Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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July 11th
The Burr-Hamilton Duel
July 11, 1804, brought the most famous duel in American history and the fatal shooting of one of the nation’s founders.

The duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton was the result of longstanding enmity. Politics and personal insults had driven the two men to  detest each other. In 1804, when Burr ran for governor of New York, Hamilton attacked his character, denouncing him as an unprincipled adventurer. Burr lost the election and demanded satisfaction of Hamilton. In those times, that meant a duel.

Hamilton felt he could not refuse Burr’s challenge without appearing cowardly. It could not have been an easy decision; Hamilton’s eldest son, Phillip, had been killed in a duel. Hamilton apparently made up his mind to throw away his first shot at Burr, even if it meant death. He was resolved to “live innocent” rather than “die guilty” of shedding another man’s blood.

Early on July 11, the two men faced each other on a dueling ground at Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton fired into the air, missing Burr on purpose. Burr leveled his pistol and shot Hamilton in the abdomen, the bullet passing through his enemy’s liver and diaphragm.

Hamilton knew the wound was mortal. His friends ferried him over the Hudson River to New York City, where he died after thirty hours of pain. His death was widely mourned, even by political opponents. He was the only one of the Founding Fathers to die a violent death.

Burr was indicted for murder but not arrested. He fled New York, eventually returning to Washington, D.C., where he finished his term as vice president. The duel brought an end to his political career, and the shooting is still regarded as one of the saddest episodes in American political history.

American History Parade
1767
John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. president, is born in Braintree, Massachusetts.

1804
Aaron Burr fatally wounds Alexander Hamilton in a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey.

1955
The Air Force Academy inducts its first class of cadets at a temporary site at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado.

1960
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is published.

1979
The abandoned space station Skylab makes a fiery return to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean and Australia.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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