The Banditti of the Plains: Or The Cattlemen's Invasion of Wyoming in 1892
The Banditti of the Plains, first published in 1894 is an eyewitness exposé of Wyoming's Johnson County range war of the early 1890s.
The conflict between cattlemen and small homesteaders, began when cattle companies ruthlessly persecuted supposed cattle-rustlers in Wyoming.
As tensions mounted between the large ranchers and the smaller settlers, the cattlemen hired armed gunmen to invade Johnson County and destroy the competition for the limited supply of forage and water.
As the fighting spread, the homesteaders and smaller ranchers, as well as the state lawmen, formed a posse of 200 men to oppose them.
The fighting ended when the U.S. Cavalry, on the orders of President Benjamin Harrison, relieved the two opposing forces took the cattlemen and hired guns into protective custody.
Subsequent legal (and illegal) maneuvering permitted the invaders to go unpunished, but the cattlemen never again resorted to violence in their effort to control Wyoming's rangeland.
Asa Shinn Mercer (June 6, 1839 – August 10, 1917) was the first president of the Territorial University of Washington and a member of the Washington State Senate. He is remembered primarily for his role in three milestones of the old American West: the founding of the University of Washington, the Mercer Girls, and the Johnson County War. Mercer became well known throughout the West as a publisher, and eventually found his way to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he published the Northwestern Livestock Journal, a public relations vehicle for the moneyed cattle interests. As Mercer came to see the clearly underhanded treatment of individual ranchers by the cartels, he began to write more scathing accounts of the events that were unfolding on the open range. His account is told in his book The Banditti of the Plains (1894), which was suppressed in its day, and is still difficult to find in public libraries in some parts of the Western U.S. Following the events of the Johnson County War, which included destruction of his newspaper office by arson, Mercer settled into the quiet life of a successful rancher in Hyattville, Wyoming, where he died in 1917.