Daniel Dugger (c1789-1837) and Gen. George C. Dromgoole (or Drumgoole) (1797-1847) fought a duel in 1837 that resulted in the death of Dugger. This is the story of that duel as originally written by an anonymous witness.
Note from Ralph Dugger, who has typed this for us: OK folks, here goes. This is a 4+ page paper, undated and signed by "A Gentleman". It's rather flowery so bear with it. I am typing it exactly as it is printed - some words sound strange. (See the footnote at the bottom also)
THE DRUMGOOLE-DUGGER DUEL
No man born within the limits of Brunswick County, ever filled so large a place in the estimation of its people as George C. Drumgoole.
Indeed there was but one in the Congressional District he so long represented, who in any way ranked as his poor, and he did not approach very near in those gifts and attainments that go to make up a mighty tribute of the people. The exception that we note was his some time rival for popular favor. Judge James Henry Gholson, also a native of Brunswick Co, and who while wanting in the accurate parliamentary acutem and political information, superb command of the language and resonant voice, was more than his equal in purely personal attractions and elegance of deportment, exquisite culture in the highest branches of English and classical literature and those lighter graces which so adorn and beautify social life.
In forming an estimate now, from what we remember of the past, we would say that had Gen. Drumgoole lived to attain his full stature he would have been "primus interpares" in his area with Calhoun, Webster, Clay and Benton and that Judge Gholson as a representative of his county would have graced any court of any age. Both died before they had reached the zenith of their promised fame. The one martyr to conjugal duty, and the other a victim to the public sentiment of the times-for we hold that though he lived years afterwards, that the perfect fruition of a matured manhood was marred by the incident and its consequence, which incident in the career of Geo. C. Drumgoole we propose to narrate.
In the earliest decade of the present century and onward to its middle "the duallo" was the recognized custom of the people from New York to the utmost limits of the then Union. Washington "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen" would hardly have refused a call to the field of honor; in fact, an English author makes him eager to fight under provocation, and it is a known historical fact that Gen. Cadwalder's pistol saved him to the country in command of its army when he shot the slanderous tongue of Gen. Conway, the arch conspirator Gates, down his throat. The death of Gen. Hamilton at the hands of Burr was the first blow severe enough to change political opinion so far as to make it not absolute social and political ruin to refuse to fight.
In the year 1837 on entertainment was given at the hotel in Lawrenceville. The intelligence and character of the county were present. It was purely a social gathering. Politics were tacitly forbid; for political feeling was running high, and strange to say, though the issues were then of a sentimental character compared to subsequent periods, the bitterness was as intense as when the interests of nearly half the country were at stake.
Gen. Drumgoole was among those present at the entertainment. The hotel was under the management of Daniel Dugger, Esq. both its proprietor and keeper. Mr. Dugger was an unambitious man of fine character and average ability, and most lovable traits. He had been a rich young man and was still of fair fortune, but was embarrassed as many young men of the day were by his connection and love of the "Turf", and was at the time of which we write, the owner and breeder of the celebrated race horse, Wagner.
On this especial evening he was at the head of the table and was carving a fowl. Some ill advised guest addressed to him a political question. The decanter had circulated rapidly, and Gen. Drumgoole who sat immediately at Mr. Dugger's right hand and who had drunk freely, said before Mr. Dugger could reply, in a loud voice, showing complete intoxication--"Dugger! Damn Dugger as a political mentor! Why he is below infamy and beneath contempt!" These words had scarcely passed his lips when Mr. Dugger struck him fiercely across the face with his open hand and threw at him the carving fork as he tried to rise. Their friends intervened and raised Gen. Drumgoole to his feet. He seemed dazed and unconscious of what had occurred and asked for his spectacles, which had fallen from his face. He was very near-sighted and always wore glasses. The matter was easily adjusted by their friends and the next morning they drank together a glass of wine. The matter was supposed to be ended, and as "inter pocula" to be forgotten. Such then was the custom among fierce convivalist of the day. The rising sun dispelled the deeds of the wine-cup and the night.
They were both Masons. Gen. Drumgoole having been Master of Brunswick Lodge No. 52 and Grand Master of the State of Virginia. In a few weeks the campaign for Congress opened. It was conducted with great bitterness. The Whig party had no champion able to cope with the "Brunswick Lion", as General Drumgoole was then called, before the people.
The party papers seized hold of this private broil with Mr. Dugger, and used it unsparingly. The "Brunswick Lion" after all was but a poltroon and craven. "He had been bearded in his den and had his jaws slapped and was wanting in manhood to resent an indignity be entrusted to protect the rights of a brave and proud people?" If he would not protect his own rights would he protect theirs?, were some of the things said, besides many more of a kindred kind.
The Whig party became exultant and vaunting, the Democrats, snarling and sour, and bets were made and taken that Drumgoole would not fight and if he did, Dugger would kill him.
Gen. Drumgoole was then in command of one of the militia brigades of the state. In a few weeks several of his staff officers sent in their resignations and wrote significant letters. Something had to be done. He at once addressed a polite note to Mr. Dugger telling him how the partisan press was taking unfair advantage, and making use of an unfortunate private and personal difficulty to injure him politically, and asking Mr. Dugger to publish a card putting the matter in its proper light.
Under the advice of his friends Mr. Dugger sent no formal reply. Such an opportunity to get rid of so able an advocate of the Democracy was not to be foregone. In an unfortunate hour he hearkened to their counsel. Mr. Dugger, however, stated informally to the bearer of the note "that he was not the curator of Gen. Drumgoole's reputation or the guardian of his honor. That a wanton insult had been offered him at his own table. At the moment he had shown all proper resentment. Farther satisfaction he had foregone for reasons well known to Gen. Drumgoole, that while he did not desire to disguise any of the incidents of the occasion, and would make private explanations when asked, he still less desired their disgraceful broil to become any more public than it already was, and that he declined to make any statement about it for public use. That Gen. Drumgoole could make any statement he pleased, and he was ready even before hand to accept it as a verity and would vouch for the truth of anything he would say. That he presumed that Gen. Drumgoole was amply able to settle with any one who might question any statement made. That he was content as matters stood and that Gen. Drumgoole must right any wrong that others had or might do him".
That Mr. Dugger had the right to act in this way, few will deny; but was it generous to a former friend? The conclusion proves that he was lending himself against his better nature, to his friends for a partisan purpose. That purpose was to ruin the political standing of Gen. Drumgoole. From this standpoint is Mr. Dugger an object of sympathy? We trow not.
A preemptory demand that he comply followed. This was treated with contemptuous silence. A challenge then followed at once. It was promptly accepted.
Mr. Dugger availed himself of his right under the "Code of Honor", and postponed the meeting for three weeks. He was on the eve of starting to New York to attend the celebrated contest between the horses Henry and Eclipse.
Mr. Haines, the editor of the Democratic paper in Petersburg, acted for Gen. Drumgoole. W. H. E. Merrit was the advising friend and T. Goode Tucker, a young lawyer who resided in Lawrenceville, represented Mr. Dugger as a field second. The weapon selected was the regulation dueling pistol. Mr. Tucker acting for Mr. Dugger demanded all his rights under the "Code of Honor" and drew up the cartal.
The third article under this agreement was that they could fire until one of the other should be "killed, mortally wounded or so disabled as to be unable to fire."
Mr. Haines on behalf of Gen. Drumgoole protested against these as unusual and murderous. His protest was without effect, for there was a latent opinion among Mr. Dugger's friends that Gen. Drumgoole was wanting in spirit.
Haines availed himself of the long interval to teach his friend the use of the weapon. He became very expert, for the bloody terms of his antagonist left that the only way out of the difficulty. He desired to disable, not to kill his former friend if possible.
Mr. Dugger never seemed to realize and appreciate the responsibility of the event he was to face, or else he was one of those quiet but determined men who are careless of danger. It has also been suggested that Gen. Drumgoole's friend possessed a latent significance other than that apparently conveyed. His wife was too of the "Blue Hen" stock and a scion of a very fierce family, who was said to have said that if he did not fight, she would. She was the daughter of Gen. Green of Warrenton, N.C.
The meeting was arranged to take place on the border of North Carolina at a place about two miles west of Gaston and about a half mile from Mr. Tucker's residence. Mr. Dugger reached Mr. Tucker's about two days before the appointed time, coming direct from New York. He brought neither surgeon nor weapons.
On the evening before the appointed day, Dr. W. W. Wilkins, a physician residing near Gaston, received a note from Dr. F. W. Harrison, asking him to put aside all engagements and meet him at Mr. Alex Harrison's. He did so and on reaching the place found Gen. Drumgoole, Mr. Haines and Dr. Harrison. Dr. Harrison took him aside and told him why he sent for him; that Mr. Dugger was at Mr. Tucker's and that he knew Dr. Wilkins to be a personal friend of both parties, and a political compatriot of Mr. Dugger; that unaided the responsibility was too much for him to bear and asked his professional assistance, as Mr. Dugger had brought no surgeon with him. Dr. Wilkins made some inquiries looking to peace but found matters had gone too far to be stopped.
The next morning the three gentlemen in a carriage, and Dr. Wilkins in his gig repaired to the designated place. In a few minutes Messrs. Dugger and Tucker came on the ground with a wagon in which there was a bed for either party that might require it.
The place selected was a level plateau on the banks of the Roanoke River, as smooth as a carpet and covered with a green sward.
Mr. Haines was in the ball room dress of the period - laco ruffles at his bosom and on his hands, silk stockings and pumps.
The parties greeted each other with a stern and polite civility. Messrs. Haines and Tucker conferred together for a few minutes and agreed upon the ground and stuck up the pegs. The distance was ten paces which they stepped off together. They then, in the presence of each other loaded the pistols, two pairs of which Mr. Haines and Gen. Drumgoole had brought. Mr. Dugger came unprovided. A coin tossed for word and position. Mr. Tucker won the word and Mr. Haines the position.
The combatants took their positions and the seconds handed each a pistol. Mr. Tucker placed himself midway between the combatants and some yards out of the line of fire. Mr. Haines advanced to the remaining case of pistols, and taking one in each hand placed himself in a similar position and opposite to Mr. Tucker, and announced how the word would be given in a clear and distinct voice.
"Gentlemen are you ready?" If prepared, keep silence, if not, speak. Fire!-one-two-three. Stop! with an interval of about a second between the words. This explanation he followed with the declaration, "Should either of you fire before the word "Fire" or after the word "stop", he falls by my hand."
Both men were as cool as a summer morn. Mr. Tucker gave the word. There was but one report as heard by those present. There was a commingled report as heard by those at a little distance, and suspected what was taking place.
As the smoke lifted Mr. Dugger was seen to stoop forward, and then pitched heavily face foremost to the ground. The two surgeons advanced and turned him over. His face was colorless and lips blue. Gen. Drumgoole had tried to shatter his pistol hand or break his arm. The charge of powder was probably not sufficient as the bullet was two inches too low, hitting him in the arm-pit and from subsequent developments not making the usual penetration from such perfect weapons. (I saw their pistols many years afterward.) They were the most beautiful weapons I ever saw. They belonged to Gen. Whittaker of North Carolina and were mounted with gold. I suppose they must have cost several hundred dollars. They had two sets of barrels, one carrying an oz. and the other a 1/2 oz. ball. Mr. Haines stepped up in front of Gen. Drumgoole, folded his arms and stood in a position to shield him from a view of his dying adversary, for Mr. Dugger had been mortally wounded.
Mr. Tucker assisted by the surgeons started to remove Mr. Dugger to the wagon and bed. When about midway Gen. Drumgoole gently put away Mr. Haines and called to Dr. Wilkins, "Is he badly hurt?" Dr. Wilkins replied, "I fear he is, sir, I do not think he will live to get to the house." Upon receiving this information, Gen. Drumgoole and Mr. Haines left the field.
Under the code to which the parties had resorted and the cartel of the challenged party Mr. Tucker should have notified Mr. Haines of his principal's condition. By failing to do so, he left the quarrel open for renewal upon the original cause. Had he done so, even had Mr. Dugger survived, it would have been a finality, the terms would have been complied with. (Mr. Dugger lived twenty-one days and there were hopeful periods, during one of these periods he sent to ask some concessions from Gen. Drumgoole. Gen. Drumgoole did not comply and was notified that should he, Dugger survive, the fight would be renewed.) Haines complained bitterly that Tucker did not inform him of Dugger's condition, charging him with a violation of his own compact. A quarrel ensued.
Haines challenged Tucker, who declined to meet him on the grounds that he was not his social equal. Even friends regarded the position untenable. He had waived all such poor. A paper warfare followed. It was severe and sarcastic, but not scurrilous or abusive. The following from the pen of the journalist, is about the severest thing said: "All good and honorable men cannot but regret the death of so pure a gentleman, and so gallant a man as Daniel Dugger. He was all that a man could or ought to be; most cruelly, he had been made the victim of false friends for their own bad ends; but for Tom Tucker, he reminds me of a grandiloquent magpie chattering over the torn plumage of a dead eagle". We would have omitted this as too severe upon an old and very dear friend, but he himself, laughingly told it to us and suggested that at a suitable time we should have printed all the incidents he had related, and thus preserve one of the legends of the country.
Of Mr. Haines we know very little and of his subsequent history nothing. He had formerly been the keeper of a coffee house in Petersburg. At the time of which we speak, he was the editor of the Democratic paper of that city. The position he filled towards Gen. Drumgoole and his conduct in it bespeaks the gentleman and a man of some political prominence. Throughout he exhibited conduct and character. He has been described as a tall fine looking man, with a military bearing. In this hostile meeting his deportment was rigidly polite and formal.
Of the participants we know more. Mr. Dugger passed away before we were capable of a personable knowledge. But we have known many who knew him well. He was a quiet and unassuming man of excellent sense, and a very warm, lovable and loving disposition. He had the respect of all in every relation of life. In that of husband, parent, friend and citizen. His death begat a lifelong antagonism on the part of many former friends of Gen. Drumgoole. He left several sons, but what has become of his family generally we do not know.
The gentleman who was the involuntary witness, and present for humanity's sake, we knew from our childhood. Dr. W. W. Wilkins had been professionally educated in France subsequently studied the post-graduate's course in the schools of Paris. He was a most accomplished gentleman. The life of a country physician proved distasteful to him and he abandoned it early as he had ample means. He died in Lawrenceville in 1859 although he then lived in Richmond. He is still well remembered as a tall and handsome gentleman, seclusive in his habits and tastes, perfect in his business dealings and relations with his fellows, somewhat reticent, but a very prince in politeness and a king at the dinner table.
W.H.E. Merrit, the lineal descendent of the presiding justice appointed by the Crown for this county died here in 1884 and in the eighty-fourth year of his age. He belonged to a type that has passed away. Educated when boys were made to study he preserved his knowledge and taste for the classics. In the quietude of his own home he was oftener seen with a Latin or Greek author than some book of the period. The writer heard one of the principal men of the county, now long past the meridian of life, say that he had known him all his life and never saw him angry. This was said in a memorial meeting held by the Bench and Bar to do honor to the memories of William Henry Embry Merrit and Edward Randolph Turnbull, one for many years the presiding justice of the county, and the other, still younger, its Clerk. By those who knew him better, it was said, that the feeling of fear he never knew and occasions for the sake of others. When more than eighty he said to the writer that he had frequently canvassed with himself the advice he had given Mr. Dugger, and the he could find nothing in it for which to reproach himself. It was true that his friend had fallen. For that he was exceedingly sorry; but there were times in the lives of most men when sacrifices had to be made, and guided by the lights given, it was but to accept the lesser when one of two evils was inevitable. As we are writing locally, it is useless to write more of the one whose presence almost still lingers with us.
Still later and in the fullness of years Mr. Tucker too passed away. "Take him all and all, we shall ne'er look upon his like again." When fate endowed him with fortune she deprived us of a lawyer, a statesman and had opportunity served, a soldier, to make a perfect specimen of the country gentleman and literary voluptuary. At 80, with every faculty as bright as at 40 he was ready to discuss any question of politics, science, literature or law; or at the blast of the horn in the morning, to mount "Lord Elgin" his thoroughbred stallion, and keep pace with his hounds, the pedigree of each known for 20 generations. The most pacific of men, he believed in the "Code", and was a terror to the monster the neighborhood bully, a believer in caste, his hospitality was too strong for his prejudice, and was a Democrat in his home. In fact he was a mass of the most delightful anomalied and curious incongruities. While the grass grows and the water runs and the sound of the horn is heard on the hill, let him be remembered by all men of the kindred tastes and gentlemanly instinates.
It was from these gentlemen that we heard the circumstances of the duel as narrated and should they be printed a promise will be fulfilled.
We boast of our civilization, and speak of the "duello" as suicide and murder. We dare not gainsay, the saint as against the sinner, even if they still be distant when the lion will lie down with the lamb. A custom recognized by such men to keep the world pliant to the touch of honor cannot be all bad. It may be that gentleman is not what a gentleman was, and it matters not what is within, so that money is without. In fact the epithet, gentlemen, seems to be applied, regardless of the color line, to all that avoid a bad order by a clean shirt, and have not been convicted of a felony. A mere dismeanor does not count. Some time since in the presence of the writer, a party who had been convicted on a perfectly substantiated charge of hog stealing, and was just out of the jail after a three months term, exclaimed emphatically, "Thank God!" he had gone a gentleman and had come out a gentleman.
When everything is stolen by those in high places, from the Presidency down, what else can we expect. We hope there is going to be a change. The morals of the high may influence the lowly. With the restoration of honesty in our government, justice to those for whom no justice has been done for 30 years, we hope our people at large may live more cleanly, and once more Honor, honesty and truth with their hand maidens gentleness and good-breeding, combined with the sense to know, and courage to do right, will be frequently found making what is so quickly recognized when found, and yet so hard to define, and heretofore so hard to find. A GENTLEMAN
Bicentennial of the United States of America 1776-1976 Brunswick County Bicentennial Committee Brunswick County, Virginia
Footnote (by Ralph Dugger)
Just to add a bit of personal information to that provided by Marty. According to Wellford Eugene Dugger of St. Louis, a direct descendant, Daniel was married three times: First to Nancy Davis abt. 1820. They had no children. Second to Ann Cheatham Bosseau, abt. 1822. They had four children, Patrick
Henry (who died at age 17 at Yale Univ.), Virginia Ann, Daniel and David Bosseau. Third to Mary Green abt 1834. They had two children, John Edward and Macon Tucker. At Daniel's death, the oldest child, Patrick Henry was about 14 years old.
I read in another book (which I can't find at the moment) that Gen. Drumgoole felt so bad over the death of Daniel that he helped support the widow and children for a number of years.
Oh, yes, I think Gen. Drumgoole was in charge of unit of the Va. State Militia. Guess that's how he got to be a General.
Ralph Dugger, Dallas, TX