finish with the pursuit, when a whole series of posses attempted to find the wounded, tired and disorganised criminals. Eventually the James brothers abandoned the rest of the gang and made their escape, but the main part of the gang was eventually trapped and captured or killed.
This is a fascinating account of this iconic moment the history of the 'Wild West'. The author has stripped away the legends that gathered around Jesse James to look at the actual events of the robbery, and the text is supported by an excellent collection of contemporary photographs and maps showing the raid.
Author: Sean McLachlan