The little-known story of how a young Wyatt Earp, aided by his brothers, defeated the Cowboys, the Old West’s biggest outlaw gang.
Wyatt Earp is regarded as the most famous lawman of the Old West, best known for his role in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. But the story of his two-year war with a band of outlaws known as the Cowboys has never been told in full.
The Cowboys were the largest outlaw gang in the history of the American West. After battles with the law in Texas and New Mexico, they shifted their operations to Arizona. There, led by Curly Bill Brocius, they ruled the border, robbing, rustling, smuggling and killing with impunity until they made the fatal mistake of tangling with the Earp brothers.
Drawing on groundbreaking research into territorial and federal government records, John Boessenecker’s Ride the Devil’s Herd reveals a time and place in which homicide rates were fifty times higher than those today. The story still bears surprising relevance for contemporary America, involving hot-button issues such as gang violence, border security, unlawful immigration, the dangers of political propagandists parading as journalists, and the prosecution of police officers for carrying out their official duties. Wyatt Earp saw it all in Tombstone.
Historian Boessenecker (Shotguns and Stagecoaches) delivers an exhaustive account of lawman Wyatt Earp's takedown of the "loosely organized" gang of bandits and cattle thieves known as the Cowboys. Boessenecker traces the Cowboys' origins to New Mexico and west Texas in the mid-1870s, where future members robbed stagecoaches, raided cattle ranches, murdered rival desperadoes, and fought in border wars. Meanwhile, Wyatt Earp left behind his "unsavory" background as a horse thief and alleged pimp to become a peace officer in Dodge City, Kans. By the time Wyatt and his brother Virgil, a deputy U.S. marshal, arrived in Tombstone, Ariz., in 1879, there were roughly 100 Cowboys rustling cattle on both sides of the border and selling them to local ranchers. Boessenecker details numerous confrontations between the Earp brothers and the Cowboys and their associates, culminating in the infamous 1881 gunfight at O.K. Corral, for which Wyatt stood trial for murder. Once acquitted, he led a posse against the Cowboys and "effectively end organized banditry in Arizona Territory." Boessenecker overstuffs this granular history, clogging the narrative but providing a plethora of intriguing details about the politics, economics, and culture of the Old West. History buffs with a tolerance for tangents will be rewarded.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Wonderful Ride thru history
This has got to be the best book on the Earp and Cowboy conflict. No white washing of either side.
The writing propels you along and there are enough surprises to keep your interest. Well worth the time a very enjoyable read.