The famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral occurred on October 26th, 1881 in Tombstone Arizona. We have all seen the several movies portraying this event. Of course not everything fits the Hollywood narrative. The gunfight lasted about 30 seconds and pitted the forces of the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday against members of the Cochise County Cowboys. At the time, the term cowboys was synonymous with cattle rustlers. The “cowboys” that we think of today were referred to as cowhands. The Cochise County Cowboys were loosely affiliated groups of ruffians that committed cattle thefts and robberies. By 1881 they had gained some degree of national notoriety for their criminal exploits.
By October 26, 1881 Virgil Earp was the Marshall of Tombstone and his brothers Morgan and Wyatt and Doc Holliday had been appointed special policemen. They had several conflicts with the Cowboys, both personally and in their positions as lawmen. On the morning of the gunfight, several Cowboys had come into town armed, which violated a town ordinance prohibiting guns. The Earps had several conflicts with the cowboys that morning, and removed several firearms. By the afternoon, the Cowboys were rearmed, reinforced, and seeking revenge.
At 3:00 p.m. the Earps and Doc Holliday went to an empty lot near the OK Corral where the Cowboys had congregated. Virgil Earp intended on disarming them again and was surprised when several Cowboys drew and cocked their weapons. Then all hell broke loose. The wild shootout that occurred next is legendary. In the end, Morgan Earp, Virgil Earp, and Doc Holiday were wounded. Cowboys Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton were dead. The rest of the Cowboys fled town. They would be back, however. By March 1882 Virgil Earp and been shot and maimed by the Cowboys and Morgan Earp had been shot dead.