Bob Cash
Was Morgan Shot When He Fell in The Middle of the Street?
Mon Aug 12, 2019 15:02

I've brought this post up from the thread below at Jeff Morey's request as he pointed out that responses were being lost in the dreaded"more comments" swamp. I've found all the posts in that thread to be enlightening and thank everyone who participated. I hope my contribution will prompt similar responses.

The question of when Morgan was wounded in the street fight has always perplexed me. The only Spicer hearing witness who testified as to exactly when Morgan was shot was a friend of the Earps, Bob Hatch, and his testimony contradicts Wyatt's 1896 statement that Morg was shot early in the fight. Hatch testifies that he was walking behind the Earps on Fremont and ran into Bauer's when the shooting started, but that three or four shots had been fired when he saw Billy Clanton standing and firing his pistol just before Hatch entered the safety of the meat market. Wyatt's 1896 account claims that it was the fifth shot fired in the fight, by Tom McLaury, that hit Morgan. Even if Wyatt's memory was not as precise as it appears, it's clear that he is saying that Morg was wounded at the very beginning of fight when he was standing next to Wyatt, something Hatch would have just missed as he entered Bauer's.

Here's the problem, though. Hatch says he ran into Bauer's to the back of the shop, turned and ran back to the door, where he says, "...I saw Morgan Earp fall near the middle of the street, and I think he made some remark that, 'I am shot', or 'hit', or something to that effect. He immediately got up and commenced to shoot and was in the act of shooting toward this Frank McLaury" (the Turner transcript says "Tom McLaury", but both the Nugget and Epitaph report it as Frank, which only makes sense, since Hatch is describing the last seconds of the fight in which Frank, Doc, and Morg all fire virtually at the same time with fatal results for Frank). So, if Hatch's testimony is correct, Morgan was shot while in the middle of the street as he and Doc were already targeting Frank. By this time Doc had already shotgunned Tom and had pulled his pistol to deal with Frank. Under this scenario it would have been impossible for Tom to have shot Morgan. With Frank seeming to target Doc during these last few seconds, if Morgan was indeed shot at this point the only possible shooter would have been Billy Clanton, or possibly friendly fire by Wyatt or Virgil aiming at Frank. R. F. Coleman in his coroner's jury testimony says he saw Billy shoot at and hit Morgan just before he fell in the middle of the street.

The 1896 article's version of events states that Morg tripped and fell in the middle of the street when he wheeled around to meet the threat of Ike Clanton firing through a window of Fly's boarding house, something the defense in the Spicer hearing would have mentioned if true. Later to Forrestine Hooker, Wyatt said that Morgan  tripped and fell in an uneven patch of dirt over a ditch that had been dug for water pipes near the middle of Fremont as he wheeled to meet the threat of shots being fired at Morg from a house opposite of Fly's on the other side of the street (I can't find my Flood ms. right now, so I'm not sure what's said in it).

For quite some time, I was certain that all of the above definitively answered the question of when Morgan was shot (after he had moved to the middle of the street) and by whom (Billy Clanton, with a small possibility of  Wyatt or Virg), but this changed last year, largely due to Kenny Vail. On Texas Jack's board I innocently inquired as to what was Kenny's take on the who and when of Morg's wound. The overly suspicious Mr. Vail demurred to answer inferring that this was some sort of an attempt to ambush him, as he accused me of doing so in the past. This hurt my feelings, but since my original intent was, of course,  to ambush him with some of the info above, his refusal to answer gave me even more time to work on a rebuttal of the view I thought he held, which included believing Morg was shot by Tom at the time that Hatch reported Morg had declared he was shot. While doing that I came up with a question I had never seen posed before.

Hatch's Spicer testimony and R. F. Coleman's coroner's jury testimony both describe the last seconds of the gun battle witnessed from the same location, at the door of Bauer's meat market. They both describe Morgan falling in the middle of the street. They both think he was wounded at this time. Coleman says he saw Billy Clanton fire and hit Morg, does not say what position Billy was in when he fired. but, unlike Hatch, does not report Morg saying he was shot as he fell. Hatch doesn't say who shot Morg, but reports Morg said " 'I am shot! shot!' or 'hi't' or words to that effect," as he fell. They both testify that Morg then rises and fires at Frank about the same time that Frank and Doc shoot at each other, with fatal results for Frank. They both agree that just before Frank fired at Doc that he said, "I've got you this time" or "I've got you now". Coleman testifies that after Frank fires, Doc exclaims, "I am shot right through!". Hatch does not report Doc saying anything.

Anybody who has followed this board for any time knows about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, so it could possible that Coleman did not hear or did not remember Morg saying he had been shot as he fell and that Hatch did not hear Doc's similar exclamation. At the same time it seems more probable that at least one of them would have reported both Doc's and Morg's words on being shot,if that is what happened. That being the case, is it possible that only one of them proclaimed anything about being shot?  Could Hatch have seen Morg fall, assumed he was wounded and, in the attempt to bring order to the chaos of what had just seen and heard, incorrectly assigned Doc's words about being shot to Morg?  While not eliminating the uncertainty of when Morg was hit, it would strengthen the possibility that Morg was, in fact, wounded near the beginning of the affair as Wyatt maintained. One still has to deal with Coleman saying he saw Billy Clanton shoot Morg just before he fell and I believe Mrs.Collier said the same, even describing Billy laying on the ground as he fired. Considering the angle and nature of Morgan's wound it would be very hard to explain how Billy could have shot him directly across both shoulders either while sliding down the side of the Harwood house or while already sitting or laying on the ground. Possibly Billy happened to fire  just at the moment Morg tripped and fell and Coleman and Collier connected dots that were not there.

At any rate, all this suggests is that there is a  possibility that Morgan did not say "I am hit!' when falling in the middle of the street and therefore there is a chance that Wyatt was telling the truth about the point at which he was wounded. And so, like most things connected to the street fight or its participants, the more deeply you delve into it, the less sure you are about anything.

    • My Reason...Jeff Morey, Mon Aug 12 18:32
      Bob,c When I analyzed the gunfight. I fully expected to conclude that Morgan Earp was shot by Billy Clanton near the end of the shootout. However, in reviewing the various accounts of the Street... more
    • . K.t.K., Mon Aug 12 16:20
      Hatch's comment depicts Morg's calm cool demeanor. No yell - no scream. He was so matter-of-fact about getting knocked down by the slug, nobody else seemed to hear him mention it. Undoubtedly this... more
      • addendumK.t.K., Tue Aug 13 03:10
        Although some accounts are in conflict, the second time Morg fell down he finished the fight on the ground. Behan said: "I looked then in that direction and saw Frank McLaury running and a shot was... more
        • Morg and DoPat Mulligan , Tue Aug 13 04:57
          Is it possible that Hatch heard the words "I am Shot" thought they came from Morgan when they actually came from Doc ? I believe that Morg was shot early in the fight when he was turned towards... more
          • Re: Morg and DoBob Cash, Thu Aug 15 12:04
            I think we are dealing with three separate, but intertwined questions here. 1) Was Tom armed with a pistol? 2) Who shot Morg? 3) When was Morg shot? I think Kenny's post below, exposing Tom Keefe's... more
            • Re: Morg and DoBob Cash, Thu Aug 15 13:12
              CORRECTION: "...if he jumped behind the horse at first fire he may have decided that having a weapon with a 15 shot capacity was better when four opponents were shooting at his party AND REACHED FOR... more
          • Morg and BobK.t.K., Wed Aug 14 05:24
            Pat, in the Lake/Earp Notes Wyatt refers to Bob Hatch as "Morg's great friend." We have from the Forestine Hooker writing that Morg and Hatch were experts with the cue. But this should not be... more
            • Re: Morg and BobBob Cash, Wed Aug 14 07:24
              So, Kenny, do you believe Morgan was hit when he fell in the middle of the street and Bob Hatch testified that he thought he heard him say "I am shot", or was it earlier?
  • Click here to receive daily updates