The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a gunfight that took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, and is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Old West. The gunfight, believed to have lasted only about thirty seconds, was fought between the outlaw Cowboys Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and his brother Frank McLaury, and the opposing lawmen Virgil Earp and his brothers Morgan and Wyatt Earp, aided by Doc Holliday acting as a temporary deputy of Virgil. Cowboys Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight unharmed, but Ike's brother Billy Clanton was killed, along with both McLaurys. Lawmen Holliday and Morgan and Virgil Earp were wounded. Only Wyatt Earp came through the fight unharmed. The fight has come to represent a time in American history when the frontier was open range for outlaws opposed by law enforcement that was spread thin over vast territories, leaving some areas unprotected.
The gunfight was relatively unknown to the American public until 1931 when author Stuart Lake published what has since been determined to be a largely fictionalized biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, two years after Earp's death. Lake retold his story in a 1946 book that director John Ford developed into the movie My Darling Clementine. After the movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was released in 1957, the shootout came to be known by that name. Since then, the conflict has been portrayed with varying degrees of accuracy in numerous Western films and books.
Despite its name, the gunfight actually occurred in a narrow lot six doors west of the rear entrance to the O.K. Corral on Fremont Street, and also in the street. The two opposing parties were initially only about 6 feet (1.8 m) apart. About thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds. Ike Clanton filed murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday but they were eventually exonerated by a local judge after a 30-day preliminary hearing and then again by a local grand jury.
On December 28, 1881, Virgil Earp was maimed in an assassination attempt by the outlaw Cowboys, and on March 18, 1882, they assassinated Morgan Earp. This led to a series of further killings and retributions, with federal and county lawmen supporting different sides of the conflict, which became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride.
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