The Innocents were an alleged gang of outlaw road agents in Montana Territory who operated during the gold rush of the 1860s, preying on shipments and travelers carrying gold between Bannack and Virginia City.
The gang was allegedly led by Henry Plummer, who served as sheriff of Bannack from May 24, 1863, to January 10, 1864. The ruthless gang of highwaymen terrorized the road, stealing from stagecoaches, freight caravans, and especially from the ore wagons hauling the gold shipments. During these violent crimes, nearly 100 people were killed.
Finally, a group of men calling themselves the Vigilante Committee formed in nearby Virginia City to take matters into their own hands. At one point, the vigilantes assembled a force of over 500 men and sealed off Virginia City to catch gang members. Between December 1863 and February 1864, the vigilante committee executed 23 alleged gang members. On January 10, 1864, Henry Plummer was hanged on the gallows that he had built earlier for another case. Over 5,000 people assembled to watch the hangings of the gang members.
The last man hanged by the vigilantes may have done nothing more than express an opinion that several of those hanged previously had been innocent. Today, the accuracy of Henry Plummer’s guilt has been challenged, with many believing that the crimes were, in fact, committed by the Vigilante Committee themselves and that Plummer and the “Innocents” were killed to cover their own crimes.