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Justice Has An Anniversary

By Wyatt Earp | October 26, 2006

Today is the 125th anniversary of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. After searching and reading information about the battle, the most unbiased account – in my opinion – comes from the Wikipedia page. Here’s their version of the actual gunfight:

Before the fight Virgil was able to say “Throw your hands up, I want your guns”, but eyewitness testimony from this point becomes divergent, depending on the bias of the witnesses. Independent non-partisan witnesses, including H.F. Sills and A. Bourland, would later say that the Cowboys did not at any time raise their hands in surrender. This point would be believed by the judge, and would provide the controlling data for his opinion that the Cowboys had not been murdered in the act of trying to surrender.

Wyatt Earp and his brother Virgil would state that both Frank and Billy had drawn their pistols from their holsters before any shots were fired, leaving the Earps no choice but to defend themselves. It is probable that at least Holliday fired early in the fight, hitting Tom McLaury with a shotgun blast. Ironically, Tom was probably not (by then) armed – although all evidence indicates the Earps and Holliday believed him to be. In particular, Doc wasted a precious shotgun blast on Tom, which would have been unthinkable in the presence of other men who certainly were armed, unless Doc thought Tom was equally dangerous.

Wyatt even thought (as he testified later) that Tom fired shots over his horse, but this was almost certainly Frank, using his own horse. (Tom had no horse, and in any case was hit early in the fight by Doc, and could not possibly have used a pistol after that.) Wyatt would later testify that he and Billy Clanton fired first in the fight, after Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton drew their pistols.

The “gunfight”, which might more properly be called a streetfight, was fought in a vacant lot about 18 feet wide, but also in Fremont street in front of the lot. Most of the shooting was done at ranges of about 10 feet or less. The number of shots fired can only be estimated, and depends on who was actually armed. Estimates vary from 20 to 30 shots total.

Knowledge is power, kids.

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