Famous Political Duels

Politics can be dangerous. These days, it’s more so with words, but back in the day it wasn’t uncommon to see our nation’s leaders fight to the death over political disagreements, differences in opinion or just plain hating each other’s face. Perhaps politicians would actually be honest with the American people if duel challenges were [...]

Politics can be dangerous. These days, it’s more so with words, but back in the day it wasn’t uncommon to see our nation’s leaders fight to the death over political disagreements, differences in opinion or just plain hating each other’s face. Perhaps politicians would actually be honest with the American people if duel challenges were still prevalent throughout Washington. Then again, perhaps not.

1777 – Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh vs. Governor Button Gwinnett

Button Gwinnett (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) duels his political opponent Lachlan McIntosh. Gwinnett tries to flex his tits as the leader of Georgia’s military. After a botched exploration of Florida, McIntosh publicly denounces Gwinnett and his failure. Gwinnett challenged McIntosh to a duel. Both dudes are injured, but Gwinnett sees the worst of it, dying three days later.


1804 – Vice President Aaron Burr vs. Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr have been known to have their fair share of squabbles dating back several years. This all culminates as Burr is pissed at Hamilton’s “journalistic defamation” of his character during the New York gubernatorial race. Hamilton gets himself killed and Burr’s political career and place in history are subsequently killed as a result. He is accused of murder, but is not sent to trial. This will go down as the most famous duel in American history.


1809 –  . Senator Humphrey Marshall vs. Representative Henry Clay

At the Kentucky General Assembly, Clay introduces a resolution requiring members to wear homespun suits rather than import their duds from Britain. Only two members voted against the patriotic measure. One of them, Humphrey Marshall, was not a fan of Clay’s politics… or his fashion sense apparently. Clay challenges him to a duel. Clay grazes Marshall once just below the chest, while Marshall hit Clay once in the thigh. Both men live.


1826 – Senator John Randolph vs. Secretary of State Henry Clay

Clay gets himself into another fight. On the Senate floor, Randolph repeatedly accuses Clay of corruption, among other things. The Secretary of State challenges Randolph to a duel. Both men miss and they meet in the middle to shake hands. Boring.


1838 – Representative William Graves vs. Representative Jonathan Cilley

Graves brings a letter from a newspaper editor to Cilley, who refuses to accept the letter. Graves takes this refusal as an affront to his honor and he demands a duel. Cilley is killed by the more experienced marksman and this duels leads to the outlaw of dueling in the District of Columbia. No fun.


1853 – Senator William Gwin vs. Congressman Joseph McCorkle

The two duke it out with rifles at 30 yards after McCorkle accuses Gwin of mismanaging the Federal Patronage system. Neither man is a good shot apparently as the both miss. Sadly, a donkey off in the distance is reported shot and killed.


1856 – Governor Benjamin Gratz Brown vs. Governor Thomas Reynolds

Brown is a strong supporter of the emancipation of slaves, while Reynolds sympathizes with slave owners. The two bicker for years, even cancelling a previously scheduled duel. Tempers flare again and another duel sparks up. Brown is shot in the leg, while Reynolds walks away unscathed. Then they go back to politics as if nothing happened.


1859 –   California Supreme Court Justice David Terry vs. Senator David Broderick

Terry accuses Broderick of no longer being a “true Democrat.” In response, Broderick refers to Terry as a “miserable wretch.” Terry challenges Broderick to a duel. Broderick gets snuffed, becoming the first U.S. Senator ever killed in a duel.


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