The History of Daniel Webster “Kit” Dalton -- Outlaw & Lawman
Researched, complied & edited by Rodney G. Dalton from various sources on the World Wide Web. Sources are from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and Google images search. Other sources are not listed. All copy written material is the property of the owner and is not to be used for commercial use. This article is for private use only.
Captain Kit Dalton
Born in Logan County, Kentucky on January 23, 1843. Penned a book called, "Under the Black Flag' in 1914 in which he claimed to have joined up with Quantrill as well as claiming to have been at Independence and Lawrence. Died on April 3, 1920 in Memphis, TN at the age of 77.
"He fought for the Confederacy and with Quantrill's Raiders. After the war, he rode with Jesse & Frank James and Cole Younger over 100 years ago. A $50,000 reward was offered for him dead or alive; since they could not capture him, he was later pardoned by several governors with his promise that he would lead an exemplary life, which he did during his last 20 years, in Memphis.'"
Into the first thirty years of Kit Dalton's life was crowded much adventure. As a youngster, he ran away from home and joined Nathan Bedford Forest's cavalry during the American Civil War. It was when visiting his home on a furlough that devastation he saw caused him to organize a band of guerillas; they soon began to operate outside of Kentucky. Unable to return home, he linked his fortunes with those of Jesse and Frank James. Five governors had set a price upon the head of Kit Dalton, offering $50,000 for his capture, dead or alive, but he was never captured. He, at one time, was a member of Sam Bass’ gang, who operated in Texas, and he saw Bass killed.
Trial for a holdup in Franklin, Kentucky , of which Frank James was charged and proved innocent resulted in an agreement by the Government in which Dalton’s slate was wiped clean and he returned to civil life.
Kit Dalton is buried at Elmwood Cemetery, in the section known as Confederate’s Rest.
My story; by Kit Dalton
"Any notoriety that came my way was due to the happenstance that I was favored to live longer than most of the other men who rode with that devil."
During that odious war I took leave of service from Gen. Forrest and in retaliation for transgressions by Unionist against my family in Kentucky, I joined Captain William Quantrill in Missouri.
After the war we were branded outlaws, so with a price on my head I became a "running gun" and for a time rode with Frank & Jesse James and the likes of other southern gentlemen game to sporting Union owned banks and railroads for a living.
By 1878 the way of the outlaw gun had played out. To a man they were being hunted down, shot dead, hung or placed in irons. Wanting no part of that drama I changed my ways and hid out where no one would think to look, and if they did few would question my word over that of a protester. I became Mr. Charles Bell,(one of many aliases used until finally pardoned) a gentleman of respectable habits, a Texas Ranger and a duly authorized punisher of evildoers, a task at which I was most proficient.
Contrarily, I never rode with the Dalton Gang. Bob, Grat and Emmett were my second cousins who appeared on the scene long after my outlaws days had come to an end. Their theatrics, like the one at Coffeeville on October 5, 1892, required the luck of a gambler and the experience of a raider- a familiarity that they unfortunately lacked.
My last ride for thunder was during the Spanish American War. Malaria caught from a lowly mosquito in Cuba did what no Colt was able to render, it put me down hard and I was sent home.
In later years I semi retired in Memphis, - home to a number of old scouts - and possibly seeking redemption took up preaching the word to congregations thereabouts.
A gathering of long riders in 1910 and final meeting with Frank James was my last hurrah. During The Great War I longed to be with the men in the campaign over there but by then my race had been long run, and oh ! - what a ride it had been.
Reflecting back over the years I don’t think I was particularly a bad person, not as good as some but not near as bad as others. Some of those boys were just downright mean spirited and their actions both in and out of service showed that deficiency.
Today I’m resting in total tranquility with a number of Old Scouts in the Confederate Lot at Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee.
Like most combatants who went from boyhood to manhood during that direful war I was a product of my time and environment. Any notoriety that came my way was due to the happenstance that I was favored to live longer than most of the other men who rode with that Devil.
Caption Kit Dalton wrote a book about his life:
DALTON, Kit. Under the Black Flag by Captain Kit Dalton, a Confederate Soldier: A Guerilla Captain under the Fearless Leader Quantrill and a Border Outlaw for Seventeen Years Following the Surrender of the Confederacy. Associated with the Most Noted Band of Free Booters the World Has Ever Known.
The focus is primarily Quantrill, the Civil War, and outlawry, but the author includes a chapter on his stint as a cowpuncher right after the Civil War. Dalton was on the run and decided that being a cowpuncher was a good way to hide his true identity. Dalton was hired for $45 to accompany a drive of four thousand head of cattle from Little Rock to Fort Scott, Kansas (“I passed off as a western cattleman, and as I could talk pretty intelligently about this section of the country and they had no occasion to doubt my statements”).
After the stress of the Civil War and outlaw life, Dalton comments on the trail drive as if it was a Zen experience: “In the long, long march across the plains I had heard nothing more thrilling than the crack of whips and the bleating of cattle. Not a gun had been fired for any reason whatsoever. How soothing the sensation, how peaceful appeared the broad extended prairie! It was like paradise to me, and I wished it could endure always.”
Dalton includes a warm chapter on Belle Starr, noted female outlaw and alleged rustler (complete with a portrait of Belle wearing a jaunty feather head-dress and looking more like a gorgeous Cherokee maiden than her usual hatchet-faced incarnation): “As a cattle rustler, she has never had an equal among the stronger sex, and as a horse thief, she has no superiors. To sum up her character in one trite paragraph, I will simply state that Belle was a maroon Diana in the chase, a Venus in beauty, a Minerva in wisdom, a thief, a robber, a murderer, and a generous friend. A more fearless human being never went forth to deeds of bloody mischief nor washed bloodier hands to dance nimbly over the ivory keys of a piano.”
Of note is this above book is completely fictitious.
Another story with Kit Dalton:
During their outlaw careers, the James brothers and the Younger brothers dealt in fine-blooded stock, raced thoroughbreds and rode beautiful American Saddle breds. All were expert horsemen, always paying careful attention to their animals, which were essential tools of their ‘business.’ Also essential to the West’s most famous outlaw brothers’ success was the support of a circle of trusted friends. Included in those supporters were such prominent and influential families as the Hudspeths, who raised stock and bred horses on their vast landholdings in Jackson County, Missouri. Among the most outspoken was Virginia-born newspaper editor John Newman Edwards, who had been Confederate General Joseph O. Shelby’s adjutant during the Civil War. Edwards’ printed words provided alibis and excuses for the James-Younger Gang, which was seen by him and many other Southerners as a collection of well-liked former guerrillas forced into living outside the law by a repressive Republican Reconstruction federal government.
After the Civil War, other ex-guerrillas — who had ridden with the notorious William Quantrill and ‘Bloody Bill’ Anderson — were as well known as the James's and Younger's. Some were recruited as gang members. These men were not only known in Missouri but also in a wide area across the South from Kentucky to Texas. The gang’s base, where the leaders recruited and planned, was the farm of Frank and Jesse’s wealthy uncle, George W. Hite, at Adairville, in Kentucky’s Logan County, 10 miles from Russellville, scene of an 1868 bank robbery. The James boys’ father, Robert, was born in Logan County and graduated from Georgetown College near Midway, Woodford County. Their mother, Zerelada Cole James Samuels, was born at Midway. After meeting and marrying in Kentucky, they had moved to Missouri in the early 1840s.
From February 13, 1866, through the September 7, 1876, Northfield raid in Minnesota, the James-Younger Gang reportedly robbed 12 banks, five trains, five stagecoaches and the gate cash box of the ticket booth at the Kansas City Exposition. A network of friends showed sympathy and support for Frank and Jesse even after the famous fiasco at Northfield. Others, though, turned against the boys — not only those people who could no longer see them simply as ‘victims’ of Northern aggression and big business, but also personal acquaintances and even some new gang members.
In such a dangerous line of work, the old gang could not last forever. Gang member Oll Shepard was killed in 1868 at Lee’s Summit. Brothers Bill (’Bud’) and Tom McDaniel were captured and killed in 1874 and ‘75, respectively. Tom Webb, alias Jack Keene, was captured in Kentucky with Tom McDaniel. Up in Minnesota, Clell Miller, Bill Chadwell (alias Bill Stiles) and Charlie Pitts (alias Sam Wells) were killed, while brothers Cole, Jim and Bob Younger were wounded, captured and imprisoned for a quarter of a century in the state penitentiary. Thus, in 1879, when Frank and Jesse James resumed their criminal careers in Tennessee and Kentucky, no old gang members were available. The loyal network of friends, however, provided them alibis and gave them sanctuary as Frank and Jesse lived freely using aliases — ‘Ben J. Woodson’ and sportsman ‘Tom Davis Howard.’
The James-Younger Gang always rode in style. Newspaper accounts of the gang’s robberies often reported that the outlaws were mounted on the finest horseflesh in Kentucky. The boys took great pride in their horses, too. According to the Little Rock Daily Gazette, when traveling on a raid, the gang usually rode ‘two abreast about one hundred yards apart. One man would lead a horse, and he being the odd man, would ride at the rear.’ This practice, which allowed one horse to rest while the others were ridden, was mentioned by eyewitnesses after the train robbery near Gads Hill, Mo., on January 31, 1874.
All along their routes, the outlaws conducted themselves as gentlemen, paying for everything they received and not drawing attention to themselves. As no photographs of them were yet published, they could take on any identity they wished. While traveling — to such places as Columbia, Ky., in April 1872; Adair, Iowa, in July 1873; Corinth, Miss., and Muncie, Kan., in 1874; and to the new bank at Huntington, W.Va., in September 1875 — they used maps and a compass and, to be on the safe side, avoided well-traveled roads. Daniel Webster ‘Kit’ Dalton, a former guerrilla and gang member and the author of Under the Black Flag, said that he supplied information for the Corinth bank robbery and also rode with the gang when it was operating in Missouri, Kentucky and Texas. The boys did get around and were always prepared for trouble, each member wearing as many as three revolvers and carrying rifles and shotguns in their saddle scabbards. After their crimes, they could always count on family and friends to provide hideouts and support.
A short description of Quantrill's Raiders with whom Kit Dalton rode:
Quantrill's Raiders were a loosely organized force of pro-Confederate bushwhackers who fought in the American Civil War under the leadership of William Clarke Quantrill. The name "Quantrill's Raiders" seems to have been attached to them long after the war, when the veterans would hold reunions.
For over six years, ever since Kansas was opened up as a territory by Stephen A. Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854, its prairies had been the stage for an almost incessant series of political conventions, raids, massacres, pitched battles, and atrocities, all part of a fierce conflict between the Free State and proslavery forces that had come to Kansas to settle and to battle.
In February 1861 Missouri voters elected delegates to a statewide convention which rejected secession by a vote of 89-1. Unionists, led by regular U.S. army commander Nathaniel Lyon and Frank Blair of the politically powerful Blair family, and increasingly pro-secessionist forces, led by governor Claiborne Jackson and future Confederate general Sterling Price, contested for the political and military control of the state. By June there was open warfare between Union forces and troops supporting the Confederacy. Guerilla warfare immediately erupted throughout the state and intensified in August after the Union defeat at the Battle of Wilson's Creek.
By August 1862, with the Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge, the state was free of significant regular Confederate troops but the violence in Missouri continued. One historical work describes the situation in the state after Wilson's Creek:
Unlike other border areas in Maryland and Kentucky, local conflicts, bushwacking, sniping, and guerilla fighting marked this period of Missouri history. "When regular troops were absent, the improvised war often assumed a deadly guerilla nature as local citizens took up arms spontaneously against their neighbors. This was a war of stealth and raid without a front, without formal organization, and with almost no division between the civilian and the warrior."
The most notorious of these guerilla forces was led by William Clarke Quantrill.
Quantrill was not the only Confederate guerrilla operating in Missouri, but he rapidly won the greatest renown. He and his men ambushed Union patrols and supply convoys, seized the mail, and occasionally struck towns on either side of the Kansas-Missouri border. Reflecting the internecine nature of the guerrilla conflict in Missouri, Quantrill directed much of his effort against Unionist civilians, attempting to drive them from of the territory where he operated. Under his direction, Confederate partisans also perfected military tactics such as coordinated and synchronized attacks, planned dispersal after an attack using pre-planned routes and relays of horses, and other technical methods, including the use of the long-barreled revolvers that later became the preferred firearm of western lawmen and outlaws alike. The James-Younger Gang, many of whose members had ridden with Quantrill, applied these same techniques after the war to the robbery of trains and banks.
Quantrill claimed sanction under the Confederate Partisan Ranger Act, which authorized certain guerrilla activities, although he had been refused received a regular Confederate commission as a captain when he visited Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia. Thus, like almost all of the Missouri bushwhackers, Quantrill operated outside of the Confederate chain of command. His most notable operation was the Lawrence Massacre, a revenge raid on Lawrence, Kansas in August 1863.
For years Lawrence had been the base of operations of Unionist irregular raids by Redlegs and Jayhawkers into Missouri both before and during the war. Also, just a month prior to the raid, some family members--women and children--of Quantrill's men who had been illegally held as hostages by Unionist forces in a dilapidated and overcrowded Kansas City prison, had been killed when that building had collapsed. Quantrill, calling for revenge for years of such atrocities against Missourians at the hands of Redleggers and Jayhawkers, organized a unified partisan raid on Lawrence, Kansas, the center of these Union forces. Hundreds of Missouri riders rallied to the cause. Coordinating across hundreds of miles, individuals and small bands of partisans rode over three hundred miles to rendezvous on Mt. Oread in the early morning hours before the raid. Men had loaded multiple pistols which they stuffed into their shirts, and had tied themselves into their saddles to keep themselves from falling off their horses as they lapsed into sleep from exhaustion. While no women were harmed in the raid, Quantrill's men burned a quarter of the town, and summarily dragged out of their homes and shot, according to Union records, 167 men and teenage boys. One of the main targets of the raid, Abolitionist Senator Jim Lane, escaped by fleeing into the cornfields. The Lawrence raid was the most successful unified effort of Missouri's Southern guerrillas, and the feat marked the high point of their service. Nevertheless, the Confederate leadership appeared to have appalled by the raid, and withdrew even tacit support from the Missourians. Following the raid, in the winter of 1863-64, Quantrill led his men behind Confederate lines into Texas. There, their often lawless presence proved an embarrassment to the Confederate command.
Yet many Confederate officers appreciated the effectiveness of these Missouri irregulars against Union forces, which never gained the upper hand over them, especially Quantrill. Among these was the famed and heroic General Joseph O. Shelby, who rode south into Mexico with his troops rather than surrender at the end of the war, and whose command was remembered as "The Undefeated". Their exploits are also immortalized in a later addition to the defiant post-war Confederate ballad, "The Unreconstructed Rebel":
"I won't be reconstructed--I'm better now than then. And for that Carpetbagger I do not care a damn. So it's forward to the Frontier soon as I can go. I'll fix me up a weapon and start for Mexico."
Among Quantrill's men was a free African American man named John Noland. He was one of Quantrill's scouts, indeed reputed to be his best one. It was Noland who helped in scouting Lawrence, Kansas, before the raid by Quantrill's men in 1863. He joined Quantrill's raiders because of the abuse his family suffered at the hands of Kansas Union Jayhawkers.
During that winter, Quantrill lost his hold over his men. In early 1864, the guerrillas that he had led through the streets of Lawrence returned to Missouri from Texas in separate bands, none of them led by Quantrill himself (as Bloody" Bill Anderson seems to have assumed general command by this time). Though Quantrill would gather some of his men again at the very end of 1864, the days of Quantrill's Raiders were over.
CAPT. KIT DALTON DEAD.
Sole Survivor of Jesse James Band and Quantrell Raiders.
Special to The New York Times
MEMPHIS, Tenn., April 3, 1920.
Captain Kit Dalton, the sole survivor of the Jesse James band of outlaws, the Quantrell raiders and Sam Bass Texas band of outlaws, died here tonight. He did not die with his boots on. He succumbed to an Illness winch extended over four years.
Kit Dalton was born in Logan County, Ky., Jan. 23, 1848. For thirty years he had lived a quiet and respected life here in Memphis, and his small and erect figure, clad in Confederate uniform, with immaculate vest and shin, was familiar to alt Memphians.
Into the first thirty years of Kit Dalton’s life was crowded much adventure. As a youngster he ran away from home and Joined Forrest’s cavalry during the Civil War. It was when visiting his home on a furlough that devastation he saw caused him. to organize a band of guerrillas. They began to operate outside of Kentucky. Unable to return home he linked his fortunes with those of Jesse and Frank James, Five Governors had set a price upon the head of Kit Dalton, offering $50-000 for his capture dead or alive, but he Was never captured. He at one time was a member of Sam Bass’ gang, who operated in Texas, and he saw Bass killed.
Trial for a holdup In Franklin, Ky. of which Frank James was charged and proved innocent resulted in an agreement by the Government in which Dalton’s slate was wiped clean and lie returned to civil life. About eight yean ago he made a profession, of religion. He was a member of the Central Baptist Church when he died. He is Survived by his wife, Amanda Ellison Dalton, to whom ho was married forty-five years ago. He will be buried tomorrow afternoon in the United Confederate Veterans lot at Elmwood Cemetery.
(Source: The New York Times - Published: April 4, 1920)
At Rest in Memphis:
Captain Kit Dalton
Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee
Kit’s memoirs, Under The Black Flag, were first published in 1914 and released again in limited editions in 1995 by Larry J. Tolbert, Memphis, TN. In 1921 A movie titled “Jesse James Under The Black Flag” starring, Who else but, Jesse James Jr., was released.Kit Dalton, played by Tony Curtis, reappeared in the 1950 film, Kansas Raiders. This time Jesse James was played by the WWII hero, Audie Murphy.
Like King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot and Guinevere are linked to the mystic middle ages and Camelot, the names of Hickok, Earp, Jesse & Frank James, Younger and Dalton will be forever linked to the glory days of the American west.
You are viewing a leaf from an original 1862 Harper's Weekly newspaper. The leaf features a stunning illustration of the famous Quantrill Raiders sacking a western town. The illustration is by Thomas Nast, one of the most famous artists of the 1800's. This stunning illustration captures the confusion and panic in a town hit by one of Quantrill's lightning fast raids. The image captures all the deprivations and atrocities attributed to this group of Guerrilla Fighters. Many of Quantrill's men went on to become notorious western outlaws after the war, including Frank and Jesse James, the James Gang, and the Younger Gang.