In the course of a discussion on the importance of an armed citizenry, Michael Walsh tells how the citizens of Coffeyville, Kansas, shot up the Dalton gang. The story is similar to what the good folks of Northfield, Minnesota, did to another set of formidable outlaws, the gangs of Jesse James and Cole Younger. I blogged about Northfield, but I didn’t know about Coffeyville, even though that small city is just across the border from where I grew up!
From Michael Walsh, The Lessons of Coffeyville and Paris | Unexamined Premises:
In 1892, five members of the famed and feared Dalton gang rode into Coffeyville, Kansas, a town near the border with Oklahoma where some of them had grown up. Their plan was to rob two banks simultaneously and then clear out. They never made it. Alerted to their presence, the townsfolk grabbed their guns and shot them to pieces, killing four of them. An eyewitness recounted:
“…Just at this critical juncture the citizens opened fire from the outside [of the Condon Bank] and the shots from their Winchesters and shot-guns pierced the plate-glass windows and rattled around the bank. Bill Powers and Dick Broadwell replied from the inside, and each fired from four to six shots at citizens on the outside. The battle then began in earnest. Evidently recognizing that the fight was on, Grat Dalton asked whether there was a back door through which they could get to the street. He was told that there was none. He then ordered Mr. Ball and Mr. Carpenter [two bank employees] to carry the sack of money to the front door. Reaching the hall on the outside of the counter, the firing of the citizens through the windows became so terrific and the bullets whistled so close around their heads that the robbers and both bankers retreated to the back room again. Just then one at the southwest door was heard to exclaim: ‘ I am shot; I can’t use my arm; it is no use, I can’t shoot any more.’ “
Those who didn’t have guns rushed to Isham’s hardware store, next door to one of the banks, where the merchant handed them out gratis. When some of the robbers exited the Condon Bank, they were met with a hail of gunfire:
“…The moment that Grat Dalton and his companions, Dick Broadwell and Bill Power, left the bank [the C.M. Condon Bank] that they had just looted, they came under the guns of the men in Isham’s store. Grat Dalton and Bill Powers each received mortal wounds before they had retreated twenty steps. The dust was seen to fly from their clothes, and Powers in his desperation attempted to take refuge in the rear doorway of an adjoining store, but the door was locked and no one answered his request to be let in. He kept his feet and clung to his Winchester until he reached his horse, when another ball struck him in the back and he fell dead at the feet of the animal that had carried him on his errand of robbery.
Law enforcement played a brief role as well:
“Grat Dalton, getting under cover of the oil tank, managed to reach the side of a barn that stands on the south side of the alley… [At this point, Marshal Connelly ran across a vacant lot into “Death Alley” from the south to the spot where the bandits had tied their horses.] The marshal sprang into the alley with his face towards the point where the horses were hitched. This movement brought him with his back to the murderous Dalton, who was seen to raise his Winchester to his side and without taking aim fire a shot into the back of the brave officer. Marshal Connelly fell forward on his face within twenty feet of where his murderer stood.” . . .
But even with their marshal down, the citizens kept up their fire until — and this is the important part — the banditos either were all dead or unable to return fire. Only then was the fight, in which three other townsfolk lost their lives as well, over.