Friday, November 12, 2010

Army Scout - Tom Horn

Tom Horn, Army Scout, Range Detective but best known for a murder conviction and hanging, was born in 1860 in northeast Missouri. He reportedly left home as a young teen, heading west in search of adventure, because of an abusive father.

He eventually headed for the Southwest, where he became a wrangler and scout for the Army in the Apache wars working under famous Army Scout Al Sieber. Becoming Chief of Scouts under Generals Crook and Miles, he was instrumental in capturing Geronimo for the final time. Horn had a very good reputation as a Scout and tracker for the U.S. Cavalry.

After the Apache campaign Tom Horn became a “Stock Detective” hired primarily for his skills with a rifle against rustlers. He took part in the Pleasant Valley War in Arizona between cattlemen and sheepmen, but it is not known for certain as to which side he was allied, and both sides suffered several killings to which no known suspects were ever identified, however it is pretty well believed that Horn worked for the Cattlemen who were better funded and more politically connected. Plus Sheepmen were universally disliked in the West.

Horn was arrested, tried in a controversial trial and hanged the day before his 43rd birthday in 1903 for the murder of a young boy. A drunken omission of guilt, plus evidence that the boy’s body was found with Horn’s trademark,…a rock placed underneath the head, helped convict Tom Horn, who was never previously known to be an indiscriminate killer.

After his death a retrial was held in 1993 in which he was declared innocent. The New York Times described the trial, “Once Guilty, Now Innocent, But Still Dead.”

Tom Horn remains an enigma, but his service and reputation as an Army Scout was never questionable.

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