Top 10 Famous Duels

In 1777, Irish statesmen met at Clonmel and drew up a Code Duello. The Code Duello was a dueling code which was popularly used in Ireland and in Britain. Immediately after its conception, the rules of Code Duello crossed the Atlantic and became used for dueling in the United States.

Much of the Code Duello dealt with how challenges were to be issued and answered. Although dueling was a form of fighting used before the Code Duello, it only became widespread after its conception. Here are 10 examples of famous duels pre and post Code Duello.


1. David Vs. Goliath:

This was one of the most famous mythical duels that is still spoken about in contemporary society. David was a young teenager who heard Goliath (a giant) shouting his daily defiance. Understanding the great fear stirred within the men of Israel, David volunteered to fight Goliath. As Goliath moved in to the kill David with his sword, David reached into his bag and threw stones at Goliath’s head. Finding a hole in the armor, the stone sank into the Goliath forehead, making him fall to the ground. Taking Goliath’s sword, David killed his opponent and cut off his head.


2. Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr:

The duel was between Alexander Hamilton (the former Secretary of Treasury) and Aaron Burr (Vice-President of the United States) on July 11, 1804. Bitter political tensions ensued between the two men. The tensions came to a boiling point when Hamilton defamed Burr’s character during the 1804 New York gubernational race. The tensions were preconceived as both were on opposing political sides (Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans). During the duel, Burr shot Hamilton, causing damage to the liver, abdomen and diaphragm. Hamilton died the next day from his wounds.


3. Aleksandr Pushkin vs. Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthès:

Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthès mortally wounded Aleksandr Pushkin in a duel which took place in 1837. The cause of the duel was Pushkin’s wife affair with d’Anthès. As a result of the affair, Pushkin fell into debt and wanted to resolve it once and for all. Mortally wounded, Pushkin died 2 days later.


4. Mikhail Lermontov vs. Nikolai Martynov:

On July 25, 1841, the two decided to duel over Lermontov’s jokes about Martynov. Two days later, Lermonotov took on Martynov’s challenge to a dual at the foot of Mashuk Mountains. Lermonotov was killed by Martynov’s first shot.


5. Miguel Cervantes vs. Antonio Sigura:

The duel resulted in the wounding of Sigura in 1569. For his role in leading the duel, Cervantes was to be banished from Spain for 10 years and to lose his right hand. Cervantes ran away before the punishment could be fulfilled. When eventually deciding to return to Spain in 1575, Berber pirates took his ship near Barcelona. They captured Cervantes and his brother Rodrigo and jailed them in their Algerian prisons.


6. Andrew Jackson vs. Charles Dickenson:

Andrew Jackson was known for his violent actions and his racist policies towards the Native Americans. The troubles between the two began when Dickenson alleged Jackson cheated on a horse race. One thing led to another and Dickenson insulted Jackson’s wife. Given the defamation, Jackson challenged Dickenson to a duel, which the latter agreed to. Both Jackson and Dickinson were wounded, but Jackson took the duel one step too far and killed the latter at point blank.


7. Daniel O’Connell vs. John D’Estrere:

The Irish political leader (O’Connell) was famous for his many duels. Unlike others, he was remorseful of his actions. Given his emotional state, many of his opponents called him a coward. This was especially the case when he fought and killed John D’Estrere. O’Connell covered the hand that killed D’Estrete when entering the church to cover his sins.


8. Henry Clay vs. John Randolph:

Despite dueling being illegal in Virginia, Secretary of State Henry Clay challenged U.S. Senator John Randolph of Roanoke. Clay called Randolph out for insulting him in a speech in the Senate. The duel took place on 8 April 1826 where both first shots missed their intended targets. The duel ended with both unhurt opponents meeting each other halfway and shaking hands.


9. Mark Anthony vs. Octavian:

Mark Anthony challenged Octavian to a dual after the latter defeated the formal in the battle of Actium. The point of contention was Alexandria, which Octavian tried to take over. Octavian refused to duel, so it never took place.


10. José Batlle y Ordóñez vs. Washington Beltrán Barbat:

Former President José Batlle y Ordóñez challenged Washington Beltrán Barbat to formal duel which resulted in the death of the latter. The former president was offended by Barbat, a journalist who published by Beltrán in the newspaper El País. This was not the first duel for the former president who previously challenged two others to the same.


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