In the 19th century, the United States of America rapidly expanded in size towards the West. Thousands of white settlers from the eastern states travelled towards the west, established new homes and built new towns. Initially, there was no government or law in the west, which is why it was called the Wild West. Slowly, local governments started coming into being and lawmen were assigned to maintain peace in these new lands. But that was a hard task because many outlaws lived in the Wild West, carried their weapons and shot their opponents.
The state of Arizona has a border adjacent to Mexico. In the 1880s, the Mexican government imposed heavy taxes on any imports from USA. As a result, many cowboys in the town of Tombstone acted as smugglers. They evaded the border authorities and smuggled different goods into Mexico where they made a good profit. Most of these smugglers were known as Cowboys. They carried weapons and openly defied the law in Tombstone but many people also supported them in the town because they helped in the smuggling of goods to Mexico.
In 1879, the Earp brothers arrived in Tombstone. They were 5 brothers who had travelled from town to town doing different kinds of businesses. Three of them became lawmen in Tombstone and by 1881, they were in serious conflict with the Cowboys. The Cowboys didn’t want to follow the law and lived their own way of life. The lawmen, on the other hand, wanted them to follow the law and give up their illegal activities. The Cowboys threatened the lawmen on a number of occasions. This ultimately led to the Gunfight of O.K. Corral which took place between the lawmen and the Cowboys.
The Gunfight of the O.K. Corral is considered the most famous shootout of the Wild West. It took place on October 26, 1881 in the town of Tombstone in Arizona Territory. On one side were the lawmen which included Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and Wyatt Earp as well as Doc Holliday.
Virgil Earp was the town Marshal at the time while his two brothers had the rank of Special Policemen. On the other side were the Cowboys which included Billy Claiborne, Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury. It is not known for sure how the gunfight started. Some historical accounts say that the lawmen started shooting while the others say that the Cowboys drew their weapons. Either way, the showdown between the two sides led to a shootout which lasted for only 30 seconds. During these 30 seconds, 30 shots were fired by both sides.
The lawmen fared a lot better in the shootout. 3 of the Cowboys were shot and killed while the other two fled. Of the lawmen, three were wounded while Wyatt Earp was unharmed. The Cowboys later attacked and killed Morgan Earp while wounding Virgil Earp in another attack.