Classic Gunfights

Shoot-out at Hanska Slough

The Youngers 
& Charlie Pitts Vs The Madelia Seven


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September 21, 1876

Four fleeing outlaws, believed to be the robbers of the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota, slip into a slough on foot and disappear into a dense thicket of wild plums and vines.

Surrounding the slough, two Civil War veterans, Sheriff James Glispin and Capt. William W. Murphy, ask for volunteers to go in and flush out the desperados. Of the dozens of men on the scene, and anywhere from 40 to 150 “sightseers” present, only five step forward.

Sheriff Glispin, Capt. Murphy and their five volunteers make their way down into the river bottom and spread out at 15-foot intervals. Their orders are to fire only if fired upon, and even then, to shoot low, so that the fugitives might be encouraged to surrender.

Hunkered down in the dense plum thicket, Charlie Pitts and the Younger brothers, Cole, Jim and Bob, ponder their predicament. “We are surrounded,” Pitts says. “We had better surrender.”

Cole replies, “Charlie, this is where Cole Younger dies.”

“All right, Captain. I can die just as game as you can,” Pitts responds. “Let’s get it done.” With those words, Pitts stands and fires.

Dropping to one knee, Sheriff Glispin fires back, hitting Pitts in the chest (so much for shooting low). As the outlaw falls backward, the plum thicket is riddled with bullets from numerous posse guns, including those up on the surrounding bluffs.

The Youngers return fire. A bullet hits one of the posse members, George Bradford, on the outside wrist of his trigger hand and exits through the elbow of his shirt. Another posse member is hit, and he grabs his side. Muskets and shotguns belch from the high bluffs, and puffs of smoke billow through the tops of the trees. The branches above the hunters in the slough are clipped by incoming fire, sending splinters and leaves down on their heads.

As the smoke clears, there is a pause. Captain Murphy quickly checks his side and finds his large, rosewood pipe broken, but no blood. The spent bullet is stuck in his cartridge belt.

“I surrender. They’re all down but me!” says a voice from the thicket.

“Hold your fire!” yells Glispin over his shoulder, before turning back to the front. “Step out with your hands high.”

“Can’t,” comes a weakened voice. “My arm’s broke.”

Glispin eyes the thicket, wary of a trick or a trap. “Come out in the open and raise what you got!”

The hunters cautiously look down their rifle sights as Bob Younger hobbles out into the clearing....

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