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Login Name Post: The dueling pistols used by Hamilton and Burr        (Topic#164913)
CDG 
40 Cal.
Posts: 157
09-09-05 06:08 PM - Post#164913    


This question stems from my facination with Alexander Hamilton as a figure in American history. I recall a while back my gradfather telling me about Hamilton and Burr (he was a history teacher), and being facinated with Hamilton's character.

My understanding is that Hamilton selected smoothebore dualing pistols- fairly common among the upper class at that time. In fact very few people actually died while dualing with pistols; they simply weren't designed to be accurate.

Enough of my rambling. Who made the pistols that were used in the Hamilton/Burr duel? Are they still in existance today?

Oddly enough, my understanding is that Hamilton actually fired his gun into the air, while Burr cooly aimed and blew away probably one of the greatest financial minds in US history.

 
Scattershot 
40 Cal.
Posts: 449
09-10-05 10:42 AM - Post#165131    

    In response to CDG

There is some speculation that the pistols had set triggers that Hamilton was unfamiliar with, and his shot was premature. As for duelling, my understanding is that it was considered "unsporting" for one gentleman to take deliberate aim at another, and most duelling pistols did not have sights.

 
CDG 
40 Cal.
Posts: 157
09-10-05 02:01 PM - Post#165202    

    In response to CDG

Any ideas on where the actual pistols were manufactured? I would imagine that they came from europe somewhere, as Hamilton and Burr were both very wealthy men.

My understanding was that part of the villification of Burr was due to the fact that he did take aim at Hamilton. It's kind of interesting to think, but a lot of times gentlement who dueled with pistols were often never even hurt. 10 paces would have been a pretty long distance to be able to accurately shoot with a smoothebore dueling pistol, with a sensitive trigger and no sights.

I have heard several storeis on the Hamilton/Burr duel. Some accunts say he fired into the air- not uncommon at the time for a gentlemen to do as it was symbolic of both bravery, and a petition for peace. I have heard that Hamilton took a standard "snap shot" that any gentlemen would have probalby done, and probably would have missed with.

 
Anonymous 
09-12-05 06:47 AM - Post#165776    

    In response to CDG

The pistols do exist. There was an article with picures in a recent mag, but my memory is foggy which of my many ones--I'll have to search....One of the pistols is all original and the other was converted to percussion during the Civil War. I cannot remember the details now.....

 
SimonKenton 
50 Cal.
Posts: 1250
SimonKenton
09-12-05 05:59 PM - Post#166045    

    In response to CDG

CDG,

One of the gun mags ran an article about 20 years ago in which a 'smith was commissioned to make exact matching copies of the flint pistol for some commemoration. When he carefully (no kidding) disassembled the gun he found that it DID have a single set trigger. The speculation is that Hamilton accidentally set the sear and so fired in Burr's direction when he may have meant to aim over him or to the side giving Burr a chance to do likewise. Burr had a temper even more hair-triggered than his pistol and reacted with no thought an put a ball into Hamilton.

-Ray

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5297
Stophel
09-13-05 02:56 PM - Post#166487    

    In response to SimonKenton

I believe the famous pistols were by the English maker Wogden.

Too bad they didn't have that duel 10 or 15 years earlier. I'm NOT a fan of Hamilton...


 
CDG 
40 Cal.
Posts: 157
09-13-05 04:13 PM - Post#166508    

    In response to CDG

If that duel had occured 15 years earlier you might not be living in the United States of America. The historical debate obviously doesn't belong here, but Hamilton was important in shaping the face of the United States. Even when Burr blew out the greatest brain behind the Federalist party, John Marshall continued making rulings from his supreme court seat 50 years after the last Federalist president. Hamilton foresaw the industrialisation of the US, he foresaw our future diplomatic ties with Great Brittain, he even foresaw the downfall of Aaron Burr in many respects.

Well, anyway he's always been a fascinating character to me, and like it or not, he was one of the more important leaders in our early federal government.

 
Stophel 
75 Cal.
Posts: 5297
Stophel
09-14-05 02:57 PM - Post#166869    

    In response to CDG

Let's just say my political ideas are much more in line with those of Patrick Henry!!! Quite possibly the greatest American, and definitely the greatest lawyer (though there is little competition here...), who ever lived!

I still believe in the united States of America (small u, capital S).


 
CDG 
40 Cal.
Posts: 157
09-14-05 03:44 PM - Post#166880    

    In response to Stophel

For sure, Pattrick Henry was a great american, and an embodiment of a free spirit.

 
Anonymous 
09-15-05 02:01 PM - Post#167284    

    In response to SimonKenton

Simon you have a good memory I believe they made the Repos for the BiCentenial. It was then that they found the Trigers to be single set. The pistols were owned by Burr and that leads to speculation that it may not have been a fair duel. You are likely closer to them than the rest of us as I recall from the piece Hamilton wanted a strong central bank, that bank through the years became Chase Manhatten in your home town and they at the time of the artical owened the pistols.

 
benvenuto 
50 Cal.
Posts: 1030
benvenuto
09-16-05 03:29 AM - Post#167496    

    In response to Stophel

"Wogdon, thy name is death"
I wish I knew what the rest of the poem was about, but that line stuck in memory

heres a discussion about the current ownership of the Hamilton-Burr pistols
http://homepages.ihug.com.au/~dispater


 
tac 
62 Cal.
Posts: 2850
09-16-05 03:42 AM - Post#167497    

    In response to benvenuto

Not too sure about the contention that duelling pistols were made to be inaccurate. I sure as hell would not risk MY life on a pistol that shot like an underarm flung frisbee.
I any case, I can refute the comment entirely, as the pair of Moore duellers that I shoot with, both correctly smooth-bore, quite merrily put all their shots into a two inch circle at 20 yards, even with me shooting them.

tac

 
hank 
54 Cal.
Posts: 1865
09-16-05 09:41 AM - Post#167601    

    In response to tac

In the flurry of activity around the Bi-centennial, I believe that the pistols, then in the possession of Chase-Manhattan Bank (originally, "the Bank of the Manhattan Water Company" founded by Hamilton, I believe) were examined with an eye to selling expensive reproductions...a single set trigger came to light. The NYC newspapers featured it as "a secret trigger gave Burr an unfair advantage"...the problem with that theory is that Hamilton is supposed to have borrowed them from his brother-in-law...all of this is from memory, so I'll welcome any contradiction or additional info...Hank

 
Musketman 
Passed On
Posts: 10652
09-16-05 12:16 PM - Post#167642    

    In response to hank

In a thread (over a year ago) we talked about this very topic, here is what we came up with then...

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Duel <--- click here


 
CDG 
40 Cal.
Posts: 157
09-16-05 02:00 PM - Post#167676    

    In response to Musketman

wow, interesting posts.

I have not seen any mention of whether or not the pistols had sights or not. I do know it wasn't uncommon for them to not have sights.

There are so many reports and eyewitnesses, and outsied fueds between witnesses that I don't think we can be fully certain what actually happened. We can't even be sure that Burr aimed to kill Hamilton.

However it is pretty neat to think about some of the information that was brought up in the posts linked here- such as the possibility of "blind rifling" in the barel of Burr's pistol, or the Hamilton debate of whether or not he actually set his hair trigger or not. Definately the stuff of legends there.

 
benvenuto 
50 Cal.
Posts: 1030
benvenuto
09-16-05 08:45 PM - Post#167861    

    In response to CDG

I like the suggestion that Burr was aiming to "geld" Hamilton...
I'm not an expert tho', I have only read Gore Vidals fantastic novel, not real history on the matter
http://homepages.ihug.com.au/~dispater


 
Anonymous 
09-25-05 09:27 AM - Post#171530    

    In response to CDG

As you are a student of Hamilton I would refer you to the fairly recent book by Ron Chernow titled simply, "Alexander Hamilton". It has little to no information on the pistols but covers the duel in detail. If I remember correctly approximately two years prior to the Hamilton-Burr duel, Hamilton lost a son in a duel. Like or agree with Hamilton or not, he was influential, much more so than he is given credit for. I would also have to agree that he had a brilliant mind.

Personally I don't believe Hamilton is to blame for our current form of pseudo socialistic government. The original form has been much bastardized by politicians generations removed from Hamilton.

At any rate, the book by Chernow is one of the best on Hamilton in my opinion. Give it a look.

Vic

 
CDG 
40 Cal.
Posts: 157
09-25-05 10:32 AM - Post#171556    

    In response to sharps4590

Will do. Hamilton was a visionary who is given little credit for the way we have things today. Without him we might not have the union of the states we have today. Between Hamilton and Marshall, you have both the greatest allies, and the greatest enemies to our modern country. On one hand, Hamilton and Marshall were somewhat elitist, and some of Marshall's decisions have set dangerous precedents for the power of our Supreme Court. On the other, if Hamilton had not implemented his economic policies, such as asuuming debt "at par", the union could well have fractured before it had a chance to become the world power it is today.

Anyway, I will look into the book. Hamilton was certainly a fascinating figure in our nation's early stages of development.

 
Anonymous 
09-27-05 05:22 PM - Post#172637    

    In response to CDG

In the Chernow book I referred to I believe it is stated that Burr practiced shooting duelling pistols with fervor. From the book alluded to and other treatise on the Hamilton/Burr duel I've become convinced Burr intended to kill Hamilton. I don't know that any other conclusion can be reached, at leat in my mind.

When Hamilton was younger he left the appearance of being an avid adherent of duelling but I don't believe he ever participated in a duel other than the one with Burr. As he matured, and especially after he lost his son in a duel, his ardor for duelling diminished considerably. The accounts I've read which were gathered from correspondence between and among contemporaries of both Hamilton and Burr nearly all confirm that Hamilton intended to throw away his shot.

As I developed and interest in Hamilton and started reading about him I was amazed at the influence he had and the impact he left on our country. Yes, he was an egotist, had a strong personality, definitely had the ear and admiration of Washington which allowed him so much freedom and influence in Washingtons cabinet of 3 and was also somewhat of an elitist. But I have to agree with CDG when he says had their not been a Hamilton there very well might not be a USA. He and Adams deserve much more credit than they've been given. I don't agree with everything Hamilton or Adams did but I believe the good outweighs the bad.

Regarding the pistols, if I remember correctly, the forestocks were made of brass. The additional weight was supposed to make them more steady to aim. Somewhere in one of my reference books there is a picture of the Wogdon pistols and my last information was that they are still in the possession of the Chase Manhattan bank

 
CDG 
40 Cal.
Posts: 157
09-27-05 08:42 PM - Post#172737    

    In response to sharps4590

Quite correct. Hamilton's flaws make him fascinating to me. He was headstrong, at times very rude, and outspoken. It didn't make him a lot of political friends, but then again that just makes him all the more impressive. Adams can probably be credited for being one of our most selfless presidents ever. By refusing to go to war with France, he sacrificed his political career but at the same time kept the US from becomming part of France. Or worse, we would have repelled the French invasion, only to be invaded and conquered by the British again. Either way, Adams did save this country from an almost certain disaster, to the expense of his political career. He too was often insulting, didn't relate to the common man, and was somehow very icy by popular accounts. His diaries make his presidency one of the best documented of the time. The diaries themselves are largely boring, but there are some interesting points, like his desire to create a national observatory, and university. Clearly markings of an elitist, and an idealist, but also the markings of someone who genuinely wanted to do what he felt was best for the infant nation.

I known you're not the only one to suggest that Burr was intent on killing Hamilton for some time. Hamilton was no pacifist, but he was not an avid dueler either. Your points there are well taken. There is debate as to whether or not Hamilton even intended to shoot at Burr at all. Some accounts report that Hamilton declined to have the hair trigger set on his pistol. Some accounts say Hamilton fired into the air, giving Burr the chance to shoot without opposition. I don't suppose we will ever know the real truth, but given the later scandals involving Burr, it is hard not to take Hamilton's side. You just have to wonder if Hamilton knew what Burr was doing behind the scenes...

 
Anonymous 
09-28-05 06:03 AM - Post#172814    

    In response to CDG

CDG...your last phrase, "behind the scenes".....I doubt 95% of the people in America have an inkling of what went on "behind the scenes" during the early part of countrys history, especially regarding Jefferson. I'll probably catch a lot of flak for this but; with all Jeffersons brilliance and accomplishments the man was a hypocrite of the highest order.

We don't and can never know all of what went on behind the scenes, same as you said about the Hamilton/Burr duel, but it often makes the politics of today look like grammar school.

I agree with your remarks about Adams. I can't remember the entire comment Franklin made about Adams, something to do with his impeccable honesty, intelligence and a few other comments. His last part of the statement was "at times Mister Adams is entirely out of his mind". I like John Adams. Had it not been for Adams, quite like Hamilton, there might not be a USA. Of course that could be said of several of our founding fathers. Who do you think would have been the least indispensible?

Interesting post.

Vic

 
CDG 
40 Cal.
Posts: 157
10-01-05 05:42 PM - Post#174272    

    In response to sharps4590

As to who our most important founding father might have been, that is a question that books might be written on with no conclusion.

As for Jefferson, his only crime was being an idealist in the highest degree. Jefferson may write an essay advocating the freedom of slaves, then write an essay explaining how africans constitute an inferior race a few weeks later. This hypocrisy is the result of the "two Jeffersons" as I like to call it. Idealist Jefferson was captivated by the ideas of Locke, and the universality of freedom to everyone. As an idealist, Jefferson was the "defender of the common man". Jeffersons big ideas were often crushed down by the real world. In practice, Jefferson realized that he could not do many of the things he wrote about. As a result, he was forced to support many of Hamilton's policies, albeit reluctantly. The notable exception there would be the Excise tax on whiskey, which Jefferson repealed upon becomming president. Other than that though, Jefferson realized the importance of tariffs and the National Bank.

In my eye, that makes Jefferson all the bigger hero. While he might have stirred domestic insurrection, he chose to sacrifice beliefs he held dear in order to insure the survival of the union.

Now you can argue the fact that Jefferson owned slaves himself, that he is partially responsible for the Viginia (and Kentucky) resolutions over the acts of sedition, but the fact remains that Jefferson laid a lot of his beliefs aside for the good of the country, rather than for his own personal gain, with the notable exception of slavery.

 
George F. 
40 Cal.
Posts: 278
10-08-05 06:34 AM - Post#176604    

    In response to benvenuto

Boy, was that some really interesting reading about the BURR-HAMILTON DUEL. Great info.
thanks for sharing............George F.

 
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