Thursday, July 21, 2011

First Time For Everything...!

Many would argue that this was the start of a frightening trend in the history of the old west!

Many tall tales, false reputations, and deaths of innocent bystanders came from altercations like this one. Not the kind of legacy I would want to be remembered for, how about you?

Still, larger than life characters like Wild Bill did not back down from this type of activity! In fact, it almost seems as though his type actively sought them out.

Jul 21, 1865:

Wild Bill Hickok fights first western showdown

In what may be the first true western showdown, Wild Bill Hickok shoots Dave Tutt dead in the market square of Springfield, Missouri.

Hollywood movies and dime novels notwithstanding, the classic western showdown–also called a walkdown–happened only rarely in the American West. Rather than coolly confronting each other on a dusty street in a deadly game of quick draw, most men began shooting at each other in drunken brawls or spontaneous arguments. Ambushes and cowardly attacks were far more common than noble showdowns.

Nonetheless, southern emigrants brought to the West a crude form of the "code duello," a highly formalized means of solving disputes between gentlemen with swords or guns that had its origins in European chivalry. By the second half of the 19th century, few Americans still fought duels to solve their problems. Yet, the concept of the duel surely influenced the informal western code of what constituted a legitimate-and legal-gun battle. Above all, the western code required that a man resort to his six-gun only in defense of his honor or life, and only if his opponent was also armed. Likewise, a western jury was unlikely to convict a man in a shooting provided witnesses testified that his opponent had been the aggressor.

The best-known example of a true western duel occurred on this day in 1865. Wild Bill Hickok, a skilled gunman with a formidable reputation, was eking out a living as a professional gambler in Springfield, Missouri. He quarreled with Dave Tutt, a former Union soldier, but it is unclear what caused the dispute. Some people say it was over a card game while others say they fought over a woman. Whatever the cause, the two men agreed to a duel.

The showdown took place the following day with crowd of onlookers watching as Hickok and Tutt confronted each other from opposite sides of the town square. When Tutt was about 75 yards away, Hickok shouted, "Don't come any closer, Dave." Tutt nervously drew his revolver and fired a shot that went wild. Hickok, by contrast, remained cool. He steadied his own revolver in his left hand and shot Tutt dead with a bullet through the chest.

Having adhered to the code of the West, Hickok was acquitted of manslaughter charges. Eleven years later, however, Hickok died in a fashion far more typical of the violence of the day: a young gunslinger shot him in the back of the head while he played cards. Legend says that the hand Hickok was holding at the time of his death was two pair–black aces and black eights. The hand would forever be known as the "dead man's hand."

Just think how boring some of our modern movies might be if we didn't have this romanticized version of "the duel" to guide our story telling!

Time for some coffee on the patio, my friends. More rain yesterday, so it may be a little humid.


Sixbears said...

I didn't know that any of the Hollywood showdown style gun fights actually happened. I suppose the legend had to start somewhere.

Shooting the back was way more common.

Anonymous said...

Thasa way Marshull Dillon done it . . .


Theme of 'Gunsmoke' going on in my head.

SHARON said...

Can you imagine the paper work old Wild Bill would have to fill out if this had happened today?

Old Jules said...

I like your blog but I'm something of a hermit myself and live a dialup, which means it takes forever to load. Couldn't find anywhere to click for an email subscription.

I'll bookmark you.

JoJo said...

Very interesting story. but made me think about the world today. Now its drive by shootings killing innocent bystanders including children playing in the street. It isn't much different today is it.
But instead of it being over card games its gang games and drugs.
Happy you are getting more rain. Nice to sit out and listen to it falling while drinking coffee with freinds.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sixbears...
Back shooting seemed to be the favorite way, alright!

I'm betting that most guys that proved themselves cool under fire never had to fight much! Just a guess!

Nice to know there is a kernel of truth in some of the stories!

Thanks for the visit today!

Hey Anon 7:58...
Well, after all he was the hero! I think a steady hand was more important than quickness back then!

Thanks for coming by today!

Hey Sharon...
He probably would have become an outlaw just to avoid all the paperwork!

Now days the real crooks use paperwork to hide! Look at the government!

Thank you for coming by today!

Hey Old Jules...
Glad to have you drop by today! Always happy to have a new reader come by!

I'm pleased that you like some of what you read, my friend!

Feel free to drop in any time!

Thanks for the visit today!

Hey JoJo...
By the standards set back then, the idiots today would be dead in short order! Most would be dealt with in short order by a little frontier justice, I think!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over today!

russell1200 said...

Dueling had been fairly popular. Recall that Sam Bowie first gained fame in LA for a duel fought with knives (really almost a short sword). But most of the fights wer pretty close to todays frays of gang bangers opening up on each other at short range - and often missing because someone shooting at you from 20' away or less can make you nervous.

That is why a couple of people, when asked what made a deadly gunman, responded: nerves under fire.

Of cours a lot of the violence was unrecorded and out in the countryside.

HermitJim said...

Hey Russell...
I'm sure there were many shootings that never got reported. After all, with no long range communications, riding into town to file a report just didn't seem all that important!

Don't think the gangs of today would last very long back then.

Thanks for coming by today!