Billy the Kid
November 23, 1859–July 14, 1881
Birthplace: New York, New York
Death: 14 July 1881 (shot to death)
Best Known As: 19th century outlaw of the American West
Name at birth: Henry McCarty
Born in New York City, Billy the Kid (also known as William Antrim and William H. Bonney) moved west and became one of the most famous outlaws in American history. The precise details of Billy the Kid's exploits remain sketchy, but it is generally agreed that he was quick with his gun and his temper and was expert at escaping from small-town jails. He was already a veteran thief, cattle rustler and shootist when he became involved in land disputes in the New Mexico territory in the 1870s. Billy threw in with an Englishman, John Tunstall, who was involved in a turf war (called the Lincoln County War) between land and cattle barons in the newly settled territory. When Tunstall was murdered in 1878, Billy hunted down his killers, including Sheriff William Brady, and killed them. The Kid nearly got on the right side of the law in 1879, arranging to surrender and receive a pardon in exchange for his testimony against others, but the pardon never quite arrived and he went on the lam again. In 1881 he was arrested, tried and convicted of murder. He escaped, killing two deputies in the process, but was hunted down three months later and shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Garrett's book The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid helped seal the legend of both the sheriff and the outlaw... Some legends say The Kid killed 21 men in his 21 years, but that is probably an exaggeration; the exact number of his victims is unknown... In the Sam Peckinpah movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), Bob Dylan has a small role; his song "Knocking on Heaven's Door" is from the movie. Kris Kristofferson played Billy the Kid in the same film... Paul Newman also played Billy the Kid in the 1958 film The Left Handed Gun.
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