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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bowie Knife Attack at the Racetrack

In the 19th century, there arose a popular form of literature in which English writers, after traveling around the American South, would regale their readers with tales of the wanton violence that occurred in that region. Most of these reports were clipped from local newspapers. The following news item appeared originally in the Planter's Intelligencer, and was reprinted in America, Historical, Statistic, and Descriptive, vol. 1, 1841, by James Silk Buckingham.
A fatal rencounter took place on the 18th inst. (Nov.) at the Opelousas [New Orleans] racecourse, between Thomas Reeves and Samuel Fisher, the former a young man of about twenty-three years of age, and the latter an elderly gentleman of sixty. It appears that Reeves came armed to the place with a very large bowie-knife. By some means, his clothes were disarranged, and the knife became visible to the surrounding spectators. Mr. Fisher, noticing the appearance of the weapon, asked Mr. Reeves, playfully and in jest, for what purpose he carried such a deadly instrument. Reeves immediately answered, “To kill you, God d--n you”: whereupon he instantly drew the knife, and was in the act of plunging it into the body of Fisher, when he was arrested in the act by a bystander, who, picking up a club that presented itself, told Reeves that if he did not desist he would strike him down with the club. 
This afforded Fisher a moment for reflection, after which he closed with Reeves, and succeeded in taking the knife from him, having his hand cut severely in the struggle. During the combat both fell to the ground, Reeves falling uppermost, who immediately commenced gouging his adversary. Fisher then ran him through the body with the knife. Reeves arose, remarking that he was 'a dead man.'
Fisher immediately gave himself up to the magistrate, who acquitted him. Public opinion, it appears, fully justifies him in the act.


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