The years just before 1880 until about 1885 are considered the "outlaw years." Lawlessness developed a law of its own and planned an empire.
Operating along the Natchez Trace, an overland trading and postal-rider route that in places was barely a trail, the outlaws preyed upon the traffic along this line. Their plans were laid in the dives under the bluffs of the river towns--Natchez and Vicksburg and as far south as New Orleans.
One gang of outlaws under John Murrell even threatened national stability for a time in his plot to steal slaves and organize insurrection, in order to disorganize the government and establish his own state.
Robert M. Coates has built his research on this little-known period of American history into a vividly told, unified story, which restores the outlaw to his prominent place in the frontier during a critical period in American history, without making outlaws into heroes.