The famous American soldier who is more famously known as the hero from the Old West and the greatest gunfighter of his time — Wild Bill Hickok. Even till date, if you find yourself searching for the greatest gunslingers of the Old West, Wild Bill’s name will be at the top the list of the deadliest gunslingers. Although he was in the city of Deadwood, South Dakota only for a very short period of time but his reputation as the dangerously matchless fighter preceded him as no one could beat him at his game. Until he died of a gunshot in the back of his head at a saloon, where a poker game’s victory became his very death.
Let’s get to know this Wild Bill and the events that led to the death of the unbeatable gunslinger of his time.
James Butler Hickok was born on the 27th of May 1837 in the state of Illinois. It was at a very young age that James became a real good shot with the pistol. Around the age of 18, running from the law following a fight, he moved to the Kansas territory where he met and befriended William Cody, famously known as Buffalo Bill. There, Wild Bill became a trick rider in the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
From a very early period he had many jobs including a stagecoach driver, gambler, wagon master, teamster to an Indian fighter, a Lawman, soldier, scout and even a spy for the Union Army at the time of the Civil War. An interesting side to his professional careers is that he also gave acting a shot but since he lacked the talent, he happily gave it up.
It was perhaps due to his temperament that James was often caught in disagreements and gunfights, which allegedly resulted in him earned his nickname Wild Bill.
A Dangerous Lifestyle
Considering the life Wild Bill deliberately chose and enjoyed living, he also grew a fondness for his given nickname as it represented him right. Regardless of the fact that this dangerous lifestyle was of his choosing, Wild Bill was paranoid with the idea that someone would try to kill him. He would lay crumbled pieces of newspapers all around him in the fear of being attacked in his sleep so that the sound of an any approaching footsteps could be heard. Also, he’d always sit with his back to the wall so that nobody would sneak up and shoot him from behind.
By the age of 39, Wild Bill’s eyesight began to betray him and he’d often be arrested for begging for money on the streets and for vagrancy. But by March of the year 1876, Wild Bill got married to circus owner, Agnes Thatcher. He was living with his wife in Wyoming, when South Dakota’s famous gold discovery news got to his ears. He set off like many others to seek his share of the fortune. On his way he made a stop at the town of Deadwood in the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory, this is where he encountered Calamity Jane. During his stay in Deadwood, Wild Bill sat playing a game of poker when an enemy walked in and shot him in the back of his head.
You may ask how was this even possible because the guy was paranoid, vigilant and agile? Unfortunate but the saloon for this poker game gave Wild Bill no choice but to sit in front of the entrance door. As no seats were available where he could sit with his back to the wall. This gave a coward enemy, Jack McCall, the option to seize his opportunity. Jack McCall, famously known as Crooked Nose Jack, knew he could never beat Wild Bill by fair means.
The day of his death was the 2nd of August, 1876, the same year as his wedding. James Butler Wild Bill Hickok rests in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, Sound Dakota. He will always be remembered as the deadliest gunslinger of the Wild Old West.