The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a gunfight that occurred at about 3 P.M. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in the United States. 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 proximate 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 also was a cowboy standing with them, who had illegally failed to surrender his pistol the previous day.
The famous gunfight did not actually occur at the O.K. Corral. 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 law-and-order and open-banditry and rustling in frontier towns of the Old West, where law enforcement was often weak or nonexistent. In other views the fight was a more complex embodiment of some of the tensions of the American Civil War of a generation before. One group of fighters represented[weasel words] rural Democrats from Texas who were involved in the cattle-trade in a remote area of Arizona territory which had been desert just a few years before. The other faction (the Earps) had come from the East with the frontier, and represented[weasel words] the very different city interests of Yankee Republican capitalists and businessmen who were attempting to manage a silver-mining boom-town with Eastern expectations of behavior. The gunfight occurred on the physical border of these two cultures.
Law enforcement (the three Earp brothers and "Doc" Holliday) were eventually exonerated of the killings, but later 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, known as the Earp Vendetta Ride, finally ended with Virgil Earp permanently crippled by gunfire and his brother Morgan killed. The Earps and Holliday were also forced to flee the territory to Colorado and California, never to return to Arizona.