Official Blog of Author MICHAEL THOMAS BARRY.
A blog which discusses varied topics that are related to the authors many books. Michael is a columnist for CrimeMagazine.com and a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Bat Masterson Fights His Last Gun Battle - 1881
On this date in crime history – April 16, 1881, western
lawman Bat Masterson fights his last gun battle in the streets of Dodge City,
Kansas. William Barclay "Bat" Masterson had made a living with his
gun from a young age. In his early 20s, he worked as a buffalo hunter, and an army
scout during the Indian Wars. He had his first shootout in 1876 in the town of
Sweetwater, Texas. When an argument with a soldier over the affections of a
dance hall girl named Molly Brennan heated up, Masterson and his opponent
resorted to their pistols. When the shooting stopped, both Brennan and the
soldier were dead, and Masterson was badly wounded. Found to have been acting
in self-defense, Masterson avoided prison. Once he had recovered from his
wounds, he apparently decided to abandon his rough ways and become an officer
of the law. For the next five years, Masterson alternated between work as Dodge
City sheriff and running saloons and gambling houses, gaining a reputation as a
tough and reliable lawman. He lost a bid for re-election in 1879.
For several years, Masterson drifted around the West.
Early in 1881, news that his younger brother, Jim, was in trouble back in Dodge
City. Jim Masterson’s dispute with a business partner and an employee, A.J.
Peacock and Al Updegraff respectively, had led to an exchange of gunfire.
Though no one had yet been hurt, Jim feared for his life. Masterson immediately
took a train back to Dodge City. When his train pulled into Dodge City on the
morning of April 16, 1881, Bat wasted no time. He quickly spotted Peacock and
Updegraff and aggressively shouldered his way through the crowded street to
confront them. All three men immediately drew their guns. Several other men
joined in the gunplay. One bullet meant for Masterson ricocheted and wounded a
bystander. Updegraff took a bullet in his right lung. The mayor and sheriff
arrived with shotguns to stop the battle when a brief lull settled over the
scene. Updegraff and the wounded bystander were taken to the doctor and both
eventually recovered. In fact, no one was mortally injured in the melee, and
since the shootout had been fought fairly by the Dodge City standards of the
day, no serious charges were imposed against Masterson. He paid an $8 fine and
took the train out of Dodge City that evening. Masterson never again fought a
gun battle in his life, but the story of the Dodge City shootout and his other
exploits ensured Masterson's lasting fame as an icon of the Old West. He spent
the next four decades of his life working as sheriff, operating saloons, and
eventually trying his hand as a newspaperman in New York City. He died from a heart
attack in October 25, 1921 at his desk in New York City.
Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com
and is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder
and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012,
Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a
FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the
author’s website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com
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