Notes on the North Carolina Duels

All three of these duels conform in many ways to the Southern construct of honor as described by Wyatt-Brown and Greenburg. In all three cases, a man’s honor or qualification had been impugned and the duel resulted. Personal insult, especially surrounding allegations of dishonesty, played into the altercations. All six participants were high-born, obviously considered themselves men of honor and of the elite class and were reacting as one would expect men of their station to react.

What stands out in the Avery vs. Jackson and Carson vs. Vance duel is that, in both cases, the men were friends before having a dispute over professional differences that boiled over into the realm of the personal . In the Carson vs. Vance duel, the result was, ultimately, tragic. In the Avery vs. Jackson duel, their friendship overtook their adherence to traditions of honor. In Clingman and Yancey’s case, the result was comic but barely averted tragedy.

Both men likely came away with a better understanding of how deadly adherence to the norms of ritualized violence could be and were immediately willing and able to conquer the hurdles of masculinity that had impeded their ability to make civil amends before they started shooting. Would that all Southern duelists had ended their disputes so sensibly.


America’s Library. (2008). Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Dueled to the Death. Retrieved 4 15, 2008, from America’s Library: http://www.americaslibrary. gov/cgi-bin/page. cgi/jb/nation/hamburr_1 Arthur, J. P. (1914). Duels – Some Western North Carolina History. Retrieved 4 12, 2008, from Duels: http://www. cojoweb. com/duels-wnchistory. html Cooper, W. J. , & Cooper, W. J. (2000). Liberty and Slavery: Southern Politics to 1860. University of South Carolina Press. Freeman, J. B. (1996). Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr-Hamiton Duel. The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol 53, No. 2 , 289-318.