Gunfight at O.K. Corral
The legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral occurred at about 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, October 26, 1881, in a vacant lot (lot 2, in block 17) behind a corral, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. At that time, a corral was like a livery stable. Some of the fight also took place on Fremont Street in front of the vacant lot. About thirty shots were fired within thirty seconds. During the battle, the three Earp Brothers: Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil, along with their friend, Doc Holliday fought against the McLaury Brothers: Frank and Tom, and their cowboy friend, Billy Clanton.
The conflicts leading to the gunfight were complex. Both sides were in opposition due to a variety of concerns: politics, business, as well as other ideological factors. The Earps were viewed by their enemies as badge-toting bullies who ruthlessly enforced the business interests of the town, while the McLaurys, the Clantons and their cowboy friends were viewed by their enemies as cattle rustlers, thieves, and murderers.
The instigating factor leading to the shootout was the arrest by Virgil Earp and later release of Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury for carrying firearms within the city limits. After they were disarmed and released, the two men joined Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury, who had just arrived in town. The men gathered at the OK Corral.
Virgil Earp now decided to disarm Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury and recruited Wyatt, Morgan and Doc Holliday to help him in this dangerous task. Sheriff John Behan was in town and when he heard what was happening he raced to Fremont Street and urged Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury to hand over their guns to him. They replied: "Not unless you first disarm the Earps".
Behan now headed towards the advancing group of men. He pleaded for Virgil Earp not to get involved in a shoot-out but he was brushed aside as the four men carried on walking towards the OK Corral. When they reached the four men, Virgil Earp said: "I want your guns". Billy Clanton responded by firing at Wyatt Earp. He missed and Morgan Earp successfully fired two bullets at Billy Clanton. Meanwhile Wyatt Earp fired at Frank McLaury. The bullet hit him in the stomach and he fell to the ground. Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury were both unarmed and tried to run away. Clanton was successful but Doc Holliday shot McLaury in the back. Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury, although seriously wounded, continued to fire their guns and in the next couple of seconds Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were all wounded. Wyatt Earp was unscathed and he managed to finish off Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury.
Sheriff John Behan arrested Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday for the murder of Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury. However, after a 30 day trial Judge Wells Spicer, who was related to the Earps, decided that the defendants had been justified in their actions.
In the 1950s, this 30-second gunfight came to be known as the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” after a movie title. It has been the subject of many books and movies ever since.