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David Fisk (Lens of
Lincoln County War by Hough
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In the meantime, the other party were not thus to be surpassed. In June,
1878, Governor Axtell appointed
George W. Peppin as sheriff of Lincoln County.
Peppin qualified at Mesilla, came back to
and demanded of Copeland the warrants in his possession. He had, on his
part, twelve warrants for the arrest of members of the
Regulators. Little lacked now to add confusion in this bloody coil.
The country was split into two factions. Each had a sheriff as a
figurehead! What and where was the law?
Peppin had to get fighting men to serve his warrants, and he could not
always be particular about the social standing of his posses. He had a
thankless and dangerous position as the "Murphy
sheriff." Most of his posses were recruited from among the small ranchers
and cowboys of the lower Pecos.
Peppin was sheriff only a few months, and
threw up the job $2,800 in debt.
men of both parties were now scouting about for each other here and there
over a district more than a hundred miles square; but presently the war
was to take on the dignity of a pitched battle.
Governor Samuel B. Axtell in 1876
Early in July, 1878,
and his gang rounded up at the
McSween house. There were a dozen white desperadoes in their
party. There were about forty Mexicans also identified with the
faction. These were quartered in
the Montana and Ellis residences, well down the street.
Murphy forces now surrounded the
McSween house, and at once a pitched battle began. The
men started the firing from the
windows and loopholes of their fortress. The
Peppin men replied. The town,
divided against itself, held under cover. For three days the two little
armies lay here, separated by the distance of the street, perhaps sixty
men in all on the
McSween side, perhaps thirty or forty in all on the
Murphy-Peppin side, of whom nineteen were Americans.
men inside their fortifications,
Peppin had three men posted on the mountain side, whence they could look
down directly upon the top of the houses, as the mountain here rises up
sharply back of the narrow line of adobe buildings. These pickets were
Charlie Crawford, Lucillo Montoye, and another Mexican, and with their
long-range buffalo guns they threw a good many heavy slugs of lead
McSween house. At last, one Fernando Herrera, a
McSween Mexican, standing in the back door of the Montana house,
fired, at a distance of about nine hundred yards, at Charlie Crawford. The
shot cut Crawford down, and he lay, with his back broken, behind a rock on
the mountain side in the hot sun nearly all day. Crawford was later
brought down to the street. Medical attendance there was none, and few
dared to offer sympathy, but Captain Saturnino Baca carried Crawford a
drink of water.
death of Crawford ended the second day's fighting.
Peppin's party now
numbered sixteen men from the Seven Rivers country, or twenty-eight in all. The
men besieged in the adobe were
Billy the Kid,
Harvey Norris (killed),
Tom O'Folliard, Ighenio Salazar (wounded and left
for dead), Ignacio Gonzales, José Semora (killed), Francisco Romero
Alexander McSween, leader of the faction (killed).
Charlie Bowdre were in the adjoining store building.
about noon of the third day, old Andy Boyle, ex-soldier of the British
army, said, "We'll have to get a cannon and blow in the doors. I'll go up
to the fort and steal a cannon." Half-way up to the fort, he found his
cannon—two Gatlin guns and a troop of colored cavalry—already on the road
to stop what had been reported as firing on women and children. The
detachment was under charge of the commanding officer of
Colonel Dudley, who marched his men past the beleaguered house and drew
them up below the place. Colonel Dudley was besought by Mrs. McSween, who
came out under fire, to save her husband's life; but he refused to
interfere or take side in the matter, saying that the sheriff of the
county was there and in charge of his own posse. Mrs. McSween refused to
accept protection and go up to the post, but returned to her
husband for what she knew must soon be the end.
Ighenio Salazar was shot and left for dead,
Alexander A. McSween was
the leader a faction in the
Lincoln County War
and Captain Baca
carried the news of the big street fight to
McSween, ex-minister, lawyer, honest or dishonest instigator,
innocent or malicious cause—and one may choose his adjectives in this
matter—of all these bloody scenes, now sat in the house, his head bowed in
his hands, the picture of foreboding despair. His nerve was absolutely
gone. No one paid any attention to him. His wife, the actual leader, was
far braver than he.
was the commander. "They'd kill us all if we surrendered," he said. "We'll
shoot it out!"
Andy Boyle got some sticks and some coal oil, and, under protection of
rifles, started a fire against a street door of the house. Jack Long and
two others also fired the house in the rear. A keg of powder had been
concealed under the floor. The flames reached this powder, and there was
an explosion which did more than anything else toward ending the siege.
about dusk, Bob Beckwith, old man Pierce, and one other man, ran around
toward the rear of the house. Beckwith called out to the inmates to
surrender. They demanded that the sheriff come for a parley. "I'm a deputy
sheriff," replied Beckwith. It was dark or nearly so. Several figures
burst out of the rear door of the burning house, among these the
McSween. Around him, and ahead of him, ran
Billy the Kid,
Bowdre, and a few others. The flashing of
six-shooters at close range ended the three days' battle.
McSween, still unarmed, dropped dead. He was found, half sitting,
leaning against the corral wall. Bob Beckwith, of the
Peppin forces, fell
almost at the same time, killed by
Billy the Kid.
McSween's body lay those of Romero and Semora and of Harvey
Norris. The latter was a young Kansan, newly arrived in that country, of
whom little was known.
McSween party, there was one game Mexican, Ighenio Salazar, who is
alive to-day, by miracle. In the rush from the house, Salazar was shot
down, being struck by two bullets. He feigned death. Old Andy Boyle stood
over him with his gun cocked. "I guess he's dead," said Andy. "If I
thought he wasn't, I shoot him some more." They then jumped on Salazar's
body to assure themselves. In the darkness, Salazar rolled over into a
ditch, later made his escape, stopped his wounds with some corn husks, and
found concealment in a Mexican house until he subsequently recovered.
Continued Next Page
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