4/4/1878 - Lincoln County War now going full steam once English businessman and rancher John Tunstall is murdered by gunmen supporting the Murphy-Dolan faction in the region's troubles, Ab Sanders, Charlie Bowdre, Doc Scurlock, Frank Coe, George Coe, Frank McNab, Henry Newton Brown, Jose Chavez y Chavez, Jim French, John Middleton, Tom Peterson, Vincente Romero, Yginio Salazar, John Scroggins, Fred Waite, Steve Stephens, Dick Brewer, and Billy the Kid convince Lincoln Justice of the Peace, John B. Wilson, to make them deputies so they can bring justice to the men that killed their employer (additionally making things appear to be on the up-and-up, Regulator Robert Widenmann secures an appointment as a Deputy U.S. Marshal). The group calls itself "The Regulators" and their justice takes the form of murdering anyone they think might have been involved in Tunstall's death. The group's first victims are two suspect cowboys, Frank Baker and William Morton, who are gunned down trying to "escape" after being arrested by Billy and his friends. Then, on April Fool's day, 1878, in daylight on the main street of Lincoln, members of the group ambush Lincoln Sheriff William Brady and his deputy, George Hindman, killing both men (48-year-old Brady will die from over a dozen gunshot wounds).
The Ambush - True West Magazine
Blood lust still up three days later after the attack on Sheriff Brady and his men, led by Dick Brewer, seeking more culprits in Tunstall's death, a thirteen man Regulator posse that includes Brewer, Billy the Kid, Bowdre, Scurlock, McNab, Frank Coe and his cousin, George Coe, Middleton, French, Brown, and Waite decides to stop at Blazer's Mill for a bite of lunch (owned by dentist, Dr. Joseph H. Blazer, the small site on the Rio Tularosa consists of a large two story house, a square office building, a grist mill, several adobe structures and homes, a post office, corrals and barns, a general store, and a sawmill). Expecting to receive a check at the post office for selling his ranch so he can leave the area and avoid taking part in the Lincoln County War, wrong time, wrong place, Dolan-Murphy supporter and member of the posse that kills Tunstall, Andrew L. "Buckshot" Roberts (he gets the nickname from carrying a load of buckshot in his once wounded right shoulder), sadly decides to stop at Blazer's Mill too.
Both sides initially surprised by the encounter, unarmed (the restaurant on the property owned by Mrs. Godfroy has a rule that no one wearing a gun will be served, so the weapons of The Regulators are all placed on a large table outside), Frank Coe walks over to his former friend Roberts (they have neighboring spreads), and tries to talk the former buffalo hunter into surrendering, vouching for his safety (Roberts wisely believes he too will never make it to jail if arrested). Regulator Brewer though quickly grows tired of the palaver (thirty minutes have now passed), and orders some of the men to go arrest Roberts without further delay. Both sides in deadly earnest, when Roberts sees armed men headed towards where he and Coe are sitting chatting, he jumps up, grabs his Winchester rifle, and from his hip, opens fire ... just as the Regulators also begin blazing away (Bowdre calls out, "Roberts, throw up your hands," to which Roberts responds, "Not much, Mary Anne!" as he begins firing). Struck in the stomach by a bullet fired his way by Bowdre, Roberts counters with a shot that hits his opponent in the belt buckle, severing the cowboy's gun belt as it knocks out his wind. Gravely wounded, Roberts retreats into the doorway of a small adobe building (Dr. Blazer's office), pumping slugs at anything that moves ... Middleton is wounded in the chest (his lung punctured), bullets graze Scurlock and Billy the Kid, and George Coe loses the trigger finger on his right hand to a Roberts piece of hot lead.
The Gunfight Begins - True West Magazine
Bowdre & Middleton
Scurlock & Coe
In the momentary interlude that follows, Roberts makes his way to where he has tied up his mule earlier. Realizing his mount and stomach wound will not allow successful flight, he makes his way into another small adobe structure and readies for more action ... which arrives almost immediately in the form of Billy the Kid. Hearing Roberts' rifle click on empty, the Kid rushes forward to shoot the man ... and is knocked silly when he gets withing range of the formidable warrior, rewarded for his boldness by having the rifle's hard butt crown his noggin with sleeping stars. Then Roberts backs into the adobe building he has selected for his last stand, barricades the door, and with a new weapon, the owner's single-shot .50-70 Government Springfield rifle, lays prone on a mattress and starts looking for new targets.
Believed To Be A Newly Found Shot Of Billy The Kid
Where Roberts Takes Cover
And a new target soon presents itself. Incensed that an old man has taken out five of his men, Brewer tries to convince a man visiting the community, David Easton, to go talk Roberts into surrendering, then makes the same pitch to Dr. Blazer himself. No soap from either man, the Regulator leader grows even angrier at the men's refusal to do his bidding, and decides to take matters into his own hands, coming up with a plan to gain the flank of the adobe building, fire into the structure, and flush Roberts out the front door and into the fire of his men that haven't been hit already. Moving across the river over a small foot bridge to the side of the sawmill, Brewer takes up a position behind a stack of logs and pops away at Roberts (about 125 yards west of the adobe building). Almost hit inside the building by a bullet from Brewer, Roberts looks around for his antagonist, but doesn't seen an enemy in the open. What he does spot however is the tell-tale smoke from Brewer's firing ... lining up his sights on the spot where he believes his enemy is hiding, Roberts waits and waits ... then pulls the trigger on the Springfield when Brewer peaks out from the logs to ready his next shot. Boom! Expertly aimed, the bullet hits Brewer in the left eye, before blowing out the back of his head with a good portion of the Regulator's skull. Dead before he hits the ground, 28-years-old and no more, Brewer misses hearing Roberts begin to laugh as he exclaims, "I killed him! I killed the son-of-a-bitch!"
A third of the posse put out of action, their leader killed, and facing an accurately shooting maniac, the remaining Regulators decide they have had enough (asked about the battle later, Billy the Kid will respond, "Yes sir, he licked our crowd to a finish."). Hitching up a wagon, they gather their wounded and head for the relative safety of the village of San Patricio. On the road, they meet the area's medicine man, Dr. Appel, who has been summoned to Blazer's Mill by telegraph. The doctor treats the injured men's wounds, then proceeds on to the scene of the gunfight ... there, treating Roberts, he tells the old man his wounds are fatal. A correct evaluation, in great pain (it will take two men to hold down Roberts as he withers away his life in agony), Roberts passes away from his stomach wound the next day at around noon. No more animosity in death ... for lack of proper casket materials and out of sheer laziness, both Roberts and Brewer are buried in the same hole, inside an open "V" of two wooden boards.
Two men dead, and five more wounded, the battle is just a warm-up to the events that take place in 1878 during the New Mexican war as it builds to a crescendo ... there will be a gunfight at the Fritz Ranch in which new Regulator leader, McNab, will be killed, Ab Sanders wounded, and Frank Coe arrested, a jail escape by Coe, the killing of four members of the Murphy-Dolan faction in the town of Lincoln, and the death of another suspected Tunstall killer, Manuel Segovia, when after being arrested, he too tries to "escape" ... culminating in the five-day firefight known as the Battle of Lincoln in which roughly two hundred gunmen on both sides of the clash make the town into a bloody mess, that sees the McSween store burnt to the ground, seven men killed, including businessman Alexander McSween, and over a dozen people wounded before order is restored by a cavalry detachment under the command of Lt. Colonel Nathan Dudley from nearby Fort Stanton.
As for Billy, he is just getting started in becoming a legend, and in the coming months of his short life, there will be his first capture, murder trial (with a guilty verdict and sentence of death by hanging), the betrayal of a promised amnesty from Governor Lew Wallace (the Civil War general, President Grant friend, and author of the religious novel, Ben-Hur), escape, the slaying of Joe Grant at Hargrove's Saloon in Fort Sumner (the killing in which the Kid inspects Grant's weapon before their gunfight, and secretly positions the revolver's cylinder so that it will hit an empty chamber if fired ... Grant gets the first shot, which is a click ... then Billy shoots him in the head), three shootouts with posses that end in the Kid's arrest by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett, his escape from the Lincoln jail (during which he kills Deputies James Bell and Bob Olinger), and his execution at the hands of Garrett in a darkened bedroom in the Fort Sumner home of rancher Pete Maxwell ("Quien es? Quien es?").
Billy The Kid
4/4/1878 ... the Lincoln County War flares up again at a remote location in New Mexico called Blazer's Mill.
Memorial (With Incorrect Date of 4/5/1878)
Battle Survivor George Coe In 1934 - Note Missing Trigger
Finger - Coe Dies In 1941 At The Age Of 85