Perspective

Print the Legend

It was about 3 p.m. on October 26, 1881, as Tombstone’s town marshal, Virgil Earp (also a deputy U.S. marshal), his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and the Earps’ eccentric friend Dr. John H. Holliday confronted Isaac and William Clanton and Thomas and Robert Findley McLaury near the O.K. Corral.  After 30 seconds of firing, Morgan Earp lay badly wounded, Holliday and Virgil had sustained less serious wounds, while Billy Clanton and the McLaurys were dead or dying.  Only Wyatt and Ike Clanton—who had fled the scene unarmed—were unscathed.

Witnesses to the gunfight said that Billy and Wyatt drew more or less simultaneously, though Wyatt would later claim that he drew only when he saw Billy reaching for his gun.  Rather than shoot Billy, however, Wyatt went for the best gun in the bunch—Robert (known as Frank) McLaury—and shot him in the stomach.  The wounded McLaury took aim at Doc Holliday, crying out, “I’ve got you now.”  Raising his gun, Doc grimly quipped, “Blaze away: You’re a daisy if you do,” but Frank shot Holliday in the hip before being hit again by a wounded Morgan Earp.

The details, which have been debated by the Earps’ defenders and detractors for over a century and a quarter, are a little sketchy, and, for the sake of avoiding the controversy, I have mostly followed Casey Tefertiller’s painstaking and judicious reconstruction. ...

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