Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written seventeen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History, and Murder and Mayhem in Southeast Kansas.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dueling and Early Missouri Politics

I read a book one time about dueling as an especial phenomenon of the Old South. It put forth the idea that dueling was one manifestation of the language of honor (specifically that Southern gentlemen often challenged other men to duels when they perceived that their honor had been questioned). The book went so far as to suggest that being the victor in a duel accorded the person added status and sometimes even served as a springboard to political office.
The author cited numerous examples to support his thesis, and it does seem to have some credence. For instance, I am aware of a couple of examples just in the early politics of Missouri. When Thomas Hart Benton (great uncle of the artist) was a lawyer at St. Louis during Missouri's territorial days, he killed a rival lawyer in a duel in 1817, and then when the territory became a state in the early 1820s, he was elected one of Missouri's first senators and served about thirty years. (Benton had also shot Andrew Jackson, a political ally, during a dispute a few years before the St. Louis incident.) General John S. Marmaduke killed General Lucius M. Walker near Little Rock, Arkansas, during the Civil War when Walker challenged Marmaduke to a duel after Marmaduke had made statements that seemed to question Walker's courage. Marmaduke, of course, went on to become governor of Missouri several years after the close of the war.

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