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allan pinkerton _april 1879 _ the mississippi out

publish 2022-05-16,browse 46
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allan pinkerton._april, 1879._ the mississippi outlaws and the detectives.chapter i._a daring express robbery.mr.pinkerton appealed to.canebrakes and canefed people.annoying delays and amateur detectives._ the southern and border states, since the close of the war of the rebellion, have been the frequent scenes of extensive and audacious robberies.this has been largely owing to the sparselysettled condition of certain districts, to the disorder and lawlessness generated by the war, and to the temptations offered by the carelessness of many persons having large sums intrusted to their care in transit through lonely and desolate localities.the express companies have always been favorite objects of attack by thieves of every grade, from the embezzling cashier to the petty sneakthief, and some of the operations connected with the detection of this class of criminals are among the most difficult and dangerous that have ever been intrusted to me.probably a no more reckless and desperate body of men were ever banded together in a civilized community than those who were brought to my attention in 1871 by the southern express companys officers in memphis; and i consider the successful termination of my efforts in this case as of the greatest value to the people of the south and west.the whole affair was conducted with such a limited force, and under such adverse circumstances, that i take pride in here recording the history of the affair and my connection with it.though i maintained a general supervision of the operation, my eldest son, william a.pinkerton, was the person having immediate charge of the matter, and to his energy, perseverance, and sagacity is mainly attributable our success.some time in the latter part of july, 1871, an express messenger on the mobile and ohio railroad was overpowered by three men at moscow, kentucky, and his safe was robbed of about sixteen hundred dollars.the manner of effecting the robbery was a very bold one, showing the presence of men of experience in crime.the loss was not heavy, but the company made every effort to discover the robbers, in the hope of bringing them to a severe punishment as a warning to other criminals.in spite, however, of the efforts of two of my men, who were immediately sent to the scene of the robbery, the guilty parties escaped into the almost impenetrable swamps along the mississippi river, and the chase was reluctantly abandoned, as it was impossible to tell where they would come out or cross the river.the amount stolen was not sufficiently large to warrant the expenditure of much time or money in the pursuit of the thieves, and my men were soon wholly withdrawn from the operation.in order, however, to guard against a repetition of such a raid, an extra man was placed in each express car to act as guard to the regular messenger.it was considered that two men, well armed, ought to be surely able to protect the company against further loss, and everything ran smoothly until october 21, 1871.at this time, the money shipments by express were very heavy, as a rule, and orders were given that special care should be exercised by all the employés having money packages in charge.the northernbound train on the mobile and ohio railroad was due at union city, tennessee, about halfpast seven oclock in the evening.at this point the northern and southernbound trains usually passed each other, and stopped long enough for supper, the train arriving first being the one to take the side track ready to pull out.saturday evening, october 21st, the northernbound train arrived on time, stopped at the station long enough to let the passengers go to supper, and then took the side track to await the arrival of the train bound south.as soon as the side track was reached the conductor, engineer, fireman, brakeman, and express messenger went to supper, leaving the train deserted except by the express guard, named george thompson, and a few passengers.the local express agent came up at this moment, gave his packages to thompson, receiving his receipt therefor, and returned to the station.this action was directly contrary to the rules of the company, which forbade the messenger to leave the car during his whole run, or to go to sleep; also, the guard was forbidden to transact any business, or to have possession of the safe key.martin crowley, the messenger, had given his key to thompson, however, to enable him to attend to the business of the local agent while crowley was away at supper.in accordance with thompsons request, crowley sent a negro porter to the express car with thompsons supper on a tray, and the porter, after handing the tray to thompson, turned to walk away.as he did so, he saw two men spring into the partly open door of the express car, and, almost immediately, the train began to back.the negro knew that something was wrong, and he hurried to the station to give the alarm.by the time he arrived there, however, the train was backing at a moderate speed, and was well beyond the reach of pursuit on foot.meantime, the guard, having received his supper from the negro porter, turned his back to the door to set the tray down.before reaching the desk, he heard a noise at the door, and turning, he was confronted by two men, one of whom held a revolver at his head, while the other seized his throat.thompson was a young man, and, not being accustomed to meet such hard characters, he was badly frightened.he immediately gave up the safe key and helped one of the men to unlock the safe.having taken all the money out of the safe, one of the robbers took also the contents of thompsons pocketbook; but here the other man interfered, insisting that the guards money be returned to him, which was done.no conversation took place, but when the safe had been carefully examined and all the money it contained taken, one of the men stepped to the door and swung a lantern once or twice.the train, which had been backing at a moderate rate of speed, now stopped, and the two men jumped off, telling thompson to stay where he was and keep quiet.when the conductor, engineer, and other persons, whom the porter had alarmed, reached the train, they found everything in order except the safe, into which poor thompson was vainly peering in the hope of discovering that some portion of the funds might have been overlooked.the men had disappeared in the thick woods, and no trace of them was found except a small carpetbag containing potatoes and bread.the amount missing from the safe was about six thousand dollars in currency.although the robbery was at once reported to mr.m.j.obrien, the general superintendent, by telegraph, no action seems to have been taken until the following wednesdayfour days laterwhen mr.obrien sent me a brief telegram announcing the robbery, and requesting me to come to union city in person, if possible, and if not, to send my eldest son, william a

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