How A Silly Blunder Led To John Wesley Hardin's Final Capture

John Wesley Hardin was known for his lightning reflexes, so much so that they paved the way for his short-lived friendship with James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok. But they faltered when he needed them most and landed him behind bars, bringing his life on the run to an abrupt end.

The lead-up to the blunder began when law enforcement became privy to his alias, per Texas Bar Journal. Hardin was living under the alias J.H. Swain with his wife and daughter in Pollard, Alabama. Eventually, the Texas Rangers tracking the Old West outlaw found a letter addressed to the fake name sent to Pollard. The letter put them on Hardin's trail and let them to the bandit while he sat a train in Pensacola, Florida.

When the rangers burst into Hardin's train car, the outlaw reached for his gun. After attempting to whip it out and open fire, the gun became caught in Hardin's suspenders, and he was taken into custody.

Hardin was sentenced to 25 years in prison and later murdered

Just how many men Hardin killed is still up for debate. Some suggest as many as 40, according to History. After Hardin's capture, he was sentenced to 25 years in a Huntsville prison for the murder of a Texas sheriff, reports True West Magazine. He was pardoned after 14 years and appeared to leave his past life behind him. While in prison he'd studied law and, once released, passed the bar, says the Texas State Historical Association. He worked as an attorney and made a failed bid for political office. But the violence of the Old West ultimately came back to haunt him when he was shot dead in a Texas Saloon.

The exact details of Hardin's death are disputed. One account suggests that Hardin spotted his killer, El Paso constable John Selman, before taking a bullet to the head. Another popular report claims that Hardin was shot in the back of the head with no time to face his attacker. To make things even more complicated, some suggest that Hardin was killed for threatening Selman, while others say the outlaw was murdered as part of an assassination plot gone wrong.