The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral-And How It Changed the American West
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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
each and assigned the Clantons a court date of February 2. By then, Virgil’s and Wyatt’s already shaky standing in the community had taken another direct hit. While Wyatt’s posse made its unsuccessful pursuit of the Clantons, terrorizing Charleston in the process, Crawley Dake was summoned to Tombstone for a private meeting with the town’s leading Republicans. They feared that a party split over the Earps might tip political power toward the Democrats, and strongly urged fellow Republican Dake
really talked in “this rather literary and polysyllabic style (Lake swore that he did),” pleaded with Lake to calm Josephine down. “She sat at my desk for the better part of an hour, tears rolling down her cheeks in her emotion,” Kent wrote to Lake. “She would much prefer that her husband’s memory be left in as quiet a state as possible. I tried to show her that if there were to be any book at all, it must deal with the exciting episodes in which Earp played so important a part. It is obviously a
taken him from a crowd with his friends.” In this and many other instances, it’s apparent Wyatt Earp had the frontier knack of not letting too many facts interfere with a good story; when he wanted to seem heroic, he added whatever extra details were necessary, even if he had to make them up. In Wyatt’s version of his life in the West, Ellsworth was only the first time he faced down a dangerous mob all by himself. It was a scenario he liked enough to recycle. According to Wyatt, strikingly
Dodge lawmen were never verified. There’s no record Judson ever came to Dodge while Wyatt was there. In the larger legend of Wyatt Earp, the Buntline Special seems to be American frontier mythology’s version of King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur. What gun Wyatt used, whether confronting Clay Allison or, three years later, at the edge of a vacant lot in Tombstone, isn’t really important. But less than a month after Wyatt claimed he outdrew Allison, he had to use his gun again. This confrontation, in
at the Occidental Saloon. Among others, he’d played against Johnny Behan, the county sheriff, and local ranchers Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury. Before sitting down to play cards, Clanton had spent much of the night threatening the chief’s brother Wyatt and Wyatt’s gambler pal, Doc Holliday. At one point he and Holliday had to be separated. Holliday eventually headed home to his room in a boardinghouse, but Clanton kept drinking and getting more worked up. As chief of police, even off-duty and