Such Men as Billy the Kid: The Lincoln County War Reconsidered

Such Men as Billy the Kid: The Lincoln County War Reconsidered

by Joel Jacobsen
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions


During the 1870s a group of merchants and their allies, known as "The House," gained control over the economy of Lincoln County, New Mexico. In 1877 this control was challenged by an English entrepreneur, John Tunstall. The House violently resisted the interloper, eventually killing him; Tunstall's employees and supporters, known as the Regulators, sought to

Overview


During the 1870s a group of merchants and their allies, known as "The House," gained control over the economy of Lincoln County, New Mexico. In 1877 this control was challenged by an English entrepreneur, John Tunstall. The House violently resisted the interloper, eventually killing him; Tunstall's employees and supporters, known as the Regulators, sought to take vengeance on the House by killing those responsible for Tunstall's death. Among the Regulators was a young man known as Billy the Kid.

This story of greed, violence, and death has entered American folklore through the mythologizing of the career of Billy the Kid and also through a tendency to see the Lincoln County War as an archetype of Western history. As are Dodge City, Boot Hill, and the OK Corral, the Lincoln County War is emblematic of frontier lawlessness.

The story has been often retold, and central to many of the accounts is the question of right and wrong, even of good and evil; was Billy the Kid merely a thug, a gun-for-hire, in an amoral turf battle between rival gangs? Or was the Kid actually a participant in a brave but doomed attempt to wrest control of a defenseless town from a corrupt and vicious band?

Basing his account on a careful reexamination of the evidence, particularly on expressions of public sentiment, court records, and the actions of Tunstall and the House, Jacobsen subjects traditional attitudes—both the "Billy as martyr" and the "war among thieves" explanations—to a searching reexamination, and finds that—as with most things in life—the truth lies somewhat between.

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune

“A lawyerly regard for truth, accuracy and the written record. . . . [It’s] a tonic to the hysterical and sensational accounts of the past.”—Chicago Tribune
Washington Times

“A lively, lucid, compelling account of complex and confusing events about which scholars are still puzzling.”—Washington Times
Western Historical Quarterly

“By focusing on the uniqueness of the Lincoln County War and the individuals involved in it, Jacobsen expands our knowledge of the events. . . . A thorough and well-documented description of one of the western frontier’s best known instances of violence.”—Western Historical Quarterly
Library Journal
This new examination of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County wars reflects renewed interest of a more serious sort in these legendary tales immortalized in movie Westerns and popular histories. Jacobsen, an assistant attorney general in New Mexico, crafts a compelling account, although his claims that the conflict was atypical are often belied by the light shed on race, capitalism, law, and the relationship between violence and order in the Old West. One will overlook the occasional misstep in discovering how a feud between competing business interests escalated into a series of clashes settled by force; the capture and death of Bill Bonney, alias "Billy the Kid," appears more colorful than central to the course of events. Dispassionate yet lively, this book sets Billy's career and the conflicts in Lincoln County in context. The engaging narrative will please and provoke scholar, well-versed buff, and newcomer alike.-Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State Univ., Tempe

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780803276062
Publisher:
University of Nebraska Press
Publication date:
03/19/2001
Pages:
322
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)

Meet the Author


Joel Jacobsen is an assistant attorney general for the State of New Mexico specializing in criminal appeals.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >