William Henry McCarty aka `Billy the Kid`

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WilliamHenry McCarty aka ‘Billy the Kid’

‘Billythe Kid’ remains one of the controversial historical figures in thehistory of the old west. The character is regarded as one of thepeople who caused more controversy among people with his charactereluding historians and biographers. His real name was William H.Bonney. In his short life, Billy the Kid (pseudonym) had gone througha lot and caused a stir in the society, and his life was far moreinteresting (Billy the Kid, 2015). Among the historians in his time,and later times, the main question that lingered people’s mind iswho is/was belly the Kid? How did he die? These are some of thequestions that are hotly debated even today as people attempt (Pagend). This essay focuses on a historian figure (Billy the Kid), hislife and different versions of his lifestyle according to historiansas well as his death.


Bornon 23rd Nov 1859, in New York City, William Henry McCarthy Jr. akaBilly the Kid grew to have a very controversial life, and little wasknown about his early life. According to Owens (2015), it`s believedhis father either died or abandoned the family when Billy was young.Later he was an orphan after his mother died of TB, and this is thetime he together with his brother entangles in issues of petty theft.After his father’s death, he moved with his mother to silver cityNew Mexico. This was around 1873, however, little of substance isknown of this man’s ‘Billy’ life during this period. However,one of the known things is that Billy arrived in Lincoln County, NewMexico. His life lasted for 4 more years a short period which hebecame entangled in occurrences or events that made him be regardedas a legend (Latson 2015). Billy, the kid is known or made hisprominence due to the infamous western outlaw, before he was shotdead.

Hewas brought up by his father (not the biological father, though), andat around the year 1865, together with his brother, they travelled toIndiana with mother and stepfather. They movement from one region toanother took them to Wichita Kansas by the year 1870, and later theymoved further west. In terms of physique, he was a slim man withsandy blond hair and coupled with blue eyes, and always wore a hat.His character was a kind of mixed at one time she would be politeand charming while in another moment she will be violent andoutraged. His life was marked as an outlaw, with some sections ofhistory, pointing out that, he had killed 21 men in total for theperiod she lived, however, due to different sources of historicalreference, and this number could be more or less (Owens, 2015).

‘Billythe Kid’ As an Outlaw

Hislife after leaving his brother and stepfather made his name among dueto his outlawed way of life as he was involved in murder cases.atfirst after leaving his brother and father, he worked on a ranch as aranch hand and in 1876, he was accused of killing, which became hisfirst killings of many. His first victims were a group of reservationApache Indians who were living in the Guadalupe Mountains. However,it wasn’t long before he was involved in another killing case. Thistime, the victim was a blacksmith who dwelled in camp Grant in thestate of Arizona. This is around the time people gave him the nameBilly the Kid. Afterwards, he worked as a rancher as well as abodyguard for one rancher who had his operations outside the Lincolnregion. However, his employer died when a rival/cattle gang raidedhis farm in the process killing Tunstall (Latson 2015). As a resultof anger and the urge for revenge for his employer’s (Tunstall)death, Billy joined a vigilante group that was sent out to arrest thekillers. Despite no arrest were made, his gang managed to shoot deadtwo of the murderers. However, this leads to an escalated blood feudand a case of warfare. This scenario was made more serious by thekilling of the Lincoln Sherriff who was believed to have sanctionedTunstall’s murder. Billy gang was behind the killing of theSherriff. The regulators gang, led by Billy was referred asregulators, and after the Sherriff murder, his enemies conspired withthe regional authorities to have the group ‘regulators’abandoned.

Inan attempt to stop Billy and his gang from their operations, rivalgang surrounded their house, an incident that resulted in a siegelasting for five days. The incident attracted the attention of anearby US army from Fort Stanton, but still Bill and his gang refuseto surrender. The gang led by Billy managed to stage a mass escapeand he and some of his men managed to shoot themselves out of town.John Tunstall acted as a surrogate father to Billy, and this henceled an outage when he was killed. The killing of his employer by thesheriff posse led to the adoption of a revenge strategy by Billy andhence the establishment of the regulators gang. His first victimsbecame the Sheriff behind Tunstall killing and his deputy who wereeliminated in the streets of Lincoln. This resulted to Billy being onthe run for 2 years, but was captured, tried and convicted in theLincoln defined region for the murders. However, the makeshift jailwas no match for Billy the kid. During his time in jail, he plannedfor his escape. One evening in April 1881 as he was being escortedback to his cell, Billy made a mad dash, grabbed a gun from the guardand shot him. On hearing the shots, a nearby guard run to thedirection of the shots only to be gunned by Billy, he later escapedusing a horse into history.

Billthe Kid in the Lincoln County War

Lincoln county war is a renowned war that erupted between the rival groupsor factions in the new Mexico region. The conflict was experienced asa result of the fight for control over dry goods and cattle businessand ranches in the county. The conflict between the factions becamefamous incidents more due to the characters entailed in it. Some ofthe notable figures include Billy the Kid, sheriffs in the name ofGarret and William Brady, the rancher Chisum as well aslawyer/businessman McSween, not forgetting the organized crime bossLawrence Murphy. Bill the Kid participated in the conflict as he wasfighting to revenge for the killing of his surrogate father Tunstall.Their revenge led to the death of Brady the Sherriff which wasfollowed by a series of killings (Page nd). Bil the Kid is seen as anintegral part of the conflict as his group led to escalating of thekillings as they sought to revenge for killings of their own.

Thewar led to little or no accomplishment, but the only result wasanimosity and distrust in the entire county. The war led to Billybecoming a fugitive on the run, but he still continued to be incrime. In 1878, Susan McSween looked to work out an amnesty for theRegulators. The Lincoln County War was seen as the facilitatingfactor behind the criminal life of Billy and his gang (PressAssociated, 2015). As the conflicting groups fought for supremacy andownership, more and more criminal activities were conducted which inturn gave billy and his likes a chance to thrive in crime.

TheDeath of Billy the Kid

Beforethe eruption of the Lincoln County War, Billy wasn’t in New Mexico,however, his jus returned in time to take up his role in theconflict. The region was under the political and economic control ofthree tycoons Murphy, Dolan and Henry Riley. The incident thatinvolved Billy shooting two guards on his escape was two weeks beforehis execution. This last act on his criminality led to him gainingnational attention. Led by Sherriff Garrett the authority set totrack and gun him down. The Sherriff tracked Billy the kid to a ranchnear the fort Sumner in New Mexico. During this manhunt, the Sherriffmanaged to gain access to the house where Billy was visiting hisgirlfriend, and attacked him in the dark. Before Billy could act tocounter the Sherriff’s attack, he was shot in the chest and died atthe age of 21years. Despite the his desire to be on the right,circumstances led to his involvement in the crime. There was no casefiled to accuse Sherriff Garrett as no legal charges were enactedagainst him. This is due to the fact that, the killing of Billy theKid was viewed and ruled as a justifiable homicide (Press Associated,2015).

Insummary, the Billy the kid rose to fame due to his wayward life, andhis constant colliding with the authorities. Marred by the series ofkillings he participated, she was always on the run and on conflictwith different people. He gained his legendary status by being one ofthe known Wild West Most famous outlaws. Long before his death, hisview from the public was enlarged by the constant coverage by thenewspaper covering his life, capture, escape from jail and hiseventual death. One of the incidents that show his popularity as anoutlaw is the manner in which his death was printed in all the dailypapers all around Nevada, areas of California and New Mexico. Afterhis death, different accounts of his life were published includingthe sensationalized biography written by Sherriff Garrett which isone of the numerous accounts which contributed immensely to the youngoutlaw becoming a legend. With reference to the incidents faced inhis life, it is the reason Billy was known for being an outlaw in theAmerican history. Mush of life experiences was as a result of hiswayward life.


&quotBillythe Kid.&quot&nbspColumbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6ThEdition&nbsp(2015): 1.&nbspAcademic Search Premier. Web. 8 Dec.2015.

Latson,Jennifer. &quotFamous Outlaw Billy The Kid’S True CharacterRemains A Mystery.&quot&nbspTime.Com&nbsp(2015):N.PAG.&nbspBusinessSource Complete.Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Owens,Patricia Ann. &quotWanted: The Outlaw Lives Of Billy The Kid And NedKelly.&quot&nbspLibrary Journal&nbsp140.18 (2015): 98.&nbspAcademicSearch Premier. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Page,Jake. &quotWas Billy The Kid A Superhero–Or ASuperscoundrel?.&quot&nbspSmithsonian&nbsp21.11 (1991):137.&nbspAcademic Search Premier. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Press,Associated. &quotHistorian Asks New Mexico To Set The RecordStraight On Billy The Kid’S Death.&quot&nbspTime.Com&nbsp(2015):N.PAG.&nbspBusiness Source Complete. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

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