Wild Bill Hickok's guns came in handy during the Civil War as he fought around Fort Leavenworth and across the Missouri Ozarks as a Union sharpshooter and scout.
He apparently spent about three years with the Free State Guerrilla Army of Jim Lane.
Wild Bill Hickok’s guns came in handy during the Civil War as he fought around Fort Leavenworth and across the Missouri Ozarks as a Union sharpshooter and scout.
He apparently spent about three years with the Free State Guerrilla Army of Jim Lane. He was known to have participated in the Battle of Pea Ridge and other battles around the Ozarks, and also served as a Union spy, posing as a Confederate throughout Southern Missouri and Arkansas.
It's generally believed it was during this time Hickok first met Dave Tutt, of Yellsville, Ark.
Like most former scouts and Confederate guerrillas, Tutt had become quite proficient with a gun. In early 1865, he moved with his widowed mother and sister to Springfield, Mo., where they lived in peace until Wild Bill Hickok showed up in town.
Hickok evidently returned to Springfield to resume the love affair he had started during the war with a lovely dame named Savannah Moore. After a while, however, they apparently had a fight and broke up for a few weeks.
During this time, Tutt became interested in Savannah.
Some historians believe the quarrel between Hickok and Tutt started well before their arrival in Springfield, but in any case, Tutt’s affair with Hickok’s former lover simply added fuel to the fire. Still more kindling was added to that fire when Hickok began courting Tutt’s sister.
Tutt’s mother strongly opposed this relationship — she had no use for Yankees, especially those who had served as spies. Tutt, who shared his mother’s feelings, confronted Hickok on the street one day and asked him to stop seeing his sister.
A short time later, Hickok, Tutt, and several other men were playing poker at the Lyon House — also known as the Old Southern Hotel — on the east side of South Street near Springfield Square.
After Hickok won most of Tutt’s money, Tutt reminded him of a $35 debt from a previous card game.
Hickok said he only owed Tutt $25, and laid the sum on the table. As Tutt took the money from the table, he also picked up Hickok’s gold watch, explaining, “This ought to cover the extra $10, Bill.”
Hickok immediately rose from his chair and commanded, “Put the watch back, Dave.” Tutt ignored Hickok, however, and hurriedly left with the watch.
During the next several days, the tensions grew between the two men. Springfield citizens quietly waited around the square for the showdown that was fast becoming inevitable.
On July 21, 1865, the confrontation finally came.
Tutt’s friends notified that Tutt would be crossing the square at 6 p.m. sharp, if Hickok wanted to try to get his watch back.
Hickok responded, “He can’t take my watch across the square unless dead men can walk.”
At 6 p.m. sharp, as hundreds of Springfield citizens gathered in doorways and alleys around the square, Tutt appeared on one side and Wild Bill on the other.
Hickok called a warning to Tutt, advising him not to attempt to cross the square if he hoped to live. Once more ignoring Hickok, Tutt started across the square.
As he did, he drew his gun. Hickok responded quickly, and both men fired simultaneously.
Tutt fell dead, a bullet through his heart.
Hickok turned quickly toward Tutt’s friends, who by then had also drawn their weapons, and exclaimed, “Put your arms up, men, or there will be more than one man dead here today.”
The men put their guns away and the crowd slowly dispersed.
This became the first recorded shootout at high noon, except it wasn’t really high noon — it was 6 p.m. sharp.
Information from "Wild Bill Hickok," by Mildred Fielder, was used in this column.
Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 252-9909.