ALS signed “Your true and devoted husband, Ben,” one page both sides, 8 x 10.5, May 8, 1883. Letter to "My Precious Darling," his wife, Annie James, written from jail in Gallatin, Missouri, while awaiting trial for murder during a train robbery; James signs using an alias to prevent the letter from falling into the wrong hands. In full: "When I last wrote I told you that I expected it might be the last. I know you did not belive it, did you? I have been out to the well this morning and drawed three buckets of water stayed until breakfast. The morning air felt ‘so good’ I am feeling splendid and when my precious darling comes I will be just as happy as a man could possibly be. I am so anxious to have you here with me. Hope you will come sooner than you expected. I think if I were you that I would make my own selection of a hat Mrs. Kenny can fix you up in style. I want you to get a dandy wont you? I guess you want a nice pair of shoes or slippers wont you? Get the very best of everything, I want our little man fixed up just a little nicer than any body's boy. You and he is all I have in this world to love and I desire that you both look charming. Bless your dear life you know just as wife is so will the husband be so you fix and look sweet and huby may do so too. You dont think you will ware the satin hoods until I get out. I will try and see that you do. Wont we be fine when we get on our good clothes. I will be sure to love to death. I know you think I am a regular monky, but no matter I think you a daisy. There was only eight young Ladys to see me last Sunday, one of them gave me a nice boquet with this line ‘Accept the flowers—their sweet breath has a language more eloquent than words.’ Yet with all this I would not give my little common sense wife for all the women in the world. I want you to remember I am awaiting your coming very impatiently. I will now put my arm around you and kiss you good bye." At the conclusion, he adds: "Love to all the family." In fine condition. Accompanied by the original mailing envelope, addressed in James's hand to "Mrs. A. F. James, Independence, Mo."
In September of 1882—five months after his brother Jesse was gunned down by fellow gang member Robert Ford—James turned himself in to Missouri governor Thomas Crittenden in Jefferson City, tired of running and hoping to avoid the same gruesome fate. He was held and put on trial in Gallatin, Missouri, for participating in two murders during a train robbery. However, having reached folk-hero status within the general population, he was acquitted by the jury.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.