Skip to Content

Charlie Bowdre

Charlie Bowdre Facts

Charlie Bowdre was a famous gunslinger, outlaw, and cowboy in the wild west. He became notorious because of his association with Billy the Kid as a member of his gang during the Lincoln County War and after. His friendship with Billy the Kid would lead to his death.

Early Life of Charlie Bowdre

Charlie Bowdre

Charlie was born in Wilkes County, Georgia about 13 years prior to the Civil War.

When he was three years old, he and his parents moved to Mississippi. By 1854, Charlie began working on his family’s farm and that seemed to be the vocation he stayed in during the war until the 1870s.

Tradition says that Charlie Bowdre abandoned the family business and became a wander.

According to records he had already arrived in Lincoln County, New Mexico by 1874. He became friends with Doc Scurlock and opened a cheese factory on the Gila River.

During this time he also joined Doc on several posses and pursued cattle thieves and rustlers and even took part in the lynchings of some of those he 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.

He had established a negative reputation prior to the Lincoln County War.

Lincoln County War and Beyond

In 1878, John Tunstall was murdered which ignited the Lincoln County War. Bowdre sided with the Regulators (which included Billy the Kid and Dick Brewer) and Alexander McSween.

During the cattle war, he and the regulators had an altercation with Buckshot Roberts during the Gunfight of Blazer’s Mills. During the Gunfight, Dick Brewer was killed and Charlie Bowdre was wounded.

He would be charged with killing Buckshot Roberts and would be present during the Battle of Lincoln where he and the Regulators managed to escape with their lives.

After the Lincoln County War was over he returned to life as a cowboy and worked on the ranches of Thomas Yerby and Pete Maxwell. During this time he married Manuela Herrera who was the sister of Doc Scurlock’s wife.

Charlie had begun to settle down by the end of 1880 and was ready to quit riding with Billy the Kid and surrender for the murder of Buckshot Roberts. However, Billy convinced him to join the rest of the gang on a mission to ambush Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner.


A gun battle occurred but Bowdre escaped as did most of the others and took refuge in a rock house at Stinking Springs. In the morning Charlie Bowdre exited the house to feed the horses and did not know that Pat Garrett and his posse were waiting for the gang.

He was shot continuously and littered with rifle bullets throughout his body.

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.

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 Pat Garrett repeating the phrase, “I wish…I wish…”

His remains were returned to his wife, and he was buried next to Tom O’Folliard, another member of Billy’s gang. Less than a year later he was joined by Billy the Kid himself after his death in July 1881.

In 1962, a court tried to have Bowdre’s remains removed. However, a relative named Louis Bowdre was found and refused to allow the court to exhume the body. He said that his relative would prefer to rest next to O’Folliard.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.