$2 buy authenticated as Billy the Kid photo; valued at $5M | WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee
Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 3:01 PM EDT
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A full shot of the tintype photograph authenticated as Billy the Kid and the 'Regulators.' (Source: Jeff Aiello/Facebook)
IN THE NEWS | PERSONAL ARCHIVAL RESEARCH TIDBITS:
General Lew Wallace’s Queer Interview with a Noted Outlaw
The Washington times.
1901-1902 | September 21, 1902
Section Two, Image 17
« Chronicling America
« Library of Congress
THE murderous bandit must have a
singular attraction for the writer
of romance. Gen. Lew Wallace,
author of "Ben Hur,' devotes
much attention in his latest book to
"Billy the Kid." This celebrated out
law of the "wild and woolly," who has
never before had a biographer of dis
tinction, occupies several chapters.
The general wlh also for the first
time relate the true story of the "Kid's"
terrible vendetta against him and his
officers. The general's encounter with
the desperado occurred in 1S79, while
Wallace was governor of New Mexico.
A more intimate acquaintance, however,
was brought about when it became nec
essary for Governor Wallace to inter
view "Billy the Kid" personally. Tho
interview was arranged to be held at
night, and. In readiness for the occasion,
two men a few minutes before midnight
sat silent, eager, expectant, "huddled to
gether Jn a little hut on the outskirts
of old Santa Fe, N. M,
" Their gaze, says the Indianapolis
correspondent of the "Detroit News
Tribune," was fastened on the door.
One man was the owner of tne rudo
home that stood desolate. ott .the shifting
sands of the great meii. The other was
Gen. Lew Wallace, governor of New
Mexico. ., .
The hands of the clocVpbinted to th
hour' 'of 12. Vhc hush deepened. Sud
denly it was broken byitac sound of a
resolute knock on tlie dib'r.of the cabin.
uomo in, pua iae-MFernor oi new
The aoor. flew
with his form outlined by the moonlight
behind him, was the most feared, the
most desperate, and most hunted man in
the great Southwest "Billy the Kid."
In his right hand h- carried a Winches
ter. In his left was a revolver. Tho
weapons covered the two occupants of
"I was to meet the governor hero a(,
midnight. It is midnight; is the gov
The light of the candles flickered
against a boyish face, yet the man who
stood In the doorway was the most no
torious desperado in .New Mexico. He
had killed scores of men; ho was the
quarry of every sheriff from the Uio
Grande to the bordering foothills that
shut in Death Valley. In facial fea
tures "Billy the Kid," the notorious ban
dit and fugitive from justice, was a mere
stripling. His narrow shoulders were
rounded, his posture slightly stooped, his
voice was low and effomimuc. But Ills
eyes were cold and piercing, steady,
alert, gray, like steel.
General Wallace rose to his feet and
held out his hand. Inviting the visitor
forward for a conference.
"Your note gave thp promise of abso
lute protection," said the outlaw, warily.
"I have been true to my promise," re
plied the governor. "This man," point
ing to the owner of the cabin, "and ray
self are the only persons present."
The ride was slowly lowcrgd, the re
volver returned to its leather' holster.
Hilly advanced and the two seated them
selves at opposite sides of the narrow
Explaining his mldpight interview with
"Billy the Kid," General Wallace savs:
"The man whose deeds of blood had I
drawn upon him the gaze of an entire
nation was born a New York waif. Be
fore he was more than ten years of ago
he was brought to Indiana, and In Terro
Haute and Indianapolis, where he was
raised, he was known as William Honne.'
In 1870, when he was about seventeen
years old, he suddenly left his home,
crossed the Mississippi .yid came into
the country of the men of his kind the
frontier of the far West.
"Billy began his career with an oath
to kill John Chisum, his first employer
wjicn the lad reached" the plains. Chisum
and the 'kid' lind been unable to agree
on terms of settlement for n season's
work. Tlie icsult was the lad's Jearful
vendetta, sworn not only against Chisum,
but against. all of Cliisura's other em
ployes as wcl!.
" 'For each herdsman employed by
you whom I kill,' 'Billy' sent word, 'I
will deduct S3 from our unsnuarcd ac
count. If I kill you,' he added, grimly,
'my bill will bo receipted In full.'
Then his bloody career began rt
was not long until William Bonne, tha
wan, reared In the midst of the peaceful
surroundings of Indiana, became the
most feared man In the Southwest. At
the same time he was the most rever
enced, the most adored,-nnd the most
respected man In the Territory. It was
the kind of good reward that sometimes
comes to the bad men.
"Shortly before I became governor of
New Mexico, Chapman, a young attor
ney at Lincoln, had been murdered. Halt
a dozen men were arrested, accused of
the crime. Among them was Jesse
"Whllo It was more than probable
that one or more of the men charged
with .the murder were guilty, it was Im
possible to prove the allegation, for the
"witnesses, filled with terror, fled the
country. When I reached New Mexico
it was stated on every hand that 'Billy
the Kid' had been a witness to the mur
der. Could he bo made to testify? That
was tho question on the top of every
"I had been hent to the Southwest to
pacify the Territory; hero was an op
portunity I could not afford to pass by.
Therefore I arranged a meeting by note
deposited with one of the outlaw's
friends, and at midnight was ready to
receive the desperado should ho appear.
He was there on time punctual to the
"When 'Billy the Kid' stepped to the
chair opposite me I lost no time in stat
ing my proposition.
" 'Testify,' I said, 'before the grand
Jury and the trial court and convict tlie
murderer of Chapman and I Will let jou
g6 scot-free, with a pardon in your
pocket for all your mistakes.'
" 'Billy' Mieard me In silence; he
thought several minutes without reply.
" 'Governor,' he said, 'if I were to do
what you ask they would kill me.'
" 'We can prevent that,' said I.
"Then 1 unfolded my plan. 'Billy' was
to be seized while lie was asleep. To all
appearances his capture was to be gen
uine. To this he agreed, picking the
men who were to effect his capture. He
was afraid of hostile bullets and would
run no risks. Another stipulation was
to the effect that during his confinement
he should be kept In Irons. 'Billy the
Kid' was afraid also of the loss of h's
reputation as a desperate man."
The plan agreed upon in the cabin on
the lonely mesa at midnight was carried
out .to the letter. "Billy the Kid" was
seized tho following morning 'and con
fined In the Lincoln county jail.
"Billy," though at his own request
kept In Irons, did not remain long con
fined. One morning tho guards led him
to breakfast. Returning, the desperado
drawled, in the feminine voice that was
"a part and parcel of his character:
"Boys, I'm tired. Tell the governor
The manacles slipped like magic from
his wrists. The guards stood stupefied
and "Billy the Kid," laughing mocking
ly, walked leisurely from tho Jail yard
through the gate and across the street.
Kasily, gracefully ho threw himself into
the saddle on the back of a horse stand
ing near at hand, and, putting "the
spurs to the animal, dashed away.
"Billy" was gone. He had not escaped
in the night. He had walked away In
the broad light of day, with his guards,
heavily armed, standing about him.
They were not in collusion with the
desperado; General Wallace satisfied
himself of that fact. But how account
for Billy's escape? Hypnotism, some
say hypnotism, or that strange some
thing that lurked in tho depth of the
The desperado's freedom, however, was
not loiig-llv.d. He was arrested shortly
afterward for a series of murders and
brought again to the Lincoln county
jail. Patrick- Garrett was sheriff; he
was probably the one man in New Mex
ico who did not fear "Billy tho Kid."
He was his mntch in every respect as
culm, as desperate, as cer'ain.
Perhaps "Billy" knew this; at any
rate, he must have considered himself
In desperntu straits. He sent for Gen
eral Wallace. The general refused to
respond. Then the outlaw sent him a
note. The note read:
"Come to tho jail; I have some pa
pers you would not want to see dis
played." "I kney what he meant," says General
Wallace. "He referred to the note he
received from me and In response to
which he appeared at the hut on the
mesa. He was threatening to publish it
if I rctuspd to see him."
In tho end the desperado was convict
ed and sentenced to J hanged. When
the sentence was read he stood before
the trial judge and said:
"Judge, that doesn't worry me a bit.
'Billy the Kid was not born to be
He was a thorough fatalist. He be
lieved he bore a charmed life. He be
lieved he would not die until his "time
came," and then death was Inevitable.
From the courtroom "Billy" was led
back to the jail. Nine men were put on
guard, and he was never allowed a mo-nn-nt
from the sight of one of them. Or.
the day before that set for the 'execu
tion one man sat In front of "Billy"
while he ate his dinner. During the
meal the guard forgot himself and sud
denly stooped. "Billy's" quick eye took
In the situation at a glance. With a leap
he sprang upon the bending man and
dashed his brains out with his handcuffs.
He seized the dead guard's revolver and,
his steel-gray eyes gleaming, he walked
forward deliberately and routed all the
other guards, who ran to the assistance
of their comrades.
Once morn "Billy the Kid" escaped In
the full light of day, through the doors
of tlie Jail. Ho forced a blacksmith to
break the manacle chains, seized a good
horse that stood near by and rode away.
He called back as he spurred the ani
mal into a gallop:
'Tell the judge that I said. 'Billy tha
Kid' was not born to bo hung."
But "Billy" had forgotten one thing;
he had not reckoned with the character
of the man who was sheriff of the coun
ty. Garrett shut his teeth hard, like a
man who Is determined to accomplish
his purpose, no matter the obstacles pre
senting themselves. Heet out to take
'Billy the Kid," dead or alive.
Garrett received information that
"Billy" had gone back to an old fort ia
the mountains to see his sweetheart.
Garrett followed. He lay in wait in the
dooryard of the house of "Billy's" love,
and finally his vigil was rewarded when
he saw the door open and a man step oat
into the white light of the moon.
He passed out Into the night.
Gnrrett crept to the door and Dasssd
In. He covered the girl's father with hia
"Not a word." he said, and slid be
hind the headboard of the bed.
The door opened again, and "Billy the
Kid" entered. He seemed to scent dan
ger as a camel scents rain; instinct
taught him that something was wrong.
He cried to the cowering old man la
"Who's here?" he asked. "Who'a
Garrett raised his revolver; two shota
rang cut on the quiet air and the room
filled witlu sracke, A form tottered,
then crashed to the floor. In the nerve
less hand was a smoking revolver; for
the first and last time the notorious
New Mexican outlaw had missed his aim.
Garrett escaped unwounded. But there
were two bullet wounds In the body of
"Billy the Kid." and both pierced tho
heart. Garrett's aim was unerring.
Today there is a little lowly heap of
earth located at Las Cnices. N. M. To
the curious stranger some idle native
mny, now and again, point out this little
grave ana explain, with a certa n Drida.
that Las Cruces possesses the final rest
ing place or the. worst man that ever la
fested the-Southwestern border.