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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Duels Concluded With Bowie Knives

It was not unheard-of in the American South for duels to be arranged in which the principals would close and fight to the finish with bowie knives if an exchange of pistol shots had not resolved the matter. Lucian Lamar Knight writes about such a duel in Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends.
Perhaps the most famous of Georgia's Indian fighters was General John Floyd, who won renown on the frontier during the War of 1812. Skilled in the exercise of arms, there was scarcely any sort of weapon, from a shot-gun to a bowie-knife, with whose effective use he was not familiar; nor was it solely with Indian warriors that this seasoned old regular engaged in hand-to-hand encounters. Down in Camden County, Ga., where Gen. Floyd spent most of his life and where he lies buried on one of his plantations, tradition credits him with having fought what in some respects was the most extraordinary duel of which there is any record in the bloody chronicles of the Code. His antagonist, a Mr. Hopkins, was equally skilled in the use of weapons, and equally fearless. It was Greek against Greek. As the challenged party, Mr. Hopkins claimed the right to choose weapons ; but, instead of satisfying himself with one kind, he chose three--a most radical departure from the venerated traditions. To settle the grievance between them it was agreed to fire a round with shot-guns, at a certain specified distance. In the event neither was killed or disabled in this exchange of shots, they were to approach several feet nearer with drawn pistols, and if both remained on foot after this second fire, they were to end the affair in a hand-to-hand grapple with bowie-knives, fighting till one or both should fall mortally wounded.

On both sides, this program was commenced in deadly earnest. But Gen. Floyd's antagonist, in either the first or second round was so effectually disabled by loss of blood that resort to bowie-knives as a finality was abandoned. The incident suffices to show Gen. Floyd's grim hardihood as a fighter. His characteristics in this respect were transmitted to his son, Gen. Charles L. Floyd, and to his grandson, Capt. Richard S. Floyd, both of whom are credited with affairs of honor.

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