Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid is most well known for his time as a thief and gunfighter in the West and his wild escapes from the law enforcement. William Henry McCarty Jr (Billy the Kid) was born November 23, 1859 in New York City. Little is known about the early life of Billy the Kid but it is believed that his father died or left the family and he was orphaned at 15 when his mother died of tuberculosis. Shortly after, he and his brother, Joseph, became involved in small crimes and petty thievery. Daniel E, Harmon, author of “Billy the Kid, Famous Figures of the American Frontier” said, “I was told in Silver City in the 1950s that everybody knew Billy was an illegitimate child. Antrim’s family told me he became very upset when anyone mentioned his wife and promptly changed the subject. I am convinced there is some scandal in her past.”
McCarty had a slim physique, sandy blond hair and blue eyes and wore a signature sugar-loaf hat. He could be charming and polite one moment, then outraged and violent the next, an interesting nature he used to great effect during his heists and robberies. According to legend, he killed 21 men, however, it has been found that he was only involved in the killing of 6 men.
McCarty's early life as an outlaw led him to Arizona, where he resided briefly before joining up with a gang of gunfighters called The Boys to Fight in the Lincoln County War. Known as "The Kid," McCarty switched to the opposition to fight under the name "the Regulators." A fugitive on the run, the Kid stole a horse and cattle. McCarty was eventually arrested in 1880 for the murder of Sheriff Brady
Barely escaping with his life, McCarty became an outlaw and a fugitive. He stole horse and cattle until his arrest in 1880 for the killing of Sheriff Brady during the Lincoln County War. After being sentenced to death, he killed his two guards and escaped in 1881. He was hunted down and killed by Sheriff Patrick Garrett on July 14, 1881 in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The above picture is a cartoon drawn in a newspaper, titles: Not so cocky now, Billy the Kid!

Billy the Kid was one of the most infamous western gunfighter in is time and still remains among the most well known. In general, the outlaw gunman remains one of the most popular Western icons. What made these gunmen so popular was the the "press agents" who reported on their deeds. There was, however, "little to distinguish one criminal from another, it just mattered who had the best press agent. When considering the cast of Western badmen, Billy the Kid wins hands down on this account." The press inflated his status but when you look at his record, was he really that bad compared to standards set by other gunmen? Below I gave a listing of Billy the Kid's criminal record.

This shows that while the Kid was by no means innocent, he did not compare with many of the other renowned outlaws such as Wesley Hardin, whose official record names him responsible for the murder of 27 people.

Outlaws of the "Wild West" added an intriguing twist into the Westward expansion movement. Officers and law enforcers needed to take extreme measures to catch these criminals, leading to a larger number of law enforcement officers to move westward. Outlaws such as Billy the Kid brought about many changes America by luring law enforcement out of the east. When these officers cam, they often brought their families, leading to a slight increase in western population. Contrary to many authors, the kid was not the cold blooded killer he was made up to be and most of his killings were necessity (to his life) or a apart of a larger group. Losing both parents at a young age, Billy the Kid's tale is rather tragic. He is not the western "badman" he is made out to be but instead a rather ordinary thug who was a victim of circumstances.

Created By
Jamie Zusi
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