Monday, April 18, 2011

April 1861 Duel: Coffee & Pistols For Two

The secessionist flag incident in Belvidere on April 14, 1861 spurred debates throughout Belvidere. The debates were not just about the flag incident but also about the merits of preserving the Union.  Another little known incident was a duel that almost occurred between a young Republican lawyer and a Democrat.  Republicans had rallied around their new President, Abraham Lincoln, while "Buchanan Democrats" expressed a live-and-let-live attitude regarding the seceding states.

John Simerson, editor and publisher of The Warren Journal, was a Democrat. Simerson wrote about the attempted duel which was to take place just outside the town limits.  However, since Simerson kept the duelists anonymous, their identities have been lost over the century and a half that has elapsed. 

Simerson wrote, "INTENSE EXCITEMENT IN BELVIDERE - ALMOST A DUEL.  A young limb of the law in this town, who is one of the most violent Republicans to be found, and who in season and out of season, is thrusting his opinions upon every body, recently conceived an idea that he had been grossly insulted by a gentleman of this town in a political discussion, and thereupon waxed exceedingly wrathy and desired to heal his wounded honor in a manner that would have been highly pleasing to John C. Heenan or Tom Sayers. 

"The challenged party not belonging to the fancy, and having no desire to make a blackguard of himself, respectfully declined, but being considerable of a wag, signified his willingness to give the young disciple of [Sir William] Blackstone a chance to get satisfaction and proposed 'coffee and pistols' for two.  This was immediately accepted by young Blackstone, and the parties, unattended by friends, started for a secluded spot where they could adjust the matter without interruption.

"Arriving at the appointed place, the gentleman giving the offence informed his antagonist that as the challenged party, he had the right to select the weapons and had chosen daggers, thereupon produced a couple and declared himself ready for the contest.  At the appearance of weapons, young Blackstone turned deadly pale, his knees smote together, and his courage oozed out at his fingers, and with an exclamation of 'Oh, my God! Don't murder me!' started for Belvidere, his coat tails extending at an angle of forty-five degrees, never stopping until safely lodged in his Preceptor's office."

Copyright 1997-2011: Jay C. Richards

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