The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)




Director:     Clint Eastwood

Starring:     Clint Eastwood (Josey Wales), Sandra Locke (Laura Lee), Chief Dan George (Lone Watie),  Bill McKinney (Terrill), John Vernon (Fletcher), Paula Trueman (Grandma Sarah), Sam Bottoms (Jamie), Geraldine Keams (Little Moonlight), Woodrow Parfrey (Carpetbagger), Joyce Jameson (Rose), Sheb Wooley (Travis Cobb), Royal Dano (Ten Spot), Matt Clark (Kelly), John Verros (Chato), Will Sampson (Ten Bears).

Josey Wales is out for vengeance.  His family was killed in the destruction of the town of Osceola, Missouri by Jim Lane and his Redlegs. 

And for his vengeance, he decides to join the psycopath killer "Bloody Bill" Anderson and his gang (in the film called Bloody Bill Fletcher).  These men and others like them (under Quantrill) usually tried to pass themselves off as part of the Confederate army, but the North just considered them murdering "outlaws".




Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

A young boy helps his father plow a field.  His mother calls him home to get cleaned up.  The father hears a strange noise and sees the smoke from a fire over in the direction of his house.  He runs back to his home to find it being besieged by Kansas Redlegs.  Dad tries to come to the rescue, but he is hit on the head with a pistol.  He gets up as the men are dragging his wife out of the house, but then he is hit across the right side of his face with a sword.  He goes unconscious. 

Josey buries his wife and child.  He retrieves his pistol which was buried under the house and he starts target practice.  As he sits by the graves, Bloody Bill Fletcher and his gang ride up to Josey.  Bill asks if it was the Redlegs and Josey nods yes.  The leader then says they are headed to Kansas to set things right.  Josey joins up with the gang.  Along the way the gang attacks various farms and lynches some of the farm residents. 

The Civil War is coming to a close.  A Confederate officer is wounded and is tended to by one of his men.  Bill's gang is the last of the holdouts.  The Union has offered them amnesty if they will come in and swear their loyalty to the United States.  Bill says he's going in because he's had enough.  So the men get ready to go down to the Union camp.  The only one who is not going in is Josey Wales.  Bill warns him that the Union will be coming after him.

With a field telescope Josey watches the men turn in their weapons.  Bill finds out that Captain Terrill, a Kansas Redleg, is overseeing the surrender of the gang and he is not happy about it.  The senator speaking with Bill says that at least Fletcher brought everybody in.  All except Josey Wales.  The senator tells Terrill to take five men and Fletcher and bring in this Josey Wales.  Fletcher laughs at the idea of Josey being brought in by six Union soldiers.  The officer gives Bill some money for bringing the gang in and says there will be more coming when Wales comes in.  But Fletcher decides not to take the money and sets it down on a table. 

The gang takes the oath of loyalty to the Union.  A young man of the gang Jamie decides not to take the oath.  He thinks the Union owes them an apology.  Through his telescope Josey has figured that the amnesty is a trap for the men and he comes riding toward the camp.  At this time the back of a Conestoga wagon is opened up exposing a Gatlin gun, which starts mowing the gang men down.  Josey blazes away at the soldiers with his two pistols.  As the southerners are being killed, Josey is killing quite a few Union men.  He even shoots the men handling the Gatlin gun and uses it to shoot more Union soldiers.  He abandons one Gatlin gun as the wagon starts burning, but goes to a second Gatlin gun and starts killing soldiers again. 

There are about 60 or more soldiers, but Josey is doing an excellent job at trying to kill all of them. The rebellious fellow starts riding away, but is shot in the back.  He does, however, make it over to Josey and tells him they have to go.  Terrill and his men shoot at the second wagon holding the Gatlin gun, but when Terrill goes to see the damage, Josey has gotten away with Jamie. 

The senator now tells Bloody Bill that it is his assignment is to bring Wales in. 

Josey tells Jamie that they are going to hide out in the Indian Nation.  Then they will come back for the traitorous Bloody Bill.  

Josey says that they are are being followed.  He and Jamie take the horses down the side of the hill and Josey forces their horses to the ground.  Then the men lay on the necks of their horses to keep them down.  The group of six men just keeping riding straight on top of the hill. 

The river ferryman tells a seller of magic elixirs that he has had to be ready to either sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic or Dixie on a moment's notice.  Josey and Jamie come slowly riding up to the two men and the ferryman starts singing Dixie.  Josey tells the two men to come with him over to the store where he can get food and some medical supplies.  Granny Hawkins runs the store and she figures that the stranger is none other than Josey Wales.  She gives Josey the supplies.

The ferryman takes his three customers to the other side of the river.  Just as the three disembark, the cavalry arrives on the other side of the river.  The ferryman says he will delay getting back over to the other side so the three of them can get out of sight.  Josey figures that there are 40 or 50 men ahead of them and this small group with Terrill and Fletcher behind them.  So he decides to wait.  The cavalry get on to the ferry boat and start out for the other side.  Fletcher advises Terrill to turn around.  They can catch Josey later. Terrill rejects the idea. 

As the ferry reaches the mid-way point of the river, Josey uses a high powered rifle to tear through one of the ferry ropes.  Downstream go the the Union men.

Josey starts putting a poultice on Jamie's wound.  Jamie starts singing The Rose of Alabama.  Two bounty hunters get the drop on Josey.  Jamie distracts the men by singing and asking if one of the bounty hunters is his pa.  He says to his pa that he has the gold they stole from the bank right here under his blanket.  One of the bounty hunters goes over to Jamie and pulls the blanket off of him revealing the pistol that Jamie has pointed right at him.  Jamie shoots the man and this gives Josey enough time to grab a hidden third pistol and shoot the other bounty hunter. 

Josey and Jamie start riding again.  The cavalry is between them and the Indian Nation, so Josey sets up camp.  Later they will slowly sneak by the cavalry.  Josey goes to check on the Union camp which is very close.  When he comes back, Jamie has died.  He puts the body on the horse and sends it riding through the camp.  The soldiers all start chasing after the horse trying to kill the already dead man, allowing Josey enough time to slip right past the camp.   

Josey gets the drop on an old Indian named Lone Watie, who turns out to be a very charming fellow.  Lone Watie is a good story teller, but Josey is so exhausted he falls asleep during one of his stories.  When Josey gets up Lone Watie tells him he wants to go with him, but the Confederate Joe Shelby and his men took his horse.  Josey says he'll go down to the local trading post to get Lone Watie a horse. 

The white shop owner tells two Indians to get him 10 muskrat and 30 beaver belts and he will give them the Indian woman Red Claw. Red Claw brings out some whiskey for the Indians, but one of the bottles slips off her tray and breaks.  The shop owner starts beating Red Claw, until the man realizes that a man (Josey) on a horse is watching him.  The stop owner stops the beating. 

The shop owner goes into his shop where there a two tough looking white men.   Red Claw comes inside and the white men want the squaw.  They are going to have sex with her.  Josey steps into the place and says he is looking for a horse.  He walks over to where the men are getting ready to rape Red Claw.   One of the men gets up and pulls a gun on Josey.  The man says he's got Josey Wales.  He tells Josey to ease his pistols out.  Josey holds the pistols with the handles toward the bounty hunter.  But as soon as the man takes his eyes off Josey, he whirls the pistols around, shoots the man and then shoots the other man behind him.  

Josey is looking at the cavalry ride by.  From behind him he hears the sound of a gun being cocked.  He turns around slowly and finds Lone Watie there with a pistol in his hand.  He tells Josey that only an Indian can do something like this.  Josey says he figured as much.  Lone Watie doesn't know the meaning of the words until he hears the sound of a pistol being cocked.  He turns around and there is Red Claw pointing a pistol at his head.  Lone Watie complains that having a woman sneak up on him is just not right.  It makes him look bad, as well as old. 

Lone Watie asks who this woman is?  Josey says she was just a woman in some trouble.  Now the woman speaks in her native language.  Lone Watie translates for Josey.  She is a Navajo Indian, but was captured by the Cheyenne.  She was then raped by an Arapaho man.  The woman keeps on talking.  At night Lone Watie says that Red Claw says that Josey is a great warrior and because of what he did for her, she sort of belong to Josey.  Josey tells Lone Watie to tell the woman that:  "I don't want nobody belonging to me." 

The next morning the three set out south for Mexico.  Josey lets a red hound dog come with them. 

They come to a very small, but very active, town in Texas.  Josey spots some Redlegs in town.  Standing in front of a store, he spits out some tobacco juice and an old lady accompanied by her quiet granddaughter tells him that is a nasty habit and asks:  "Were you born in a barn?"  The women go into the store.  Josey goes in after them.  He hears grandmother telling the clerk that she doesn't want any product coming from Missouri.  She says they are from Kansas and are mighty proud of being Jayhawkers (i.e., people associated with militant bands affiliated with the free-state cause). 

Josey talks with the clerk and he tells Josey that the regulators are out looking all over for this man Josey Wales, who is said to be coming to Texas.  After buying some things Josey walks out of the store.  The magic elixir man sees him in the street and shouts:  "Oh, my God!  It's Josey Wales."  Four Union soldiers hear this and stop and stare at Josey Wales.  After awhile, Josey asks the boys:  "Well, are you going to pull those pistols or are you going to whistle Dixie?"  With the help of Lone Watie, all the soldiers are killed.  Josey pushes the elixir man down into some horse crap, gets on his horse and rides out with his Indian buddy. 

The cavalry starts to pursue Josey.  Red Claw slows them up a little by riding out in front of the soldiers.  For her trouble, one of the soldiers knocks her down off her horse. 

Terrill, Fletcher and their men arrive in the Texas town.  Terrill says Josey is an easy man to follow.  "He leaves dead men wherever he goes."  Fletcher says they are surrounded by bounty hunters so say that they are heading north (later they will turn and head for Mexico). 

With his ear to the ground, Lone Watie says they are being followed.  So Josie says let's take them out into the sands of the desert.  They see that it is just one person following them.  Lone Watie jumps on the person and they start wrestling.  The person following them turns out to be Red Claw. 

At night the red dog is uneasy and this alerts Josey.  He looks around and finds Lone Watie and Red Claw having sex.  Lone Watie says he guesses he ain't that old after all.

Comancheros are in the area.  They trade rifles to the Comanches.  The poor Jayhawker pilgrims from Kansas are being robbed.  The men then find the girl hiding in the back of the Conestoga wagon.  They pull her out of the wagon and tone of them pulls her blouse open  (brief nudity).  They start kicking her and then pull her pants off.  Their leader stops them.  He says he can get 20 horses for the woman, if she is not beaten and torn up. 

Lone Watie climbs up higher in the mountains, but starts sliding back down.  He kicks a rock loose and it tumbles down on the Comancheros.  They go up into the mountains to see what's up and they find Lone Watie.  Grandma, the girl and Lone Watie are tied up now and pulled along as they walk behind oxen carts. 

Up ahead of the Comancheros is one man with a white flag on a horse.  It turns out to be Josey and behind him is the sun which should give him an advantage.  Four men go out to meet him and they say they want his horse.  As one guy draws his weapon, Josey shoots him with the rifle and then pulls out his two pistols and shoots the other three.  Then Josey rides down to the wagons killing Comancheros as he goes.  Red Claw kills the last one. 

Now the five people get started so they can get out of Comanche territory.  Grandma talks about her son who has a ranch in Santa Rio.  She figures she and her granddaughter will stay there.  They reach a very small, almost abandoned, town.  Josey goes into the Lost Lady saloon but they have no liquor there to drink. So he goes back out onto the one and only street in the town.  He comes back with his friends and a whole box of whiskey courtesy of the Comancheros.  The few people in the bar are really excited about finally getting something to drink.  When Grandma learns that this is Santa Rio she is very disappointed.  The only barmaid guesses that this is the mother of Tom Turner of the Crooked River Ranch over by Blood Butte.  She introduces herself as Rose of Santa Rio and says she knew Tom very well.

Josey looks out the window and sees what looks like two bounty hunters.  One of the men comes into the saloon and announces that he's looking for Josey Wales.  Josey says:  "That would be me."  He then asks the man if he is a bounty hunter?   The fellow says he has to make a living somehow.  Josey tells him:  "Dying ain't much of a living, boy."  The bounty hunter walks out of the saloon, but then comes back.  He draws his gun and Josey shoots him dead.  The man's partner now runs down the street, gets on his horse and rides out. 

The procession moves on accompanied by a few men from town.  They run into some Comanche, but the Comache just ride away when Josey goes out to speak to them.  A Mexican caballero tells Josey that Ten Bears of the Comanche here is very tired of being pushed back and back by the white man and says that he will move no more. 

The group finds the ranch house.  Grandmother rushes into the house after Josey gets the door open.  At night Lone Watie tells Josey that grandmother says they can all stay here.  It will be the house of all of them.  Josey says all he can do is to stop by sometimes to see everyone.  Lone Watie asks Josey to be partners with the rest of the gang. 

Josey sits under the tree on a hill that looks over the ranch.  He hears something, turns around and sees the granddaughter Laura Lee all dressed up in a pretty white dress. She smiles at him, but then runs away. 

One day Lone Watie comes riding up with a cut across his forehead.  He says that Ten Bears is coming.  Josie gets the group ready to defend the ranch house.  Then he starts to take off on his horse to strike at Ten Bears himself.  Lone Watie says he doesn't think Josey will be coming back.  So Laura Lee runs out after Josey.  He stops for a moment, but then continues on. 

Josey rides to the camp of Ten Bears.  There they have two of the men that were with Josey buried up to their necks in the sand.  Ten Bears and a really large group of Comanche go out to meet Josey Wales.  They surround the lone gunman.  Josey tells Ten Bears that he has come here for death or for life.  He would prefer life and says they will be a good neighbor to the Comanche.  Ten Bears is impressed by the courage of Josey Wales and says that he chooses life too.  The two men cut their palms with their knives and clasp the bleeding hands together.  Ten Bears says:  "So will it be." Josey replies:  "I reckon so."  

Grandmother, Laura Lee and the others are happy to see the return of Josey Wales.  With him he brings the two other men that are from Santa Rio, who Josey was able to liberate. 

The group from the ranch house and some of the people from town get together at the Crooked River Ranch and have a celebration.  Meanwhile, the Terrill/Fletcher group comes into the town.  The bounty hunter whose partner was killed has brought the troops out to Santa Rio.  Terrill decides to hide in the buildings of town and wait for Josey Wales to return. 

At night Josey and Laura Lee talk by the fire.  They kiss.  They have sex (not shown). 

Josey gets on his horse, says goodbye to Lone Watie and starts out.  He doesn't get far before he is met by the Redlegs bunch.  Terrill tells Josey that he is all alone, but from the ranch house Lone Watie says that Josey is not quite alone.  He sticks his rifle out of the slit in the shutters.  Terrill sees there are two other rifles pointed at him and his men. Terrill and Fletcher go for their guns and so does Josey and all hell breaks out.  Some of the men charge the ranch house and are shot down.  Terrill runs away from the fight.  A man drops inside the ranch house from an opening he made in the roof.  Laura Lee shoots him dead. 

Josey goes after Terrill.  He follows Terrill all the way back to the town.  Josey finds Terrill and keeps shooting a sequence of four guns at him but all the pistols do is go click.  Terrill pulls out his sword, but Josey grabs the man's hand and forces the sword into his gut.  Terrill falls to the ground and dies.   

A wounded Josey goes into the Lost Lady and finds out that two Texas Rangers are there along with a man named Fletcher.  The saloon owner says hello to "Mr. Wilson" as Josey comes in.  Fletcher says nothing.  Rose says Josey Wales was killed in a shootout.  The two lawmen and and then Fletcher leave the saloon.  Everyone comes out on the street.  Fletcher tells them he doesn't believe that story about the death of Josey Wales because five men only could not kill Josey Wales.  He says he's going down to Mexico to see if he can't find the outlaw.  He adds:  "I think I'll try to tell him that the war is over.  What do you say "Mr. Wilson"?  Josey says:  "I reckon so."  Blood drops from Josey's wound onto his boot.  He adds:  "I guess we all died a little bit in that damned war."  Josey gets on his horse and rides back to the ranch house. 


 I really dislike films that take a true life psychopathic killer, such as Jesse James and Blood Bill Anderson, and turn them into heroic figured.  The film merely uses the names of Anderson, Missouri and Kansas to provide a thin veneer of history for a tale that is totally fictional.  Bloody Bill Anderson was hunted down by Union soldiers and shot twice in the head and died.  He wasn't working for the Union out pursuing a fellow like Josey Wales.  Rather he was dead. 

But if you ignore the history angle, the movie is a good western.  Aren't most Clint Eastwood westerns good?  Yes.  The actor Chief Dan George did a good job bringing quite a bit of comic relief to the film.  The love story between Eastwood and Sandra Locke was pretty weak, but the romance was not give that many minutes on the screen.  The film is certainly action packed with Josey fighting Kansas citizens, Redlegs, Union soldiers, bounty hunters, Comancheros and Comanche Indians. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:


It has been said that the Civil War actually started in Kansas, especially along the Missouri-Kansas border.

U.S. Senator Jim Lane organized his Kansas Redlegs to be a group of guerrilla fighters for the anti-slavery cause.   He had a deep hatred of pro-slave Missouri. His Redlegs got their name from the red leather leggings the men wore.   At first the Redlegs had the blessing of the Federal government and were paid by the government.

Osceola, Missouri, a town of some 2,000 inhabitants, was a known pro-slavery haven for Southern sympathizers. 

1861 (September 22)  --   Lane and his Redlegs attacked and destroyed Osceola, killing nine Southern sympathizers.  Anything of value was taken back to Kansas, including 360 horses, 400 head of cattle, and 200 slaves.

This attack on Osceola was the justification used by Quantrill and his men for the sacking of Lawrence, Kansas.

"Bloody Bill" Anderson

1839  -- birth of Bill Anderson in Missouri.  His father was a hat maker. (He had two brothers: Ellis and Jim.)

1850  --  at age 11, his father took off for California, leaving Bill as "the man of the house".

1857   --  Bill Anderson Sr. returned from California unsuccessful; the family moved to Agnes City Township, Kansas.   Bill Jr. would make forays into Missouri in order to steal horses.

1862  --  because of an ongoing dispute, a neighbor killed Bill Anderson Sr..  (Bill Jr. and brother Jim would later kill the neighbor and another man.)

1863 (spring)  --  Bill became a bushwhacker (i.e., Confederate partisan guerrilla fighter).  Later he joined Quantrill and his partisans.

1863 (August)  --  his sisters Mary and Josephine were imprisoned for helping the partisans in a building in Kansas City, Missouri.  The building collapsed killing Josephine and crippling Mary.  Bill was extremely angry saying that the Union troops had deliberately caused the building to collapse.  He stepped up his activities killing an unknown number of Union soldiers and sympathizers.

1863 (August 21)  --  Anderson participated in Quantrill's sacking of Lawrence, Kansas, helping to kill around 200 civilians, including boys. 

1864 (March)  --   Quarrels with Quantrill over tactics led Anderson and others to break with the group. 

1864 (Sept. 27)  --   Anderson led the raid on Centralia, Missouri, looting and burning buildings in the town.  They stopped a train and murdered 24 unarmed and returning-home Union soldiers, some recovering from war wounds. 

Many of the bushwhackers carried multiple pistols with them so they could be sure they inflicted the maximum number of deaths.  Bloody Bill carried a brace of pistols with him.

Union Major A.V.E. Johnston and the 39th Missouri Infantry Volunteers pursued Anderson, but when they caught up with him, Anderson's band along with George Todd overwhelmed the Union force.  The blue coats were cut-down as they ran away in panic.  Some who surrendered were later lined up and executed. Around 123 infantry men were killed. Some guerillas decapitated and mutilated the Union soldiers' bodies.

1864 (October 27)  --  Union troops at Albany, Missouri ran into Bloody Bill.  Bill tried to escape on his horse but was shot twice in the head and fell dead from his horse. His body was put on public display and photographed.



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