North Carolina’s Last Duels

The DuelOn May 3, 1856, the last recorded duel among North Carolinians, and one of the last duels in the South, was fought. Joseph Flanner and William Crawford Wilkings, both of Wilmington, battled just across the border in South Carolina. The duel resulted in Wilkings’ death.

Dueling was relatively rare in the colonial South, though British and French officers made the practice more popular in the region during the Revolutionary War. The first recorded duel was fought between two British naval officers in Brunswick in March 1765. The first recorded duel between native North Carolinians was fought in Wilmington in July 1787.

The practice reached its peak popularity in the early 1800s with the famed Stanly-Spaight Duel in which John Stanley killed former governor Richard Dobbs Spaight. The General Assembly reacted to the incident by banning dueling. The law was largely unenforced, and the state’s political elites continuing to use duels to resolve rivalries into the second half of the 19th century. Gradually though, public opinion began to shift against duels and the practice faded into history.

Read more about dueling on NCpedia.

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2 responses to “North Carolina’s Last Duels”

  1. Cotton Boll Conspiracy says :

    You’ve got us beat in South Carolina: our last duel took place five years earlier, in July 1880. It also resulted in the death of one of the duelists.

  2. Deborah Allen says :

    I’m curious if that’s my John Stanley husband of Sildra and Father of Nancy who married Cary Tuck. If it is I’d like to know for sure cause my Dad is 88 and I’d like to let him know. I’d appreciate it. It say on Nancy’s stone daughter of Sildra but I think if I remember right her birth Mother died when Nancy was young and Sildra raised her. I think she must have loved and respected her very much as the only Mother she ever really knew. A most loving tribute. I think the dates would be about right. If the author knows I’d appreciate knowing, Thanks! I love these articles.

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