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Billy the Kid Kills For the First Time

billy the kid

<![CDATA[One of the most infamous outlaws in the American Wild West, Billy the Kid killed for the first time on 17th August, 1877. The famed thief and gunfighter has since become one of the most well known figures from this tumultuous period of US history, remaining a source of controversy to this day. Born William Henry McCarty Jr. on 23rd November, 1859, in New York, little is known about Billy the Kid's youth. It is believed that his father died sometime during the American Civil War, disrupting the family life to the extent that Billy, his mother and younger brother moved around the United States frequently over the next few years. When Billy the Kid was fifteen his mother died from tuberculosis. Living in New Mexico, Billy and his brother embarked on a life of petty theft in order to survive. At some point Billy was jailed for a robbery - although doubts remain over whether he was truly guilty of the crime he'd been accused of - and he fled from his home in New Mexico to Arizona. For several months Billy the Kid tramped around the state in search of employment, occasionally working temporarily as a ranch hand and sheep herder. In 1877 he took on a job as a ranch handler at the Camp Grant Army Post in Arizona. It was here that Billy the Kid killed his first victim, although the circumstances of the killing lead some to argue that it highlights a pattern of Billy being far from a cold blooded killer, and in fact a victim of circumstance. Accounts suggest a burly, heavy set black smith named Frank "Windy" Cahill, who also worked at Camp Grant, had taken a dislike to Billy. Their long running dispute broke out into a fight on 17th August, 1877, and, overpowered by the larger man, Billy took out his pistol and shot him. Whether it was an act of self defense or excessive retaliation, Cahill died the following day and Billy fled Arizona to escape punishment. Billy the Kid eventually made his way to Lincoln County, New Mexico, where his reputation as a gunslinger and dangerous outlaw was formed. In 1876 a business rivalry between two major cattle and banking concerns, which would soon escalate into what is now known as the Lincoln County War, had started brewing. Billy the Kid was recruited by John Tunstall, the head of one of the businesses, to aid in the dispute. In 1878 Tunstall was killed by a gang of men from the rival business, and Billy the Kid swore to take revenge on those involved in the murder, claiming Tunstall, "was the only man that ever treated me like I was a free-born and white." Billy joined the Regulators, a private army set up by Tunstall's business associates, and over the next few months the men set out on a rampage against those associated with the rival business. Although other outlaws in the Wild West killed more people than Billy the Kid did, he gained a reputation as a ruthless, cold blooded killer. This was a consequence of both his youthful, blue-eyed image which seemed to contrast so sharply with his life as an outlaw, and a sensationalised biography of Billy which was written by Sheriff Garrett in 1881, the same Sheriff who had hunted down and killed Billy earlier that year. Billy the Kid's life has become immortalised through various accounts which made him a legend of the American Frontier. For some, he was a ruthless, cold blooded murderer, symptomatic of the brutal lawlessness of the Wild West. For others, the events of the death of Frank Cahill, and the circumstances of his later involvement in the Lincoln County War, show that Billy was nothing more than a victim of his time, an individual reacting to the extreme circumstances he found himself in. ]]>

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