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.


About The Author

4 Responses

  1. Xenophon

    In the Randolph/Clay duel, Clay fired first, but missed. Randolph, one of the best pistol shots in the nation, now had his chance, which onlookers assumed would easily kill Clay. Instead, Randolph fired his pistol in the air, looked down at his coat, which had a bullet hole in it, and said, “Mr. Clay, you owe me a new coat.” Clay rushed forward to embrace Randolph and from then on proudly endured Randolph’s political taunts for as long as Randolph lived.

  2. A.Chena

    One thing: Cervantes, ran away from Spain to fight against the turkish in the famous battle of Lepanto, where he lost his right hand.

  3. chris

    what about Évariste Galois duel on the morning of 30 May 1832
    As to his opponent in the duel, Alexandre Dumas names Pescheux d’Herbinville, one of the nineteen artillery officers whose acquittal was celebrated at the banquet that occasioned Galois’ first arrest[10] and du Motel’s fiancé.[citation needed] However, Dumas is alone in this assertion, and extant newspaper clippings from only a few days after the duel give a description of his opponent that more accurately applies to one of Galois’ Republican friends, most probably Ernest Duchatelet, who was imprisoned with Galois on the same charges. Given the conflicting information available, the true identity of his killer may well be lost to history.
    His last words to his brother Alfred were:

    Ne pleure pas, Alfred ! J’ai besoin de tout mon courage pour mourir à vingt ans ! (Don’t cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty.)

  4. Ben Cosin

    Outrageous that you have omitted the 1828 duel of the Duke of Wellington against the Earl of Winchelsea; the latter accused the former of truckling to the Catholics in (very reluctantly, and for fear of civil disquiet if not upheaval, especially in Ireland) conceding Catholic emancipation. That the Duke was no panderer to the (especially Catholic) herd may be deduced from his comment that his birth in Ireland no more made him an Irishman than being born in a stable made a man a horse. A famous prostitute, Harriet Wilson threatened the Duke with disclosure of their amours;”publish and be damned ” was his response. Moreover, the duke proved the better of the Emperor in the bed of another prostitute, the star of the Parisian brothels: “le duc c’etait le plus fort”! Nonetheless, this duel was directly part of a world-historical event, comparable to JFK’s neutralization of Baptist bigotry in 1960….So worthy of aplace in your top ten, even five…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.