In the late afternoon of July 21, 1865, a man wearing a pair of revolvers strapped to his waist, ivory handles turned forward, walked along a street in Springfield, Missouri, heading for the town square.


The flat broad-brimmed hat he wore cast a shadow across the blue-gray eyes and long, droopy mustache that belonged to James Butler Hickok.

Approaching the square from the south, he reached across his six-foot-tall frame, pulled out one of the 1851 Navy Colts, cocked it, and returned it the holster.

Across the square, in the distance, stood gambler Davis Tutt, an ex-Confederate soldier.

The two men had exchanged bitter words the night before during a poker game at the Lyon House. 

Some said the two argued over a woman. But, at one point, Tutt supposedly claimed Hickok owed him money from a previous wager.

Tutt had scooped up Hickok’s prized gold-cased Waltham Repeater pocket watch from the table as collateral during one of their card games.

Tutt threatened to wear it in public to show that Hickok didn’t pay his debts.

Tutt’s action enraged Hickok, and the two men continued arguing.

“I intend wearing it in the morning,” Tutt said.

“If you do, I’ll shoot you, and I warn you not to come across the square with it on,” Hickok replied.

The two men stood in the town square sideways, separated by about seventy-five yards, the sun low in the sky.

“Dave, here I am. Don’t you come across here with that watch,” warned Hickok.

At around six p.m., the two men went for their guns, aimed at each other, and fired. Tutt missed. Hickok didn’t. The round from Hickok’s pistol drilled into Tutt’s ribs.

“Boys, I’m killed,” he cried out, staggering around for a few seconds before he collapsed and died.

The confrontation between Hickok and Tutt represented one of the few recorded instances on the American frontier involving a one-on-one duel to the death on a public street.

Authorities charged Hickok with murder the next day but later reduced the charge to manslaughter.

The case went to trial.

Three days later, the jury acquitted Hickok. 





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