Want to know where Hollywood Westerns get their quick-draw inspiration? Look no further than the legendary duel between Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt on July 21, 1865, in Springfield, Missouri. The trigger-happy event was one of those rare instances that a duel between individuals in a public setting was recorded in Wild West history.
So how did the feud start? According to sources, the former friends were in a nasty tiff over women: Hickok was rumored to have fooled around with Tutt’s sister (and possibly bequeathed her an illegitimate child), while Tutt was allegedly eyeing Hickok’s ladylove, Susanna Moore.
The men’s hatred for each other culminated during a poker game at the Lyon House Hotel on July 20, 1865, when Hickok refused to play cards with Tutt. In retribution, the latter made it his mission to bankrupt Hickok by aiding other card players who were playing against him. Unfortunately, for Tutt, Hickok was on a winning streak.
In an attempt to nurse his bruised ego, Tutt accused Hickok of owing him money from a past card game and hastily took one of his most favorite items, a gold pocket watch, as ransom until he got paid. With a coolness that only legendary cowboys have, Hickok was said to have calmly asked for the watch back, but Tutt merely responded with an “ugly grin” as he walked off with it.
In order to mock Hickok, Tutt planned on cavorting around with the watch in the square the next day, but that didn’t amuse the mustachioed rebel one bit. “He shouldn’t come across that square unless dead men can walk,” Hickok told Tutt supporters.
After loading his Colt Navy, Hickok showed up at the south end of the square the next evening a little before 6pm; needless to say, the sight made the local townspeople flee for safety. At the north end, Tutt stood about 75 yards away.
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“Don’t you come across here with that watch,” Hickok warned.
Tutt did not respond but stood still with his hand on his gun. As was customary back then, the two men stood sideways from each other—not directly facing front as the Hollywood Westerns portray—as they waited for the right moment. Then suddenly, they whipped out their guns, each shooting a single bullet at the same time. Although Tutt was known to have a better aim, he missed—but Hickok managed to blast Tutt in the ribs.
“Boys, I’m killed,” exclaimed Tutt, as he eventually collapsed and died.
Eleven years after killing Tutt, Wild Bill met his own death in Deadwood, South Dakota. He was murdered by “Broken Nose” Jack McCall, who shot him from behind as he held a two-pair poker hand of aces and eights, which is now famously known as the Dead Man’s Hand.