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Apache Trial

I read with interest the “Legend of the Apache Kid,” by Paul Andrew Hutton, in the December 2014 issue. It is sometimes strange how research can come up with different versions of the same incident. I am referring to the legal action after Al Sieber was shot in the leg and blamed Apache Kid. My research indicates he and his scouts did not have a military court-martial, were not sentenced to death, did not have their sentences mitigated, were not sent to a military prison at Alcatraz Island and were not later released by the secretary of war. According to my past research Apache Kid and his scouts were arrested and stood trial before federal Judge W.W. Porter in the June 1888 term of U.S. District Court at Globe, Arizona Territory. Sieber, still on crutches, testified against them. They were convicted and sentenced to 10 years in an Ohio state prison under contract with the U.S. government.

Jay L. Warner
Mountainair, N.M.

‘Warner’s thoughtful letter points out the complexity of our legal system, especially in the way it dealt with Indian crimes in the 19th century. Warner is incorrect when he says Kid and his fellow scouts were not tried by the military’

Paul Andrew Hutton responds: Warner’s thoughtful letter points out the complexity of our legal system, especially in the way it dealt with Indian crimes in the 19th century. Warner is incorrect when he says Kid and his fellow scouts were not tried by the military—they indeed were and were sentenced and then reprieved just as I briefly outlined in my article. The case that has Warner confused was the trial of the San Carlos Apaches who broke out with Kid and his scouts. They were indeed tried in federal court and sentenced to long terms in the Ohio prison. Efforts by humanitarian lawyers secured their release, but they were promptly rearrested and tried in territorial court and sentenced to death. That ruling led to Kid being retried in territorial court after his release from Alcatraz and sentenced with his fellow scouts to Yuma Territorial Prison. They of course escaped on the way to Yuma. A fine book on this complex topic is Clare V. McKanna Jr.’s White Justice in Arizona (2005).

Cimarron Kid

In regard to “Two Robbers Thrown a Deadly Curve When Train Stopped at Baxter’s Curve,” by Les Kruger [Gunfighters and Lawmen, April 2015]: Your readers might be interested in Art Soule’s The Tall Texan (1995), the first and only biography of Ben Kilpatrick, as well as Jeffrey Burton’s The Deadliest Outlaws (2009), a meticulously researched account of banditry in the Southwest. One correction: Kruger mentioned the arrest of Ben Kilpatrick and Ole Hobek’s 11-year-old accomplice, who had “referred to himself as the ‘Cimarron Kid.’” That fable, which got going in the early 1970s, is the work of the self-named Harry Longabaugh Jr., a fantast and prankster who claimed to be not only the son of the Sundance Kid but also the very same Cimarron Kid. A modern-day Jack Crabb, he traveled the West giving library lectures and newspaper interviews about his supposed exploits as a Wild Bunch member. Longabaugh Jr.’s real life is a mystery, except that he was known at a Fresno, Calif., drunk tank. He died in 1972, but his pranks live on.

Daniel Buck
Washington, D.C.

Les Kruger responds, “I’m usually able to sift out false items, but that one is repeated in so many sources.” In her 2009 biography of the Sundance Kid, Donna Ernst writes that Longabaugh Jr.’s “photograph bears much too strong a family resemblance to Sundance for his story to be totally discredited.” She adds: “If he wasn’t Sundance’s son, maybe he was an unknown son of Sundance’s brother, Elwood, or a son of Sundance’s cousin, Seth Longabaugh. Whoever he was, our family believes he was a Longabaugh.”

‘Big Iron’ Ballad

As I read “Gunfights of the Arizona Rangers,” by Bill O’Neal in an old issue [June 2013], I remembered a song from an album by Marty Robbins. The album, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, came out in 1959 and is considered by most music critics the best album ever produced dealing with the American West. Included are “El Paso,” “The Hanging Tree,” “Cool Water” and a ballad about an Arizona Ranger tracking down and killing an outlaw named Texas Red. The latter is titled “Big Iron” and reminded me of the real-life exploits of famed Arizona Ranger Sergeant Harry Wheeler, one of the major characters in Bill’s article.

David T. Green
Houston, Texas


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