Tag Archives: Code Duello

Today in Texas History – February 7

From the Annals of Stupidity –  In 1837, Brigadier General Felix Huston wounded his superior officer General Albert Sidney Johnston in a duel.  President Sam Houston had sent Johnston to replace Huston as commander of the Texas army.  Huston considered Houston’s rebuke to impugn his honor such that, despite his respect for Johnston, he made a challenge.  Even though Johnston was in charge of enforcing the strict no dueling policy of the Texas Army, he accepted the challenge.

The two Fighting Kentuckians met near the Lavaca River in Jackson County under a large oak tree that has become known as Dueling Oak.  Huston was an expert marksman which prompted Johnston’s second to propose that the duelists agree to shoot from the hip to lessen the chances that ASJ would be seriously injured.

Johnston waited until Huston took aim before firing his own pistol, hoping to distract the excellent shot.  The ploy failed and each man fired three times.  The affair ended when ASJ was shot through the hip on the third volley. The attending physician told ASJ that he was going to die as the ball had hit the sciatic nerve.

Magnanimous in victory, Huston offered condolences and pledged to serve under ASJ’s command.  For his part, Johnston is reputed to have never held the foolish duel against Huston even though his recovery took several months and temporarily prevented him from assuming command according to Sam Houston’s wishes.  Perhaps admonished by his actions, Huston left the Army shortly afterwards and returned to the United States.

Photo of the Dueling Oak from http://www.texasforestservice.tamu.edu.


Today in Texas History – October 6

From the Annals of the Code Duello –  In 1839, Reuben Ross and Ben McColluch fought a duel in a field north of Gonzales.  The dispute was actually between McColluch and Alonzo B. Sweitzer and arose during their 1839 race for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives and came to a head during their subsequent involvement in the pursuit of Indians who had raided Gonzales County.  Following a lengthy exchange of insults, Sweitzer’s friend Ross delivered a formal challenge to McCulloch, who refused to accept on the grounds that Sweitzer was not a gentleman. Ross, however, was an acceptable substitute.  Ross, an trained and  experienced duelist, seriously wounded Ben McCulloch in the rifle duel. A shot to his right arm left McCulloch permanently crippled.  Ross sent his personal surgeon to attend to McCulloch and expressed regret at having to have engaged “so brave a man in a private encounter.”  McCulloch was indicted for accepting the challenge but was not prosecuted.  Ross himself was later killed by McCulloch’s brother Henry in an alcohol fueled confrontation.  And Sweitzer died in a duel in 1841.  The encounter was one of many foolish examples of code duello tradition that persisted in Texas despite the antidueling law passed by the Congress of the republic in 1836.