Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

From Academic Kids


The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was an event of legendary proportion which has been portrayed in numerous Western films. The actual event occurred on Wednesday morning, October 26, 1881, in a vacant lot, known as lot 2, in block 17, behind the corral, in Tombstone, Arizona (a corral is like a livery stable; the analogous location in Denver was called the Elephant Corral). Thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds.

Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, Virgil Earp, and Doc Holliday fought against Billy Claiborne, Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Billy Clanton, and Ike Clanton. Both McLaurys were killed, as was Billy Clanton.

The issues leading up to the gunfight remain complex: the two sides were in opposition due to politics, business concerns, and other ideological factors. Earps were viewed by their enemies as badge-toting pimps who enforced the business interests of the town; the Clantons and their cowboys were viewed by their enemies as cattle rustlers, thieves and murderers.

The key incident leading up to the shooting was a stagecoach robbery in March 1881, in which two people were killed and a prime suspect escaped from jail afterward. In the aftermath, accusations about who was involved in the robbery floated about, with Doc Holliday made a suspect after his girlfriend Big Nose Kate accused him, but then later recanted. Wyatt, running for the county sheriff job against his rival Johnny Behan reportedly attempted to coerce Ike Clanton to help arrest some of the men accused in the robbery, but Ike backed out of the deal and afterward the animosity between the Earps and Clantons grew.

Additional run-ins between the Earp and Clanton factions led up to October 26, 1881. During the day, reports of the cowboys going about with firearms and seeking more floated about Tombstone. Ike Clanton was noted claiming to want a showdown with the Earps. Virgil Earp, looking to enforce the town's laws regarding firearms be checked in with local authorities, finally decided to approach Ike Clanton's group to demand they give up their guns. Accompanied by his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and soon by Holliday, they marched to the vacant lot near the corral. Virgil was able to say "Throw your hands up, I want your guns," but from there eyewitness testimony from this point gets sketchy, especially depending on the bias of the witnesses. The shooting began soon after and the fight lasted about 30 seconds. Virgil and Morgan were seriously wounded, while Holliday received minor wounds. Wyatt remained standing. Ike Clanton, who had insisted on a showdown, ironically was unarmed and actually fled the gunfight unscathed. Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers Frank and Tom were killed.

Missing image
Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury are buried in Boot Hill Cemetery, Tombstone, Arizona

After the gunfight, the Earps and Holliday were charged with murder, but at the preliminary hearing the presiding Justice of the Peace ruled that there wasn't enough evidence for a trial. However, following the hearing, Wyatt's brother Morgan was assassinated and Virgil was severely wounded, completely losing the use of his left arm. After these incidents, Wyatt, accompanied by Doc, undertook a vendetta in which they tracked down and killed the men whom they believed had been responsible for these acts against Wyatt's brothers. After their vendetta, Wyatt and Doc parted company. Soon after, Doc died of tuberculosis. Wyatt would travel across the Western frontier until his death in 1929.

An episode of Discovery Channel's Unsolved History uses modern technology to reenact the incident concluding that this was a misuse of police power, although the issue has been hotly debated over the years. To this day, Pro-Earp followers view the gunfight as a struggle between "Law-and-order" against out-of-control cowboys: Pro-Clanton/McLaury followers view it as a political vendetta and abuse of authority.

Films and Television

Bianchi International produced a short documentary on the "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" that was shown at their (now closed) Wild West Museum in Temecula, California.

In "Spectre of the Gun", an episode of Star Trek, aliens placed the crew in the roles of several of the Claiborne-McLaury-Clanton gunmen in a surreal recreation of the gunfight to execute them. They however manage to survive with a minimum of violence.

External link

Additional sources

Marks, Paula Mitchell, And die in the West : the story of the O.K. Corral gunfight, New York : Morrow, c1989. - Extensive examination not only of the gunfight and vendettas, but also of the myth-making that took place surrounding the OK Corralèglement de compte à OK Corral it:Sparatoria all'O.K. Corral


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