- 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."