Charlie Bowdre

Charles Bowdre (1848 – December 23, 1880) was an American cowboy and outlaw. He was an associate of Billy the Kid and member of his gang.

Charlie Bowdre
Charlie bowdre lighting corrected.jpg
Charlie Bowdre
Charles Meriwether Bowdre

DiedDecember 23, 1880(1880-12-23) (aged 31–32)
Stinking Springs, New Mexico
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
Resting placeOld Fort Sumner Cemetery
34°24′13″N 104°11′37″W / 34.40361°N 104.19361°W / 34.40361; -104.19361 (Billy the Kid's Gravesite)
OccupationRanch hand, gunfighter, outlaw
  • Father: Albert Rees Bowdre
  • Mother: Lucy Clark Oliver Meriwether

Early lifeEdit

Bowdre was born in Wilkes County, Georgia. When he was three years old, he and his parents moved to Mississippi. By 1854, young Charlie started working in his father's farm, and as he grew up became an adept farmer. Much of what Bowdre did between the year in which his last sister was born (1863) and 1874, remains a mystery.

It is believed, however, that he abandoned the family's farm to become a wanderer. Records show that by 1874, he had arrived at Lincoln County, New Mexico. Bowdre became friends with Doc Scurlock during this time, and the two men opened a cheese factory on the Gila River. He also joined Scurlock on several posses during this period, pursuing cattle thieves and rustlers, on several occasions taking part in the lynching of those captured. On July 18, 1876, Bowdre, Scurlock, Frank Coe, George Coe, and Ab Saunders stormed the very weak Lincoln jail, freeing cattle rustler Jesus Largo from the custody of Sheriff Saturnino Baca, taking Largo outside of town and hanging him. No charges were ever filed for the event. On August 5, 1877, he and a companion were arrested for "shooting up" the town of Lincoln while intoxicated.

Lincoln County WarEdit

With the outbreak of the Lincoln County War in 1878, Bowdre sided with the Tunstall-McSween side, and he met Billy, Jose Chavez y Chavez and the rest of the Kid's associates, including Richard M. Brewer and Jim French, George Coe and Frank Coe. During the conflict, he was known to have been present with his fellow Regulators when William Morton, Frank Baker, and William McCloskey were killed along the Blackwater Creek on March 9, 1878. Bowdre was shot by Buckshot Roberts during the Gunfight of Blazer's Mills on April 4, 1878, and in turn shot Roberts. Bowdre would be charged with killing Buckshot Roberts during the Blazer's Mills Gunfight. He was also present in the July 15–19, 1878 Battle of Lincoln.

After the Lincoln County WarEdit

Bowdre worked as a cowboy on the ranches of Thomas Yerby and Pete Maxwell as the war went on, as well as being an active participant. Bowdre married a twenty-five-year-old Mexican woman, Manuela Herrera, some months before his death.

Manuela was a sister to Doc Scurlock's wife, María Antonia Miguela Herrera, known as Antonia. The fact that he was recently married when he died perhaps suggests that he would have been less likely to have been involved in the gang's activities during the few weeks that passed between his marriage and his death.

By December 1880, Charlie Bowdre was ready to quit riding with Billy the Kid and surrender for the murder of Buckshot Roberts, but he still joined the rest of the gang on a mission to ambush Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner.

A gun battle ensued, but Bowdre and most of the Kid's gang members escaped alive. On December 23, however, the gang was holed up in a rock house at Stinking Springs, New Mexico.

At dawn, Bowdre emerged to feed the horses and was riddled with rifle slugs by Garrett's posse, which had surrounded the building in the night. Later that day, Billy the Kid and his partners gave up. After being riddled with bullets he fell back into the doorway where, at the urging of Billy the Kid to "take a few of them with you when you die", Bowdre made a valiant exit. [1]

Unfortunately, he was already too weak and near death at that point and couldn't get his gun out of his holster. In the last seconds of his life he stumbled and fell towards Garrett repeating the phrase, "I wish...I wish..." [1]

His remains were returned to his wife, and he was interred next to Tom O'Folliard, another member of Billy's gang. They were joined later by Billy himself, after he was killed in July, 1881.[2]


Charlie Bowdre was played by James Congdon in the 1958 film The Left Handed Gun,[3] by Ron Soble in the John Wayne film Chisum,[4] and by Charles Martin Smith in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973).[5]

In the 1988 film Young Guns, he is portrayed by actor Casey Siemaszko.[6] The circumstances of his death were the basis of a scene in Young Guns II, however, in the movie Doc Scurlock, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is the one who meets his fate outside the hut, and not Bowdre. Actor Chris Bylsma was cast as Bowdre in the film The Kid directed by Vincent D'Onofrio.[7]


  1. ^ a b Utley 1989, p. 158-159.
  2. ^ Utley 1989, p. 195.
  3. ^ Bloom, Lansing Bartlett; Walter, Paul A. F. (2007). New Mexico Historical Review. University of New Mexico. p. 204.
  4. ^ Armstrong, Stephen B. (7 September 2011). Andrew V. McLaglen: The Life and Hollywood Career. McFarland Publishing. p. 193. ISBN 9780786486700.
  5. ^ Boggs, Johnny D. (28 August 2013). Billy the Kid on Film, 1911-2012. McFarland Publishing. p. 201. ISBN 9780786465552.
  6. ^ King, James (1 March 2018). Fast Times and Excellent Adventures: The Surprising History of the '80s Teen Movie. Hachette UK. p. 393. ISBN 9781472123732.
  7. ^ "Vincent D'Onofrio Taps 'Valarian's Dane DeHaan to Play Billy the Kid in Suretone Western". Deadline. 2017-07-19. Retrieved 2018-06-24.


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