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There have been a number of duels and near duels over the course of William & Mary's history.

  • On 6 February 1793, Robert Taylor and John Randolph of Roanoke engaged in a duel. Taylor was wounded in the butt and was expelled. Mentioned in the Galt Papers (I), letters dated 10 February 1793 and 5 June 1793.
  • In March 1802, there was a duel between Richard H. Lee and John Yates, in which Yates was wounded. Both students were expelled.
  • According to the Scioto Gazette, there was a duel in April 1803 between Joseph C. Breckenridge and William Chapman; Chapman was killed and Breckenridge and the two seconds, James Gilmer and Thomas Preston, were expelled.
  • On 30 January 1809, student Samuel Myers challenged William C. Somerville to a duel. The duel never took place, and Myers wrote letters to his father apologizing for challenging Somerville. From the Samuel Myers Papers.
  • In late February or early March 1809, a duel occurred between Charles I. Cabell and Benjamin Jones, with William Olds acting as a second to one of the students. Jones received a wound to his thigh, which was believed to have render him permanently injured. There is an account of the duel is in the Sarah C. Watts Papers, in a letter written by Jane C. Charlton to Sarah Watts, 19 March 1809.
  • In April or May of 1816, there was a near duel between Mr. Douthas and Mr. M. Cabell, son of Judge Cabell. Mentioned by Moncure Robinson in a letter dated 3 May 1816 in the Moncure Robinson Papers.
  • Some time between 1816 and 1818, a Mr. Worthington of Georgetown, Washington, D.C., was killed in a duel. From Schoolmates at William & Mary College of J. J. Ambler as He Remembered Them in 1828 in the William & Mary Quarterly.
  • On 23 February 1832, James Scott and Mr. Shields got into a duel over a woman met at a ball. Scott fired first and missed, while Shields fired into the air to end the duel a draw. Scott wanted to fire again, but the seconds would not allow it. Scott assumed he would be expelled, and so left and returned to Richmond. This incident is described in a letter from Alfred Robinson to Moncure Robinson, dated 17 March 1832 in the Moncure Robinson Papers.
  • On 5 March 1832, Charles Byrd, Thomas Burfoot, and Mallory Dickson brought a horse into the College Building and rode it through the streets of Williamsburg; the faculty appointed Thomas Dew and William Barton Rogers to investigate. On 9 March 1832, Charles Byrd knocked on the door of the Brafferton, brandishing a pistol, threatened William Barton Rogers and challenged him to a duel. Rogers retreated to his bedroom and locked the door and Byrd soon left as well. These incidents are described in the Faculty Minutes for 6 March 1832 and 10 March 1832.
  • Dueling at the College was not confined just to the students. Archibald Peachy, the professor of moral philosophy, challenged President of the College Robert Saunders to a duel sometime between 23 December 1847 and 3 January 1848; James Christian, a student, carried the challenge to Saunders, an act for which he was later expelled. Saunders apologized, and the challenge was dropped. From "The College of William & Mary: A History" page 237 and the Faculty Minutes.
  • There was a duel between William J.H. Ballard and Julian R. Beckwith on 17 January 1857, which is captured in a sketch by Mary Southall.

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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.