On May 5, 1865, 148 years ago today, armed desperadoes robbed passengers and blew safes on the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad in what is believed to have been the first train robbery in the U.S.
When it comes to train robbers people always talk about Butch Cassidy Wild Bunch Gang or Billy the Kid, seems like the most likely suspects in this rail road caper.
As you can see from the date it becomes obvious why it is overlooked, and for those not paying attention the Civil War was winding down, which why no one knows for certain who actually robbed the train that day in May.
So what exactly happened that day in May?
The 8pm route from Ohio to Mississippi head to Cincinnati to Saint Louis left on time, with four passenger cars, two baggage cars, and three large safes. Over 100 passengers boarded and mainly women were making the trip.
The ride was going smooth until about 20 miles outside of Cincinnati between the stations of Gravel Pit and North Bend. Between these two stations the train suddenly derailed and flew off the tracks.
After the train was derailed 20 armed men boarded the train and held the passengers at gun point. After taking the terrified passengers valuables the robbers headed to the baggage cars.
There they blew open 3 safes that were on board which contained roughly thirty thousand dollars in U.S. Bonds.
Then the pioneers of train robbery made their way across the Ohio River and into Kentucky. Local authorities were notified but due to the scale and uncommon type of robbery the U.S. Army was brought in to find the culprits.
Unfortunately for the U.S. Army, no one was ever found or tried for the robbery, which leads us to the mystery of who actually did it?
Some passenger retold the story of the night as seeing one of the robbers wearing a uniform very similar to that of the Rebels and hearing the men refer to each other as lieutenant and captain.
Perhaps, the robbery took place well north of the fighting and deep in Union territory. Secondly, the robbers were armed with various types of pistols, were if it were a group of Rebels, they surely would have been armed with rifles.
Another reason it was not Confederates on a mission is the way the train was derailed. If it was some southerner they would have destroyed the whole track, the robbers only blew up one side of the track.
A good reason why it couldn’t be Butch Cassidy who robbed the train is because he was born on April 13th 1866, the infamous train robbery happened on May 5th 1865.
Billy the Kid, was born on November 23, 1859 in Manhattan New York, and would have been six years old during the train robbery, which means he couldn’t been there either.
Needless to say it happened a very long time ago, and no one knows for certain who it was that robbed that train.
In lieu of today’s story, while you’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo today, and you had a few drinks too many, just before you pass out, don’t forget to imitate a train sound, by saying, “Choo -Choo,” before you hit the floor.
Happy Train Robbery to you!
Written and Designed by JD Mitchell