Bourbon County

A list of famous duels in Central Kentucky

Here are some other duels that happened in Central Kentucky. They are listed with others in Famous Kentucky Duels, a 1969 book by J. Winston Coleman Jr., who wrote extensively about duels.

1790: The first recorded duel in Kentucky happened Aug. 1, 1790, two years before Kentucky became a state. It was fought in Danville between Capt. James Strong and Henry Craig. According to the Kentucky Gazette, "Captain Strong was mortally wounded; the ball entered his right groin and passed just below his left hip. Mr. Craig was wounded through the right thigh." The cause of the duel was not given.

1794: Gen. Thomas Kennedy of Garrard County and William Gillespie of Madison County fought at Paint Lick on Oct. 21, 1794. The reason for the duel was some sort of trouble over a business transaction. Gillespie was killed on the first firing. Kennedy escaped unharmed; the bullet passed through his clothes under his left arm, according to the Kentucky Gazette.

1815: William Henry and Lt. James Haydon met Feb. 14, 1815, on the big hill behind the state House in Frankfort. Each fired three rounds, but no one was injured. Having expended all their ammunition, the parties went to town but planned to return at 3 p.m. that day. However, friends on both sides brought about "an amicable and honorable compromise," according to the Argus of Western America, a Frankfort newspaper.

1845: Dr. J.D. Taylor of Harrodsburg and John M. Harrison of Danville fought in Garrard County on Sept. 6, 1845, with pistols at 30 feet. Harrison was shot through the body at first fire and died several days later. The duellists were brothers-in-law, and the cause of the affair "was a separation between Taylor and his wife, attributed by Taylor to misrepresentations on the part of Harrison," the Lexington Observer & Reporter said.

1867: Two Paris men, Isaac Harrison and Noah S. Alexander, met on an island in the South Licking River at Townsend Bridge on April 27, 1867. The island fell on a line between Bourbon and Harrison counties. Harrison challenged with pistols at 10 paces. Four shots were fired by each, but neither was injured. On the fifth round, Harrison was severely wounded in the hip; Alexander was slightly injured. Nevertheless, the Cynthiana News, reported, "They both shook hands and laughed over the affair with as much nonchalance as if they had been to a corn-shucking or attending a circus."