Virgil had the misfortune of being overshadowed by his much flashier younger brother. You know the one I mean. For all of the shenanigans he found himself involved with, Virgil managed to make it to a relatively old age (although not as old as that flashier other brother). Before his legendary stint as a lawman, Earp served in the Civil War on the Union side. After his death, did he come back to the site of his greatest moment?
Virgil was born in Kentucky in 1843 and served with the Illinois Militia in the War. He spent his time on garrison duty in Tennessee, bored from a lack of action. Unlike his brother James, who was severely wounded, Virgil made it to the end of the war unscathed.
Prior to the war, Earp had married an Ellen Rysdam, but a false report of his death led to her marrying another. Coming home to find her gone, Virgil took to the road and migrated to California. After wandering east to Dodge City, Virgil came to Arizona Territory in 1877 and moved to Tombstone at the end of 1879. He was appointed as a Deputy U.S. Marshal and then, after Fred White was killed, became the second town marshal of Tombstone.
After some run ins with the Cowboys, the Earps and Doc Holliday met the Clantons at the O.K. Corral and had themselves a gunfight in October, 1881. Two months later, unidentified men ambushed Virgil as he passed the Crystal Palace. 19 bullets were fired, four striking Virgil. He had four inches of bone removed from his right arm, permanently crippling him.
After a couple of years recuperating in California, got involved in another famous dustup, the “battle of the crossing” working for the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1905 he contracted pneumonia and died after a six month battle.
Since his passing, Virgil has been seen stepping off the side walk near the Crystal Palace, but the figure never makes it to the other side. It seems to be a residual haunting, a remnant of the intense suffering Earp suffered in his assassination attempt.
This photo, from Clantongang.com, shows furious activity in the area of the Crystal Palace, where Virgil was struck.