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Dueling: The Interminable Continuation

More nuggets:

- Abraham Lincoln almost fought a duel once. He wrote an anonymous letter protesting Illinois tax policy, and the law's sponsor found out it was him and demanded satisfaction. Abe didn't take the thing very seriously, choosing globs of cow dung as his weapon, but eventually went through with it with sabers as the weapon of choice. Just before the showdown, though, his second and that of his opponent talked them out of it. (Jefferson and Washington were two notable exceptions to the rule of the duel by early presidents: George was too much respected and feared, and Jefferson simply ignored all challenges -- of which he received plenty -- because he found the whole thing rather silly.)

- Denver, Colorado was named after a territorial governor who first came to prominence after killing a newspaper editor in a duel over whether or not aid should be send to the trapped Donner Party. Mr. Denver, for the record, was agin' it, but the principals eventually took matters into their own hands.

- For many years, the U.S. capitol of dueling was New Orleans, Louisiana. One of its most famous cemeteries, St. Vincent De Paul, was founded to house the losers of the many duels fought there. Duels to the death were recorded over such issues as whether or not an opera singer should be allowed an encore, whether or not a tax assessor smelled bad, and how best to wear a scarf. Two doctors came to blows over the corpse of a patient whose treatment while living they had disagreed upon, and in the subsequent duel, both were killed; this set off a wave of duels between doctors, the the degree that medical care became hard to come by in the city for several months. (The governor considered outlawing duels for this reason, but was convinced not to be so rash.) During the first half of the 19th century, The Oaks -- NOLA's premier dueling ground -- would often see as many as ten duels on a Saturday.

- Combatants had the option of declaring the matter settled if they or their opponents were wounded, but sometimes they would wait until everyone was healed up and immediately demand another duel until one or the other was dead.

- I have thus far encountered only one story (besides those of Jefferson and Lincoln) of someone acting sensibly in a duel. A certain Judge Dooly was drawn in, first as a messenger and then as a second, between a Georgia congressman named Crawford and his rival, Congressman Clark. Eventually the seconds and friends of the two principals began fighting duels, and Dooly found himself challenged by a one-legged acquaintance of Crawford's. On the day of the duel, Dooly began to make all sorts of bizarre conditions on the contest, to which Crawford -- there as the one-legged man's second -- responded that it didn't sound like Dooly wanted to fight at all. Dooly said that yes, that was right, he didn't want to.

Crawford replied, "Well, sir, you shall fill a column in the newspapers in no enviable light." (It was common practice to post a newspaper ad calling someone a coward if they refused to duel.)

"Mr. Crawford," Judge Dooly said, "I assure you I would rather fill two newspapers than one coffin."



Aug. 10th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
This stuff is so great. I wrote about a couple of duels for mental_floss not too long ago...one of them involved a couple of dude's who were dueling over the right to court a certain woman. Dueling being outlawed in England, they had to take the fight abroad...yada yada yada...one dude kills the other, comes back home, and finds out that the girl has married a third guy in the meantime.

The other was another British duel between two women. The cause: One woman insinuated that the other was lying about her age.

Jefferson simply ignored all challenges -- of which he received plenty -- because he found the whole thing rather silly

Oh, Jefferson. I love that arrogant bastard. :)
Aug. 10th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
I saw a fringe play called Duel of Ages a few weeks ago; mostly a chance for people to show off swordplay. My favourite bit was the last duel in Canada.

Wikipedia describes it thusly:

1873: The last duel in Canada occurred in August 1873, in a field near St. John's, Newfoundland (which was not Canadian territory at the time). The duellists, Mr. Dooley and Mr. Healey, once friends, had fallen in love with the same young lady, and had quarrelled bitterly over her. One challenged the other to a duel, and they quickly arranged a time and place. No one else was present that morning except the two men's seconds. Dooley and Healey were determined to proceed in the 'honourable' way, but as they stood back-to-back with their pistols raised, they must have questioned what they were doing. Nerves gave way to terror as they slowly began pacing away from each other. When they had counted off the standard ten yards, they turned and fired. Dooley hit the ground immediately. Healey, believing he had killed Dooley, was seized with horror. But Dooley had merely fainted; the seconds confessed they had so feared the outcome that they loaded the pistols with blanks. Although this was a serious breach of duelling etiquette, both opponents gratefully agreed that honour had indeed been satisfied.
Aug. 10th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)
I wonder if one of the reasons why, these days, we seem to see so many more cases of certain types of mental illness -- manic depression, say -- than in centuries past is not so much because of the removal of some of the related social stigma, or improvements in diagnostic techniques, but simply because so many more of the suicidally loony people manage to survive than they used to.
Aug. 10th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
Thoughts along these same lines came to me while reading these posts, too.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 10th, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC)
Following that line, legal duels = no more 4chan
powerofthetriforce735: naruto is gay ass lame and vegeta could totally take his fake ninja azz in a fight
thisissparta4681:f u i demand satisfactone
thisissparta4681: /slaps with limited edition Final Fantasy VII glove
thisissparta4681:lol pistols @ dawn homo
powerofthetriforce735:rofl who is ur 2nd, yr boyfriend who is gay, hahahaa
powerofthetriforce735:i bet he holds ur pistol on a pink satin pillow
thisissparta4681:fu fu fufu
powerofthetriforce735:and by pistol i mean penis
thisissparta4681:stfu my 2nd is motoko from ghost in the shell
powerofthetriforce735:big woop my 2nd is all the womens in gunsmith cats
powerofthetriforce735:u = pwned
thisissparta4681:fu i bet ur a nigger jew fag go die
Aug. 10th, 2007 09:46 pm (UTC)
I seem to recall a film where Abe Lincoln Indian Leg Wrastled a dude over a matter of something seemingly trivial. Now, if Indian Leg Wrastling ain't classified as dueling, well sir, I jess don wanna participate.
Aug. 11th, 2007 01:30 pm (UTC)
There's also a decent section on dueling in Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds (in addition to the Tulipomania, the South Sea Bubble, the Crusades and other crazy shit).


flavored with age
Gun-totin', Chronic-smokin' Hearse Initiator
Ludic Log


Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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