Early on the morning of 22 March 1820, two naval officers faced one another on a small field outside of Bladensburg, just over the Maryland line from the District of Columbia. In a calm voice one of the men addressed the other across the short stretch of grass that separated them, saying "If we meet in another world, let us hope that we may be better friends."
"I was never your enemy," the other quickly replied.
With these seemingly conciliatory words still hanging in the morning air, the two men raised their long-barreled pistols and took aim. How they came to this moment is a long, complicated, and tragic story, but it ended in an instant when the sharp crack of gunfire left both men crumpled on the dew-covered grass.