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The Battle of Lincoln

April 30, 1878; Lincoln, Lincoln County, New Mexico Territory---Yesterday, a large group made up of the combined forces of the Jessie Evans Gang and the Seven Rivers Warriors, plus a few non-gang affiliated Dolan supporters, ambushed Regulator leader Frank MacNab and two fellow Regulators, Ab Saunders and Frank Coe, at the Fritz Spring Ranch in the Bonito Valley. MacNab, the main target of the "posse," was killed in a hail of gunfire, while Saunders was severely wounded and Coe captured. After the gunsmoke had settled, the posse took Saunders to the Fritz ranch-house and later that night, began heading northwest, back towards Lincoln, with Frank Coe in their captivity. The posse believes that the Regulators are in Lincoln and that they can ambush the rest of them as easily as they did MacNab, Coe, and Saunders. Unfortunately for them, things don't quite turn out that way....

Sometime around dawn, a mail carrier rides into Lincoln, bringing news to the town of the gunfight at the Fritz Ranch. The Regulators, who were all in the Ellis house on the eastern edge of town, hear of the news, but are misinformed that not only had MacNab been killed, but that Coe and Saunders had been as well. Hearing that the posse is on its way back to Lincoln, the Regulators elect to remain in town to await their arrival.

Shortly thereafter, the posse rides into Lincoln from the west. About a dozen or so of them take up positions at the House, holding the captive Frank Coe there with them. Most of the rest of the posse quietly sneak over to the eastern edge of town and take up positions around the Ellis house, knowing it to be a hangout of the Regulators and McSween supporters. William Johnson, Marion Turner, and two or three others head to center of town and ask Saturnino Baca if they can take up positions in his house. Baca refuses however, so Johnson, Turner, and the other men join the rest by the Ellis house. None of the posse are aware of the fact that the Regulators already know of their presence; they are still planning on ambushing the Regulators when they exit the Ellis house.

Meanwhile, Regulators George Coe, who believes his cousin Frank has been killed and is furious over this, and Henry Brown take to the Ellis house's roof. George has his Sharps rifle, Henry his Winchester. They are out of the sight of the posse and, looking around over the town, they spot a man standing outside the House. Knowing him to be a member of the posse, George takes careful aim. Although he is known to be one of, if not the best shot with a rifle of all the Regulators, he is missing his right trigger finger, courtesy of Buckshot Roberts, and Henry tells him there's no chance that he can make the shot. George pays no attention and pulls the trigger, probably with his middle finger. Henry can't believe his eyes when he sees the man George was aiming at fall to the ground. The man is Seven Rivers Warrior 'Dutch Charlie' Kruling, and George's shot has torn through both his legs without breaking a bone. The length of the shot is an amazing 444 yards, basically the length of the town!

For the rest of the day, shots are fired from all over town. George and Henry maintain their positions on the Ellis roof, while the rest of the Regulators stay inside and shoot at the posse from out of windows and doors. Due to this, not a single Regulator is killed or even wounded. Allegedly though, another member of the posse is wounded, and four others allegedly killed by the Regulators.

It's not until 4:30 or so in the afternoon that a detachment of troops under the command of Lt. George Smith arrive in town for Fort Stanton. Sheriff John Copeland had summoned the military earlier in the day. Upon the troops' arrival, Lt. Smith has them go the center of town, placing themselves between the House and the Ellis house. Because of this, all gunfire comes to a halt. Copeland, apparently drunk, has Lt. Smith arrest all the members of the posse, as well as House employee James Longwell. The posse members consent to this, as long as they don't have to give up their weapons. Agreeing to this, Smith and his detachment leave Lincoln, taking the posse and Longwell with them back to the fort. While this negotiating was occuring, Wallace Olinger, who had been guarding Frank Coe at the House, gave Frank a pistol and told him to get going. Frank immediately did this and headed over to the Ellis house, where he reunited with the Regulators.

While the Battle of Lincoln is now over, the war itself is still far from. At the fort, none of the posse members are put in the guardhouse; they are allowed free reign of the fort. Due to the fact that the new commanding officer, Lt. Col. Nathan A. M. Dudley, is a good friend of Murphy, Dolan, and Riley and a staunch supporter of theirs, he takes no action against the posse members. On the next day, May 1, Jas. J. Dolan & Co. officially announce they are closed for business, permanently. This means that everything the business owns now belongs to Territorial District Attorney Thomas Catron, who is also the head of the Santa Fe Ring and the president of The 1st National Bank of Santa Fe. On the same day, the body of Frank MacNab is brought up to Lincoln and buried beside John Tunstall behind Tunstall's store. Doc Scurlock, who is a deputy under Sheriff Copeland, also assumes leadership of the Regulators, while making Billy Bonney his second-in-command. As of now, there are no clear battle plans on either side, but everyone knows it's just a matter of time before the next shootout.

Regulators involved

Murphy-Dolan-Riley men involved