Josey Wales (character)
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Josey Wales is a fictional character created by author Forrest Carter, for his novel The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales (republished in 1975 as Gone to Texas). Wales is portrayed in the 1976 western film The Outlaw Josey Wales by actor and director Clint Eastwood. Wales was portrayed by Michael Parks in the 1986 sequel The Return of Josey Wales.
Character and background
The film differs significantly in plot from the Forrest Carter's book it was based on. Wales achieves notoriety after the American Civil War ends, due to his refusal to surrender, and his deadly reputation as a gunman. He carries two guns holstered on his belt, another tucked inside his gunbelt, and a smaller one inside his coat. He bears a scar across his right cheek, caused by a saber slash. He typically wears a gray cowboy slouch hat and a shortened trench coat. His demeanor is such that he has very little to say, and when he does speak it is short and to the point, with a quiet tone (his catchphrase being "I reckon so"). He also has a habit of chewing and spitting tobacco with accuracy.
Wales is a Missouri farmer in the early days of the Civil War, living and working on his farm with his young son and wife. Union guerrillas, called Redlegs to describe leggings they wear, riding under the pretense of being part of the Union Army, attack his farm killing both his wife and son, burn his home, steal his livestock, and leave Wales for dead, him having been slashed across the face with a saber. After burying his family, Wales grieves, and takes his old revolver to practice his shooting. A band of Confederate guerrillas led by "Bloody" Bill Anderson rides onto his farm, on their way north to Kansas to fight for the Confederacy. Wales joins them.
For the remainder of the war, Wales fights with the guerrilla band, alongside his comrades Fletcher and the young Jamie. After General Robert E. Lee's surrender in 1865, the Union organizes to allow the remaining guerrilla bands to surrender, pledging their loyalty to the United States of America. Everyone in his detachment agrees to surrender, with the exception of Wales. Fletcher negotiates the surrender, but the Union authorities had set a trap, and open fire on the unarmed guerrillas as they are swearing their loyalty. Wales had been watching from a distance, and seeing that an ambush was about to happen, he rode into the Union camp, killing as many Union soldiers as possible. Wales believes that Fletcher was a part of the betrayal, but he was not, and was as surprised as Wales when it happened, being held at gunpoint during the ambush. Fletcher does, however, accept a commission with the Union Army to track Wales down and either kill him or bring him in. Fletcher accepts this believing he can save Wales.
Wales and Jamie find themselves fleeing from Union soldiers intent on bringing him down. Jamie was wounded badly during the ambush, and dies shortly thereafter. Josey then embarks on a trek to Texas, meeting and becoming friends with several people on the way, including Laura Lee, with whom he becomes romantically involved. Wales kills several soldiers and bounty hunters on his way, leading up to an ultimate and inevitable clash with his pursuers, who are led by Captain Terrill, the man who led the raid on his farm and killed his family. In the end he kills Terrill, and makes his peace with his former comrade Fletcher, settling into a life as a rancher with Laura Lee. Fletcher leads lawmen in his company to believe Wales had been killed, to help him have a fresh start at life.