As an outcome of the infamous Fight at the O.K. Corral, unknown individuals wounded Virgil, Wyatt’s older brother, and killed Morgan, the youngest Earp. However, witnesses avowed that the man responsible for killing Morgan was Frank Stilwell, a member of the Clanton-McLaury gang, better known as the Cowboys. At the O. K. Corral, Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday had shot dead three Cowboys.
Upon their arrival in Tombstone, the Earps had almost immediately come into conflict with the Cowboys over politics, gambling interests and lifestyles.
Before the Ride
Morgan Earp was killed on March 18, 1882. Two days later, his brothers took Morgan’s cadaver to the nearest railroad station in Benson, Arizona, to be taken to their parent’s home in Colton, California. Virgil and his wife, Allie, would follow two days later.
However, on the 20th, the Earps got notice that Frank Stilwell, Ike Clayton and two other Cowboys would try to ambush them at the rail depot. As the train left, Wyatt, who was on watch with Doc Holliday, Sherman McMasters and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson – both former Cowboys – found Stilwell and Clayton hiding. Wyatt killed Frank Stilwell but Ike Clayton got away.
Back in Tombstone, the Earp party was alerted by a friendly telegraph operator that a warrant for their arrest had been issued in Tucson and that Sheriff Johnny Behan, a friend of the Cowboys, would be coming to arrest them. By then an inquiry into Morgan Earp’s death and the attempt on Virgil Earp, had concluded that various Cowboys had been involved in the shooting, not just Stilwell.
In possession of a federal warrant for the killers of Morgan, Wyatt and his men, now joined by Texas Jack Vermillion, abandoned town, but not before a tense standoff with Behan and his deputies, which included Johnny Ringo, one of the most prominent Cowboys.
Vengeance Finds its Targets
On March 22, the Earps posse got to the hideout of one of the suspects, Florentino “Indian Charlie” Cruz. Before Wyatt shot him, Cruz implicated various other Cowboys in the killing, including Ringo and Curly Bill Brocius, the unofficial leader of the gang. Cruz was found with multiple bullet wounds.
Curly Bill would meet his end two days later, when the Earp posse caught up with him and several of his men at a place call Iron Springs, in Southeastern Arizona. While the Cowboys opened fire first, Earp dismounted and discharged his shotgun on Bill. The Cowboy reposted with his own shotgun. Earp fired a second time and hit Bill in the chest. Afterward, Wyatt pulled his long barreled revolver, killed another Cowboy and wounded a third.
Wyatt Earp’s long coat was full of holes, but like at the O.K Corral, he was untouched. This event and the fact that none of Earp’s associates was harmed gave rise to the Immortal label. It is believed that as many as 16 Cowboys were killed, many hung in the red sash they wore under their belts, and most of the rest, including Ike Clapton, had to escape to Mexico.
On April 15, the Vendetta Ride ended. Not wanting to face charges or anymore fights, Wyatt Earp and his followers, decide to leave Arizona. They rode east into Silver City, New Mexico, and then traveled by train to Albuquerque and eventually, moved to Colorado.
One Last Death
Almost two months after the incidents of retaliation, on July 14, 1882, the body of Johnny Ringo was discovered in Turkey Creek Canyon. He had been shot through the head. Officially, the death was declared a suicide, but there are stories about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday returning to Arizona and of Holiday felling Ringo with a single rifle shot.