The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral-And How It Changed the American West
A New York Times bestseller, Jeff Guinn’s definitive, myth-busting account of the most famous gunfight in American history reveals who Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clantons and McLaurys really were and what the shootout was all about.
On the afternoon of October 26, 1881, in a vacant lot in Tombstone, Arizona, a confrontation between eight armed men erupted in a deadly shootout. The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral would shape how future generations came to view the Old West. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clantons became the stuff of legends, symbolic of a frontier populated by good guys in white hats and villains in black ones. It’s a colorful story—but the truth is even better.
Drawing on new material from private collections—including diaries, letters, and Wyatt Earp’s own hand-drawn sketch of the shootout’s conclusion—as well as archival research, Jeff Guinn gives us a startlingly different and far more fascinating picture of what actually happened that day in Tombstone and why
couldn’t be certain how many other cowboys might be lurking along Fremont Street. He’d already heard that Billy Claiborne was around. Doc was given the responsibility of standing guard while the Earp brothers relieved the Clantons and McLaurys of their weapons. Virgil handed Doc the Wells Fargo shotgun and took Doc’s silver-headed cane in exchange. Until they reached wherever the cowboys were on Fremont Street, Doc was instructed to keep the shotgun under his long coat. Virgil didn’t want
away before the confrontation could escalate, and Joyce was subsequently fined $15 for illegally carrying a concealed weapon. The Nugget made much of the episode, praising Joyce for not fighting Virgil to begin with, and praising his “coolness and good judgment [that] undoubtedly saved Tombstone from the disgrace of another bloody tragedy, all who are cognizant of the peculiar characteristics of the Earp party will readily admit.” On December 18, the Epitaph reprinted a threatening letter
Breakenridge, left their own accounts of Wyatt’s doings, all onesided and factually challenged. But working from these materials, and from old newspaper accounts and other documents, we can piece together Wyatt’s movements, if not always his motives. He did hunt buffalo. To do that, he needed to go west from Peoria to the plains of western Kansas. Wyatt also gambled. Where he learned a frontier gambler’s essential skills at cards—calculating the odds, reading the expressions and gestures of other
259, 260 gunfight retaliation by, 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265–66, 272, 273–74, 275, 280, 280–81, 285, 290, 291 Ike Clanton’s fear of, 179, 194 Johnny Behan’s relations with, 5, 133, 144, 145, 149–50, 157, 170–71, 172, 191, 194, 218, 219–20, 221–22, 278, 279, 280, 282, 283, 289, 344, 345 lawbreaking by, 4, 100, 132–35, 189–92; see also rustling; stagecoaches, robberies of leaders among, 95–96 political divide over, 4–5, 124, 132, 149–50, 157, 170–71, 185 political power
down with a company of Indian scouts, “thinking that there was a good opportunity for prospecting by going with them, for they would afford me protection.” For a few days, Ed did his prospecting in a series of day trips away from the new camp. He may have also done some hunting for the post to earn his keep. Ed wrote later that the soldiers at the fort predicted a dire end for him: If he kept tempting fate while searching for silver, what he’d find instead would be his tombstone. “The remarks