Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

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The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a gunfight that took place on October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona Territory of the United States. Despite its name, the gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral but in a vacant lot next to Camillus Fly's photography studio, six doors down Fremont Street from the rear entrance to the O.K. Corral. Although only three men were killed during the gunfight, it is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the Old West.

The immediate cause of the conflict that led up to the fight was the arrest by Virgil Earp, acting in his capacity as deputy federal marshal, of two rural "cowboys" for a stagecoach robbery. Drunken threats made by another cowboy against the Earps set them on guard, and when family and friends of the drunken man arrived in town on horseback the next day, fully armed, there was a misunderstanding about how and where they should disarm according to city law. Within hours, both new arrivals were dead, as was a cowboy standing with them, who had illegally failed to surrender his pistol the previous day.

The gunfight was part of what became known as the Arizona War, or the Cochise County War. It occurred in a fifteen- to twenty-foot space (used as an alleyway) between Fly's Lodging House and photographic studio, and the MacDonald assay house west of it. The end of the gunfight took place in Fremont Street. Some of the fighting was in Fremont Street in front of the alleyway. About thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds.

The gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been portrayed in numerous Western films. It has come to symbolize the struggle between legal authority and banditry and rustling in frontier towns of the Old West, where law enforcement was often weak or nonexistent.

The three Earp brothers and "Doc" Holliday were eventually exonerated of the killings, but assassinations and assassination attempts against the Earps over the next six months led to a series of killings and retributions, often with federal and county lawmen supporting different sides of the conflict. The series of battles became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride.


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