Frank and Jesse James of Clay County, Missouri, signed up as members of the home guard, a pro-Confederate force under state control. Soon they found that even the lax rules of the militia were to much for them, so when Brig. General Sterling Price left the state for Arkansas they became bushwhackers, or renegade raiders.
Little is known with certainty about their Civil War years, which have become embellished with legends. Many of these folk tales were spawned after the pair of cutthroats became central figures in the brief era known as the Wild West.