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I don't know if you can help me out, but I've been unable to find an answer about how lawmen of the Old West would return to town with captured renegades. Would he have bound their hands; maybe tying them to the saddle horns or tethering their horses together? If you have any thoughts or could refer me to someone you think could help me I sure would appreciate it.

Thanks a million!!!

K. K.


The short answer to your question is, "They did whatever it took to get the job done." In other words, the lawmen looked at the situation, and used whatever tools were at hand.

In the case of a posse, they might simply disarm the suspect and hope he tried to escape -- because a corpse was easier to deal with than a living outlaw. Arizona pioneer Pete Kitchen told of the problem of camping with a captive overnight. He bound the outlaw's hands, put him on his horse, looped a rope around his neck and tied it to an overhanging tree branch. From Kitchen's point of view, the method worked very well -- because the horse wandered off during the night. The captive undoubtedly had a different opinion.

Another method of persuading captives to be good simply involved a short-barreled shotgun -- commonly known as an Express Gun -- in the lawman's hand.

Some less lethal methods involved handcuffs -- sometimes connected to a chain locked around the captive's waist. At other times, the captive's feet were tied or chained to the stirrups; or the feet were shackled, with the chain that connected the feet running under the horse's belly.

Probably the most common method -- and safest for all involved -- was to load the prisoner in a wagon with shackles on his hands and feet. This was especially useful when a group of captives was involved.

A great resource for learning about many of the real-life captures -- and occasional escapes -- is Richard Patterson's book, Historical Atlas of the Outlaw West (Johnson Publishing Company, Boulder Colorado, 1985. ISBN 0-933472-89-7.)

(The photo below -- courtesy of the Library of Congress -- shows a posse leaving Eagleville, Nevada, during a snowstorm in February of 1911.)

posse leaving Eagleville, Nevada

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