There were nine men involved in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: Billy and Ike Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, Billy Claiborne, Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holiday. Claiborne, the McLaurys, and the Clantons were all leaders of a local faction known as the “Cowboys”. The Cowboys were professional gunmen and cattle rustlers who had a blatant disregard for the law. John “Johnny” Harris Behan, the Cochise County Sheriff, did nothing to control their wild activities.
After the murder of Marshal John White by Cowboy William “Curly Bill” Brocious in October of 1880, Virgil Earp became the Marshal of Tombstone. In April of 1881, he signed an ordinance which prohibited the carrying of weapons within the city limits of Tombstone.
By this time, Virgil’s brothers were helping him bring law and order to Tombstone. After two stagecoach robberies in March and September of 1881, they had all joined in posses to catch the criminals. The Cowboys and, most particularly, Ike Clanton were involved in these robberies and the actions of the Earps caused bad blood.
During October of 1881, the Cowboys began teasing the Earps by regularly coming into town, picking fights and ever so slightly breaking the law. On the morning of October 26, Ike Clanton appeared, fully armed, and shouting threats against the lawmen. Virgil confiscated his weapon and the Justice of the Peace fined Clanton 25 dollars. Tom McLaury was in town at this time and he got into an argument with Wyatt Earp which ended with the latter publically striking him.
Tom and Ike gathered together the other Cowboys who were in town and they all holed up at the O.K. Corral. Sheriff John Behan, of course, did nothing and the Earps with Doc Holiday walked down Allen Street with the intention of disarming the Cowboys. Although Virgil was still carrying his pistol, he had given his shotgun to Holiday so as to appear peaceful. What exactly happened when the lawmen reached the corral is unknown. It is thought that the fight started after Doc Holiday cocked his concealed shotgun.
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral lasted for less than one minute. It is estimated that as many as 30 shots were fired. Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded, Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury were killed. Billy Claiborne and Ike Clanton escaped. Charges were later brought against the Earps and Doc Holiday. Although Virgil and Morgan were excused because of their injuries, Wyatt and Doc were forced to pay out an inordinate sum of money. The Cowboys took their revenge on March 18, 1882 when they murdered Morgan Earp. There had previously been a failed attempt to kill Virgil as well.
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been dramatized a countless number of times. However, the only Hollywood film that portrays the fight with at least some accuracy is the 1993 movie Tombstone starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer.
Source: Flanagan, Mike “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Old West”