Hickok, Hardin and how the dynamics of confrontation remain the same

Hickok, Hardin and how the dynamics of confrontation remain the same

This is a discussion on Hickok, Hardin and how the dynamics of confrontation remain the same within the Defensive Carry & Tactical Training forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; From an early age I have always been intrigued by the Old West and western movies and western culture. Most red blooded American boys grew ...

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    Member Array Cruel Hand Luke's Avatar
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    Hickok, Hardin and how the dynamics of confrontation remain the same

    From an early age I have always been intrigued by the Old West and western
    movies and western culture. Most red blooded American boys grew up watching
    westerns on TV and reading about the Old West in books. After all, the American
    Culture is somewhat the Cowboy way. We fight for what is right. We put in a full
    day's work. We don't let our friends down, and we keep our word when we give it.
    We'll fight to right a wrong, but don't go looking for trouble.My heroes have
    always been cowboys and I spent many an hour in my childhood with my toy six
    shooters keeping my back yard free of rustlers and robbers.

    As I got older I began getting into martial arts and specificly the
    combative use of the gun. I practiced long and hard to develop my shooting
    skills, but there is more to it than the hardware aspect. I looked for books to
    read on mindset and technique and tactics and stories of shootings and what
    worked and what didn't. What I realized was that even though the west was not
    always as WILD as popular culture makes it out to have been, there were a fair
    number of folks getting into a fair number of gunfights. Maybe we could learn
    something from them? After all, if you learn from those that have done it, then
    maybe looking back at some Old West gunfights might be a good place to go for
    things that might help keep us alive today.

    So What did I find? Well, I started reading everything I could get my hands
    on. I soon found that there were a few individuals that were involved in
    multiple gunfights and seemed to always come out on top. So the obvious question
    was" why?". My research led me to find that the dynamics of the confrontations
    are really no different than they are today.So if the dynamics are the same,
    then we can look at what they did to survive their fights and apply that to ours
    today.

    I could go on for many pages using scores of historical gunfight examples
    but I will keep this confined to a few examples of fights involving two
    individuals. On one hand we have a famous lawman. A Civil War veteran and peace
    officer who developed a reputation as the "Prince Of Pistoleers". This man was
    James Butler Hickok, better known as "Wild Bill".The other was a man of
    considerable skill with a pistol who was just as short tempered as he was fast
    and accurate. This man was neither a lawman nor served in the army, but
    developed his skill at arms on his own from regular practice and combined that
    with a fierce will to win to become possibly the most dangerous man in the Old
    West....John Wesley Hardin.

    We'll look at Hickok first. In his famous gunfight with Dave Tutt July 21,
    1865 in Springfield, Missouri they both met in the street "showdown" style. This
    was actually not very common regardless of what TV westerns lead us to believe.
    This fight stemmed from a watch won in a poker game,stoked by a rivalry over the
    same woman and ended with a man lying dead.

    Hickok had lost the watch to Tutt in a card game the previous night due to
    the fact that Hickok was unable to pay a debt he owed. Tutt took the watch as
    collateral. Tutt also went about town making a spectacle of wearing the watch
    and telling all who would listen that Hickok could not pay his debt. Hickok
    warned Tutt to cease and desist, but Tutt would not stop. So when they met in
    the town square the next day the fight was on. Hickok told Tutt to take the
    watch off, Tutt responded by pulling a pistol and firing. Hickok pulled his
    pistol, took careful aim and fired, sending a bullet through Tutt's heart from a
    distance of about 75 yards! Hickok immediately wheeled and pointed his pistol at
    Tutt supporters to his rear and they decided discretion to be the better part of
    valor and left.

    So what is there to learn here? A non gun culture guy might say "Hickok was
    a good shot" and they would be correct, but there is more here. Hickok was
    reported to have aimed carefully while Tutt fired wildly at him. Hickok fired a
    single decisive shot while his opponent fired wildly hitting nothing. So maybe
    accurate shooting wins gunfights? This is what we teach in the long distance
    shooting module of our Advanced Close Range Gunfighting class. And we see that
    Hickok turned and did a 360 degree scan after his opponent was down. How many of
    us practice this today in order to not be the victim of your opponent's possible
    accomplices? This is a basic tenet of gunfighting and we drill it in depth in
    our Close Range Gunfighting class.

    Another gunfight Hickok was involved in was July 17,1870 while he was town
    Marshal in Hays, Kansas. In this one the classic saloon brawl turns deadly.
    Hickok had previously angered members of the 7th cavalry (Custer's command) by
    roughing up and arresting one of their comrades.Three soldiers planned revenge
    and approached him, jumped him in a barroom and came close to ending his life.
    One jumped on his back another grabbed him by the arms as a third pulled a 1863
    Remington Army issue pistol and stuck it to Hickok's head and pulled the
    trigger.

    The gun misfired and in the confusion Hickok was able to free his pistol
    and shoot two of the soldiers and make his escape back to his hotel room where
    he retrieved his rifle in case of further attack. Here we see a case where
    multiple assailants end up in a grappling situation with their victim. The
    victim has to access his weapon mid fight and shoot his way loose of the
    villians. Fortunately the bad guys had a faulty weapon.

    Does this sound very similar to what we see today with multiple
    assailants. Not all fights are one on one affairs. Sometimes the bad guys bring
    friends. And do you work on in-fight weapons access? Anyone can draw a gun from
    an exposed holster on the range, but things get more difficult and desperate
    when attacked by multiple opponents and you have to fend them off in order to
    access your pistol. This is where something like our Zero To Five Feet Pistol
    Gunfighting comes into play.

    We also see here the intangible element of luck, as the misfire saved Wild
    Bill. Sometimes luck is what saves you. Gunfights are dangerous
    affairs.Sometimes luck is all that seperates survivors from losers. The last
    item here is we see Wild Bill, faced with superior numbers did not stand and
    shoot it out. He got clear and armed himself with a rifle in case of further
    attack. The rifle has ALWAYS been a more effective tool than the pistol and
    still is today. A reason we put so much emphasis on having a rifle handy and
    knowing how to use it in our Rifle Gunfighting series of classes.

    The final Hickok fight we will look at is the October 5, 1871 gunfight in
    Abilene Kansas with Texas gambler/gunman Phil Coe. Phil Coe and Ben Thompson
    (another gunman of some fame from Texas) owned the Bulls Head Saloon in Abilene
    Kansas.There had never been any love lost between the three as Hickok was a
    Union veteran and the two Texans were Confederates. The 6 years since the end of
    the war had done little to make feelings any better about the war. Coe had once
    bragged to Hickok that he could "kill a crow on the wing" with a pistol, as a
    warning to Hickok. Hickok replied "Did the crow have a pistol? Was he shooting
    back? I will be". The animosity just grew and grew.

    The argument began over the sign in front of the Saloon depicting a bull
    in a "indelicate" pose. Hickok ordered that part of the sign be painted over and
    Coe said "no". Hickok requisitioned 2 painters to paint over the bull's
    offending anatomy and Coe was infuriated. He began stirring up trouble for
    Hickok among the texas cowhands in town and a general disturbance insued. That
    night as the cowhands all but rioted in the street Coe stood in front of the
    saloon firing his pistol. Hickok came up asking who was firing. Coe said he had
    shot at a stray dog. Hickok demanded his pistol, and in a flash Coe fired at
    Hickok. Hickok returned fire striking Coe in the stomach. Coe shot too quickly
    and the bullet had gone between Hickok's legs striking the dirt. A fast miss is
    no match for a solid hit. This is a basic concept that we convey in our
    Defensive Pistol Skills classes.

    As Hickok turned and did his 360 degree scan to insure he was not shot from
    behind ,a man with a pistol ran toward him. Hickok aimed and fired. Suddenly he
    realized he had just shot Mike Williams -his own deputy- who had heard the
    shooting and came running to Hickok's aid.

    From this we can learn a few more things. When we scan for other opponents
    we need to look closely so we do not shoot without identifying the target first.
    This can prevent a friendly fire incident from happening.The guy approaching
    with a gun may very well also be wearing a badge. We can also apply the reverse
    of this. It might not be a bad idea to present our gun "low profile" as we turn
    and scan. That way we will be less likely to get shot by responding
    officers. Again we see Hickok taking aim and making good center of mass hits.
    Accurate shooting still stops opponents...unfortunately even friendlies
    too.

    We see most of Hickok's fights generally being line of duty affairs where
    he is trying to either apprehend someone or disarm them. On the other hand the
    majority of John Wesley Hardin's fights were a case of an argument turned
    deadly, or him trying to keep from being apprehended.

    John Wesley Hardin grew up in a very violent period in east Texas during
    and just after the Civil War. Back then there was little order and what order
    there was , was the occupation force of the union army and afterwards their
    political appointees backed up by federal troops. This was during the lawless
    days of reconstruction. Hardin grew up with gun in hand and a resolve to
    survive. It would serve him well in the years to come. Whether Hardin was a
    homicidal maniac or just a guy with a quick temper that gambled and drank is
    open for debate, what is not open for debate is his skill with a pistol or his
    fighting mindset.

    We will now take a look at a couple of Wes Hardin's fights. His first
    gunfight was at the age of 16 in November 1867. He had been visiting an uncle
    and had gotten into a friendly wrestling match with an ex slave named Mage who
    was employed there chopping cotton. Hardin and his cousin both wrestled Mage who
    happened to be a very large man. Somewhere along the way Mage got angry and
    threatened to kill the two boys. The next day as Hardin rode his old horse home
    he was confronted on the road by the ex slave. Hardin says Mage charged him with
    a large stick.Mage took hold of the reigns and tried to hit him with the stick.
    Hardin drew his pistol and fired, but Mage kept coming. Hardin fired several
    shots finally felling the attacker. Mage died later that month. We see pistols are not terribly powerful stoppers.

    Here we see a large attacker with a contact weapon who requires more than
    one or two rounds to stop. Isn't that what we work in Force on Force drills
    today? Shoot until the threat is down. Hardin is believed to have been carrying
    a Colt Dragoon. So even multiple rounds from a .44 didn't immediately stop this
    enraged attacker. Something else to consider. Maybe placement is more important
    than bore diameter? It is also interesting to note that after this Hardin was
    more likely to shoot for the head. Many of his future victims were felled with a
    bullet in the brain. This is why we teach a burst to the chest followed
    immediately by a burst to the head if the assailant is still up. This is a basic
    tenet of our Close Range Gunfighting curriculum.

    We now skip ahead a few years to late 1870 and see Hardin travelling. The
    hotel he has stopped in has a bar and a very attractive woman sits in there
    apparently upset. Hardin approaches her and strikes up a conversation. She
    claims to be having relationship problems and he tries to comfort her. She asks
    if he'd like to go upstairs and apparently the prospect of a pretty and
    vulnerable young woman was more than he could resist. Upon enterring the room
    however there is a loud banging on the door. She says it is her boyfriend and he
    will kill Hardin. The boyfriend enters and confronts Hardin, pistol pulled.
    Hardin says he didn't know she was his girl and apologizes. The man asks Hardin
    to hand over his money.Hardin agrees and says he does not want any trouble.
    Hardin then drops the money at the man's feet . As he takes his eyes off
    Hardin and bends down to pick up the cash, Hardin draws a pistol and fires a
    round through the man's head. Turns out the man and woman had been running this
    same scam for some time.

    Here we see how not all bad guys are even guys and you can be rused into
    really bad situations if you are not careful.Girls can be bad guys too! However
    Hardin showed calm under duress and was able to use misdirection and a ruse of
    his own to reclaim the initiative and shoot a man who had him held at gunpoint.
    This "under the gun" situation is exactly the type situation we look to solve in
    our Zero to Five Foot Pistol Gunfighting classes.

    Next we will look at an incident in 1871 on a cattle drive to Abilene.
    Hardin's herd has been getting mixed up with a mexican herd that was coming up
    the trail behind them. An argument insued and Hardin was shot at by one of the
    vaqueros. He rode back to his own camp and with his cousin, armed himself with a
    pair of pistols. As the mexicans got closer Hardin and his cousin mounted their
    horses and charged them. Hardin ended up killing 5 of the 6 vaqueros, his cousin
    killing the other.This made Hardin a bit of a celebrity and word of this exploit
    soon found its way to Abilene and Marshal Hickok.

    Not exactly the best way to handle a livestock dispute these days, but if a
    fight is imminent it is best to be on the offensive not the defensive. That is
    something that Hardin was always prepared to do. He had no qualms about shooting
    first when a fight became apparent. If we wait too long to act, we can dig
    ourselves into a hole we cannot get out of. We all have to develop our "line in
    the sand" where if it is crossed we are prepared to fight. Otherwise we end up
    so far behind the curve that we can never catch up. That is why being able to
    pick up on pre assault cues and see the fight coming is so important. Once you
    know the fight is about to be on it is time to get proactive, not reactive!

    The final one we will look at is the May 26,1874 killing of Brown County
    Texas deputy Charles Webb. This was the shooting for which Hardin was convicted
    and sent to prison in 1877. That day Hardin had spent his birthday gambling on
    horse races and generally carousing and having a good time. That evening he was
    approached by a deputy from another county while standing in front of a saloon.

    He recognizes the man who approaches with one hand behind his back. Hardin
    asks Webb if he has any "papers" on Hardin and Webb says no that he is not there
    on business he was just there to enjoy a night on the town. Hardin asks him then
    to join him for a drink and turns to walk toward the doors of the saloon.As Webb
    approaches he points the pistol he was holding behind his back and fires hitting
    Hardin in the side.At that moment one of Hardin's friends yells for Hardin to
    "look out"! Hardin lunges sideways at the same moment drawing and firing from
    probably a retention type position and shoots Webb in the face with his Smith
    and Wesson .44 American.

    Just looking at sheer dynamics and not getting bogged down in the
    obvious questions surrounding the shooting of a law enforcement officer (even if
    he was not on official police business and shot first from ambush), we have an
    assailant with pistol already drawn employing a ruse to get close to the victim.
    When the victim turns , leaving an opening, the assailant raises and fires his
    pistol. The "victim" here got off the line of attack and was hit with a
    peripheral hit instead of center of mass and was able to draw and return fire
    from a "stanceless" retention position while getting out of the way and score a
    headshot to end the altercation. This is very similar to what we teach with the
    Pistol Inquartata technique . How similar is that to a mugging/murder attempt in
    an alley in any city in America today? The ability to get off the "X", get your
    gun into play and fire quickly is just as important today as it was back then.

    While not all the scenarios are still something we would run into on a
    daily basis (I doubt I'll ever get in a dispute over cattle) they all do share
    characteristics of dynamics that we do still encounter in physical confrontation
    today in 2011. Just as it was in 1869 accurate shooting still ends fights.Hits
    to the chest and head stopped people then and tend to do the same today whereas
    peripheral hits may or may not.

    Sometimes you will not be able to just "Don't let them get close and shoot
    well" like is taught in some places, but may have to physically fight off
    multiple assailants in order to even access your weapon and shoot from
    retention to make space to get away. Rifles are still best if they can be
    accessed. When the shooting is over make sure no one is coming up behind you by
    doing a 360 degree scan. And LOOK at who is coming not just glance and shoot if
    someone is approaching! The life you save may be a brother officer or a family
    member.



    We also see where we need to be aware of our surroundings and don't be
    quick to trust unknown contacts. They may just be employing a ruse to get close
    enough to be able to overtake you. If the fight is on, then the fight is on! Get
    proactive! You owe them no mercy.Get off the "X" and shoot them to the ground!
    If you are hit, keep fighting! Handguns are still underpowered when compared to
    long guns. Even if you get hit, odds are you will survive. But only if you keep
    from getting hit multiple times. Finish the fight! And practice is essential.
    Both Hickok and Hardin practiced with their armaments religiously. It is an
    interesting side note that both men were eventually killed by ambush from
    behind. They had developed the skill that made their killers so fearful of their
    ability that they had to resort to shooting them from behind.



    It is interesting to look back at where we came from. Sure we carry Glocks
    and AKs today and not 1851 Navy Colts and Winchesters. We have smokeless powder
    and 15 to 20 rd mags,instead of six shooters and big clouds of smoke when we
    pull the trigger, but the software hasn't really changed much since Cain
    and Abel. People still fight much the same.The dynamics of confrontation are
    still the same.The badguys still get close to rob rape or pillage and often
    bring friends. You still are less likely to get hit if you move. You still have
    to hit the badguys in important places to reliably stop them.
    So maybe looking back at where we came from will help keep us safe while
    we get to where we are going.
    lefty13, niks, RonCo and 17 others like this.
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  2. #2
    Member Array ponchsox's Avatar
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    I thought you meant Hickok45 when I saw thread not Wild Bill :)
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    Distinguished Member Array Hoganbeg's Avatar
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    Good post. The basics still apply. Thanks.
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    Interesting food for thought...thanks for the post!
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    Member Array raytracer's Avatar
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    While I gleaned some solid tactical lessons from these stories, they also gave me some other things to think about.

    Of the three incidents regarding legendary lawman Bill Hickok, in the first, after making a wager he could not make good on he settled upon an exhange of goods to fulfill the debt to both parties' satisfaction. When his debtor excersized his right to free speech by mocking Wild Bill, Hickok then confronted the man and allowed the disagreement to escalate to a lethal encounter.

    In another instance Hickok, under color of authority, vandalizes anothers property and then attempts to abrogate that individual's Second Amendment right, again pushing the matter to lethal violence. And, in the ensuing gunplay, he manages to shoot and kill his own deputy.

    In all of the examined anecdotes of notorious outlaw John Hardin, he was clearly reacting in self defense to ongoing and active threats. In each case Hardin was not the initial agressor and only responded once a lethal attempt had been made on his life.

    Looked at from a modern perspective, most of these encounters of Hardin's would be pretty defensible in any jurisdiction with decent Castle Doctrine laws. On the other hand, if I were Bill Hickok - I'd have Johnny Cochrane on speed dial.

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    Member Array Cruel Hand Luke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raytracer View Post
    While I gleaned some solid tactical lessons from these stories, they also gave me some other things to think about.

    Of the three incidents regarding legendary lawman Bill Hickok, in the first, after making a wager he could not make good on he settled upon an exhange of goods to fulfill the debt to both parties' satisfaction. When his debtor excersized his right to free speech by mocking Wild Bill, Hickok then confronted the man and allowed the disagreement to escalate to a lethal encounter.

    In another instance Hickok, under color of authority, vandalizes anothers property and then attempts to abrogate that individual's Second Amendment right, again pushing the matter to lethal violence. And, in the ensuing gunplay, he manages to shoot and kill his own deputy.

    In all of the examined anecdotes of notorious outlaw John Hardin, he was clearly reacting in self defense to ongoing and active threats. In each case Hardin was not the initial agressor and only responded once a lethal attempt had been made on his life.

    Looked at from a modern perspective, most of these encounters of Hardin's would be pretty defensible in any jurisdiction with decent Castle Doctrine laws. On the other hand, if I were Bill Hickok - I'd have Johnny Cochrane on speed dial.
    Very astute observations.....interesting how "good" and "bad" sometimes color our perspective.
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    Member Array JerryMac's Avatar
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    Very good post, thanks, one thing i need to keep in mind is the 360 sweep, which i sometimes employ into my shooting at home range, as i sometimes have a target behind me, i think now i will always train with the target behind me, just to be in the practice of the sweep.....i would tyhink without training we may tend to get tunnelvision during a confrontation. I have never been in a '' fight '' , where deadly force was needed, usually a knuclesammich works where I come from, but as the days grow different and i get older, there are things i need to remember......I aint as young as I once was .....
    Bark'n likes this.
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    Perspectives change with culture. With our culture and our conditioning, it is not surprising that we can't identify with people of that era. In that day, conflicts involving "honor" were often settled with violence. Boys were admonished for fighting in school but expected to take their lumps rather than back down. A person's reputation was more important than the financial gain of taking the role of the "victim" for litigation purposes.

    My favorite "story" was the Hicock/ Tutt. 75 yard heart shot with a six shooter, while being shot at.

    Reminds me of Gene Hackman's de-romanticising of gunfighters in Unforgiven.

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    VIP Member Array xXxplosive's Avatar
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    If you put long lair and a handlebar mustache on Hickcock 45...........he'd look just like Wild Bill......always wondered if their was some lineage there.

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    An interesting thread. I agree with most of it.

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    Very good read. Some interesting examples of conflict, resolution and tactics.
    -Bark'n
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    VIP Member Array old grunt's Avatar
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    Great post. VERY true the basics don't change.
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    VIP Member Array xXxplosive's Avatar
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    Yep.............Hickok let his guard down by exposing his back.
    His positioning was his fatal mistake.

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    The Death of Davis K. Tutt at the Hands of James B. Hickok

    The original Coroner’s Inquest Report into the death of Davis K. Tutt at the hands of James B. Hickok was located in the early 1990's. Its re-discovery was due largely to the late Delbert Bishop, Archivist of the Greene County Archive. He was assisted by Robert Neumann, who is the current Archivist of the Greene County, and between them they discovered many documents relative to Hickok and others, but the most important find was the Coroner’s Inquest record. Robert Neumann provided me with a complete photo copy of this document and another Hickok related court record 5 years ago.

    It destroyed the credibility of many of the old-timers whose prolific “recollections” had enthralled readers of the local press or others for more than a hundred years. For not only did it set the record straight, but the report divulged that witnesses claimed that neither Hickok nor Tutt wanted the fight, and it is still a matter of conjecture why Dave pulled his pistol on Hickok.

    Witnesses stated that friends of both men had spent some hours during the morning and afternoon of July 21 trying to persuade Dave to accept Hickok’s version of events, and one reported that Hickok said that he would rather have a fight with any man on earth rather than Dave for “you have accommodated me more than any man in town for I have borrowed money from you time and again, and we have never had any dispute before in our settlement.” Tutt agreed and said that he did not want any trouble either, but after a drink he left and later appeared outside the Court House prepared to cross the square. Hickok then urged him not to, but Dave set off, both men turned side on and pulled their revolvers and fired. Both shots sounding like one", according to several of the witnesses. Dave missed, but Hickok’s ball went through his heart.

    A doctor examined Tutt’s body and declared that the ball from Hickok’s pistol had entered at his fifth rib on the right side and exited through the fifth rib on the left, passing through his heart. This confirmed that Tutt was standing sideways on, or dueling fashion, when he and Hickok fired. By actual measurement, based upon old city maps, they were 75 yards apart when they opened fire, which means that Hickok’s shot was either very lucky, or his reputation as a marksman was not ill-founded. The distance between both men when they opened fire has proved controversial, but it should be pointed out that the Colt’s Navy revolvers used by Hickok and others were accurate at up to 200 yards, but were rarely fired in anger at that distance!

    Hickok was arrested and charged with murder, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter. A number of his friends put up his $2,000 bail and the trial was set for August 5th, His Hon. Judge Sempronius Hamilton Boyd Presiding. Hickok’s defense attorney was Col. John S. Phelps who had known and employed him during the late War.

    The prosecutor, R. W. Fyan, urged the jury to find Hickok guilty as the aggressor, but in his summing up, the judge pointed out that Tutt had made threats against Hickok and “was a fighting character.” He also noted that he was “a dangerous man,” and Hickok’s plea of self-defense had to be considered because no man should be expected to stand with his arms folded without offering some resistance. The jury agreed and took only ten minutes to accept Hickok’s plea of self-defense, and found him not guilty and he was discharged.

    A number of points remain unanswered even with the help of the Coroner’s findings. Tutt, only a day before the shooting, had been in court charged with illegal gambling some months before, and fined $100 dollars. Unable to pay his fine, Tutt was jailed, but Thomas Martin, Hickok’s erstwhile scouting “mate” in the War, paid his fine and he was released. This indicates that Dave was in need of money before the fateful card game. But for reasons only he knew, Tutt did not disclose this fact to Hickok. In view of their previous relationship, Hickok would most probably have helped him. Rather, he kept quiet perhaps because of pride or some other reason now lost to history. What should have only been a minor disagreement between friends turned into a tragic confrontation that ended in a gunfight.

    Sources:
    Joseph G. Rosa - Noted Hickok authority
    Robert Neumann - Archivist of the Greene County Archive
    niks, rick21, msgt/ret and 1 others like this.
    I never, in my life, took any mean advantage of an enemy, but I never allowed a man to get the drop on me either.

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    Outstanding post. Keep them coming.

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