“SHOWDOWN AT BLAZER’S MILL”

— BUCKSHOT ROBERTS’ LAST STAND —

Buffalo hunter Andrew L. “Buckshot” Roberts rode his mule into Blazer’s Mill in Lincoln County, New Mexico, on a Thursday afternoon and made his way to the post office to pick up a check for the sale of his ranch.

BUCKSHOT ROBERTS

Earlier the same day,  a heavily armed band of gunmen known as Regulators arrived in town and stopped to eat at a local restaurant.

Three days earlier, several Regulators executed Sheriff William Brady and his deputy, George Hindman, in retaliation for the death of rancher John Tunstall, an event that triggered the bloody Lincoln County War.

Led by Constable Richard “Dick” Brewer, the Regulators included experienced gun hands—Billy the Kid, Charlie Bowdre, George and Frank Coe, Frank McNab, Henry Newton Brown, Doc Scurlock, and John Middleton.

All of them vowed to hunt down and kill anyone believed associated with Tunstall’s murder—including Roberts.

The Regulators blamed the Dolan-Murphy Faction for Tunstall’s death and rode into Blazer’s Mill on April 4, 1878, with a warrant for Roberts.

Buckshot Roberts, quiet and secretive, spoke little of his past. Someone bestowed the nickname on him because he carried a load of buckshot in his right shoulder. 

One of the regulators approached Roberts, expecting him to surrender but Roberts had no such intention. When he resisted, a frustrated Constable Brewer sent several of his men to take the old rancher into custody by force. 

Roberts spotted Charlie Bowdre and others coming his way and lifted his Winchester to defend himself. 

Both men fired at the same time. A bullet struck Roberts in the stomach, staggering him in pain. His shot hit Bowdre’s belt buckle, knocking the wind out of the gunman.

Despite bleeding from the belly, Roberts squeezed off more shots at the Regulators, seriously wounding John Middleton.

One of his bullets severed the trigger finger of George Coe’s right hand. Another one grazed Doc Scurlock’s leg.

When the hammer fell on an empty chamber, Roberts ran for the Blazer home to take cover and ducked into a doorway. 

Billy the Kid raced from hiding to finish the job, but Roberts stepped out just as the Kid arrived and swung the barrel of the Winchester against his head, knocking him unconscious.

Inside the home, he found a single-shot rifle that belonged to Dr. Blazer, who owned the house, and used it to defend himself.

When Brewer became frustrated at the lack of success against Roberts, he worked his way around to the side of the house and took cover behind a pile of logs.

He spotted Roberts inside and fired but the bullet thudded into a wall.

Despite the pain and loss of blood, Roberts waited for Brewer to reveal himself.

When he saw him, Roberts took aim and fired, sending a bullet into the constable’s eye, killing him. 

Reeling in shock at their leader’s death and the number of wounded, Regulators decided to leave.

When a doctor from nearby Fort Stanton heard about the shooting, he rode to Blazer’s Mill but not in time to save Roberts, who died the following day.

The town, ironically, buried Roberts and Brewer side-by-side at Blazer Cemetery in Mescalero, New Mexico.

Historians suggest that although Roberts sometimes worked for Dolan and had known Murphy, he had nothing to do with the Tunstall’s death or the start of the Lincoln County War. 

Roberts had fallen victim to a classic case of guilt-by-association.

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