Billy the Kid, 1859–81, American outlaw, b. New York City. His real name was probably Henry McCarty; he was known as William H. Bonney. His family moved to Kansas and then to New Mexico when he was a child. He frequented saloons and gambling halls and killed several men during his teens. In 1878 he led a gang in the Lincoln co. cattle war, killed two deputies, and engaged in large-scale cattle rustling. John S. Chisum and other cattlemen secured (1880) the election of a new sheriff sworn to rid the country of the cattle thieves. Billy the Kid was captured, tried, and sentenced to death. He escaped but was again trapped and was shot by Sheriff Pat F. Garrett.
See biographies by P. F. Garrett (1882, repr. 1967), R. N. Mullin (1967), C. A. Siringo (1967), and C. W. Breihan (1970).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.