Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Death Of Billy The Kid -- by Pat Garrett

Pat Garrett
Henry McCarty is better known by his alias William H. Bonney, Billy Bonney, or simply Billy the Kid.

According to Old West legend, Billy the Kid killed 21 men. Of course in reality, he in fact killed only 8 men.

His status as an outlaw truly started when he killed his first documented victim, Frank P. Cahill, on August 17, 1877. He was exactly one month shy of his eighteenth birthday.

A Tucson paper gave this account of the killing:

"Austin [sic] Antrim shot F.P. Cahill near Camp Grant on the 17th instant, and the latter died on the 18th. Cahill made a statement before his death to the effect that he had some trouble with Antrim during which the shooting was done ... The coroner's jury found that the shooting 'was criminal and unjustifiable,' and that 'Henry Antrim, alias Kid, is guilty thereof.' The inquest was held by M.L. Wood, J.P., and the jurors were M. McDowell, Geo. Teague, T. McCleary, B.E. Norton, Jas. L. Hunt and D.H. Smith."

McCarty fled the Arizona Territory and entered into New Mexico Territory. McCarty started to use the alias William H. Bonney or simply Billy Bonney.

On April 1st, 1878, his first known involvement in the Lincoln County War was when he along with Jim French, Frank McNab, John Middleton, Fred Waite, and Henry Brown, ambushed Sheriff Brady and his deputy, George W. Hindman, killing them both in Lincoln's main street.

It is said that the ambush was a retaliatory attack after ranch owner John Tunstall had been murdered on February 18th by Sheriff Brady and his men, who had been affiliated with rival ranchers. Billy Bonney worked for rancher John Tunstall.

Following his indictment for the murder of Sheriff Brady and deputy George Hindman, Billy Bonney became a wanted man. More than ever, he was now known more as Billy the Kid.

On November 7th, 1880, the new sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico, George Kimbell, resigned with two months left in his term. As Kimbell's successor, the county appointed Pat Garrett who had a reputation as a gunman. Garrett was part of a "reform ticket" pledged to bring justice to Lincoln County -- and among other things, that meant bring in Billy the Kid.

On December 19th, 1880, Garrett killed Tom O'Folliard in a shootout on the outskirts of Fort Sumner. O'Folliard was a member of the gang that Bonney belonged to known as the "Regulators."

On December 23rd, 1880, Sheriff Garrett's posse killed Charlie Bowdre, and captured Billy the Kid and his companions at Stinking Springs near present-day Taiban, New Mexico.

Garrett transported the captives to Mesilla, New Mexico, for trial. Though he was convicted and sentenced to hang, Billy the Kid managed to escape from the Lincoln County jail on April 28th, 1881, after killing both guards, J. W. Bell and Bob Olinger.

Garrett mounted another posse to bring in Billy the Kid. Garrett had been tracking him for three months after the killer had escaped from jail when he decided to seek out Billy's old friend, Peter Maxwell, who might tell him Billy the Kid was hiding. 

In July, Garrett received word that Billy Bonney, alias Billy the Kid, was hiding out at the abandoned Fort Sumner about 140 miles northeast of Lincoln. So with two of his deputies, John Poe and Thomas McKinney, Garrett set off in pursuit of Billy the Kid. 

On the night of July 14th, Sheriff Pat Garrett and his two deputies approached the dusty old Fort now converted to living quarters to question a friend of Billy's about the whereabouts of the outlaw. Garrett learned that Billy was staying with a mutual friend, Pedro Maxwell. 

Around midnight, Garrett went to Maxwell's house. As luck would have it, Billy the Kid fell right into Garrett's hands when Billy least expected it.

On July 14th, 1881, Pat Garrett shot Henry McCarty, alias William H. Bonney, to death at the Maxwell Ranch in New Mexico. thus putting an end to Billy the Kid,

While some say Garrett used a "ghost writer," almost a year after it happened, to write his account of what took place, this is Pat Garrett's published account of the incident:

"I then concluded to go and have a talk with Peter Maxwell, Esq., in whom I felt sure I could rely. We had ridden to within a short distance of Maxwell's grounds when we found a man in camp and stopped. 

To Poe's great surprise, he recognized in the camper an old friend and former partner, in Texas, named Jacobs. We unsaddled here, got some coffee, and, on foot, entered an orchard which runs from this point down to a row of old buildings, some of them occupied by Mexicans, not more than sixty yards from Maxwell's house. 

We approached these houses cautiously, and when within earshot, heard the sound of voices conversing in Spanish. 

We concealed ourselves quickly and listened; but the distance was too great to hear words, or even distinguish voices. Soon a man arose from the ground, in full view, but too far away to recognize. 

He wore a broad-brimmed hat, a dark vest and pants, and was in his shirtsleeves. With a few words, which fell like a murmur on our ears, he went to the fence, jumped it, and walked down towards Maxwell's house.

Little as we then suspected it, this man was the Kid. We learned, subsequently, that, when he left his companions that night, he went to the house of a Mexican friend, pulled off his hat and boots, threw himself on a bed, and commenced reading a newspaper. 

He soon, however, hailed his friend, who was sleeping in the room, told him to get up and make some coffee, adding: 'Give me a butcher knife and I will go over to Pete's and get some beef; I'm hungry.' 

The Mexican arose, handed him the knife, and the Kid, hatless and in his stocking-feet, started to Maxwell's, which was but a few steps distant.

When the Kid, by me unrecognized, left the orchard, I motioned to my companions, and we cautiously retreated a short distance, and, to avoid the persons whom we had heard at the houses, took another route, approaching Maxwell's house from the opposite direction. 

When we reached the porch in front of the building, I left Poe and McKinney at the end of the porch, about twenty feet from the door of Pete's room, and went in. It was near midnight and Pete was in bed. 

I walked to the head of the bed and sat down on it, beside him, near the pillow. I asked him as to the whereabouts of the Kid. He said that the Kid had certainly been about, but he did not know whether he had left or not. 

At that moment a man sprang quickly into the door, looking back, and called twice in Spanish, 'Who comes there?' 

No one replied and he came on in. He was bareheaded. From his step I could perceive he was either barefooted or in his stocking-feet, and held a revolver in his right hand and a butcher knife in his left.

He came directly towards me. Before he reached the bed, I whispered: 'Who is it, Pete?' but received no reply for a moment. 

It struck me that it might be Pete's brother-in-law, Manuel Abreu, who had seen Poe and McKinney, and wanted to know their business. 

The intruder came close to me, leaned both hands on the bed, his right hand almost touching my knee, and asked, in a low tone: -'Who are they Pete?' -at the same instant Maxwell whispered to me. 'That's him!' 

Simultaneously the Kid must have seen, or felt, the presence of a third person at the head of the bed. He raised quickly his pistol, a self-cocker, within a foot of my breast. Retreating rapidly across the room he cried: 'Quien es? Quien es?' 'Who's that? Who's that?' 

All this occurred in a moment. Quickly as possible I drew my revolver and fired, threw my body aside, and fired again. The second shot was useless; the Kid fell dead. He never spoke. 

A struggle or two, a little strangling sound as he gasped for breath, and the Kid was with his many victims."

Some have said that Billy the Kid was asleep in another part of the house but woke up hungry in the middle of the night and entered the kitchen where Garrett was standing in the shadows. It was from there that Garrett shot twice -- hitting Billy once. 

Some have questioned Garrett's account of the shooting, alleging the incident happened differently. They claim that Garrett tied people up and then ambushed Billy the Kid with a single blast from his Sharps rifle. The problem is there is nothing to support these theories of what took place. 

We do know that after tracking him to the Maxwell Ranch, Garrett shot Henry McCarty, alias Billy Bonney, alias Billy the Kid, to death. No legal charges were brought against Garrett since the killing was ruled a justifiable homicide.

As with most accounts of this sort where we only know what one man says took place because the other man is dead, Garrett's story has become legend. And frankly, people can speculate this and that until the cows come home -- but Garrett is the only eye-witness to how he killed Billy the Kid. 

So whether it's true or not, that's all we really have to go on.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa






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