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The southern and border states, since the close of the war of the rebellion, have been the frequent scenes of extensive and audacious robberies. This has been largely owing to the sparsely-settled condition of certain districts, to the disorder and lawlessness generated by the war, and to the temptations offered by the carelessness of many persons having large sums intrusted to their care in transit through lonely and desolate localities.The express companies have always been favorite objects of attack by thieves of every grade, from the embezzling cashier to the petty sneak-thief, and some of the operations connected with the detection of this class of criminals are among the most difficult and dangerous that have ever been intrusted to me. Probably a no more reckless and desperate body of men were ever banded together in a civilized community than those who were brought to my attention in 1871 by the Southern Express Company's officers in Memphis; and I consider the successful termination of my efforts in this case as of the greatest value to the people of the South and West. The whole affair was conducted with such a limited force, and under such adverse circumstances, that I take pride in here recording the history of the affair and my connection with it. Though I maintained a general supervision of the operation, my eldest son, William A. Pinkerton, was the person having immediate charge of the matter, and to his energy, perseverance, and sagacity is mainly attributable our success.Some time in the latter part of July, 1871, an express messenger on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad was overpowered by three men at Moscow, Kentucky, and his safe was robbed of about sixteen hundred dollars. The manner of effecting the robbery was a very bold one, showing the presence of men of experience in crime. The loss was not heavy, but the company made every effort to discover the robbers, in the hope of bringing them to a severe punishment as a warning to other criminals. In spite, however, of the efforts of two of my men, who were immediately sent to the scene of the robbery, the guilty parties escaped into the almost impenetrable swamps along the Mississippi River, and the chase was reluctantly abandoned, as it was impossible to tell where they would come out or cross the river. The amount stolen was not sufficiently large to warrant the expenditure of much time or money in the pursuit of the thieves, and my men were soon wholly withdrawn from the operation. In order, however, to guard against a repetition of such a raid, an extra man was placed in each express car to act as guard to the regular messenger. It was considered that two men, well armed, ought to be surely able to protect the company against further loss, and everything ran smoothly until October 21, 1871. At this time, the money shipments by express were very heavy, as a rule, and orders were given that special care should be exercised by all the employés having money packages in charge.
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