Colonial Era Dueling

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    Dueling used to be (and theoretically is still) a way to defend ones honor by being willing to sacrifice death. Two duelers would stand back to back, walk a set number of paces, turn, and shoot. There could be many variations to the basic rules, and before pistols, swords were used.

    A famous colonial era duel was between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. What makes this increasingly dramatic is that Alexander Hamilton was the Secretary of the Treasury, and Aaron Burr was the Vice President. It would be unheard of today for figures at those levels would duel, yet on July 11th, 1804, they dueled and Hamilton was mortally wounded.

    There were many ways to solve disputes in colonial America, if the situation was significant enough, would you choose to be involved in a duel?

    Keith Alexander

    Given the propensity of officers in the British Army to duel I have been surprised to find no mentions of this in the books I have read. There were a number of famous duellists in this period “Humanity Dick” and “Fighting Fitzgerald” being just two. Does anyone know of any British Army duels in the AWI?


    Hi Keith,

    Interesting thought, I haven’t pondered it much before. I’m not familiar with many others, though from light reading ( it appears that it might have been frowned upon, and thus not as common as might be expected. (I would this it might have been a relatively usual way to settle disputes at the time, though it seems that might not be the case).

    Also, I’ve read that George Washington dissuaded the practice, feeling it would lead to diminished ranks in leadership (from being shot, which would hurt the war effort.

    “Humanity Dick” was quite an active dueler. I’d be curious too if anyone knows more about this


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