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Billy the Kid - The Fatal Shot in the Dark

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By Pat Garrett


During the weeks following the Kid's escape, I was censured by some for my seeming unconcern and inactivity in the matter of his re-arrest. I was egotistical enough to think I knew my own business best, and preferred to accomplish this duty, if possible at all, in my own way. I was constantly, but quietly, at work, seeking sure information and maturing my plans of action. I did not lay about the Kid's old haunts, nor disclose my intentions and operations to any one. I stayed at home, most of the time, and busied myself about the ranch. If my seeming unconcern deceived the people and gave the Kid confidence in his security, my end was accomplished. It was my belief that the Kid was still in the country and haunted the vicinity of Fort Sumner; yet there was some doubt mingled with my belief. He was never taken for a fool, but was credited with the possession of extraordinary forethought and cool judgment, for one of his age. It seemed incredible that, in his situation, with the extreme penalty of law, the reward of detection, and the way of successful flight and safety open to him -- with no known tie to bind him to that dangerous locality -- it seemed incredible that he should linger in the Territory. My first task was to solve my doubts.


Early in July, I received a reply from a letter I had written to Mr. Brazel. I was at Lincoln when this letter came to me. Mr. Brazel was dodging and hiding from the Kid.


He feared his vengeance on account of the part which he, Brazel, had taken in his capture. There were many others who "trembled in their boots" at the knowledge of his escape; but most of them talked him out of his resentment, or conciliated him in some manner.


Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid

Note: The only photo taken of Billy shows him as left-handed. However,  it was a tintype, which creates a mirror image. He was actually right-handed. This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!





Brazel's letter gave me no positive information. He said he had not seen the Kid since his escape, but, from many indications, believed he was still in the country. He offered me any assistance in his power to recapture him. I again wrote to Brazel, requesting him to meet me at the mouth of Tayban Arroyo an hour after dark on the night of the 13th day of July.

A gentleman named John W. Poe, who had superseded Frank Stewart, in the employ of the stockmen of the Canadian, was at Lincoln on business, as was one of my deputies, Thomas K. McKinney. I first went to McKinney, and told him I wanted him to accompany me on a business trip to Arizona, that we would go down home and start from there. He consented. I then went to Poe and to him I disclosed my business and all its particulars, showing him my correspondence. He also complied with my request that he should accompany me.


We three went to Roswell and started up the Rio Pecos from there on the night of July 10th. We rode mostly in the night, followed no roads, but taking unfrequented routes, and arrived at the mouth of Tayban Arroyo, five miles south of Fort Sumner one hour after dark on the night of July 13th. Brazel was not there. We waited nearly two hours, but he did not come. We rode off a mile or two, staked our horses, and slept until daylight. Early in the morning we rode up into the hills and prospected awhile with our field glasses.


Poe was a stranger in the county and there was little danger that he would meet any one who knew him at Fort Sumner. So, after an hour or two spent in the hills, he went into Fort Sumner to take observations. I advised him, also, to go on to Sunnyside, seven miles above Fort Sumner, and interview M. Rudolph, Esq., in whose judgment and discretion I had great confidence. I arranged with Poe to meet us that night at moonrise, at La Punta de la Glorietta, four miles north of Fort Sumner. Poe went on to the plaza, and McKinney and myself rode down into the Pecos Valley, where we remained during the day. At night we started out circling around the town and met Poe exactly on time at the trysting place.


Poe's appearance at Fort Sumner had excited no particular observation, and he had gleaned no news there. Rudolph thought, from all indications, that the Kid was about; and yet, at times, he doubted. His cause for doubt seemed to be based on no evidence except the fact that the Kid was no fool, and no man in his senses, under the circumstances, would brave such danger.


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.



Continued Next Page


Peter Maxwell's house in 1882

Peter Maxwell's house in 1882. The site is located at Fort Sumner, but the house is long gone today.

Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.


Billy the Kid's Grave at Fort Sumner, New Mexico

Billy the Kid's Grave at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Kathy Weiser, February, 2008.

Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.



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