10 of History's Most Notorious Traitors

Robert Ford
A woodcut shows Robert Ford famously shooting Jesse James in the back while he hangs a picture in his house. Ford's brother Charles looks on. © Bettmann/CORBIS

Jesse James may have been one of the United State's most infamous outlaws, but the man who shot him received the rancor of generations.

James led the James Gang on a robbery spree during the late 1800s that targeted everything from banks to trains to ordinary people. The robberies continued for about 16 years across the Midwest, coming to an abrupt end in 1876 when the gang murdered two people during a botched bank robbery. Several gang members were captured, but Jesse James managed to escape, robbing just one more train in 1880 -- the same year a Missouri governor put a price on his head.

Turns out, Robert Ford, a member of James' own gang, would become a traitor. On April 3, 1882, he killed James by shooting him in the back. Ford killed James not only for the $10,000 reward he planned to split with his brother Charles, but also because the Missouri governor had promised the brothers their crimes would be pardoned.

After Ford murdered James, he didn't receive a hero's welcome as he'd hoped, or even the entire reward. Instead, he was labeled a coward and became a drifter. Ironically, Ford met his end when a fellow outlaw shot him in the chest, seeking fame for killing the ultimate coward [sources: Lofty, History].