List of duels

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The following is a list of famous duels.

Ilya Repin‘s picture of the duel from Eugene Onegin




[edit] Historical duels

[edit] American duels

Main article: Burr-Hamilton duel
  • May 30, 1806: Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson; Dickinson was killed, Jackson wounded.
  • August 12, 1817: Thomas Hart Benton (senator) and Charles Lucas (Missouri) on Bloody Island (Mississippi); Attorneys on opposite sides of a court battle – Lucas challenged Benton’s right to vote and Benton accused Lucas of being a “puppy”; Lucas was shot in the throat and Benton shot in the leg; Benton released Lucas from his obligation.
  • September 27, 1817: Benton and Lucas rematch on Bloody Island; Benton challenged Lucas after Lucas said the first fight at 30 feet (9.1 m) was unfair because Benton was a better shot. Benton killed Lucas at nine feet and was unhurt.
  • March 22, 1820: Stephen Decatur and James Barron; Decatur was killed.
  • June 30, 1823 Joshua Barton and Thomas C. Rector on Bloody Island (Mississippi River); Rector was critical of Barton’s brother, Senator David Barton‘s blocking the appointment of Rector’s brother William Rector to General Surveyor position. Barton was killed and Rector unhurt.
  • April 26, 1826 Henry Clay and John Randolph of Roanoke; at Pimmit Run, Virginia; Both unhurt.[1]
  • August 26, 1831: Thomas Biddle and Spencer Darwin Pettis on Bloody Island (Mississippi River); Biddle challenged Pettis for comments about Biddle’s brother who was president of the United States bank. Both died after firing from five feet.
  • September 25, 1832: James Westcott and Thomas Baltzell; Baltzell unhurt, Westcott injured but survived to become a U.S. Senator.[2]
  • February 24, 1838: Kentucky Representative William Jordan Graves killed Maine Representative Jonathan Cilley in a pistol duel. Congress then passed a law making it illegal to issue or accept duel challenge in Washington, DC.[3]
  • September 22, 1842: Future President Abraham Lincoln, at the time an Illinois state legislator, accepted a challenge to a duel by state auditor James Shields. Lincoln apparently had published an inflammatory letter in a Springfield, Illinois, newspaper, the Sangamon Journal, that poked fun at the Illinois State Auditor—Shields. Taking offense, Shields demanded “satisfaction” and the incident escalated with the two parties meeting on a Missouri island called Sunflower Island, near Alton, Illinois, to participate in a duel. Just prior to engaging in combat, the two participants’ seconds intervened and were able to convince the two men to cease hostilities, on the grounds that Lincoln had not written the letters.
  • July 26, 1847: Albert Pike and John Selden Roane; declared a draw, no injuries.
  • June 1, 1853: U.S. Senator William McKendree Gwin and U.S. Congressman J.W. McCorkle, no injuries.
  • August 26, 1856: Benjamin Gratz Brown and Thomas C. Reynolds on Bloody Island (Mississippi River); In what would be called the “Duel of the Governors” Brown was then the abolitionist editor of the St. Louis Democrat and Reynolds a pro-slavery St. Louis district attorney fought with Brown being shot in the leg and limping for the rest of his life while Reynolds was unhurt. Brown would become a Missouri Governor and Reynolds would become a Confederate Governor of Missouri.
  • September 13, 1859: U.S. Senator David C. Broderick and David S. Terry, formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California; Broderick was killed.

[edit] Antiquity

[edit] Asian duels

  • During the Three Kingdoms period of China, in 195 [4] warlord Sun Ce encountered an enemy general named Taishi Ci by accident when both of them were scouting the other. The two fought until the arrival of their men compelled them to break off. The result was that Sun Ce seized Taishi Ci’s weapon while Taishi Ci grabbed Sun Ce’s helmet. There was however no record that any one of them was injured in this duel. This is one of the few examples of two generals dueling during a time of war.
  • During the Sengoku period of Japan, a daimyo called Uesugi Kenshin fought against a rival of his named Takeda Shingen. During one of their battles, Uesegi personally led a raiding party against the Takeda camp. Breaking through, Kenshin attacked Shingen, who fought back using his iron war fan. Uesegi was forced to retreat when reinforcements didn’t arrive.
  • In 1593 Siamese King Naresuan slew Burmese Crown Prince Minchit Sra, in a duel on the back of war elephants.
  • On April 14, 1612 the famous Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi dueled his rival Sasaki Kojiro on the island of Funajima. Musashi arrived late and unkempt to the appointed place. Musashi killed Sasaki with a bokken or wooden sword. He fashioned the bokken out of a boat oar on his way to the island. Sasaki’s weapon of choice was the nodachi, a long sword.
  • 1906: In Istanbul, during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, a duel between a young Kurdish aristocrat named Abdulrazzak Bedirkhan and the chief of police of the city Ridvan Pasha occurred. The police chief was killed and subsequently the entire Bedirkhan family was exiled.

[edit] Australian duels

  • 1801: Captain John Macarthur duelled with William Paterson, shooting him in the shoulder. Macarthur was sent back to England to be court Martialled.
  • 1851: Major Sir Thomas Mitchell confronted Sir Stuart Alexander Donaldson in Sydney. Mitchell issued the challenge because Donaldson had publicly criticised the cost of the Surveyor General’s Department. Both duellists missed.

[edit] British and Irish duels

[edit] Canadian duels

  • 1800: John White, 39, Upper Canada’s first lawyer and a founder of the law society, was fatally shot on January 3, 1800 by a government official named John Small, who challenged him to the duel. White was alleged to have gossiped at a Christmas party that Mrs. Small was once the mistress of the Duke of Berkeley in England, who’d tired of her and paid Small to marry her and take her to the colonies.
  • 1817: John Ridout, 18, was shot dead on July 12, 1817 at the corner of what is now Bay St. and Grosvenor St. in Toronto by Samuel Peters Jarvis, 25. The reason for the duel was unclear. On the count of two, the nervous Ridout discharged his pistol early, missing Jarvis by a wide margin. Ridout’s second, James Small (whose father survived the only other duel in York) and Jarvis’ second, Henry John Boulton insisted that Jarvis be allowed to make his shot. Ridout protested loudly and asked for another pistol, but Small and Boulton were adamant that the strict code of duelling must be observed. Jarvis shot and killed Ridout instantly. Jarvis was pardoned by the courts, even though he had shot an unarmed man.
  • 1819: What historians have called “The Most Ferocious Duel” in Canadian history took place on April 11, 1819, at Windmill Point near the Lachine Canal. The opponents were William Caldwell, a doctor at the Montreal General Hospital, and Michael O’Sullivan, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada. The dispute arose when Caldwell accused O’Sullivan of lacking courage. The two opponents exchanged fire an unheard-of five times. O’Sullivan was wounded twice in the process, and in the final volley, he took a bullet to the chest and hit the ground. Caldwell’s arm was shattered by a shot; a hole in his collar proved he narrowly missed being shot in the neck. Amazingly, neither participant died during the fight, although both took a long time to recover. O’Sullivan went on to become Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench in Montreal, and when he died in 1839, an autopsy revealed a bullet still lodged against the middle of his spine.
  • 1826: Rudkin versus Philpot a duel fought in Newfoundland at St. John’s who met at West’s Farm near Brine’s Tavern at the foot of Robinson’s Hill, adjacent to Brine’s River to settle their seemingly long standing differences that was further exacerbated by the love of an Irish colleen who lived in a cottage near Quidi Vidi and a game of cards that ended in an argument over the ownership of the pot.
  • 1833: The last fatal duel in Canada was fought in Perth, Ontario on June 13, 1833. Two law students and former friends, John Wilson and Robert Lyon, quarrelled over remarks Lyon made about a local schoolteacher, Elizabeth Hughes. Lyon was killed in the second exchange of shots on a rain-soaked field. Wilson was acquitted of murder, eventually married Miss Hughes, became a Member of Parliament, and later a judge.
  • 1836: Two duelling politicians from Lower Canada were lucky to have sensible seconds. Clément-Charles Sabrevois de Bleury, a member of the Lower Canadian Legislative Assembly, insulted fellow politician Charles-Ovide Perreault. Perreault then struck de Bleury, and a duel was set. Both men were determined to settle the matter with pistols, but their seconds came up with a unique solution. The two foes would clasp hands and de Bleury would say, “I am sorry to have insulted you” while at the same time Perreault would say, “I am sorry to have struck you.” They would then reply in unison, “I accept your apology.” The tactic worked, and the situation was resolved without injury.
  • 1837: William Collis Meredith and James Scott. On Monday, 9 August 1837, at eight o’clock in the evening, Meredith (who had articled under the previously mentioned Clement-Charles Sabrevois de Bleury from 1831 to 1833) and Scott (no stranger to duels) stepped out to face one another on the slopes of Mount Royal, behind Montreal. Earlier that day, following a dispute over legal costs, Meredith had challenged Scott. Meredith chose James M. Blackwood to second him, whilst Scott’s choice was Louis-Fereol Pelletier. The pistols used were Meredith’s which he had bought in London, on a previous trip to England. On the first exchange Scott took a bullet high up in his thigh, and the duel was called to a stop. The bullet lodged itself in Scott’s thigh bone in such a way that it could not be removed by doctors, which caused him great discomfort for the rest of his days. Ironically for Scott, this was exactly where he had shot Sweeney Campbell in a duel when they were students. In the early 1850’s (Scott died in 1852), when both the adversaries had become judges, one of the sights then to see was Meredith helping his brother judge up the steep Court House steps, a result of the lameness in his leg that had remained with Scott since their encounter. Meredith was later knighted and went on to serve as Chief Justice of the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec.
  • 1840: Joseph Howe was called out by a member of Nova Scotian high society for his populist writing. When his opponent fired first and missed, Howe fired his shot in the air and won the right to refuse future challenges.
  • 1873: The last duel in what is now 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.

[edit] French duels

  • 27 December 1386: Last legal judicial duel in France fought between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris over charges of rape Carrouges brought against Le Gris on behalf of his wife. After a lengthy trial and fight, Carrouges killed his opponent, thus “proving” his charges.
  • July 10, 1547: Guy Chabot de Jarnac, in a judicial duel with Francois de Vivonne de la Châtaigneraie, a favourite of the King and one of France’s greatest swordsmen. Jarnac fooled La Châtaigneraie with a feint and hit him with a slash to the hamstrings. His dignity offended, La Châtaigneraie refused medical aid, and died. This both ended the practice of trial by combat in France, and created the myth of “Le Coup de Jarnac” – a legendary strike that supposedly allowed amateurs to defeat masters.
  • 27 April 1578: Duel of the Mignons claims the lives of two favorites of Henry III of France and two favorites of Henry I, Duke of Guise.
  • 1641: Kenelm Digby and a French nobleman named Mont le Ros. Digby, a founding member of the Royal Society, was attending a banquet in France when the Frenchman insulted King Charles I of England and Digby challenged him to a duel. Digby wrote that he “.. run his rapier into the French Lord’s breast until it came out of his throat again”; Mont le Ros fell dead.
  • 1830: French writer Sainte-Beuve and one of the owners of Le Globe newspaper, Paul-François Dubois, fought a duel under a heavy rain. Sainte-Beuve held his umbrella during the duel claiming that he did not mind dying but that he would not get wet.
  • 1832: Évariste Galois and (possibly) Pescheux d’Herbinville; Évariste Galois, the French mathematician, died of his wounds at the age of twenty.
  • 23 February 1870: Édouard Manet and Louis Edmond Duranty; Duranty, an art critic and friend of Manet, had written only the briefest of commentary on two works of art that Manet had entered for exhibition. The frustrated Manet collared Duranty at the Café Guerbois and slapped him. Duranty’s demands for an apology were refused and so the men fought a duel with swords in the forest of Saint-Germain three days later on the 23rd. Émile Zola acted as Manet’s second and Paul Alexis acted for Duranty. After Duranty received a wound above the right breast the seconds stepped in and declared that honour had been satisfied. The men remained friends despite the encounter.
  • 1888: General George Boulanger and Charles Floquet (Prime Minister of the French Republic); the General was wounded in the throat but survived.
  • 5 February 1897: Marcel Proust fought journalist Jean Lorrain, after Lorrain published an excoriating review of Proust’s first book “Pleasures and Days” and hinted that Proust was having an affair with Madeleine Lemaire’s son, Lucien. Proust and Lorrain exchanged shots at 25 paces. Proust fired first, his bullet hitting the ground by Lorrain’s foot. Lorrain’s shot missed, and the seconds agreed that honor had been satisfied.[9]

[edit] Slavonic duels

[edit] Russian duels

[edit] Spanish Duels

  • 1569 Miguel de Cervantes bated but didn’t kill Antonio Sigura.
  • 1611 holy Thursday, Francisco de Quevedo killed a man with his sword for hitting a lady in a church.
  • 12 of March 1870 Duel between Antonio de Orleans, duke of Montparse and Enrique de Borbón Duke of Seville. Both were brothers-in-law of Isabel II. Montparsie killed Enrique de Borbón.
  • February 1904 Vicente Blasco Ibáñez with a policeman. Vicente was hurt.

[edit] South American Duels

  • 1814: Buenos Aires, Argentina. Colonel Luis Carrera, brother of Chilean revolutionary General José Miguel Carrera, killed Colonel Juan Mackenna in duel. The reason was the sense of honour that the Carreras had, as Mackenna disrespected the family name many times. This was the second time that both duellists met, and the third time that Mackenna was challenged in duel by a Carrera (the first time it was by Luis Carrera himself, while the second time it was by his brother, Juan José Carrera, the oldest of the brothers and noticeable by his strength. Yet Mackenna was able to run away from the duels both times). They duelled at night, in the first round, Mackenna shot at his head, but missed and blew Carrera’s hat away, in the second round, Carrera was able to hit Mackenna in his hand, blowing his thumb away and piercing a hole in his throat, thus killing Mackenna. Carrera was arrested the next day, particularly because Mackenna was part of a secret society called Lautaro Lodge, which had the control of the government at the time.
  • 1952: Chile. Then-senator Salvador Allende and his colleague Raúl Rettig (later president of Chile and head of a commission that investigated human rights violations committed during the 1973–1990 military rule in Chile, respectively), agreed to fire one shot on each other and both failed.[11] At that time duelling was already illegal in Chile.

[edit] Swiss duels

[edit] Proposed duels

  • In the summer of 30 BC Mark Antony challenged Octavian to a duel, after Octavian defeated Antony at the battle of Actium the year before and threatened to take Alexandria. Octavian refused the challenge.
  • In 1943 German field marshal Günther von Kluge challenged general Heinz Guderian to a duel with pistols, after several confrontations during the preparations for the Battle of Kursk. Although Guderian accepted, the duel did not happen because Hitler refused to give his permission.
  • In October 2002, four months before the US invasion of Iraq, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan suggested U.S. President George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein settle their difference in a duel.[12] He reasoned this would not only serve as an alternative to a war that was certain to damage Iraq’s infrastructure,[13] but that it would also reduce the suffering of the Iraqi and American peoples. Ramadan’s offer included the possibility that a group of US officials would face off with a group of Iraqi officials of same or similar rank (President v. President, Vice President v. Vice President, etc.). Ramadan proposed that the duel be held in a neutral land, with each party using the same weapons, and with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan presiding as the supervisor. On behalf of President Bush, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer declined the offer.
  • During the 2004 Republican National Convention, Georgia Senator Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat who supported the reelection of President Bush, angrily retorted to political commentator Chris Matthews that he wished he lived in a time when he could challenge someone to a duel. The satellite connection between the two was bad, and Senator Miller erroneously heard Matthews insult Southern voters.

[edit] Duels in legend and mythology

Notable examples of single combat in legend and mythology

[edit] Duels in fiction

  • Westley (Dread Pirate Roberts) versus Iñigo Montoya: Inigo loses but survives.
  • Inigo Montoya versus Count Rugen: Inigo avenges his father’s death.
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, père; D’Artagnan commits himself to fight three consecutive duels with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis
  • Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand; Cyrano is famous for his dueling.
  • The Years Between, four-book series by Paul Féval, fils; and M Lassez: – 1928 features the on-going conflict between the fiery Cyrano de Bergerac and D’Artagnan the ageing legend. Three times they fight; various interruptions prevent either Gascon from receiving satisfaction.
  • Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos; Valmont versus Danceny, Valmont allows himself to be killed
  • A Sentimental Education by Flaubert
  • The Duel (also known as The Point of Honor: A Military Tale) by Joseph Conrad; Two officers of Napoleon Bonaparte‘s army fight a number of duels over many years. The story was transferred to the screen by Ridley Scott as The Duellists.
  • The Duel, a philosophic novella by Anton Chekhov
  • War and Peace: Pierre and Dolokhov duel. Leo Tolstoy himself barely escaped duels with fellow writers Ivan Turgenev and Nikolai Nekrasov.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen has an “offstage” duel between Colonel Brandon and Mr. Willoughby over the seduction of Colonel Brandon’s adopted daughter.
  • Fathers and Sons: Kirsanov and Bazarov duel is a culminating point of the novel; Turgenev also wrote a short story called Duellist.
  • Vladimir Nabokov‘s Ada, or Ardour.
  • HMS Surprise by Patrick O’Brian; Stephen Maturin fights and kills Richard Canning over Diana Villers. Based on the Ashton–Allen duel?
  • Mr. Midshipman Hornblower in the Horatio Hornblower series by C. S. Forester; Horatio Hornblower duels Jack Simpson
  • In Ridicule, a French film directed by Patrice Leconte, protagonist Gregoire Ponceludon kills one of King Louis XVI’s officers in a pistol duel.
  • The Highlander series features numerous duels between immortal warriors destined to fight. In the first film, a humorous duel occurs where a very drunk immortal fences with a sober man, is repeatedly run through but keeps getting back up to fight.
  • In Tombstone, Doc Holliday stands in for his friend Wyatt Earp in a duel with Johnny Ringo. This is based on one of several explanations for the unusual circumstances surrounding Ringo’s death.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, The Count of Monte Cristo (Edmond Dantès) plans a duel with Viscount Albert Mondego, de Morcerf. However, no duel is ever fought, and Mondego apologizes. Monte Cristo also almost duels Mondego’s father, the Count Fernand Mondego de Morcerf, but he learns Monte Cristo’s true identity and bows out. There was also a recollection of Noitier de Villefort of him engaging with a duel and killing his opponent. He told the account to Franz d’Epinay, the son of the one Noitier killed. He did this in order to break up the plans of marriage to her granddaughter, Valentine.
  • Libertine, a Baroque-style music video by Mylene Farmer starts with a duel between the singer and a man, ending in the man’s death.
  • The Skulls, a 2000 movie, culminates in a duel between the two main characters, though neither fires on the other and the fight is eventually interrupted by the father of one of the participants.
  • Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald; McKisco vs Barban.
  • Doctor Who, “The Christmas Invasion“: The Doctor duels with the Sycorax Leader in a fight for Planet Earth.
  • Barry Lyndon, the 1975 movie by Stanley Kubrick includes many duels. It begins with a duel in which Barry’s father is mortally shot by an unknown man. Years later Barry duels Captain Quin for Nora. The movie culminates in a duel with Barry’s stepson, Lord Bullingdon. This last duel is not in the original novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray.
  • In the novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, a number of the students at Hogwarts attend a duelling lesson conducted by teachers Gilderoy Lockhart and Severus Snape. It was during a supervised practice duel with Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter‘s nature as a parselmouth was exposed.
  • Dark Shadows: in the 1795 storyline, Barnabas Collins had fought a duel against Jeremiah Collins in a duel after he learned he married his love Josette du Pres thanks to Angelique‘s spell, and the duel caused Jeremiah’s death.
  • In The Devils by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Nikolay Stavrogin duels Gaganov over a family insult. During the duel, Stavrogin intentionally fires into the air, which infuriates Gaganov.
  • In Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Prince Hamlet fights a duel with Laertes. The weapons are not supposed to be fatal, but Laertes’ sword is sharp, and the tip is poisoned. Both men are killed.
  • In Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman is forced into fighting a duel after a brief affair with a fellow officer’s lover. Flashman gains a free shot after promising a large sum of money to the pistol loader to give his opponent blanks in his gun, but rather than attempt to kill his opponent, instead delopes and accidentally shoots the top off a bottle thirty yards away, an action that gives him instant fame and the respect of Duke of Wellington. In his next novel Royal Flash Flashman is kidnapped by Otto Von Bismark and is forced to acquire a pair of duelling scars administered by the duelmaster De Gautet. In disgust at having his face sliced like paper Flashman lunges De Gautet and cuts his abdomen.
  • In the Simpsons episode “E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)“, Homer, imitating Zorro, inadvertently challenges a gun-toting Southern colonel to a duel. Initially avoiding the duel by running to the country (and inventing ‘Tomacco’), the eventual duel results in Homer being shot in the arm (subsequently refusing hospitalisation for pie).
  • In the Blackadder the Third episode “Duel and Duality“, the Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie) is challenged to a duel by the Duke of Wellington (Stephen Fry). Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) assumes his place but is saved in the eventual duel (using cannon) by a cigarette case. The Prince, in Blackadder’s clothing, is shot dead by the Duke for insolence with Blackadder assuming the role of Prince (and later King).
  • In Thomas Mann‘s The Magic Mountain, the long-standing personal and philosophical differences between Naptha and Settembrini eventually result in a pistol duel; when Settembrini delopes by shooting into the air, Naphta calls him a coward and shoots himself.
  • In the Metal Gear Solid series there have been a number of duels, most of them between the hero and boss characters. Three memorable ones are; The duel between Solid Snake and Grey Fox, barehanded over a minefield. The duel between Liquid Snake and Solid Snake, barehanded fighting on Metal Gear REX; and the final duel between Old Snake and Liquid Ocelot, on top of Outer Haven.
  • Howard Waldrop‘s Fin de Cyclé culminates in a duel between Alfred Jarry and an antagonistic journalist, riding bicycles atop the Eiffel Tower.