A Fierce Fight

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For other versions of this work, see A Desperate Street Fight.
A FIERCE FIGHT. Particulars of a Terrible Affray In an Arizona Town—Thirty Shots in Twenty Seconds.[1]

The Nugget, a paper published in Tombstone, Arizona, gives the following graphic account of a fierce fight which occurred in that place not long ago: The origin of the trouble dates back to the first arrest of Stillwell and Spencer for the robbery of the Bisbee stage. The co-operation of the Earps with the sheriff and his deputies in the arrest, causing a number of the boys to, it is said, threaten the lives of all interested in the capture. Still, nothing occurred to indicate that any such threats would be carried into execution. But Tuesday night Ike Clanton and Doc Holliday had some difficulty in the Alhambra saloon. Hard words passed between them, and when they parted it was generally understood that the feeling between the two was that of intense hatred. Yesterday morning Clanton came on the street armed with a rifle and revolver, but was immediately arrested by Marshal Earp, disarmed, and fined by Justice Wallace for carrying concealed weapons. While in the court-room Wyatt Earp told him, as he had made threats against his life, he wanted him to make his fight, to say how, when and where he would fight, and to get his crowd, and he (Wyatt) would be on hand. In reply Clanton said:

Four feet of ground is enough for me to fight on, and I'll be there.

A short time after this William Clanton and Frank McLowry[sic] came into town, and, as Thomas McLowry was already here, the feeling soon became general that a fight would ensue before the day was over, and crowds of expectant men stood on the corner of Allen and Fourth streets awaiting the coming conflict. It was now about 2 o'clock, and at this time Sheriff Behan appeared upon the scene and told Marshal Earp that if he disarmed his posse, composed of Morgan and Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, he would go down to the O. K. Corral, where Ike and James Clanton and Frank and Tom McLowry were, and disarm them. The marshal did not desire to do this until assured that there was no danger of an attack from the other party. The sheriff went to the corral and told the cowboys that they must put their arms away and not have any trouble. Ike Clanton and Tom McLowry said they were not armed, and Frank McLowry said he would not lay his aside. In the mean time the marshal had concluded to go, and, if possible, end the matter by disarming them; and as he and his posse came down Fremont street to- ward the corral the sheriff stepped out and said:

Hold up, boys. Don't go down there or there will be trouble. I have been down there to disarm them.

But they passed on, and when within a few feet of them the marshal said to the Clintons and McLowrys:

Throw up your hands, boys, I intend to disarm you.

As he spoke Frank McLowry made a motion to draw a revolver, when Wyatt Earp pulled his and shot him, the ball striking on the right side of his abdomen. About the same time Doc Holliday shot Tom McLowry in the right side, using a shotgun, such as is carried by Well's, Fargo & Co's messengers. In the meantime Billy Clanton had a shot at Morgan Earp, the ball passing through the point of the left shoulder blade across his back, just grazing the backbone and coming out at the right shoulder, the ball remaining inside his shirt. He fell to the ground, but in an instant gathered himself, and, rising to a sitting position, fired at Frank McLowry as he crossed Fremont street at the same instant Doc Holliday shot him, both balls taking effect, either of which would have proved fatal, as one of them struck him in the right temple and the other in the left breast. As he started across the street, however, he pulled his gun down on Holliday, saying, I've got you now.

Blaze away! You're a daisy if you have, replied Doc.

This shot of McLowry's passed through Holliday's pistol-pocket, just grazing the skin. While this was going on Billy Clanton had shot Virgil Earp in the right leg, the ball passing through the calf, inflicting a severe flesh wound. In turn he had been shot by Morgan Earp in the right wrist and once in the left breast. Soon after the shooting commenced Ike Clanton ran through the O. K. Corral across Allen street into Kellogg's saloon, and thence into Toughnut street, where he was arrested and taken to the county jail. The firing altogether did not occupy more than twenty seconds, during which time fully thirty shots were fired. After the fight was over Billy Clanton, who with wonderful vitality survived his wounds for fully an hour, was carried into a house, where he lay, and everything possible done to make his last moments easy. He was game to the last, never uttering a word of complaint, and just before breathing his last he said: " Good-bye, boys; go away and let me die." The wounded were taken to their houses, and at 3 o'clock this morning were resting comfortably. The dead bodies were taken in charge by the coroner. If there is such a thing as "sand" the shooting yesterday bore evidence that some men pack around enough of the gritty substance to start a grindstone quarry. Everybody engaged knew that their lives were liable to be put out by the pulling of a trigger, and no man winced or wavered a hair. After being shot down and the life blood flowing away, both young Clanton and Frank McLowry still kept up the fire on their opponents, and asked no quarter. With great holes pierced through their bodies by the leaden messages of death, their sole anxiety seemed to be to return shot for shot, and only when the spark of their life ceased to burn did they relinquish their hold on the death-dealing revolver, and they sank to earth as the smoke from their weapons ascended as from a funeral pyre. Before death claimed them for his own they saw Morgan Earp fall, only to raise up and renew the murderous fire, and the chances for each man's life engaged were a thousand to one against him. Who says it does not require courage to stand and listen to the music of a half a dozen six-shooters, singing a death march in unison every time the hammers came down? But these men died as they would a probably have chosen to die had they had their choice. From the wild life they led, the dangers they encounter, and the chances they take in their chosen profession, it is a part of their creed that they must be ushered into the next world amid a pyrotechnic display and the whistling of bullets.


  1. "A Fierce Fight" 27 (29). Abbeville, South Caroline: The Abbeville Press and Banner. December 21, 1881. p. 4. 

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.