On This Day in 1804: Burr slays Hamilton in duel

1804: Burr slays Hamilton in duel
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ON THIS DAY


Overview

“In a duel held in Weehawken, New Jersey, Vice President Aaron Burr fatally shoots his long-time political antagonist Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, a leading Federalist and the chief architect of America’s political economy, died the following day.” – History

Background

“Hamilton, the former secretary of the treasury, and Vice President Burr were long-standing political rivals and personal enemies. Burr might have been the president instead of vice president, had it not been for Hamilton’s interference. When Burr’s term as vice president was almost over, he ran for governor of New York. Hamilton, once again, prevented Burr from winning by opposing his candidacy.” [America’s Library]

The Final Straw

“The final straw for Burr was the publication of a letter in a newspaper that said Hamilton demeaned Burr’s character. Burr demanded Hamilton apologize for the insults or explain them. Hamilton stayed quiet, so Burr demanded a duel.” [NCC Staff / Constitution Center]

Getting to Weehawken

“After falling asleep on a couch at his Richmond Hill estate (on the edge of modern Manhattan’s  Soho), Burr awakened early on July 11, 1804, put on a black silk coat that was said to be “impenetrable to ball” (bulletproof), and was taken to a dock on the Hudson River. To keep the duel secret, he and Hamilton left Manhattan from separate docks at 5 a.m. and were each rowed by four men to New Jersey. Burr arrived first, at 6:30.” [Jeff Wallenfeldt / Britannica]

Hamilton’s Misfire

Aaron Burr and his second, William P. Van Ness, cleared the dueling grounds of trash, and Alexander Hamilton and his second, Nathaniel Pendelton, arrived shortly before 7 AM. It is believed that Hamilton fired first and probably honored his pre-duel pledge to throw away his shot. – [Martin Kelly / ThoughtCo]

Burr That’s Cold

“There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. According to Hamilton’s “second”–his assistant and witness in the duel–Hamilton decided the duel was morally wrong and deliberately fired into the air. Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed. What happened next is agreed upon: Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach, and the bullet lodged next to his spine. Hamilton was taken back to New York, and he died the next afternoon.” [History]

Back to Manhattan

“Having already declared himself a dead man, Hamilton was conveyed back to Manhattan, surviving for roughly 31 hours, mostly in the presence of his family, before he died. Soon under the threat of prosecution for murder, Burr fled, initially to Philadelphia but ultimately into infamy, though he would never be tried for murder.”  [Jeff Wallenfeldt / Britannica]

Cover Photo: Science Source