Billy the Kid and the U.S. Marshals Service | Page 3 of 5 | HistoryNet MENU

Billy the Kid and the U.S. Marshals Service

12/7/2006 • Wild West

By early 1879, Peppin was out of the picture and Kimbrell was both sheriff and special deputy U.S. marshal. Billy the Kid unsuccessfully sought a pardon from new Governor Lew Wallace, then withdrew from the area. He soon became a wanted man in the territory for rustling and counterfeiting near his old stamping grounds. In October 1880, Treasury Agent Azariah F. Wild arrived in Lincoln from New Orleans to investigate counterfeiting operations in that town and in White Oaks. In a report that month, he noted: “There is an outlaw in the mountains here who came here from Arizona after committing a murder there named William Antrim alias Wm Bonney alias Billy the Kid with whom these cattle thieves meet, and by many it is believed that they [the cattle thieves] receive the Counterfeit money. I have found no evidence thus far to support their suspicions.”

Special Operative Wild used deputies to assist him, knowing that it was the U.S. marshals who formerly executed warrants related to counterfeiting prior to the creation of the Secret Service. Robert Olinger, deputized in April 1880, and John Hurley, a former soldier living at Fort Stanton prior to his appointment as deputy U.S. marshal, helped Wild. These appointments, unlike the naming of possemen (such as Billy the Kid back in February 1878), required Marshal Sherman’s signature. In November 1880, former cattle driver Pat Garrett joined the group. After defeating Kimbrell that month in the election for sheriff, Garrett was appointed deputy sheriff and was basically running the show until he officially became sheriff on January 1, 1881. Raids by separate posses led by Olinger and Hurley succeeded in shutting down the counterfeiters. “Deputy U.S. Marshals who have been appointed on my request have now in their hands…about fourteen criminals,” Wild reported on November 27, 1880

Billy the Kid and other outlaws were still on the loose, though, so the hunt continued. On December 23, 1880, the Kid surrendered to a Garrett-led posse at Stinking Springs, east of Fort Sumner. Garrett had not officially been made a deputy marshal, although he was so called by Wild. The treasury agent explained in a January 3, 1881, report to Secret Service Chief James Brooks: “I will respectfully state that I applied to Marshal Sherman to appoint P.F. Garrett as Deputy Marshal to which he paid no attention. I was in great need of Mr Garrett at that time and took one of the Commissions Sherman sent to John Hurley — he having sent two — and substituted the name of P.F. Garrett the very man who has rendered the Government such valuable service in killing and arresting these men who I was in pursuit [of].”

Wild was concerned because the deputy U.S. marshal commissions expired on January 1, 1881. He was particularly worried about the “deputation” of Garrett and wanted to ensure it. Wild turned to U.S. Attorney Sidney Barnes, who shared Wild’s enthusiasm for the deputations, as he would prosecute the captured men. Barnes sent Sherman a telegram to authorize renewal deputations for all under his direction. Garrett officially became a special deputy U.S. marshal in January, but at the time he captured the Kid, it could be argued that he had been only a posseman at best (in which case, it could be said that a posseman, Garrett, under Special Deputy Kimbrell, captured a former posseman, William Bonney, at Stinking Springs). Perhaps more would have been made of Wild’s improper use of authority had Garrett not succeeded in capturing Billy.

Wild left New Mexico Territory, mission accomplished, and Garrett, based in Lincoln, thrived in his dual roles of county sheriff and special deputy U.S. marshal. Deputies (including Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Tony Neis) and guards transported Billy the Kid from jails in Las Vegas, Santa Fe and Mesilla. While in the Santa Fe jail, the Kid complained in a March 4, 1881, letter to Governor Wallace that Marshal Sherman allowed “every stranger that comes to see me, but will not let single one of my friends in, not even an Attorney.”

[continued on next page]

, , , ,

5 Responses to Billy the Kid and the U.S. Marshals Service

  1. hollie says:

    i love billy the kid and im 9

  2. sos says:

    hi my name is sos and i think that little nine year olds dont need 2 b on the computer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! like hollie

  3. Albert gonzales says:

    Well, like i said be for History has made the kid look bad and Pat Garrett look real good,i read this article and the Great Escape and The Hunting of Billy the kid, and i sell say the kid was not a bad guy,he was accused of killing Sheriff Brady, and any killing the kid did ,it was commissions,how ever it goes he was in the right,and as for Deputy Robert O. he had it coming ,the kid was shackled hands and foots and harass just bout every day by Robert’s,what would you have done ?as for Pat,you see what happen to him in 1908.. thank you

  4. Scott says:

    Since history is written by the winners, if chisum, mcsween and the regulators had come out on top, how do you think BIlly would be percieved today?

    THe people he gunned down in his life were !) a bar slime who was beating on him when he defended himself a corrupt sherriff (brady) and two deputies who belonged to the corrupt santa fe ring.

    If bily’s side had won, its possible he might have gone on to become a lawman like wyatt earp.

  5. Steve McCarty says:

    Historians are sure the kid killed four men and I believe he killed eleven. The kid was indeed a killer. His motivation was revenge for the murder of John Tunstall, who he admired and who also treated him well. One of the kid’s admirable traits was loyalty.

    Billy the Kid had a deep setted set of personal values and he adhered to them. A man who had treated him well, as murdered in cold blood and the kid saw that the law was not going to take action to achieve justice, so he took on that responsibility, legal or not. He joined a group of young men dedicated to the same end. Eventually he rose to the leadership of that group, but not until the original chieftains were murdered.

    It was a hard and very dangerous time and Billy was “all in”. He didn’t consider his future or muse about his past. He was dedicated to revenge, which in his mind represented justice. Vengence, however; is not legal and it took time for the Kid to come to this conclusion. When he finally did, he understood that he was doomed to a life of crime. It took three years for him to decide to abandon the region and head to Old Mexico. If it had not been a hankering for a late night steak dinner, he might have made it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>