James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok Kills a 7th Cavalry Soldier in Gunfight at Paddy Welch's Bar

Unemployed, Hickok passed his time gambling, drinking, and occasionally working as a hunting guide.

He quickly became bored and was considering taking work at the nearby Fort Hays as an army scout. On this day in 1870, Hickok had been drinking hard at Drum's Saloon in Hays City. Five soldiers from the 7th Cavalry stationed at Fort Hays were also at the bar. They were drunk and began to exchange words with the notoriously prickly "Wild Bill." A brawl broke out, and the soldiers threw Hickok to the floor. One trooper tried to shoot Hickok, but the gun misfired. Hickok quickly pulled his own pistols and opened fire. He wounded one private in the knee and wrist, and another in the torso. The three remaining soldiers backed off, and Hickok exited the saloon and immediately left town

A clear case of self-defense, Hickok was cleared of any wrongdoing. Yet, one of the soldiers, Private John Kile, later died of his wound and Hickok's chances of becoming an army scout evaporated. He spent the next six years working in law enforcement, gambling, and appearing in Wild West shows. He was murdered in a Deadwood, South Dakota, saloon in 1876.

Predictably, press reports of what happened that evening, and the number of troopers involved, are mixed and contradictory. The Topeka, Kansas, Daily Commonwealth of July 22 claimed that 'Five soldiers attacked Bill,' and that the 'sentiment of the community in with 'Bill,' as it is claimed he but acted in self-defense.'

The Junction City Union of the 23rd, named the soldiers as 'Langan and Kelly,' adding that the 'greatest excitement prevails in the town owing to the outrage.' Following the shootout, Wild Bill 'made for the prairie and has not been heard of since. The citizens were out en masse looking for Bill, so that he might be summarily dealt with. The parties were all under the influence of liquor at the time'

On July 17, 1870, also in Hays, he was involved in a gunfight with disorderly soldiers of the 7th U.S. Cavalry. Two troopers, Jeremiah Lonergan and John Kile (Kyle), set upon Hickok in a saloon. Lonergan pinned Hickok to the ground while Kile put his gun to Hickok's ear; however, it misfired, allowing Hickok to reach his own guns. Lonergan was shot in the knee while Kile, who was shot twice, died the next day. He later failed to win reelection.