The Deadly Dozen
Updated: May 4
Most of the famous gunslingers of the West lived short, fiery lives. But their fame blazes on.
The West’s most deadly gunfighters? Folks have been arguing about it....well... since the gunslingers were living and shooting and killing. It was a favorite pastime in saloons, discussing who deserved the dubious honors of having killed the most men, who was the best shot, and, most of all, who was the fastest. And the stories got more and more grandiose until fact and fiction were mixed forever together in a big messy gumbo of gobbledygook... but it was fascinating—and gory—gobbledygook.
It’s also interesting to note that many gunslingers lived and killed on both sides of the law. The western frontier’s brand of justice was a wild thing that often had little to nothing to do with justice or right and wrong, but who had the fastest guns, the most guns, or the most power. Vigilantism and vengeance were the main operating principles of the West. Sometimes notorious gunslingers were hired by towns to become sheriffs, a practice that had predictable results.
And sometimes gunslingers generally thought of as “good guys” used their power and killing expertise for nefarious purposes. There were simply no black-and-white, clear-cut perimeters for good and evil, good guys and bad guys.
Above is a photo gallery of “The Deadly Dozen,” men often considered the most dangerous gun fighters in the history of the West. Most of these guys—not surprisingly—died young and violently. Billy the Kid died at age 21. According to legend, he killed one man for every year of his life. “Curly Bill” Brocius died at age 36 when Wyatt Earp killed him in a shootout. John Wesley Hardin killed 27 men before he died at age 42, killed by another outlaw-turned-constable. “Wild Bill” Longley was hung at age 27 after claiming to have killed 32 people, which he did with two .44 Dance revolvers and could shoot expertly with either hand.
“Kid Curry” Logan rode with Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and allegedly killed nine men before he killed himself at age 37 during a gunfight with the law in Parachute, Colorado, rather than be taken prisoner. Dallas Stoudenmire died at age 36 as a U.S. Marshall of El Paso, Texas when he was killed in a shootout with the Manning brother outlaws. And Wild Bill Hickok died at age 39 when he was shot in the back during a poker game in a Deadwood saloon. “Pistol Pete” Eaton, however, beat the odds. He lived to a ripe old age and later in life became a cowboy poet!
You can read more about several of these guys—Pistol Pete, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Billy the Kid—in the posts listed below.
-Pistol Pete: The Greatest Gunfighter?
-Wild Bill Hickok
-Billy the Kid
-Billy the Kid Unearthed
-Shootout at O.K. Corral
"The Deadly Dozen" was first published on FB and NotesfromtheFrontier.com on April 29, 2020.
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