Wild Bill Hickok

Introduction

Wild Bill Hickok is one of the most famous and legendary figures of the American West. He is remembered as a renowned frontiersman and a folk hero.

Hickok spent much of his life at the frontier and in the West. He worked as a lawman, soldier, gunfighter, wagon master and actor. He also famously featured alongside Buffalo Bill Cody in a show.

Early Life

Wild Bill Hickok was born in Illinois in 1837. From an early age, Hickok was a good shot. He left his home state in 1855 after a quarrel with another man. He would later join an anti-slavery vigilante group in Kansas Territory.

Here he met Buffalo Bill Cody for the first time. In 1860, Hickok was attacked by a bear and severely injured. He was able to kill the bear but suffered from a crushed chest and shoulder. The next year, he killed an alleged gangster David McCanles.

During the American Civil War

In 1861, the American Civil War broke out. Hickok served the Union Army, first as a teamster and then as a wagon master. He later served in the Kansas Brigade of General James Henry Lane.

Here he met Buffalo Bill Cody a second time, who was serving as a Union scout at the time. He served in other minor positions for the Union, including as a police detective in Springfield, Missouri.

Duel with Davis Tutt

In 1865, Wild Bill Hickok was still in Springfield. He was a heavy gambler and in one of his gambling sprees, he lost a gold watch to Davis Tutt. Incidentally, Tutt and Hickok also admired the same woman.

Hickok greatly treasured the watch he had lost and he asked Tutt not to wear it in public. When Tutt did wear it in public, the two men had a face-off and decided to resolve the matter in a quick-draw duel.

The duel took place on July 21, 1865. Both stood 75 yards from each other. In the ensuing shooting, Tutt missed while Hickok hit Tutt in the heart. Hickok was arrested and charged with murder but a jury cleared him. The duel was covered by newspapers and became widely known across America. It also gave birth to the legend of the Wild Bill Hickok.

Career as a Lawman

In 1869, Hickok arrived in Hays, Kansas and was elected as the sheriff of the county as well as the city marshal. He frequently used his gun to restore order in the city. Within a year of his service as the sheriff, he killed more than two men. He also accidentally killed a fellow policeman during his service as a lawman in Abilene, Kansas in 1871.

Death

In 1876, Hickok was in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. He gambled regularly at a local saloon. On August 1, 1876, a man named Jack McCall arrived in the saloon. He participated in a game at cards with Hickok and others, losing heavily.

Hickok later asked him to leave in order to prevent further loss of money. McCall apparently saw this as insulting. The next day, he walked behind Hickok and shot him in the back of his head. Hickok died instantly. McCall was later tried for murder and hanged.

Wild Bill Hickok, Gunfighter: An Account of Hickok’s Gunfights Paperback – May 26, 2003