BILLY THE KID: cont
After the killing of Tunstall, Billy joined the forces of the Tunstall fraction in seeking revenge. His first attempt resulted in embarrassment, which only served to fuel his hatred. He joined a policeman in the effort to serve a warrant on members of Mortons posse – as a result Billy was jailed for three days and suffered the humiliation of having his rifle confiscated by Sheriff Brady.
After Brady released The Kid he joined Tunstall’s foreman, Dick Brewer, and a posse which called themselves “The Regulators” in a search for his former employers’ killers. Somewhere near Rio Penasaco, they flushed William Morton and another deputy Frank Baker out. After a five mile running gun battle, Morton and Baker agreed to surrender after being promised by Brewer a safe return and a fair trial. Along the way Morton was premitted to pen a letter to a relitave in Virginia in which he wrote “There was one man who wanted to kill me after I had surrendered and was restrained with the greatest difficulity by the others.” On the third day of the journey to Lincoln, while the party was strung out, The Kid and one other killed both men, and apparently one of the posse who had tried to stop them.
Three weeks later on April’s Fools Day, 1878, Billy and at least five others ambushed Sheriff Brady, Deputies George Hindman and three others, as they strolled down the main street of Linclon. Brady was killed instantly and Hindman lay bleeding in the dust while the other deputies escaped. Billy broke cover and scurried to pick up Brady’s rifle – the very one he had taken from the kid. Billy Mathews, one of the fleeing deputies, fired with his rifle, inflicting a painful flesh wound to the inside of one of Billy thighs. He might have easily fled town, but with his new found bravado he hid instead. One presistant story is he hid inside an empty barrel while a Mexican woman made tortillias on the top as her house was searched.
Three days later, The Kid, riding with Dick Brewer and The Regulators tangled with Andrew “Buckshot” Roberts at a spot called “Blazer’s Mill”, southwest of Ruidoso, in one of the old west’s classic shootouts. The outcome left Brewer dead and Roberts dying of his wounds.
On April 9, the county commissioner appointed John Copeland as sheriff, but on June 1 Governor Samuel B Axtell removed Copeland and appointed George “Dad” Peppin instead. Peppin had been one of Brady’s deputies.
With the death of Brewer and Tunstall, Billy turned his allegiance to McSween. On July 14 McSween led a force of fifty to sixty men, including The Kid, into Linclon. He made no effort to take over the town, although he had warrants from a justice of the peace for the arrest of Pippin’s men. instead he sealed off three down town buildings and barricaded them. Before he could make up his mind to fight, reinforcements for the sheriff’s men arrived and the odds shifted in favor of Peppen.
In the first three days of desultory fire, the only casualities were one horse and a mule. At one point the besigers heard Mrs. McSween gaily playing the piano during the exchange. However these gay entertainments soon ceased.
Colonel N. A. M. Dudley, of Fort Stanton, brought his troops on the “pretense” that one of his men had been fired upon by a McSween man. Along with his troops he brought a Gatling Gun and a Mountain Howitzer. Although he took no part in the firing, he camped near by. Disheartned, McSween’s men began to slip away. Leaving only McSween, his wife and about fourteen men – including Billy.
On the fifth day of the seig, the attackers managed to get close enough to set fire to the wooden doorways and windows of the hous, and soon the furniture caught fire also. McSween had refused to use a gun himself on the lawyer-like grounds that if he particaped in the fight it would invalidate his $10,000 insurance policy. He soon lost interest in the fight and left Billy without a leader, So The Kid became a leader. As the fire forced the defenders from room to room Billy convinced Mrs. McSween to leave the house, but would not permit anyone else to leave, at one point threatening a wounded Mexican gunslinger from going. Billy killed one beseiger that got as far as the door.
Billy – now compeletly in charge – persuaded the others to wait until night fall to make an escape. About 9 p.m. the flames became more intense and Harvey Morris, who read law in McSweens office, made a dash out the side door- he was promptly shot down. Quickly on his heels dashed Billy and several companions – all escaped into the darkness.
Left inside was McSween and a few others who feard the gunfire as much as the flames. “Will you accept our surender?” McSween called to Pippin. A deputy named Robert Beckworth answered he would.
Beckworth stepped forward to accept the guns from the surrendering men as fresh gunfire erupted. No one knows who started it. But when finished Beckworth, McSween and several others lay dead.
“The House” was too weakened to ever recover or exert political power in Lincoln County. Many of the leaders of both sides were dead and for all intents and pourposes the Lincoln county was over. All that remained was to round up the fugitives.
HOWEVER THE LEGEND OF
BILLY, THE KID
WAS JUST BEGGINING
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