- The Lincoln County War was a fight for control and ownership of land, goods, and services in the New Mexican territory with tensions between the Murphy-Dolan and Tunstall-McSween factions.
- The feud between the two factions originated from greed and self-interest, as Murphy-Dolan aimed to maintain their monopoly while Tunstall opened a rival store and bank.
- The Lincoln County War saw the murder of John Tunstall, the killing of Sheriff William Brady by the Regulators, and the burning of Alex McSween's house as the climax of the conflict. The war officially ended with the death of Billy the Kid at the hands of Pat Garrett.
Billy the Kid season 2 features a close reimagining of the historic Lincoln County War, one of many range feuds that took place in the Old American West. William H. Bonney, better known by his infamous alias Billy the Kid, took part in the legendary showdown as one of Englishman John Tunstall's enforcers known as the Regulators. Billy the Kid was forced to square off against old friend Jesse Evans and his allegiance to a corrupt coalition headed by Irishman Lawrence Murphy and his accomplices John Riley and James Dolan. The Lincoln County War was mostly a series of cause-and-effect revenge killings between the two rival factions.
Most of the Billy the Kid characters in season 2 play integral roles in the Lincoln County War, which was at its core a fight for control and ownership of the land, goods, and services within the relatively uncharted New Mexican territory. Lincoln County wasn't officially founded as a United States region until 1869, renamed just four years after the end of the Civil War in honor of President Abraham Lincoln. Murphy and his associates known as The House quickly formed a monopoly over all the goods that became available in Lincoln County as of 1873 until Tunstall and attorney Alex McSween opened up a general store and bank of their own, causing serious tension.
The Feud Between Murphy-Dolan & Tunstall-McSween Began In 1876
The origins of the feud between Murphy's House and Tunstall's Regulators are sourced in greed and self-interest. Murphy and Dolan were hated by local farmers and ranchers for their excessively high fares for necessary goods and supplies. Murphy's group, particularly Dolan, was furious at Tunstall's efforts to disrupt their monopoly over the county by opening up a general store and bank called "J. H. Tunstall & Co." in the same area. Tunstall wasn't any better than Murphy and Dolan, who aimed to profit immensely from their storefronts and services. Dolan eventually challenged Tunstall to a gunfight, but Tunstall turned down his offer, saying he'd much rather have hired hands do his fighting for him.
Having been well-established in the region by the time Tunstall showed up in 1876, Murphy and Dolan were able to use their status and influence to work in tandem with several Lincoln County lawmen including Sherriff William Brady. Murphy and Dolan also started hiring the services of local cowboys such as the Seven Rivers Warriors and the Jesse Evans Gang to force natives off the land and to harass Tunstall and his associates. Once an honorary member of the Jesse Evans Gang, Billy the Kid began disapproving of Murphy and Dolan's dishonorable methods and agreed to work for Tunstall as Lincoln County was on the brink of an all-out war.
The Jesse Evans Gang Murdered John Tunstall In February 1878
The official mark of the beginning of the Lincoln County War was when members of the Jesse Evans Gang shot and killed John Tunstall. Billy the Kid is said to have witnessed the cold-blooded murder that took place on Tunstall's cattle ranch in Lincoln, New Mexico. Jesse Evans was one of the three gang members who led the charge to kill Tunstall along with William Morton and Tom Hill. The official name of the Regulators was born out of Tunstall's death with the aim of avenging him and taking out the corrupt association between Murphy's House, which was connected to the larger Santa Fe Ring, and the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department.
Billy The Kid & The Regulators Killed Sheriff William Brady In April 1878
In response to the cold-blooded murder of their leader John Tunstall, Billy the Kid and the Regulators retaliated with the murder of Sheriff William Brady, who was the key link between the Murphy-Dolan coalition and the corrupt lawmen of Lincoln County. Before his death, Brady had reached out to the Santa Fe Ring leader Thomas Catron for assistance in delegitimizing the deputy status of the Regulators, which was previously approved by Judge John Wilson. Catron and Governor Samuel Axtell determined that Wilson was wrong to have appointed the Regulators with that designation. Days later, Billy the Kid and several Regulators shot Brady dead in the town center of Lincoln.
The Leader Of The Regulators Dick Brewer Got Killed At The Battle Of Blazer's Mill
The Regulators continued their once-lawful pursuit of John Tunstall's murderers even after the efforts of Catron and Axtell delegitimized their lawful status. Billy the Kid and several other Regulators tracked down one of the suspected murderers, Buckshot Roberts, and got in an intense shootout with him at the Battle of Blazer's Mill. This left the Regulators without a leader after the resultant death of Dick Brewer, as Billy the Kid was never considered the official leader of the group. Frank McNab was appointed in his place but soon died at the hands of the Seven Rivers and the Jesse Evans Gang during a gunfight at Fritz Ranch.
The Murphy-Dolan Group Set Alex McSween's House On Fire In July 1878
The Lincoln County War reached its climax with the burning of Alex McSween's house during the Battle of Lincoln. With McSween as the head of the Regulators and Tunstall out of the picture, the Murphy-Dolan group went straight to the heart by attacking McSween's family home. The house was where McSween's family lived and was a common meeting location for the Regulators as well. McSween's family was able to escape the flames as Billy the Kid and the Regulators fought off the advances of the Jesse Evans Gang and the Seven Rivers. However, McSween himself was killed in the battle, marking the end of the conflict between the Murphy-Dolan and Tunstall-McSween factions once and for all.
The Lincoln County War Officially Ended With Billy The Kid's Death In July 1881
The Lincoln County War was considered officially over with the death of Billy the Kid at the hands of lawman Pat Garrett. Immediately following the Battle of Lincoln, the Regulators dissolved and became wanted fugitives, fleeing Lincoln County. Garrett's efforts resulted in the deaths of Billy the Kid and two of his closest friends, Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Fowdre. Billy had become a larger-than-life symbol of the Lincoln County War even though he was not necessarily at the forefront of the tensions that caused it. Billy the Kid, known for his gunslinging abilities, was one of the most notable fighters in the Lincoln County War, which is why his death marked the true end of the deadly dispute.