The following paper consists of two parts: (I) a few general observations upon the subject of naval dueling; and (2) a list of eighty-two naval duels, giving all the important facts respecting them that were obtainable.
For many years the officers of our navy recognized the binding force of the duello in the settlement of their personal grievances. In this they were in no way singular, for, a few decades ago, gentlemen of every class, with the exception of ministers, were wont to bring their enemies to account on the field of honor. How respectable was this method of adjudicating differences may be seen from the names of some of the leading American statesmen who fought duels: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, John Randolph of Roanoke, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Thomas H. Benton. Claypoole's Daily Advertiser for June 12, 1800, states that twenty-one duels had been recently fought in the United States within six weeks, resulting in the death of six men and the wounding of eleven.
Both in and out of the navy the opinion was common that dueling was an especially appropriate method of redressing grievances for army and navy officers. Commodore Stephen Decatur held that a man who made arms his profession was not at liberty to decline an invitation from any person socially and professionally his equal. President Andrew Jackson is quoted as saying, in 1830, when he had decided to stop all duels between officers and civilians, that he would not interfere in duels between officers, since their profession was fighting and they were trained to arms.1
1Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 150; Sands, From Reefer to Rear-Admiral, 40.
While the officers of the Old Navy would have freely subscribed to the sentiment of Shakespeare, "Life every man holds dear, but the dear man holds Honor far more precious-dear than life"; nevertheless those who had reached a mature age were exceedingly averse to giving or receiving a call to arms. Only three captains of the Old Navy, O. H. Perry, Stephen Decatur and James Barron; and two captains of marines, James McKnight and John Heath, engaged in dueling. The older officers fought more from fear of losing social and professional standing than from choice. Even after a challenge had been given and accepted, they were usually inclined to listen to the sober advice of friends and the earnest pleadings of wife and children. Thus in 1807 a duel between Commodores John Rodgers and James Barron was averted. In 1840 a quarrel between Lieutenant David D. Porter (afterwards Admiral), and Lieutenant Stephen C. Rowan (afterwards Vice-Admiral), was peacefuly settled by their seconds. Commodore M. C. Perry, famous for his expedition to Japan, once adjusted a private difficulty without a resort to battle. Regarding the settlement of disputes between officers, Rear-Admiral Daniel Ammen, who entered the navy in 1836, wrote as follows:
"In the twenty-one years that I have passed on board of vessels, although challenges have frequently occurred, no duel has resulted, from a reasonable consideration of the difficulty by the seconds . . . . I have never received a challenge, nor have I ever thought it necessary to send one. I have, nevertheless, been a second several times, with the happy result of composing the difficulties without the actual use of pistols or other weapons."2
2Ammen, The Old Navy and The New, 44.
But a single officer of the grade of master commandant, Charles Gordon, fought a duel; and he fought two, both of which had their origin in disputes over the Chesapeake-Leopard affair. From 1798 to 1820 the lieutenants were somewhat sensitive respecting points of honor, but after that date they generally compounded their differences. Now and then some staff officer, perchance a surgeon or purser, accepted a challenge. The midshipmen, however, were the chief duelists of the Old Navy. These hot-headed youngsters were wont to fight each other on the slightest provocation. Of the eighty-two duels of which I have obtained a more or less definite account, midshipmen participated in fifty-two. Usually a midshipman was matched against a midshipman, but infrequently some bellicose youth found a lieutenant who would waive his rank and give him battle, or perhaps he succeeded in calling out a staff officer or civilian. The middies, not having much rank, were wonderfully jealous of what little they had, and woe betide the careless shipmate who cast a shadow of offense upon it. Crowded together in the narrow quarters allotted to them on shipboard, they found ample opportunity for quarreling. For what trivial reasons they fought each other a few examples will show: Midshipman Redick offends Midshipman Barrymore by entering the messroom with his hat on his head; Midshipman Kerr applies the opprobrious epithets of "boot-lick" and "curry-favorer" to Midshipman Barney; one midshipman objects to the opening of a scuttle by another; one midshipman persists in sprinkling a letter which another is writing until finally the latter empties the contents of an ink bottle upon the new vest of the offender; Midshipman Gale tells the sweetheart of Midshipman Dallas that her lover is intemperate and unpopular with his fellow-officers. For such causes as these did the naval youngsters bleed and die.
During the first fifty years of the Old Navy, 1798-1848, the mortality of naval officers resulting from duels was two-thirds that resulting from naval wars. Thirty-six men were killed in the eighty-two duels that I have listed. Of these, thirty-three were naval officers, and three civilians. It has been estimated that one-fifth, or twenty per cent, of those who engaged in duels, are killed. The figures above give a mortality of twenty-two per cent. This is five times the mortality of the federal army during the Civil War. One-half of those not killed in naval duels were wounded. The relatively large number of casualties is not surprising when we recall that the customary distance between the duelists was only ten paces, or thirty feet. A moderately skillful marksman could readily hit his adversary at that distance, with a pistol, the usual weapon, provided he was not unduly nervous. In a few duels the distance was even less than thirty feet. It was twenty-four feet in the Barron-Decatur duel, and half that in the Bainbridge-Cochran duel. Midshipman Mercer stood so near his antagonist that their pistols almost touched; both fell dead at the first fire. Two midshipmen in the Mediterranean fought at a distance of fifteen feet, under an engagement that should they miss at the first fire, they would advance and place their pistols breast to breast. At the first fire the pistol of only one of the combatants went off; its ball crippled for life the other combatant.
Dueling in our navy was at its height during the years 1799-1836. Indeed, with the older officers, it began to decline after 1820, the year of the Barron-Decatur duel. Among the officers of the Continental navy, there was but one hostile meeting, as far as I have been able to discover, that between Captains Pierre Landais and Denis Nicolas Cottineau, fought about 1779. Both were Frenchmen, and were commanders of vessels under John Paul Jones at the battle of Flamborough Head. During that celebrated engagement, Landais was guilty of insubordination, and was later accused by Jones of purposely firing into the flagship of the American fleet, the Bon Homme Richard. The conduct of the recalcitrant captain resulted in a mortal quarrel between him and Jones. Their differences were investigated by Benjamin Franklin, the American minister to France. The testimony of Cottineau at the investigation led to his being challenged by Landais. The duel was fought in Holland, with small swords and, as Landais was a master of that weapon, he succeeded in severely wounding his antagonist.3 The latest duel of which I have definite record was fought in 1849. It is certain that challenges were sent, and in all probability a few duels took place after that date. At least two duels occurred in the Confederate navy during the Civil War. One of these was fought at New Orleans by Master Lewis Musgrave and Mr. Richard Weightman; the other at Richmond by Midshipman Joseph Gardner and Mr. E. A. Pollard.4
3Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 226-227. I have not been able to find a contemporary account of this duel.
4This information was obtained from Captain H. B. Littlepage, Washington, D. C.
Most of the naval duels in the United States were fought either near Bladensburg, Maryland, or in the vicinity of New York, or in the vicinity of Norfolk. Commodore Stephen Decatur and Midshipman Daniel M. Key were killed at the famous Bladensburg dueling grounds. A lieutenant and two midshipmen lost their lives near New York, and several midshipmen were mortally wounded in duels near Norfolk. Fatal duels were fought on Castle Island, Boston harbor, at New Orleans, and near Chester, Pennsylvania. Commodore O. H. Perry and Captain John Heath, of the marines, had a meeting at or near Weehawken, the scene of the Hamilton-Burr duel. Abroad, Gibraltar, Port Mahon, Rio Janeiro, and Valparaiso were the favorite places of our naval officers for settling their quarrels. In the East Indies they seemed to find the Dutch possessions the most convenient. The younger officers of the Mediterranean squadron were especially prone to seek redress on the field of honor, and some eight or nine of them fell victims to their observance of the duello.
In most naval duels both principals were officers of the navy. Now and then, however, one of them was a civilian or a British officer. In three cases our officers fought with masters or mates of merchantmen. In one of the most notorious duels of the Old Navy a midshipman met and killed on the field a young lawyer of Philadelphia. In 1822 a clerk of the Treasury Department in Washington wounded a midshipman and escaped injury himself. Eight duels were fought with Englishmen; of these, four were with army officers at Gibraltar; one, with a naval officer at Genoa; one, with the Secretary of the Governor of Malta, at Malta; and two, with English officers serving in the Chilian Navy, at Valparaiso. The duels at Gibraltar resulted from quarrels between the officers of our squadron and the officers of the British garrison at that place. Several conferences respecting them were held by our minister in London and Lords Castlereagh and Bathurst.5
5Sabine, Duels and Duelling, II.
The officers of the navy took many measures to restrict or prevent dueling. In 1807 six lieutenants, led by James Lawrence and O. H. Perry, proposed the organization of a "Court of Honor" for the purpose of establishing harmony and preserving unsullied the honor and reputation of the officers of the navy. One regulation provided that in all disputes between officers the person aggrieved must lay the circumstances before the court for its investigation and decision. In 1809 Commodore Decatur required the midshipmen under his command to pledge themselves that they would neither give nor accept a challenge without first referring their disputes to him. For many years Decatur's plan for restraining the young gentlemen of the fleet was very popular with naval commanders. In 1824 Captain John Orde Creighton recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that all officers on entering the service should be required to pledge themselves not to be concerned in a duel. Vigorous means were often used by the older officers to prevent their midshipmen from fighting. In 1841 Commodore M. C. Perry, the commandant of the New York navy yard, on learning that Midshipman W. F. Dejongh was in the city for the purpose of fighting Midshipman Walter Shields, ordered Dejongh to the navy yard and threatened him with imprisonment on board the North Carolina unless he pledged himself not to meet his adversary secretly. As Shields was at Philadelphia, Perry apprized the commandant of the navy yard in that city in order that he might put the young man under restraint.
From 1830 to 1850 the President, and the Secretary of the Navy now and then tried to discourage or suppress dueling. In 1830 President Jackson, on the recommendation of Secretary of the Navy John Branch, dismissed four officers for being concerned in a duel. He reinstated the offenders, however, after the public feeling against them subsided. Occasionally the Secretary of the Navy requested the resignation of some young duelist, whose record was otherwise bad. In April-May, 1845, Dr. Thomas Henderson, a surgeon of the army, published in the National Intelligencer, a series of letters, addressed to Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, entitled "Duels and Duelling in the Naval Service of the United States." Their purpose was to discourage dueling in the navy and to call public attention to the need of a naval academy. In July, 1845, Bancroft convened in Washington a board of nine naval officers, of which Commodore John Downes was president, to deliberate upon the best mode of extirpating the barbarous practice of dueling from the navy, and to consider the expediency of issuing a general order forbidding dueling by naval officers, and of instructing commanders to report to the department the aggressors in duels. The board reported in favor of the issuing of an order prohibiting dueling, and providing for the punishment by dismissal from the navy of the aggressor and also of any officer who should waive his rank in order to meet an inferior officer.6 The Secretary of the Navy seems not to have acted upon this report. In 1848 two duels were fought by midshipmen of the naval academy, and the officers participating in them were dismissed from the service by President Polk. Later, however, all but one of them were reinstated. In 1849 or 1850, President Taylor refused to restore two officers who had been dismissed from the navy for offenses committed under the duello. He said to his cabinet that he had served in the army for forty years without fighting, that duels were unnecessary, and that "he would have no dueling men about him if he could help it.7 In 1857 a list of naval regulations was prepared by a board of naval officers in which dueling was made punishable by dismissal from the navy or by such penalty as a court-martial might inflict. The naval regulations of 1865 contained this provision on the subject of dueling: "No person in the navy will upbraid another person in the navy for refusing a challenge to fight a duel. Every person is enjoined to assist in the honorable adjustment of any differences that may occur. No disgrace can attach to any one for refusing a challenge, as such a course would be in obedience to law."
6Captain's Letters (MS. Navy Department Archives), July-August, 1845, No. 26.
7Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 40.
In 1802, 1820, 1824, and 1843 attempts were made in Congress to prevent dueling in the navy. In 1806 a law was passed prohibiting dueling in the army, but it was frequently violated by the officers of that service. After Congress had several times refused to stop dueling in the District of Columbia, it finally, in 1839, moved to action by the death of Congressman Jonathan Cilley in a duel with Congressman William J. Graves, forbade the giving or the accepting of a challenge in the district. Not until July 17, 1862, was dueling in the navy a violation of law. The act for the better government of the navy passed on that date made the sending or accepting of a challenge, or the acting as a second, punishable by such penalty as a court-martial might adjudge.
The decline of dueling in the navy resulted more from the growth of a sentiment against this barbarous practice than from any formal regulation by the department or enactment by Congress. Naval officers, in common with other members of society, responded to the higher ethical teachings that spread throughout Christendom during the first half of the nineteenth century. An old standard respecting the settlement of personal grievances was gradually displaced by a new one. The dismissal of midshipmen by the President may have had a slightly deterrent effect upon those quarrelsome young gentlemen; and the establishment of the naval academy doubtless checked dueling to some extent by bringing into the navy a better class of young men.
LIST OF DUELS.
In the list of duels that follows, I have, wherever possible, given the place and date of occurrence, the names of the principals and seconds, the cause, the result, and other important details. When the date of the duel can be given only approximately it is placed in parenthesis. Those duels which resulted fatally are indicated by an asterisk. The number of duels here listed is eighty-two. I have found mere references to several others, which would bring the number to about ninety. If to these we add those concerning which I have no information, the total number would exceed one hundred.
- 1799. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur and __________.
This duel occurred while Decatur was a young officer attached to the U. S. frigate United States. He was at Philadelphia enlisting seamen for his vessel when several of his recruits shipped on board an East Indiaman. He visited the merchant vessel and obtained the release of his men, but not without receiving a tongue-lashing from her high-spirited chief mate. Advised by his father, Captain Stephen Decatur, Sr., the young lieutenant decided to call the chief mate to account, which he did by demanding an apology. It was refused, and a challenge was sent and accepted. Decatur, before repairing to the dueling-ground said to his friend, Lieutenant Charles Stewart, that, as his antagonist was doubtless inexpert in the use of arms, he would not kill him but would shoot him in the hip. He chose Lieutenant Richard Somers as his second. In the duel he wounded the chief mate in the hip, as he said he would do, but escaped injury himself.8
8Mackenzie, Stephen Decatur, 37-39.
- *(I799). Midshipman Samuel W. Cushing and __________. In this duel Cushing was killed.9
9Register of the Navy, A (MS., Navy Department Archives).
- 1800. Lieutenant __________ and __________.
The following note gives an account of this duel: "Norfolk, March 4. On Friday morning last, a duel was fought at the Sycamores, near this borough by a capt. T., master of a brig now in the harbor, and lieutenant S., of the U. S. frigate Congress, in which the former was shot through the body. We are happy to find that the wound has not proved mortal, and there are favorable symptoms of a speedy recovery."10
- *1800. Lieutenant Philip Edwards and Lieutenant John L. Lewis (of the marine corps).
This duel occurred on October 16, 1800. Edwards was killed.11
- (1800). Lieutenant Richard Somers and __________.
- (I800). Lieutenant Richard Somers and __________.
- ( I800). Lieutenant Richard Somers and __________.
These duels originated in the following trivial cause. Somers and Lieutenant Stephen Decatur were warm friends and were in the habit of speaking freely of each other. On one occasion Decatur, in perfect good humor, called Somers a "fool," in the presence of some five or six officers. Somers thought nothing of the remark until several of the officers who heard it refused to drink wine with him. He asked them for an explanation and they frankly told him the cause of their refusal, his failure to resent Decatur's insult. He sought Decatur and related to him the circumstances, and Decatur at once proposed a peaceable plan for clearing up the misunderstanding of the officers. Somers would not listen to it, but immediately challenged each of the five or six officers to fight him at different hours of the same day, declaring that only in this way could he convince them of his courage. All the challenges were accepted. In the first duel Somers was wounded in the right arm, and in the second in the thigh. He became so weak from loss of blood that he had to fight the third duel in a sitting posture, supported by his second, Lieutenant Decatur, who offered in vain to take his place and continue the fighting. Thus sustained, Somers fired and wounded his antagonist. As the officers were now thoroughly convinced of his courage, the two or three remaining duels were dispensed with.12
10Claypoole's American Advertiser, March 14, 1800.
11Register of the Navy, A.
12Goldsborough, Naval Chronicle, 237-238.
- *(1801). Midshipman Thomas Swartout, Jr., and Midshipman J. S. Higinbotham.
Swartout was ordered to the U. S. S. Essex on April 19, 1801, which vessel was then about to sail for the Mediterranean. He was killed at Algeciras, Spain, in a duel, by Midshipman Higinbotham, of the same ship, in 1801 or 1802.13
- *1802. Captain James McKnight (of the marine corps) and Lieutenant R. H. L. Lawson.
McKnight and Lawson were officers of the U. S. S. Chesapeake, which vessel was attached in 1802 to the Mediterranean squadron. The hostile meeting took place at Leghorn, on October 14, 1802. McKnight was killed. His wife was a sister of Captain Stephen Decatur.14
- *1803. Lieutenant Henry Vandyke and First Lieutenant W. S. Osborn (of the marine corps).
The following account of this duel is taken from a letter of an officer of the U. S. S. New York, dated Gibraltar, March 26, 1803:
"While lying in Malta, Lieutenant Van Dyke, and the 1st lieutenant of marines, Mr. Osborne, went on shore to settle a trifling dispute. After exchanging four shots, Lieutenant Van Dyke received a ball in his right thigh, which passed through and was extracted from his left, which terminated his existence after an illness of three weeks.15
- *1803. Midshipman Joseph Bainbridge and Mr. _____ Cochran.
13Register of the Navy, A; Ships' Service Book (MS. Navy Department Library).
14Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 243; Miscellaneous Letters (MS., Navy Department Archives), III, No. 48.
15Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser, May 13, 1803.
Bainbridge was a young midshipman on board the U. S. S. New York, one of the vessels of the Mediterranean squadron. At Malta he and a messmate attended a theatre, and were seated near a party composed of Cochran, who was the secretary of Sir Alexander Ball (the governor of the island), and several British officers. The members of the party spoke sneeringly of the young Americans and their countrymen, saying in allusion to the war we were then waging with Tripoli, "Those Yankees will never stand the smell of powder!" Soon after this remark was made Bainbridge and his companion retired to the lobby of the theatre to consider what notice they should take of it. They were followed by the Englishmen, one of whom, Cochran, ran rudely against Bainbridge, and twice repeated the offense. The third time Bainbridge knocked him down, and on the following morning he received a challenge from Cochran, which he accepted, choosing Lieutenant Stephen Decatur as his second. Since Bainbridge was a mere youth, unskilled in dueling, while Cochran was a sure shot at ten paces, the usual distance, Decatur insisted that the duel should be fought at four paces. On learning Decatur's terms, Cochran's second said to him, "This looks like murder, sir." "No, sir," replied Decatur, "this looks like death." At the first fire neither principal was injured; at the second fire the Englishman fell, mortally wounded below the eye; while the young midshipman stood unhurt. Joseph Bainbridge was a brother of Commodore William Bainbridge. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the poet, succeeded Cochran in the office of secretary to the governor of Malta.16
- *1804. Midshipman William R. Nicholson and Midshipman Frederick C. De Krafft.
These young men were officers of the U. S. S. Siren, which vessel in 1804 was attached to the Mediterranean squadron. They fought a duel at Syracuse. Its cause is not known, although there is a tradition that a young Syracusan woman had something to do with it. The grave of Nicholson near Syracuse may still be seen. Its tablet bears the following inscription: "In memory of William R. Nicholson, a midshipman in the navy of the United States, who was cut off from society in the bloom of his youth and health, on the 18th day of September, A. D., 1804, aged eighteen years." De Krafft, for his offense, was sent home in the U. S. S. Scourge, under arrest.17
- 1807. Midshipman David Redick and Midshipman Joseph H. Barrymore.
16Mackenzie, Stephen Decatur, 55-58; Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 126; Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser, May 13, 1803.
17The Washington Post, May 2, 1883; Register of the Navy, C, 207.
These young men were attached to the flotilla at New York. They were messmates, and one one occasion Redick entered the messroom with his hat on his head. Barrymore directed him to take off his hat, telling him that his deportment was ungentlemanly. To this speech the offending youth observed, "Barrymore, you have often taken improper liberties with me, and I therefore wish to have nothing further to do with you." Barrymore insisted that these words be explained, but Redick refused to explain them. Here for a time the dispute rested. Redick, however, on finding that he was condemned by some of …… his fellow-midshipmen for submitting to the affront offered him, challenged Barrymore, who accepted the challenge. The duel was fought in an orchard, about a mile from the Brooklyn navy yard, on August 20, 1807. The seconds were Midshipman Walter Boyd and John R. Laycroft. Barrymore was severely wounded in the hip. Redick was uninjured.18
- 1807. Midshipman James M. Broome and Midshipman Richard Crump.
- 1807. Master Commandant Charles Gordon and Dr. _____ Stark.
- 1807. Master Commandant Charles Gordon and Mr. A. J. M'Connico.
These duels, which took place in the early fall of 1807, grew out of disputes over the fight between the Chesapeake and Leopard. Broome, Crump, and Gordon were officers of the ill-fated Chesapeake, and Stark and M'Connico were citizens of Norfolk, and relatives or friends of the captain of the Chesapeake, James Barron. In the Broome-Crump duel, Broome received a flesh wound in the thigh. The Gordon-Stark duel arose from certain remarks made by Stark reflecting on Gordon's conduct during the fight. In the preliminary arrangements, it was stipulated that should one of the principals fire too soon, the second of the other might shoot him. After six shots had been exchanged, the word for the seventh was given. Stark fired prematurely, so Lieutenant W. H. Crane, the second of Gordon claimed, who, in accordance with the stipulation, shot at the doctor, wounding him in the arm. Stark's second, A. J. M'Connico, denied that his principal had fired improperly. This contention was duly settled by Gordon and M'Connico. Both were wounded, but not dangerously.19
- *1807. Lieutenant Benjamin Turner and Sailing Master John Rush.
These two officers were in command of gunboats at New Orleans. They fought a duel on October 1, 1807, which resulted in the death of Turner. Their superior officer, Lieutenant James Leonard, referred to this duel as an "unavoidable occurrence.20
18John Rodgers Papers (MS., Navy Department Library), Rodgers to the Secretary of the Navy, Sept. 1, 1807.
19New York Evening Post, Oct. 3, 1807; Captains' Letters, Decatur to Secretary of the Navy, Oct. 21, Nov. 1, Nov. 19, 1807.
20Officers' Letters (MS., Navy Department Archives), 1807, III, No. 88.
- *18o8. Midshipman Eli E. Danielson and Midshipman P.P. Schuyler.
These two midshipmen were attached to the gunboat flotilla at New York. They had a dispute over some trivial matter, in which Danielson seems to have been the aggressor. Having repaired to the dueling-grounds chiefly from motives of bravado, they were ashamed to return to the flotilla without fighting. The seconds were Midshipmen Walter Boyd and Edward A. Evans; the former, according to Commodore John Rodgers, was "perfectly destitute of the principles of a gentleman." Danielson, who was a stepson of General William Eaton, was shot through the heart and expired almost instantly. The meeting occurred on the afternoon of August 5, 1808, near New York. The surviving members of the party absconded into New Jersey. In 1809 Schuyler was dismissed from the navy.21
- *1809. Midshipman James Voorhees and Surgeon's Mate Hyde Ray.
Voorhees and Ray were officers of the frigate Essex, Master Commandant John Smith. Voorhees is said to have insulted Ray and then challenged him. The duel, which was fought near Norfolk, on October 19, 1809, resulted in the death of Voorhees.22
- 1809. Midshipman R. B. Mitchell and Midshipman Green Lynch.
This duel, which had its origin in some trivial cause, was fought early in December, 1809, near Norfolk. Lynch was wounded in the breast. Captain Stephen Decatur reported that, while the two officers were "censurable," their conduct was "honorable throughout." To discourage dueling he required all the youths under his command to pledge themselves that they would neither give nor accept a challenge without first referring their disputes to him.23
21Captains' Letters, 1807, III, No. 55.
22Master's Letters (MS., Navy Department Archives), 1809, II, No. 91.
23Captains' Letters, 1809, IV, No. 77.
- *1810. Midshipman Richard Rodgers and Midshipman Charles W. Morgan.
Rodgers and Morgan were midshipmen on board the U S. frigate Constitution, Captain Isaac Hull. The cause of their duel is not known, but it is said to have been such as left, under the code of honor of that time, no recourse but a hostile meeting. Morgan's second was Surgeon's Mate Samuel Gilliland; and Rodgers', Midshipman Archibald Hamilton, the son of Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton. Both seconds were officers of the Constitution. The dueling party obtained permission to go ashore on the afternoon of October 16, 1810, at Sandy Hook, New York, "for the purpose of shooting." After reaching the grounds Gilliland and Hamilton did everything in their power to prevent the duel, and finding their efforts fruitless, they conducted it in "the most fair and honorable manner." Rodgers was killed almost instantly, and Morgan was wounded in the breast. On learning of the duel Hull placed Morgan under arrest and suspended from duty the two seconds. Under orders from the Secretary of the Navy he later released the surviving principal, and restored the two seconds to duty. Rodgers was buried at Sandy Hook. Morgan became a distinguished officer of the Old Navy, dying in 1853 as a post-captain.24
- *1811. Midshipman Joseph Brailsford and Midshipman Charles M. Fowle.
These young men were attached to the U. S. frigate Constitution, Captain Isaac Hull, which vessel was stationed at New London, Connecticut, during the winter of 1810-1811. They fought a duel about fifteen miles from New London on the afternoon of February 19, 1811. Their seconds were Midshipmen William Loughton and John Packet, also officers of the Constitution. Fowle was wounded in the thigh, and died on March 15. The Secretary of the Navy expressed his displeasure by ordering Brailsford and Packet transferred to another ship.25
- *1811. Midshipman Landon Mercer and Mr. _____ Roberts.
24Ibid., 1810, III, Nos. 76, 77, 81; John Rodgers' Papers, Rodgers to Hull Oct. 17, 1810; Hull to Rodgers, Oct. 27, 1810.
25Captains' Letters, 1811, I, Nos. 94, 126, 134.
Mercer was a midshipman on board the U. S. frigate United States, Captain Stephen Decatur. Having received an insult from Roberts, he challenged him. A hostile meeting occurred about sundown of December 22, 1811, within a mile of Norfolk. Mercer was accompanied by Midshipmen Foxhall A. Parker and John H. Bell and Surgeon's Mate William M. Clarke. The distance apart of the two principals was just sufficient to prevent their pistols from touching. On the giving of the word, both fired; and both fell dead. Soon, all Norfolk was in an uproar. The surviving members of the dueling party sought safety in flight, leaving their dead comrades without a soul near them. The two bodies were brought to Norfolk on the evening of the 25th, and were interred on the next day. On the 27th Decatur reported that the three surviving officers had not yet returned to the ship, and that they were being sought for by the civil authorities.26
- 1813. Acting Master _____ Brownell and Purser Humphrey Magrath.
- *1813. Acting Master _____ Macdonald and Midshipman George Senat.
These two duels, and several others, originated in the dispute between Captains O. H. Perry and Jesse D. Elliott over their respective merits and credits due them for the American victory at the battle of Lake Erie, on September 15, 1813. They took place soon after the battle, probably on the shore of the lake. "Purser Magrath, who certainly could not be called a non-combatant," A. S. Mackenzie wrote, "led the way in the first duel with Acting-Master Brownell; others followed in almost uninterrupted succession; and eventually, not long after Captain Elliott's removal, young Senat, who commanded the Porcupine during the action, lost his life in a duel with Acting-Master Macdonald.”27
- (1816). Lieutenant Joseph L. Kuhns (of the marine corps) and __________.
Niles' Register reports that Kuhns was killed in a duel with some foreign officer. The statement that Kuhns was killed is erroneous.28
- *1817. Midshipman Seth Wheaton and __________.
Midshipman Wheaton was killed in a duel fought early in February, 1817, probably at Gibraltar.29
26Niles' Register, I, 335; Captains' Letters, 1811, II, 232.
27Mackenzie, II, O. H. Perry, 48.
28Niles' Register, XI, 296.
29Captains' Letters, 1817, I, No. 48.
- *1817. Lieutenant Richard S. Heath and Midshipman John L. Hopkins.
Heath was attached to the U. S. S. Saranac and Hopkins, to the U. S. S. Enterprise, both of which ships were stationed at New York. Hopkins was the aggressor. He drew a cartoon in which a figure labeled "Horatio" was pulling the nose of a figure labeled "Richard," and dropped it on shipboard where Heath's attention would be called to it. A little later a second cartoon, in which Heath's likeness was portrayed, was found by Heath himself, who soon let it be known that he had no objection to giving the author of the cartoons "gentlemanly satisfaction." Hopkins, who showed a great desire to call out his senior in rank, at once declared that he was their author. His last note to Heath which throws some light on his character, read as follows: "You consider it ungentlemanly, and are willing to wave rank with the author of the caricatures. I shall expect you to preserve your veracity, and meet me. My friend, Mr. Hobbs, will attend to furthering the affair."
The meeting, which took place in New Jersey, near New York, on the afternoon of June 2, 1817, resulted in the death of Heath. Midshipman H. H. Hobbs represented Hopkins; and Lieutenant John H. Lee, Heath. The surviviors of the dueling party absented themselves for several days from their ships.30
30Captains' Letters, 1817, III, Nos. 5-7.
- 1817. Lieutenant R. F. Stockton and __________.
The origin of this duel was as follows: Some American officers during a visit to Naples, pleased with the faithfulness of a Neapolitan boatman gave him a recommendation in writing, addressed to all Americans who should visit the city. When a little later the British ship of war Albion, Admiral Penrose, arrived at Naples, the boatman taking her for an American vessel, presented his paper to her officers, and they handed it back to him after one of them had written these words on it: "That, notwithstanding the recommendation of the Americans, the boatman was an extravagant knave; but it was supposed he charged the American officers less on account of their parsimony and the known poverty and meanness of the American government." On the arrival of the U. S. S. Erie at Naples in the summer of 1817, the boatman presented his paper to the First Lieutenant of the Erie, R. F. Stockton, who, on reading it and finding that an officer of the Albion had written the endorsement, put the paper in his pocket. As soon as the Erie was moored he sent one of his officers to the Albion to demand the name of the author of the endorsement. At first all the officers denied having any knowledge of the matter, but finally, after Stockton had declared that he would hold all of them responsible, one of them acknowledged that he had written the endorsement. Stockton immediately sent him a challenge. The Englishman offered to make a verbal apology, but Stockton refused to accept it, insisting that as the insult was in writing the apology must be in writing also. The Englishman declined to make the additional concession, and a duel took place. At the second fire the Englishman was slightly hurt in the leg, and refused to proceed farther. Stockton insisted that he should either continue the contest or else apologize in writing, but the Englishman declared that he would do neither. The plucky and pertinacious lieutenant then called him a coward and said that he should take the liberty of caning him whenever he should chance to meet him; and thus the affair ended.31
- (1817). Lieutenant R. F. Stockton and Midshipman _____.
This duel occurred while Stockton was the First Lieutenant of the U. S. Erie, while that vessel was in the Mediterranean. Overhearing a remark of one of his midshipmen, which he considered offensive, he took notice of it; and the midshipman challenged him. It was agreed that the duel should be fought at eight paces. On the giving of the word the midshipman fired promptly, before Stockton was ready to fire, and missed him. Stockton urged that the midshipman should reload again, while the midshipman contended that Stockton should first take the fire that was due him. Stockton then discharged his pistol in the air, but the midshipman refused to accept this as sufficient. Finally the chivalrous principals declared themselves satisfied, and the duel was discontinued.32
31Life of R. F. Stockton, 32; Niles' Register, XXVII, 179. The accounts of the duel found in these two books are written from the American point of view.
32Life of R. F. Stockton, 30-31.
- *1818. Midshipman John R. Keasby and Midshipman William F. Thorniley.
These young men were attached to the U. S. S. John Adams, Captain J. D. Henley, which vessel in 1818 was stationed near Amelia Island, off the coast of Florida. The seconds, Midshipmen John A. Cook and Alexander Hossack, were also officers of the John Adams. The duel was fought on February 28, 1818, at a distance of six paces. Both principals were mortally wounded, and died about twenty-four hours later. They were buried at St. Marys. "I cannot sufficiently express my detestation of this horrid practice which has ever been reprobated by me," wrote Captain Henley to the Secretary of the Navy in giving an account of the melancholy event.33
33Captains' Letters, 1818, I, No. 94.
- 1818. Commodore O. H. Perry and Captain John Heath (of the marine corps).
In 1816 Perry was the commander and Heath the captain of marines of the U. S. frigate Java, one of the vessels of the Mediterranean squadron. Heath, who appears to have been a good-natured, careless, indolent officer, was much disliked by his captain. On one occasion two marines jumped overboard, and Perry took instant measures to recover them. He ordered Heath to come on deck, but the captain of marines sent word that he was indisposed. Perry repeated his orders. Finally Heath appeared and mustered his men, but he did his work in a careless manner and failed to report it to his commander until told to do so. Greatly irritated, Perry ordered Heath to go below, saying that "he should do no more duty on board the Java." Deprived of his office, Heath wrote to Perry asking him why he had been thus treated. Perry sent for him, and during an interview struck him with his fist. "Passion became predominant," Perry afterwards said, "and I gave him a blow."
After consulting with his officers respecting the unfortunate occurrence, Perry expressed a readiness "to make an honorable and personal apology such as would be proper for Captain Heath to receive and Captain Perry to make." Advised by his brother marine officers, Heath refused to accept the apology. Perry now submitted a statement of the affair to Commodore Isaac Chauncey, the commander-in-chief of the squadron, and asked for a court-martial. On December 30, 1816, Chauncey convened a court at Port Mahon to try both officers. Both were found guilty and both were sentenced to be privately reprimanded by the commander-in-chief—certainly a lenient punishment for Perry.
On the return of the squadron to the United States, the friends of Heath and the public prints fanned the flames of the smouldering quarrel. In course of time Heath challenged his adversary, who in accepting the challenge caused the following provision to be endorsed on the back of the agreement regulating the terms of the meeting: "Captain Perry desires it to be explicitly understood that, in according to Captain Heath the personal satisfaction he has demanded, he is influenced entirely by a sense of what he considers due from him, as an atonement to the violated rules of the service, and not by any consideration of the claims which Captain Heath may have for making such a demand, which he totally denies, as such claims have been forfeited by the measures of a public character which Captain Heath has adopted towards him. If, therefore, the civil authority shall produce an impossibility of meeting at the time and place designated, which he will take every precaution to prevent, he will consider himself absolutely exonerated from any responsibility to Captain Heath touching their present cause of difference." According to Perry's view, he was not accountable to Heath, but, since he had raised his hand against a person honored with a commission of the government, it was incumbent upon him to atone for his violation of the rules of the service by granting Heath a meeting. However, he felt that he was under no obligation to return the fire of his adversary; and he declared that he would not do so.
Perry chose Commodore Stephen Decatur to act as his second; and Heath chose First Lieutenant Robert M. Desha. October 8, 1818, was the day, and the neighborhood of Washington, the place first agreed upon. While the parties were on their way to the capital, they learned that Decatur had departed thence to New York. They therefore retraced their steps, and finally met on October 19 on the New Jersey shore of the Hudson, above Hoboken, the scene of the duel between Hamilton and Burr and many other distressing tragedies. Perry's biographer writes of this meeting as follows:
"The seconds stood aside; the splendid figure of Decatur erected to its fullest statue, and his noble countenance more than usually calm and thoughtful. At the word, the antagonists advanced five paces with a measured step, regulated by the voice of one of the seconds, then wheeled, Heath discharging his pistol towards Perry, and Perry abstaining from firing. Decatur now stepped forward and declared that Commodore Perry had come to the ground with the fixed determination to receive without returning the fire of Captain Heath, in evidence of which he read the letter which months before had been addressed to him. Decatur then observed that he presumed that the party claiming to be aggrieved was satisfied. Captain Heath asquiesced, through his friend, in this opinion, and admitted that his injury was atoned for."34
34Mackenzie, O. H. Perry, II, 128-136, 139, 152-157, 180-183; Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 214.
- *1819. Midshipman J. B. Abercrombie and Midshipman Alexander G. Gordon.
Abercrombie and Gordon were attached to the U. S. S. Macedonian, Captain John Downes. On March 2, 1819, they fought a duel at Valparaiso, Chile. Abercrombie fell and expired immediately.35
- *1819. Lieutenant William B. Finch and Lieutenant Francis B. White (of the marine corps).
White was the aggressor in this duel. His grievance against Finch arose in 1815 when they were fellow-officers aboard the U. S. S. Independence. In the correspondence that preceded the duel he made four charges against Finch: (I) undertaking to reprimand me on the quarter-deck in the presence of the crew, (2) flogging two marines without my knowledge or consent, (3) general ungentlemanlike deportment towards me, and (4) saying to Lieutenant Legge that I was ignorant of my duty. In a letter accepting White's challenge, Finch replied to his charges as follows: "The specification of offences which accompany your letter are those growing out of official station, and only such as an uniformed and young officer would presume to allege as a pretext for personal reparation. The remedy for the cases cited is to be found both in the act organizing and usage governing the service. An officer, therefore, having its interests at heart, ought at the moment to have referred for protection or satisfaction to the proper tribunal. But you, on the contrary, cherish to this distant day imaginary wrongs, and claim reparation because you have indiscreetly expressed a determination to do so. The only pretence for your conduct is to be found in your fourth specification; to which I shall make no reply, or take further notice, than that Lieutenant Legge is dead, for whose memory I cherish a high regard."
The duel was fought on Castle Island in Boston harbor, on September 26, 1819, and resulted in the death of White. There is said to be a monument to White's memory on this island. Subsequently Finch changed his name to Bolton and he became a post-captain of the navy.36
35Captains' Letters, 1819, I, No. 85.
36Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 308-310; Army and Navy Journal, Oct. 31, 1868.
- 1819. Midshipman J. S. Cannon and Midshipman William Pierson.
These young officers are reported to have fought a duel in 1819 at or near Havana, while they were attached to the U. S. S. John Adams. Sabine's statement that Cannon was "killed on the spot" is erroneous.37
37Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 84.
- (1819). Lieutenant Josiah Tattnall and __________.
- (1819). Midshipman Richard S. Pinckney and __________.
Tattnall and Pinckney were officers of the U. S. S. Macedonian, Captain John Downes, which vessel in 1819 was stationed on the west coast of South America. The navy of Chile at that time was largely officered by Englishmen, its commander, Lord Cochrane, being of that nationality. Englishmen, both at home and abroad, for a decade after the War of 1812, bore our naval officers an ill-will because of the American victories at sea in that conflict, and our officers were quick to resent any slight or insult given them by their late adversaries. When, therefore, one of Lord Cochrane's officers at Valparaiso used language which Tattnall considered offensive, he promptly received a challenge from Tattnall to a duel. He accepted the challenge, and retired from the field with a bullet in his shoulder. Later Pinckney got into trouble at an evening party at a hotel in Valparaiso. During an animated discussion with some of Cochrane's officers, the young midshipman denounced their commander-in-chief, and a personal quarrel ensued. He challenged his opponent, and a duel was agreed upon. According to the preliminary arrangements each principal had the right to choose two "friends." One of Pinckney's friends was Lieutenant Tattnall. The duel was fought on a clear moon-light night on the sea-beach, in the presence of hundreds of spectators. After the principals had taken their positions, ten paces apart, one of the friends of the Englishman declined to permit the fight to proceed in accordance with the terms agreed upon, but insisted that the distance should be five paces, since he had heard that Pinckney was a dead shot. Tattnall settled this controversy by calling the dissatisfied friend of the Englishman a scoundrel and challenging him to a duel at five paces. He thereupon yielded his point, and Pinckney's fight took place in accordance with the stipulated terms. Several shots were exchanged. The clothing of both principals was cut and the Englishman was wounded. A reconciliation brought the duel to an amicable close.38
- *(1819). Midshipman J. M. Boardley and __________.
Boardley was killed in this duel.39
- 1819. Purser Benjamin F. Bourne and Captain Ralph Johnson (of the 64th Regiment of Foot, of the British Army).
- 1819. Surgeon's Mate A. M. Montgomery and Captain J. E. Freeth (of the 64th Regiment of Foot, of the British Army).
- 1819. Lieutenant Robert F. Stockton and Captain Ralph Johnson (of the 64th Regiment of Foot, of the British Army).
- 1820. Lieutenant Samuel W. Downing and Lieutenant Thomas Smith (of the 27th Regiment of Foot, of the British Army).
38Jones, Life of Commodore Josiah Tattnall, 24-25.
39Register of the Navy (MS., Archives of the Navy Department).
These four duels were the result of the bitter feelings that existed in 1819-1820 between the officers of the Mediterranean squadron and the officers of the British garrison at Gibraltar. Their quarrels began in the spring of the former year. On the night of March 22, 1819, the captain of an American merchantman, named Taylor, when returning to his lodgings was arrested by a guard, and was confined in a loathsome prison by order of Captain Ralph Johnson. Several respectable merchants interfered and Taylor was released; thereupon he demanded satisfaction of Johnson who refused to give it on the ground of disparity of rank. On leaving Gibraltar, his cause was espoused by some of the American officers of the squadron and especially by Purser B. F. Bourne of the U. S. S. Erie, who challenged Johnson. Not long after Taylor's arrest, another offense was committed by the British. On the night of March 30 Purser A. Y. Humphreys of the U. S. S. United States, when returning to his ship, was for a time refused a passage through the gate of the Ragged Staff Guard by Ensign H. A. Nutt, and was subjected to humiliating treatment. On being challenged by Humphreys, Nutt refused to fight. On the next day Humphrey's ship sailed, and his cause was championed by Dr. A. M. Montgomery of the Erie. On the 31st Montgomery and several of his friends visited the messroom of the 64th Regiment to "post" Nutt, and were received with derision by the British officers. Greatly angered, the Americans offered to fight any officer of the regiment. Hearing no reply, they called the whole regiment a parcel of cowards. Captain Freeth then stepped forward for the honor of his fellow-officers, and declared his willingness to fight any one of the Americans on the next day. His challenge was accepted by Montgomery, who had previously acted as the friend of Humphreys. The duels between Bourne and Johnson and Montgomery and Freeth took place early in the morning of April 1, at the Neutral Ground, near Gibraltar. Bourne was wounded in the groin, and Freeth in the hip; but neither fatally.
Notwithstanding that the British commander forbade his officers to leave the garrison, and that Captain H. E. Ballard of the Erie gave orders that none of his officers should leave their ship, Lieutenant Stockton, who had acted as the second of Bourne, and who had taken offense at Captain Johnson for addressing some opprobrious language to Bourne, challenged the captain. They met on the rock at St. Michael's Cave, Stockton being accompanied by Bourne and Dr. John W. Peaco. After a single shot had been exchanged without effect, the duelists were compelled to disperse by a party of soldiers sent to seize them. The Erie shortly sailed for Algeciras, and the disputes for a time came to an end.
After about a year had elapsed, a fourth duel took place. This time Lieutenant Thomas Smith, of the 27th Regiment of Foot, was the challenger. The gauntlet was reluctantly accepted by Lieutenant Samuel W. Downing of the frigate Guerriere, Captain Charles C. B. Thompson. The duel occurred at 3 o'clock p. m., of March 11, 1820, on the Neutral Ground. About a dozen British officers were present. Downing was accompanied by Lieutenants Allen B. W. Griffin and Bladen Dulaney. Three shots were fired. Each time Downing wounded his antagonist, the last time severely. The success of the Americans inflamed the British, and notwithstanding that Governor Don interdicted all intercourse between the garrison and the squadron, Captain Johnson and a doctor of the 64th Regiment visited the Guerriere and presented the captain of the vessel and Lieutenant Downing with challenges from officers of the garrison. It now appeared that the unmarried British officers of the garrison had entered into a combination to call out all the officers of the Guerriere on terms most unfavorable to them. Fortunately, before arrangements for further duels could be perfected, the Guerriere sailed from Gibraltar. A little later our naval station was removed from Gibraltar to Port Mahon, and the opportunities for dueling with British officers at the former port were greatly lessened.40
- *1820. Commodore James Barron and Commodore Stephen Decatur.
Of all the duels fought by our naval officers, the one between Barron and Decatur is by far the most celebrated. It was the only duel in which both principals were of the highest naval rank. Barron was but two numbers from the head of the navy list, and Decatur five. Barron lived at Hampton, Virginia, having for thirteen years performed no naval duties. Decatur resided at Washington, and was one of the three naval commissioners who assisted the Secretary of the Navy in administering the service. He was a gallant, chivalrous, and high-spirited man, and possibly the most brilliant officer of the Old Navy.
This duel was one of the sequels of the fight between the U. S. frigate Chesapeake and the British ship of war Leopard. It is recollected that the Chesapeake was commanded by Barron, that she sailed from Norfolk on the morning of June 22, 1807, that soon after getting to sea she was overhauled by the Leopard, whose commander demanded Barron to deliver up certain British deserters, that Barron refused to comply with the demand, that the Leopard thereupon opened fire upon him inflicting severe losses, and that he was unable to return the fire owing to the unpreparedness of his ship and the confusion on board her. For his failure to make a defense he was tried by a court-martial early in 1808 and was sentenced to suspension from the navy for five years, with loss of pay. Decatur was a member of this court. Before it convened he wrote to the Secretary of the Navy and asked to be excused from service on the ground that he had attended the court of enquiry that had presented charges against Barron and that he had there formed an opinion unfavorable to the accused officer. The Secretary, however, declined to excuse him. Still hoping that he might be relieved from the service, he sent a copy of his correspondence with the Secretary to Barron's counsel in order that Barron might have an opportunity to protest against his sitting on the court. That officer, however, did not see fit to challenge him.
40Captains' Letters, 1819, III, No. 62; Officers' Letters, 1820, II, No. 62; Niles' Register, XVII, 178; XVIII, 271-272; Life of R. F. Stockton, 33-35; Edinburgh Annual Register, 1819, 314-315.
Barron soon after his trial and suspension entered the merchant service and went abroad. Notwithstanding that his term of suspension expired in February, 1813, he remained abroad throughout the War of 1812. On his return to the United States in 1818 he sought service in the navy. His claims were resisted by every captain, except one, Captain Jesse D. Elliott, on the ground that an imputation lay against him for not fighting for his country in her hour of need. Decatur took a prominent part in opposing Barron's restoration to duty, holding that his conduct since the affair of the Chesapeake and the Leopard ought to bar forever his re-admission to the service. It should be said that Barron, when his term of suspension expired, applied to the Navy Department for service by letter, but received no reply, that he always regarded his sentence by the court-martial as "cruel and unmerited," and that he felt that the principal officers of the navy by refusing him naval service were adding to the injuries they had done him in the past. Brooding over his wrongs, real or imaginary, he became unduly sensitive, and disposed, if an occasion arose, to seek redress from his enemies. Chief of these was Decatur.
An extensive correspondence between the two officers began with the following note of Barron, dated Hampton, Virginia, June 12, 1819: "I have been informed in Norfolk that you have said that you could insult me with impunity, or words to that effect. If you have said so, you will, no doubt, avow it, and I shall expect to hear from you." Decatur replied as follows: "I have received your communication of the 12th inst. Before you could have been entitled to the information you have asked of me, you should have given the name of your informer. That frankness which ought to characterize our profession required it. I shall not, however, refuse to answer you on that account, but shall be as candid in my communication to you as your letter or the case will warrant. Whatever I may have thought or said in the very frequent and free conversation I have had respecting you and your conduct, I feel a thorough conviction that I never could have been guilty of so much egotism as to say that 'I could insult you' (or any other man) ‘with impunity.'" While Decatur, with much circumlocution, practically denied using the words attributed to him, his letter was most exasperating and well calculated to increase the bitterness of Barron. That officer, however, accepted Decatur's explanation, as may be seen from the following sentence of his reply: "Your declaration, if I understand it correctly, relieves my mind from the apprehension that you had so degraded my character as I have been induced to allege." A brief, sharply-worded note of Decatur brought the first installment of the correspondence to a close.
Some four months later Barron renewed the correspondence in a letter dated October 23, 1819. He now asserted that Decatur for many years had endeavored to ruin his reputation, that Decatur had sent their recent correspondence to Norfolk to be shown to some of his particular friends with a view to alienating from him their attachment, and that Decatur had "tauntingly and boastingly" observed that he would cheerfully meet him in the field and hoped that he would act like a man—or words to that effect. Such conduct, Barron said, calls loudly for redress. "I consider you as having given the invitation, which I accept, and will prepare to meet you at such time and place as our respective friends, hereafter to be named, shall designate. I also, under all the circumstances of the case, consider myself entitled to the choice of weapons, place, and distance; but should a difference of opinion be entertained by our friends, I flatter myself, from your known personal courage, that you would disdain any unfair advantage, which your superiority in the use of the pistol, and the natural defect of my vision, increased by age, would give you."
It may be seen from this letter that Barron had decided to fight Decatur, but that he was unwilling to give his adversary the advantage of being the challenged person—namely, the choice of time, grounds, weapons, and distance. He was resolved to have the terms as favorable to himself as possible. As the one aggrieved, the challenge should have proceeded from Barron. Nor was he warranted in considering Decatur's conduct and language as an invitation to a duel.
Decatur's reply to Barron's letter, and Barron's rejoinder are lengthy documents, largely explanatory of their opinions and conduct since 1807. Each made many accusations against the other which he could not prove. Decatur denied explicitly that he had invited Barron to the field or that he had expressed a hope that Barron would call him out. He said that he would be much better pleased, on all scores, to have nothing to do with Barron, and that he would regret the necessity of having to fight a duel with anyone. "But, in my opinion," he added, "the man who makes arms his profession is not at liberty to decline an invitation from any person, who is not so far degraded as to be beneath his notice. Having incautiously said I would meet you, I will not consider this to be your case, although many think so; and if I had not pledged myself, I might reconsider the case." Decatur's language here, as may be seen, was insolent and exasperating, to say the least. On the subject of dueling, Barron wrote in reply, "I perfectly coincide with the opinions you have expressed. I consider it a barbarous practice, which ought to be exploded from civilized society. But, sir, there may be cases of such extraordinary and aggravated insult and injury, received by an individual, as to render an appeal to arms on his part absolutely necessary. Mine, I conceive to be a case of that description; and I feel myself constrained, by every tie that binds me to society, by all that can make life desirable to me, to resort to this mode of obtaining that redress due to me at your hands, as the only alternative which now seems to present itself for the preservation of my honor."
Decatur, in his reply to the letter of Barron, from which we have just quoted reiterated his statement that he had not challenged him and said that he did not intend to challenge him. "If we fight," he declared, "it must be of your seeking." His letter closed with the following sentence: "I have now to inform you that I shall pay no further attention to any communication you may make to me, other than a direct call to the field." Barron's answer to this declaration was as follows: "Whenever you will consent to meet me on fair and equal grounds, that is such as two honorable men may consider just and proper, you are at liberty to view this as that call." Decatur accepted Barron's challenge in a brief note dated January 24, 1820.
Barron chose Captain Jesse D. Elliott as his second. Decatur after having asked Commodore John Rodgers and several other officers of high rank to serve as his second and having received their refusals, chose Commodore William Bainbridge. Bainbridge was number four on the captains' list; Elliott was at the foot of the list. Both officers had seen important service during the recent war with Great Britain. Bainbridge was one of the most illustrious officers of the Old Navy. Elliott is celebrated for his venomous quarrel with Commodore O. H. Perry over their respective shares of credit for the victory at the battle of Lake Erie; the death of Perry had prevented a duel between them. On March 8 Elliott visited Bainbridge on board his ship, the Columbus, anchored in the Potomac, some distance below Washington, for the purpose of making the final arrangements for the meeting. On that day, which happened to be the anniversary of Decatur's wedding, they signed the following agreement: "It is agreed by the undersigned, as friends of Commodore Decatur and Commodore Barron, that the meeting, which is to take place between the said Commodore Decatur and Commodore Barron, shall take place at nine a. m., on the 22d instant, at Bladensburg, near the District of Columbia, and that the weapons shall be pistols; the distance, eight paces or yards; that, previously to firing, the parties shall be directed to present, and shall not fire before the word 'one' is given, or after the word ‘three;' and that the words 'one,' 'two,' three,' shall be given by Commodore Bainbridge." The fixing of the distance at eight yards instead of ten, the usual distance, was the work of Bainbridge, nor does it appear that in reaching a decision he was moved by Elliott who urged that the distance should be a short one owing to the defective vision of Barron. It is said that this reduction caused Decatur to reconsider his original intention not to return Barron's fire and to decide to wound him in some part not vital.
Decatur rose at an early hour on the morning of March 22, walked from his residence on Lafayette Square, down Pennsylvania Avenue to Beale's Hotel, on Capitol Hill, and there breakfasted with Bainbridge and Purser Samuel Hambleton, of the navy. At breakfast he spoke of signing his will, but deferred it since a third person would be needed and to call any one in for such purpose might arouse suspicion. "He was quite cheerful." Hambleton said, "and did not appear to have any desire to take the life of his antagonist; indeed he declared that he should be very sorry to do so." As soon as the meal was eaten the party started in a carriage toward the dueling-grounds. Of the subsequent events Hambleton wrote as follows:
“On arriving at a valley, half a mile short of Bladensburg, we halted, and found Captain Elliott standing in the road, on the brow of the hill beyond us. Commodore Bainbridge and myself walked up, and gave him the necessary information, when he returned to the village. In a short time Commodore Barron, Captain Elliott, his second, and Mr. Latimer arrived on the ground, which was measured (eight long strides), and marked by Commodore Bainbridge, nearly north and south, and the seconds proceeded to load. Commodore Bainbridge won the choice of stands, and his friend chose that to the north, being a few inches lower than the other.
"On taking their stands Commodore Bainbridge told them to observe that he should give the words quick, ‘Present, one, two, three'; and that they were not, at their peril, to fire before the word 'one' nor after the word 'three' was pronounced. Commodore Barron asked him if he had any objection to pronouncing the words as he intended to give them. He said that he had not, and did so.
"Commodore Barron, about this moment, observed to his antagonist, that he hoped, on meeting in another world they would be better friends than they had been in this; to which Commodore Decatur merely replied 'I have never been your enemy, sir.' Nothing further passed between them previous to firing. Soon after, Commodore Bainbridge cautioned them to be ready, crossed over to the left of his friend, and gave the words of command, precisely as before; and at the word two,' they both fired, so nearly together that but one report was heard.
"They both fell nearly at the same instant. Commodore Decatur was raised and supported a short distance, and sank down near where Commodore Barron lay; and both of them appeared to think themselves mortally wounded. Commodore Barron declared that everything had been conducted in the most honorable manner, and told Commodore Decatur that he forgave him from the bottom of his heart. Soon after this, a number of gentlemen coming up, I went after our carriage."
Four of the gentlemen mentioned by Purser Hambleton were Decatur's friends, Commodores John Rodgers and David Porter, his fellow-commissioners at the navy board, and Surgeons Bailey Washington and Samuel R. Trevett. From the accounts that Porter and Washington gave of the duel it would appear that the two wounded officers continued their conversation after Hambleton left the grounds for the carriage. Attorney-General Wirt, who, it would seem, talked with Porter and Washington, wrote of the duel as follows eleven days after it:
"Very different was the scene when he [Porter] got to the ground. Decatur was apparently shot dead; he revived after a while, and he and Barron held a parley as they lay on the ground. Doctor Washington, who got up just then, says that it reminded him of the closing scene of a tragedy—Hamlet and Laertes. Barron proposed that they should make friends before they met in Heaven (for he supposed they would both die immediately). Decatur said he had never been his enemy, that he freely forgave him his death, though he could not forgive those who had stimulated him to seek his life. One report says that Barron exclaimed, ‘Would to God you had said thus much yesterday.’ It is certain that the parley was a friendly one, and that they parted in peace. Decatur knew that he was to die, and his only sorrow was that he had not died in the service of his country."
Commodore Rodgers, with the aid of Surgeon Trevett, helped Decatur to his carriage; and supporting him in his arms had him driven to his home, on Lafayette Square, in Washington, which was reached at half past ten. Rodgers remained at his bedside until his death, about twelve hours later. He was one of the witnesses of Decatur's will which was signed a few hours before he died. Commodores Rodgers, Tingey, Porter, Macdonough, and Chauncey served as pallbearers at the unfortunate officer's funeral, one of the largest ever held at the capital.
Barron soon recovered from his wound and lived until 1851. For the last thirteen years of his life he was the senior officer of the navy. After the duel he served as the commandant of the Norfolk and of the Philadelphia navy yards, and as governor of the naval asylum at Philadelphia, but he never went to sea in command of a ship of war. Until the end he was a discredited officer, and to this day a stigma is attached to his name. At first, public sentiment condemned him severely for the part which he had played in the duel, but later it became more favorable to him. The verdict of history on the chief points involved in the complicated quarrel between the two officers may be in the end somewhat as follows: that Barron was severely, though probably not unjustly, punished for his offense in the fight between the Chesapeake and Leopard; that Barron's reason for not returning to the United States during the War of 1812, namely, that he had not sufficient means to pay his fare home, is not satisfactory; that the resistance of his fellow-captains to his restoration to duty in 1818-1820 was not justifiable; that in the events that led to his duel with Decatur he was the aggressor; and that Decatur's conduct and correspondence were well fitted to inflame and incite the passion of Barron for whom he showed a decided hostility.41
- *182o. Midshipman Cyrus A. Branch and __________.
Midshipman Branch was killed in a duel at Havana, on May 15. 1820.42
41Mackenzie, Stephen Decatur, 305-334, 308-441; Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 141-163; Kennedy, William Wirt, II, 105-106.
42Register of the Navy (MS., Navy Department Archives).
- 1821. __________ and __________.
The following concise note of this duel may be found in Niles' Register for March 31, 1821: "Shooting! Two officers of the marine corps have lately amused themselves by shooting at one another near Bladensburg, by which one of them received a ball in his thigh.43
- 1822. Midshipman Samuel B. Cocke and Mr. William Gibson.
Gibson was a clerk in the Treasury Department, at Washington, D. C., near which city the duel occurred. Gibson was unhurt, Cocke was shot through the lungs.44
- *1822. Midshipman Thomas B. Worthington and Midshipman Samuel Gaillard.
- 1822. Midshipman John D. Bird and __________.
- 1822. Surgeon Wilmot F. Rodgers and __________.
These three duels resulted from disputes among the younger officers of the Mediterranean squadron. They were chiefly promoted by Midshipman John S. Paine, who acted as a second in each of them. The meeting between Worthington and Gaillard took place at Port Mahon on February 4, 1822. Paine was the second of Gaillard. Worthington was killed.45
- *1824. Midshipman Edward A. Kerr and Midshipman Joshua Barney.
43Niles' Register, XX, 80.
44Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 126-127. 46
45Captains' Letters, 1822, I, No. 24.
These two young officers were attached to the U. S. S. Ontario, Master Commandant John B. Nicholson, one of the vessels of the Mediterranean squadron. The cause of their duel was Barney's popularity with his superior officers. On one occasion at Tangier, he alone of the midshipmen was invited by the lieutenants of the ship to go ashore. This partiality caused Kerr to refer to Barney as a "boot-lick" and "curry-favorer." Barney, on learning that Kerr had used these epithets, challenged him, and Kerr accepted the challenge. The seconds were Midshipmen James H. Rowan and John W. Hunt. Surgeon's Mate Robert P. Macomber and Midshipman William M. Glendy were also members of the dueling party. Glendy went as a friend of Hunt, who had engaged to fight Rowan immediately after the Barney-Kerr duel. Macomber was to render professional service in case he was needed. The duel was fought on November II, 1824, on the Neutral Ground, near Gibraltar, with pistols, at a distance of ten paces. Neither of the principals was hurt at the first fire. The duelists again took their places and the word was again given. Kerr fell mortally wounded in the chest and died instantly. It was asserted that after the first fire he wished to seek a reconciliation, but was prevented by Midshipman Glendy. This distressing fatality brought to an end the program of the party, the members of which were shortly arrested by a Spanish guard. Captain John Orde Creighton, the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean squadron, sent the five survivors home to report to the department. As a preventive of dueling, he recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that each officer on entering the service should be required to take a pledge that he would not be concerned in a duel.46
- (1824). Midshipman __________ and Midshipman __________.
About 1824 a duel was fought near Norfolk by two midshipmen of the U. S. S. Hornet, neither one of whom was injured. The duel was caused by one of the midshipmen throwing the contents of an ink bottle on the new vest of the other, who had persisted in sprinkling with water a letter which the angered youngster was writing.47
- 1825. Midshipman James B. Glentworth and Midshipman John W. Mooers.
These young officers fought a duel at Syracuse on January 14, 1825. Their seconds were Midshipmen Samuel Swartout and Henry W. Morris. The four offending midshipmen were dismissed from the Mediterranean squadron by its commander-in-chief, Commodore Thomas Macdonough.48
46Supplemental Volume of Letters (MS., Navy Department Archives), 1812-1890, Nos. 35-44.
47Southern Literary Messenger, 1842, pp. 768-769.
48Captains' Letters, 1825, I. No. 39.
- *1825. Midshipman C. F. Shoemaker and Midshipman __________.
Shoemaker was killed in a duel fought near Norfolk on September 23 (or 22), 1824. Niles' Register contains the following notice of this fatal meeting: "Two boys, midshipmen, attached to the Constellation frigate, amused themselves by shooting at one another, on the 22d ult., at Fort Nelson, by which one of them was killed, and the other has the pleasure to say that he has slain a brother!”49
- 1827. Midshipman Charles B. Childs and Midshipman John E. Holt.
This duel was fought in April, 1827, near Norfolk. Childs received a flesh wound in the right hip.50
- *1827. Surgeon's Mate T. J. Bradner and __________.
Bradner was killed in a duel on August 23, 1827.51
- 1829. Midshipman Alexander McClung and Midshipman Addison C. Hinton.
McClung and Hinton were officers of the U. S. S. Vandalia, one of the vessels of the Brazil squadron. McClung was a Kentuckian, and a "regular fire eater." He entered the service under the impression that it was necessary to fight his way through it, which he proceeded to do. Early one morning he and Hinton went ashore at Montevideo in the market-boat of the ship, and exchanged shots near the walls of that city. Hinton was wounded in the thumb of the right hand. McClung received a painful flesh wound in the right arm, which so disabled him that he was unable to fight a duel with Midshipman J. T. Williams, for which arrangements had been made. The wounds received by the young men would have been more serious had it not been for the fortunate circumstance that the powder used was obtained from the natives and was of an inferior quality. McClung was sent to the United States under a pledge that he would resign immediately upon his arrival, which he did—August, 1829.52
- *1830. Passed Midshipman Charles G. Hunter and Mr. William Miller, Jr.
49Niles' Register, XXIX, 79.
50Captains' Letters, 1827, II, No. 59.
51Navy Register (MS., Navy Department Archives).
52Sands, From Reefer to Rear-Admiral, 35-37.
Miller was a talented young lawyer, of Philadelphia. Neither he nor Hunter was connected with the quarrel that was the remote cause of the duel. Towards the close of the year 1829 Mr. H. Wharton Griffith made a remark at a dinner party, given at or near Philadelphia, that was considered offensive by Mr. Roger Dillon Drake, who resented it. This dispute, however, was amicably settled as a result of the intervention of the friends of the two men. Early in 1830 Dr. Alfred Drake, a brother of R. D. Drake, received an anonymous letter, reflecting, as he thought, upon his fiancé; and he charged Griffith with writing it. Griffith denied the charge, and shortly sent a challenge to Drake, who refused to accept it. Midshipman Charles H. Duryee now appeared on the scene as the friend of Griffith, and William Miller as the friend of Drake. Duryee denounced Drake and was challenged by him. Lieutenant Hampton Westcott now made his appearance as the friend of Duryee; and, having decided views as to the proprieties of dueling, he declared that Duryee should not meet Drake until Drake had met Griffith. On March 7, 1830, five gentlemen of New Brunswick, New Jersey, representing themselves as friends of Duryee, wrote a letter to Miller asking for a joint conference of the friends of Duryee and Drake, and Miller replied to it refusing to reopen the controversy. Midshipman Charles G. Hunter now appeared as the friend of Duryee. He visited Miller and obtained his promise to burn all the copies of the New Brunswick letter, as that communication was offensive to Duryee, notwithstanding his friends, or supposed friends, had written it. After Miller had burned all the copies that were thought to exist, the letter appeared in print, and Hunter, greatly offended, held Miller responsible for its publication, and challenged him. At first Miller refused to accept the challenge, but on being posted as a coward he agreed to meet his adversary. Hunter's second was Lieutenant Hampton Westcott; Miller's, Lieutenant Edmund Byrne. Several friends of the principals and a surgeon accompanied the dueling party. The meeting took place on Sunday, March 21, 1830, on the boundary between Delaware and Pennsylvania, near Chester, on the southern bank of Naaman's Creek. At the first fire Miller fell and expired almost instantly, the ball of his adversary having passed through his lungs. Hunter advanced, and as he looked at the prostrate form of Miller, said, "Gentlemen, I assure you that I had no enmity against that man. His blood must rest upon the heads of others who dragged him into this quarrel."
The duel caused much excitement at Philadelphia, and throughout the nation, and Hunter was denounced as a murderer. On March 27 the Pennsylvania House of Representatives resolved that the President should be asked to dismiss the surviving principal from the navy. On March 30 Secretary of the Navy Branch recommended that the names of Hunter, Byrne, Westcott, and Duryee should be erased from the list of officers of the navy, and on the next day President Jackson, responding to public sentiment, endorsed the recommendation with these words: "Let the above-named officers of the navy be stricken from the roll." A year or two later the four officers were reinstated, Westcott and Byrne being nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Hunter, during our war with Mexico, acting on his own responsibility, captured Alvarado in a gallant exploit, and won the sobriquet of "Alvarado Hunter.”53
53Scharf, History of Philadelphia, I, 626-627; Sabine, Duels and Duelling. 245; American Sentinel (Philadelphia), March 24, 30, 1830; Investigation of the Late Philadelphia Duel (1830).
- *1830. Lieutenant Joshua R. Sands and Surgeon H Willis Bassett.
Sands and Bassett were attached to the U. S. S. Vandalia, one of the vessels of the Brazil squadron. A quarrel between them arose at Montevideo. While the ship was at that port several of the wardroom officers, including Sands, became acquainted with Mr. Francis Markoe, a young lawyer from Philadelphia, whom they invited to live on board the Vandalia as their guest, thinking that thereby they could make their friend more comfortable and at the same time enjoy more frequently his society. Bassett alone objected to the arrangement, and he lost no opportunity to make spiteful remarks, which gave rise to some disagreeable scenes in the wardroom. On one such occasion, Sands ordered .the surgeon to his room. Finally Bassett sent Sands a challenge, which he refused, as he was the first lieutenant of the Vandalia. For the executive officer of a ship to fight one of his subordinate officers constituted a serious breach of discipline. Sands and Bassett now perferred charges against each other, and they were tried by a court-martial. Sands was acquitted, but Bassett was sentenced to be dismissed from the squadron and to report himself personally at Washington.
On his dismissal Bassett went ashore to Rio Janeiro, and again challenged Sands, urging that as he was now detached from the ship, Sands' previous objections were no longer tenable. The duel occurred on the morning of August 20, 1830, upon the beach at Praya Grande, Rio Janeiro, abreast the anchorage of the Vandalia. Sands' second was Assistant Surgeon William Johnson; and Bassett's, Acting Sailing Master H. E. V. Robinson. Sands twice tried to settle the difficulty amicably after reaching the grounds, but Bassett insisted that the duel should be fought. On exchanging shots, the lieutenant stood unhurt, but the surgeon had fallen. He soon expired, having received the ball of his adversary just above the heart. The surviving principal and the two seconds were ordered home to answer for their conduct to the department. Sands later became a rear-admiral of the navy.54
- 1830. Midshipman __________ and Midshipman __________.
- 1830. Midshipman __________ and Midshipman __________.
- 1830. Midshipman __________ and Midshipman __________.
These duels were fought in 1830, in the Mediterranean, by the Midshipmen of the U. S. S. Constellation. Schoolmaster E. C. Wines of that ship wrote of them as follows: "The first week in the year was also signalized by two duels (bloodless and honorable!), fought by midshipmen attached to the Constellation. 'Brutus is an honorable man; so are they all—all honorable men.' The midshipmen are fond of distinguishing themselves on the field of honor. Many duels were fought by them while the Constellation was up the Straits. They were generally without any disastrous consequences; but, when we were at Smyrna, one of the most desperate and shocking affairs of this kind took place of which I ever heard. The parties fought with ships' pistols, at the distance of only five paces from each other, under the engagement that, if the first fire missed, they should advance to a second, and place their pistols breast to breast. The pistol of only one of the combatants went off, and its ball passed through the thigh of the other, mangling the flesh and shattering the bone in a most dreadful manner. Five months afterwards, when we left the Mediterranean, the poor sufferer was still on his back, and if he ever recovers, will be a cripple for life.55
- 1831. Midshipman W. C. Spencer and Assistant Surgeon Euclid Borland.
54Sands, From Reefer to Rear-Admiral, 37-40; Captains' Letters, Aug., 1830, Nos. 57, 65; Niles' Register, XXXIX. 141.
55Wines, Two Years and a Half in the Navy, I, 153-154.
This duel occurred at Port Mahon, island of Minorca, in December, 1831. Both the principals and the seconds, Midshipmen John Weems and Robert J. Ross, were officers of the U. S. S John Adams, Master Commander P. F. Voorhees. There were no fatalities.56
- *1835. Midshipman John Banister and Midshipman William T. Smith.
Banister and Smith were officers of the U. S. S. Natchez, Master Commandant J. P. Zantzinger. A quarrel arose between Midshipman Smith and Midshipman Francis E. Baker, in which the latter made use of rough language. Banister espoused the cause of Baker. The duel took place on the beach at Rio Janeiro, on May 12, 1835. Banister was mortally wounded, and died on June 3.57
- 1835. Passed Midshipman William Leigh and Passed Midshipman John Weems.
Leigh and Weems were attached to the U. S. S. Peacock, bound in the summer of 1835 for the East Indies. While their ship was at Rio Janeiro the young men went ashore and fought a duel, in which Leigh was wounded in the calves of his legs.58
- *1835. Lieutenant David R. Stewart and Acting Lieutenant Thomas Turner.
Stewart and Turner were officers of the U. S. S. Delaware, Captain J. B. Nicholson, which vessel in 1835 was attached to the Mediterranean squadron. An altercation between the two lieutenants arose one evening when they were discussing the events of a trip ashore to Girgenti on the previous day. Turner remarked that Girgenti might be called the Botany Bay of Italy. Stewart denied the correctness of this assertion. One word led to another. Both became angry. Finally Turner, who had a grievance against Stewart, called him a liar and challenged him. Stewart's second was Lieutenant William H. Gardner, of the John Adams; Turner's, Lieutenant John H. Marshall, of the Delaware. Gardner tried to prevent the duel. It took place on August 5, 1835, on the seashore, about a mile from the Mole harbor at Girgenti, Stewart fell mortally wounded, and died on the next day. Both he and Turner were excellent officers.59
56Captains' Letters, Oct., 1832, Nos. 43-48.
57Captains' Letters, May, 1835, No. 55; June, 1835, No. 9; Niles' Register, XLIX, 51.
58Army and Navy Chronicle, 1835, p. 311. The report published in 1835 that three duels were fought at Rio Janeiro by the officers of the Peacock is erroneous.
59Captains' Letters, Aug., 1835, Nos. 89-93, 95-97; Niles' Register, XLIX, 140.
- 1835. Passed Midshipman C. C. Barton and Passed Midshipman H. P. T. Wood.
Wood was an officer of the U. S. S. Constitution, and Barton, of the U. S. S. Shark. Both were quarrelsome young men. The two seconds were Midshipmen James T. McDonough and William S. Ringgold. The latter tried to settle the difficulty amicably, but Wood insisted upon a fight. The duel occurred in the Mediterranean on December 1, 1835.60
- (1835). Midshipman William May and Midshipman _____ Baldwin.
In this duel Baldwin was wounded.61
- *(I835). Midshipman __________ and Midshipman __________.
60Captains' Letters, Dec., 1835, No. 6; March, 1836, No. 11.
61Benjamin, The United States Naval Academy, 97.
This duel was fought by two youngsters of the navy, intimate friends, in the southern part of the Malay peninsula. Their sleeping cots were close to each other, and one warm night they quarreled over the question of leaving open or closing the scuttle. The dispute was finally settled amicably and to the satisfaction of the young men by exchanging cots. A superior officer, however, who overheard their heated words, and who was exceedingly sensitive as to points of honor, made it plain to one of the midshipmen that if he wished to maintain the respect of his fellow-officers he would have to call out his friend who had spoken so harshly to him. On consulting with other officers he found that they were also of the opinion that nothing less than a duel would satisfy the proprieties, and that if he did not fight they would no longer associate with him. To avoid ostracism and to conform to the standards of honor imposed upon him by his elders, the young man challenged his friend, and a hostile meeting occurred on shore one evening at six o'clock. Of this meeting and its results he afterwards wrote as follows:
"Upon the signal being given we both fired. In an instant I felt as though I had been electrified, and finding myself wounded was about to lean upon my second's arm, when I perceived my opponent fall upon the sand. My own wound was in the fleshy part of the thigh; it did not prevent my running up to the prostrate figure of my old friend, whose face exhibited intense pain, and kneeling down by his side I implored his forgiveness, which he instantly granted. My despair at his fate knew no bounds; and accusing myself of his murder, I upbraided with the bitterest reproaches those who urged me to send the challenge. I thought no more of myself; all my care was given to the unfortunate victim of absurd notions of honor. With great difficulty we removed him to the boat and returned to the ship, when the surgeon minutely examined his wound and pronounced it dangerous. For weeks after, his cot was attended by his late opponent, whose greatest joy was to anticipate his wants; and the only consolation left him is the knowledge that his care preserved his life for a time. The result of this deed upon the prospects of a promising young officer was of a very melancholy description. From the nature of the wound (through the shoulder-joint), it became impossible for him to raise his arm for any serviceable purpose; his professional prospects were blasted forever, and he retired from the service—in which, had he been able to remain, there was every reasonable prospect of his becoming one of its ornaments—to die broken-hearted in his native land."62
- *1836. Midshipman Daniel M. Key and Midshipman John H. Sherburne.
Key was a son of Francis Scott Key, the author of the Star Spangled Banner, and a brother of Phillip Barton Key who was killed in Washington in 1859 by General Daniel E. Sickles; Sherburne was the son of John H. Sherburne, registrar of the Navy Department. Key was the aggressor. He and Sherburne had a meeting in a cornfield near Bladensburg, Maryland, on June 23, 1836. On the dueling ground Sherburne said "Mr. Key, I have no desire to kill you." "No matter," said Key, "I came to kill you." "Very well," replied Sherburne, "I will kill you." Key fell at the first fire, and expired almost immediately.63
- *1836. Midshipman Robert Emmet Hooe and Passed Assistant Surgeon George W. Palmer.
Hooe and Palmer were officers of the U. S. brig Porpoise, Lieutenant Commandant William Ramsay, which vessel in 1836 was engaged in surveying duties off the coast of Georgia. In this duel or fracas Hooe was the aggressor. He asserted that Palmer in conversation with him used the words, "courtesy as a gentleman ought to teach you better." Palmer said that Hooe had misconstrued his meaning, but confessed that he had used words similar to those quoted. Hooe challenged Palmer, who, apparently, refused to fight. A few weeks later the midshipman accidentally encountered the surgeon at a hospital on shore, at St. Simon, Georgia, where some of the sick men of the ship were quartered. A fight ensued in which Palmer used a pair of tongs and Hooe a pistol. Palmer was mortally wounded, and died on November 6, 1836, about ten days after the encounter.64
62Putnam's Monthly Magazine (1857), X, 256-257.
63Army and Navy Journal, Oct. 31, 1868; Niles' Register, L, 232, 330.
64Officers' Letters, Oct., 1836, Nos. 126, 127; Nov., 1836, No. 187.
- *1836. Midshipman "Talbot" and Midshipman "Bruster."
"Talbot" and "Bruster" are the fictitious names of two midshipmen of the U. S. S. Constitution, who fought a duel at Port Mahon in 1836. Midshipman John Newland Maffitt, of the same vessel, was the second of Talbot. A quarrel arose between Talbot and a young midshipman over the wearing of a cloak by the latter, which had been left in Talbot's charge. Talbot slapped the youngster for his offense, and Bruster became his champion. In the duel Bruster was mortally wounded. The commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean squadron sent Talbot home, and a little later he retired from the navy. During the Civil War he fought gallantly under Lee, and was killed at the battle of Antietam. Both he and Bruster were Virginians.65
- 1842. Midshipman A. C. Jackson and Midshipman F. P. Baldwin.
These young men were midshipmen on board the U. S. S. United States. They fought a duel at Rio Janeiro in February, 1842, with pocket pistols, at a distance of ten paces. Having fired several shots without hitting each other, they agreed to a reconciliation.66
- 1842. Midshipman James J. Waddell and Midshipman Archibald H. Waring.
Waddell was from North Carolina; and Waring, from South Carolina. They were attached to the U. S. receiving ship Pennsylvania, at Norfolk. Their differences were caused by a young lady. The meeting took place on the afternoon of May 27, 1842, on the grounds adjoining the naval hospital, at Norfolk. The principals were attended by Midshipmen Joel S. Kennard and J. P. McFarland. Waddell received a wound in the hip, which gave him a limp for the rest of his life. He afterwards became famous as the commander of the Confederate cruiser Shenandoah."67
65Maffit, John Newland Maffitt, 41-44.
66Franklin, Memories of a Rear-Admiral, 38-39.
67Captains' Letters, May, 1842, No. 163; Magazine of American History, July-Dec., 1891, P. 451.
- 1842. Midshipman Robert A. Knapp and Midshipman Alexander C. Rhind.
Knapp was a student of the naval school at Philadelphia. He left the school without the permission of its superintendent, Commodore James Barron, and, accompanied by Midshipman John Downes, Jr., as a second, and Midshipman John Guest as a friend, he went to Burlington, New Jersey, where he fought a duel with Rhind on the morning of October 22, 1842. Knapp was severely wounded just below the upper cheek bone.68
- (1842). Midshipman George H. Bier and Midshipman Albert G. Cook.
Bier and Cook were youngsters of the ship of the line Columbus, Captain W. C. Spencer, attached to the Mediterranean squadron. Early one morning, about the 1st of January, 1843, they went ashore at Genoa, and fought a duel outside of the city, in front of a country seat, beside the public road, having some twenty or thirty spectators. Bier fell wounded just below the knee, and could not be brought off to the ship until the next morning. The above account is Rear-Admiral Sands' version of the duel. Captain W. H. Parker says that the principals and seconds, all in a single carriage, sought a suitable dueling place; and not reaching the country as soon as they expected, decided to fight in the city. The duel, he says, was fought in one of the streets of Genoa. Mr. Park Benjamin states that the cause of the duel was a trifling disagreement respecting the Queen Dowager of Prussia, which arose during a visit that the Queen paid to the Columbus. He gives many of the details of the dispute and of the hostile meeting.69
- 1844. Passed Midshipman William E. Boudinot and Lieutenant Montgomery Hunt.
- 1844. Passed Midshipman William E. Boudinot and Lieutenant Montgomery Hunt.
Boudinot and Hunt were officers of the East India squadron. They fought two duels within a few days of each other. In the first, which took place on the island of Java, neither was hurt; but in the second, which was fought at Singapore, Hunt was wounded in the thigh at the second fire. The two duelists afterwards became warm friends. Hunt was lost in the Albany, in 1854. Boudinot retired from the navy in 1858. He has been credited with being the inventor of the "present signal service System.”70
68Captains' Letters, Oct., IR,r, No. 180.
69Sands, From Reefer to Rear-Admiral, 148; Parker Recollections of a Naval Officer, 17; Benjamin, The United States Naval Academy, 98-100.
70Magazine of American History, July-Dec., 1891, p. 451.
- 1845. Lieutenant William D. Hurst and Passed Midshipman J. B. Creighton.
These men were officers of the U. S. S. Truxtun, which vessel in 1845 was attached to the African squadron, then commanded by Commodore M. C. Perry. The duel was caused by a disagreement over some matter of duty on shipboard. Perry blamed Hurst, who was the executive officer of the Truxtun, and who invited a challenge from his subordinate officer. The seconds were Acting Master C. S. McDonough and Midshipman William T. Truxtun. The duel occurred at sunrise on November 17, 1845, at West Bay, Princes Island, on the west coast of Africa. A single pistol shot was exchanged. Hurst was wounded in both legs, the principal bone of the left leg being badly fractured. Creighton was uninjured.71
- 1848. Midshipman Walter W. Queen and Midshipman Byrd W. Stevenson
Queen and Stevenson, and one of the seconds, Midshipman James L. Johnston, were students of the naval school at Annapolis. The other second was a civilian. The naval members of the dueling party left the supper table in advance of their classmates, and repaired to the grounds decided upon. These were "near the battery, within the walls of the school yard." Queen was severely wounded a little above the hip joint. He was carried to his room and Dr. John A. Lockwood was sent for. The midshipmen intended to represent Queen's injury as the result of an accident; the doctor, however, slyly ascertained the true cause of it. While he was silently probing the wound, he suddenly said: "What distance?" "Ten paces," replied two or three middies without stopping to think. Queen, Stevenson, and Johnston were dismissed from the navy by President Polk. Subsequently the two principals were reinstated. The commission of the offense on the grounds of the school, which were under naval government, and within a few hundred yards of the office and residence of Superintendent G. P. Upshur, greatly mortified that worthy officer.72
- 1848. Midshipman Francis G. Dallas and Midshipman John Gale.
71African Squadron Letters (MS., Navy Department Archives), 1843- 1845, pp. 418-419.
72Naval Academy Letters (MS., Navy Department Archives), 1848, Nos. 30-46; Parker, Recollections of a Naval Officer, 119.
Dallas was a student of the naval school, at Annapolis. Gale had been a student at the school, but had been expelled by a court-martial. The quarrel between the two young men was of long standing. The immediate cause of the duel was the belief of Dallas, for which he had good grounds, that Gale was prejudicing his sweetheart against him, telling her that he was intemperate and was unpopular with his fellow officers. Dallas absented himself from the school without the permission of the superintendent, and repaired to the dueling grounds at Bladensburg, Maryland. His second had no connection with the naval school. Gale's second was Midshipman C. C. Hunter, a student at Annapolis. The duel took place on June 7, 1848. Dallas was wounded, though not seriously. President Polk dismissed the three midshipmen from the navy. Later Dallas and Hunter were reinstated?73
- 1849. Passed Midshipman J. P. Jones and Mr. James Hope.
This duel was fought at Old Point Comfort, Virginia. Hope, it seems, was not a naval officer. Both of the principals were wounded, Hope dangerously. Jones, who was a grandson of Commodore James Barron, used the pistol with which his grandfather killed Decatur.74
- (1850). Lieutenant Charles W. Flusser and __________.
It is said that Flusser fought a duel at Rio Janeiro, and that both he and his antagonist were wounded. It is known that he once had a hostile meeting.75
73Naval Academy Letters, 1848, Nos. 44, 67, 68.
74Sabine, Duels and Duelling, 256; Baltimore Sun, May 2, 1849.
75Flusser Papers (MS., Navy Department Library), Flusser to his mother, April 28, 1862.