Since I started this website I have recieved many e-mails from people all over the world asking me Billy the Kid related questions. One of the most common topics that people e-mail me about is Young Guns. Many people ask me how accurate are the Young Guns movies? I always tell them that they are great movies, but that they shouldn't be taken seriously for their historical value, because they are very innacurate. I have created this page, so that I might answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the movies and to point out their innacuracies for those who are interested in the real story. The facts I present here are well documented and researched. My main sources of info for this page come from the following books: "The West of Billy the Kid" by Frederick Nolan, "The Illustrated Life and Times of Billy the Kid" by Bob Boze Bell, and "Billy the Kid: His Life and Legend" by Jon Tuska. For further reading I would suggest "Billy the Kid: The Legend of El Chivato" by Elizabeth Fackler and "The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid" by Pat Garrett. In my opinion the best edition of this book is the new edition put out by the University of Oklahoma Press with notes and commentary by Frederick Nolan.
Here are just a few of the many errors made in the Young Guns Movies
In Young guns as well as many other movies they portray John Tunstall (Billy's employer) as being an older man. In reality he was only a few years older than Billy and was killed when he was just 24 years old. It should also be observed that John Tunstall was killed on February 18, 1878 and not on New Years day like it shows on the movie.
Another mistake made in this movie was that it showed Lawrence G. Murphey to be Tunstall's arch rival and the head of the Santa Fe Ring. In actuality Murphy had been dianosed with terminal cancer of the bowels in 1877 and by 1878 (The year of the Lincoln county War) had pretty much left the running of the "House" to his protege, Jimmy Dolan who was the real rival of Tunstall and the Regulators during the Lincoln County War. Unlike at the end of Young Guns where Murphy gets shot in the head by Billy the Kid in reality he died on October 20,1878 in Santa Fe.
It is also hard to ignore the fact that on Young Guns they showed Charlie Bowdre getting killed escaping from the McSween house when in actuality he was killed at Stinking Springs on December 23, 1880 instead of Doc Scurlock like Young Guns 2 showed it. Doc actually lived to be an old man and refused to talk about his past. He died of a heart attack on July 25, 1929 in Eastland Texas.
Another mistake is Young Gun's reenactment of the gunfight at Blazer's Mill with Buckshot Roberts. This gunfight has too many historical errors to name, but among the most notable mistakes are the way that Buckshot Roberts and Richard Brewer died. For one thing Roberts fortified himself up and died inside of a one story adobe, not an outhouse like the movie shows. Richard Brewer was shot in the head while crouching down behind a pile of logs, not in the body crossing in front of an outhouse. I think it is also important to note that George Coe was the one who received the hand wound from Roberts, not Scurlock. Scurlock had a shot bounce off of his holstered pistol and burn down his leg.
On Young Guns they portrayed all of the Regulators to be very young men, when in actuality many of them were in their late thirties or early forties.
It is also notable to say that Charlie Crawford was not killed by a bullet to the head by Billy the Kid. He was actually shot with a sharps rifle by Doc Scurlock's father-in-law Fernando Herrera. The bullet went through Charlie's body from hip to hip piercing his spinal cord. He was recovered by the army and taken to the post hospital where he died a week later.
As far as whether or not Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett were actually friends, I think that all depends on who you believe. Garrett himself in his book "The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid" said he knew the kid only casually. Pats son Jarvis supposedly said they were only aquantances. However Paulital Maxwell claimed they were very close friends. She said around Fort Sumner they were known as Juan Largo and Little Casino, because of the height difference between Garrett (6'4) and Billy (5'7). It is my opinion that the two were never what you would call friends, but were very well aquanted with one another even before Garrett became sheriff of Lincoln county.
In Young Guns 2 it shows Billy and his gang getting surrounded by a posse at White Oaks inside of a Bordello owned by sexy Jane Greathouse. White Oaks was frequented by the Kid, but this event happened near modern day Corona, not White Oaks like the movie shows. The Hudgens posse actually surrounded Billy and the gang at Jim (Not jane) Greathouses ranch (Not a bordello). As far as the killing of deputy Carlyle goes it was actually pretty accurate other than Billy supposedly dressing him up like an Indian and forcing him outside. Supposedly Carlyle went inside to reason with Billy and the others and Jim Greathouse remained outside offering his life as payment if any harm came to Carlyle. Billy himself later claimed that his plans were to hold Carlyle captive until nightfall and then make him lead the way out. However someone on the outside accidentally fired a shot (It is rumored that it was posse member J.P. Eaker) and Carlyle thinking that they had killed Greathouse feared retalliation from Billy and the others and jumped through the window breaking the sash. He then fell to the ground riddled by bulletts. It is still not known for sure whether or not Billy the Kid and the others inside killed Carlyle. Many people including Billy himself claimed as Young Guns did show it that the posse actually killed Carlyle by mistake.
Most Young Guns fans will remember that in part 2 it showed Tom O'Folliard as being around 14 years old. In reality he was was older than Billy and was around 22 years old when he was killed by Pat Garrett and his posse on December 19, 1880.
In Young Guns after Billy was captured at Stinking Springs he was taken to trial where the judge sentenced him to hang by the neck until he be dead, dead, dead! To which Billy replied and you can go to hell, hell, hell! In reality Billy said nothing.
Perhaps the biggest error in Young Guns is the fact that after Billy had escaped from the courthouse it showed him making his way back to Fort Sumner where he met up with Chavez who is still stumbling around gutshot from his wound at Stinking Springs. (In reality Chavez wasn't even at Stinking Springs when Billy was captured) What makes this so incredible is the fact that in reality there was a four month time period from the time Billy was captured to when he finally escaped. So that means Chavez has been stumbling around with the same wound for four months!!!
Young Guns FAQ
(Q) Was Hendry William French a real character? (A)No he was just a character made up for the movie, but he was probably loosely based on Jim French who was a friend and fellow Regulator of Billy's during the Lincoln County War. (Q) Did Jose Chavez die from a gunshot wound that he recieved from Garrett's posse like the movie shows? (A) No, he died at Milagro, New Mexico, on July 17, 1923. (Q) Was Dave Rudabaugh known as Arkansas Dave? (A) No, he was known as "Dirty Dave" Rudabaugh.