Friday, January 22, 2010

January 22, 2010
It is a blessing to have good friends and a double blessing if they are scholars obsessed with all things Billy the Kid. Case in point:

My good friend Lynda Sanchez from Lincoln, New Mexico suggested we do a Classic Gunfight on an incident that took place at Fort Stanton, New Mexico. Utilizing her fine book on the subject, I came up with the following narrative:

November 1, 1862
Army Surgeon John Whitlock is visiting his good friend Kit Carson at the newly rebuilt Fort Stanton. Carson is in command of five companies of New Mexico volunteers who are in the process of rebuilding the fort, which was abandoned and burned when the Confederates fled.

Dr. Whitlock is engaged in a game of cards in the Sutler's tent when the name Captain Graydon comes up in conversation. Whitlock has nothing nice to say about the controversial Indian fighter and makes, what one eye witness claims, are "serious criticisms concerning Captain Graydon's killing [of] sixteen [Apaches]. . ."

Alarmed at the nature of the verbal abuse, one of the card players leaves the tent and goes directly to Captain Graydon's tent and informs the latter of the comments. Minutes later, the soldier returns with a note and pushes it in front of Whitlock, who reads it, and writes on the bottom, "Accepted."

He points at the paper and says to his fellow card players, "That is a challenge—I'll have to fight."

Several men in the tent try to talk Whitlock out of fighting and try to encourage him to pass out the back of the tent and return to Carson's tent. Whitlock absolutely refuses to do this and picks up a Colt's five shooting revolver lying on the card table and examines it.

Someone comes in and says Captain Graydon is on his way with a pistol in both hands. Meeting outside, the two agree to a duel with "the running gears of a wagon standing between them." Dr. Whitlock is armed with the five shooting Colts and Captain Graydon is armed with a Navy Six. As they step off and turn to fire, Graydon's Navy misfires (he earlier had gotten it wet "while chasing Indians") and he manages to fire twice, only slightly wounding the doctor. Whitlock shoots Graydon, hitting him square and knocking him down.

Lieutenant Morris of Captain Graydon's company rushes the site with "about 75 soldiers" who open fire on the doctor, who is crawling along a ditch trying to reach his tent. The soldiers riddle the doctor with more than 100 shots and throw stones on his body.

What started as an almost spontaneous duel, has ended with the brutal murder of the good friend of Kit Carson.

End of narrative.

As I often do, I sent the narrative to all the historians I know who might proof the copy and make sure it's accurate. One of the historians I sent it to is Fred Nolan with this cover note:

Still not sure if this is something you are conversant with but here's rough of fight.


Got the following clarification back today:

You've picked a beaut to bend your brains on. More controversy over this incident than some of Our Billy's adventures.

The name of the officer was Capt. James "Paddy" Graydon, although it's sometimes given as Grayden or Grayton. In May '62 General Canby had given him command of a company of 1st NM Cavalry and told him to go out and scout for hostile Mescalero Apaches (this was at the time of Carleton's notorious order to "kill all the males who resisted but save the women and children").

Late in October Graydon encountered a band lend by Manuelito at Patos, in the Gallinas Mountains which are almost directly due west of Corona NM where Graydon 'lured' the Apaches into his camp, got them drunk, had his men shoot them down in cold blood, and took their 17 horses with him back to Fort Stanton (an act which Dr John Marmaduke Whitlock denounced in a letter to the Santa Fe Weekly Gazette as barbaric treachery). In his official report, however, Graydon claimed he had refused to give whiskey to Manuelito, who drew his gun and declared he would fight for it, whereupon Graydon gave the order to fire. Whatever the truth, at least 11 Apaches were killed, and twice as many wounded. Both Carleton and Colonel Christopher ‘Kit’ Carson, who had assumed command of Fort Stanton, expressed considerable annoyance but no further action was taken.

The Graydon troops were sent in advance of Carson, who was moving south, but whether they were coming from Santa Fe via Socorro would seem unlikely because they would have had to take a U-shaped route to get to the Gallinas mountains -- unless of course they rode across country via Albuquerque/Manzano. Many sources have them coming out of Fort Stanton where they were rebuilding the fort. Sorry: dunno.

Shootout, Version One:

Whitlock, who had served inthe Territorial Militia as a surgeon, was a close friend of Carson who came down to the Fort on November 1, 1862 to have Carson sign some papers. On November 4 (or 9, take your pick) while Whitlock was at the sutler's store/tent playing cards, Graydon burst in, confronted Whitlock, and demanded to know if it was true he had called him "an assassinating cowardly son of a bitch." Whitlock coolly replied he "could not recollect exactly having used such language," but agreed that was more or less the gist of it. Graydon left the room, then came back and presented Whitlock (still playing cards) with a letter, presumably challenging him to a duel. "As you see, Captain, I am engaged" Whitlock said. "Let the matter rest until tomorrow and I will give you an explanation and satisfaction if you desire."

Next morning, Graydon confronted Whitlock. ‘If you come to this post again and insult an officer, I will horsewhip you,’ he barked. ‘I am an officer and you are a pimp that follows the army.’

Graydon stomped off to his tent and got heeled while Whitlock picked up a gun and waited for him at officers' quarters. When the soldier reappeared, Whitlock shot at him and missed. Graydon's return shot shattered the butt of Whitlock's pistol, wounding his wrist. Whitlock fired again, inflicting a fatal wound, ran into the sutler's store and grabbed a shotgun as Graydon's troopers carried their C.O. to his tent, where he died almost immediately.

The incensed troopers rushed back to get Whitlock, who ran for the rear door but was shot down and killed. His body was then thrown into a ditch (acequia?) and then soldier after soldier/every man in the company filed by and fired a shot into the body either with rifle, pistol or shotgun. An examination found 130 gunshot wounds in the body.

In a "towering rage" Kit Carson had every man in the company disarmed, presumably with a view to havng them all shot, but was persuaded to have only the ringleaders arrested and held for the civil authorities.

Shootout, Version Two:

As Graydon re-appeared, the surgeon suddenly drew his pistol and fired; Graydon immediately reciprocated. Both men missed. Graydon retreated behind a wagon, while Whitlock crouched behind a Sibley tent. The two men kept firing. Suddenly, Graydon clutched his chest and yelled, "The son of a bitch has killed me!"

Graydon’s troopers, attracted by the gunfire, rushed to their wounded captain. Whitlock had been non-fatally wounded in his side and right hand; Graydon’s men pursued him and gunned him down. The doctor’s body was thrown into a ditch, and Graydon’s soldiers continued to fire round after round into the lifeless corpse. Carson estimated that more than 100 shots had been fired at Whitlock.

Four members of Graydon’s company — Lieutenant Phillip Morris and Privates John Murry, Albert Overall, and Estevan Aguilar — were charged with murder and sent to Santa Fe to stand trial. On January 1, 1863, Morris, Aguilar, Overall, and three other prisoners escaped from the jail. Overall was captured the next morning, but Morris and Aguilar remained at large until January 18, when they were apprehended by General Carleton himself.

Graydon died three days after his gunfight with Whitlock and was buried at Fort Stanton. A small collection taken up by his colleagues enabled his widow, Eliza, to travel from Santa Fe to pay her last respects. Twenty-four years later, Graydon’s remains were moved to Santa Fe National Cemetery.


All that having been expounded, (and I am sure there are other versions) I think yours (or rather George Kimbrell's -- and yes, there is a photograph of him, but not a very good one, taken in old age: TWOBTK, 190) is much more detailed and exciting. How true it is, I am honestly not well informed enough to say.

For "other" versions of the Manuelito massacre see inter alia Sonnichsen, The Mescalero Apaches 111-112; Terrell, Apache Chronicle, 235; Worcester. The Apaches, 85; Utley, Frontiersmen in Blue, 236.

See also Ryan, Fort Stanton and its Community 1855-96, 53-54.

I have more on this elsewhere, but don't know how much of a hurry you are in. As a result, I doubt any of this is much help, but what d'you expect -- even though it's taken me most of the day to do, it's only a freebie.

"If you want to keep the herd moving put your best man on point."
—Old Vaquero Saying

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