Duels Can Be Funny

Duels were a common practice among the upper class throughout history, from the Medieval period up until the 20th century.  At first, they were fought with rapiers or swords then later fought with specialized dueling pistols. Most duels, if not all, were the result of a perceived affront to the honor of a gentleman.  When one party felt dishonored, he (yes he as it was for the most part only men who engaged in this behavior) called for “satisfaction” or the chance to restore honor by proving he was willing to die for it.

There were definitive rules to a duel. Both party had “seconds”. The Seconds job was to gain satisfaction without drawing bloodshed. The affronted party would send his second the offenders second. If the offender apologized then there were no worries. However, if the offender refused to apologize than a duel was called. One simply could not let one’s honor be insulted.  The seconds would organize the actual duel, from picking an acceptable “field of honor” to date and time. The seconds also check the others weapons to make sure there was no foul play and that both parties were on equal terms.

As for who won the duel, not all duels were to the death although that was a viable option. There were also duels that also ended with one of the following outcomes:

To first blood, in which case the duel would be ended as soon as one man was wounded, even if the wound was minor.

Or

Until one man was so severely wounded as to be physically unable to continue the duel.

Or

In the case of pistol duels, each party would fire one shot. If neither man was hit and if the challenger stated that he was satisfied, the duel would be declared over. If the challenger was not satisfied, a pistol duel could continue until one man was wounded or killed, but to have more than three exchanges of fire was considered barbaric and, on the rare occasion that no hits were achieved, somewhat ridiculous.

 

Now I told you all of that to relay this true story:

 

In 1836, Jesse Bynum of North Carolina and Daniel Jenifer of Maryland, engage in a duel that did not create satisfaction of honor but did create a large amount of guffaws. Bynum was offended and objected to Jenifer’s denouncement of the way President Jackson’s party was handling things. After shouting insults and whatnot at each other, off they went for a shooting duel.

Both men arrived at Bladensburg Dueling Grounds, paced off (10 feet) and fired. No one was hit. The both reloaded, aimed, fired and missed. They both missed each for the third, the fourth and the fifth shots. As the reloaded for the sixth shot, Bynum’s pistol accidentally discharged. Jenifer’s second leveled his pistol at Bynum, but Jenifer stopped him.  Jenifer then aimed carefully at Bynum, squeezed the trigger and missed. The duel was called off and both of the dishonored men agreed to call it a draw.