Tall Duel by
After all the vicissitudes, ups and downs of a soldier's life,
especially in such a campaign as that in Mexico, there is a great deal
of music mixed up with the misery, fun with the fuss and feathers, and
incident enough to last a man the balance of a long lifetime.
While camped at Camargo, the officers and privates of the Ohio
volunteer regiment were paid off one day, and, of course, all who could
get leave, started to town, to have a time, and get clear of
their hard earnings.
The Mexicans were some pleased, and greatly illuminated by the
Americans, that and the succeeding day. Several of the officers
invested a portion of their funds in mules and mustangs. Among the
rest, Lieut. Dick Mason and Adjt. Wash. Armstrong set up their private
teams. Now, it so fell out, that one of Armstrong's men stole Mason's
mule, and being caught during the day with the stolen property on him,
or he on it, the high-handed private, (who, barring his propensity to
ride in preference to walking, was a very clever sort of fellow, and
rather popular with the Adjutant,) nabbed him as a hawk would a
If I catch the fellow who stole my mule, quoth Lieut. Dick, I'll
give him a lamming he won't forget soon!
And, good as his word, when the man was taken, the Lieutenant had
him whipped severely. This riled up Adjt. Wash., who, in good, round,
unvarnished terms, volunteered to lick the Lieutenantout of his
leathers! From words they came to blows, very expeditiously, and
somehow or other the Lieutenant came out second bestbad licked! This
sort of a finale did not set well upon the stomach of the gallant
Lieutenant; so he ups and writes a challenge to the Adjutant to meet in
mortal combat; and readily finding a second, the challenge was signed,
sealed, and delivered to Adjt. Armstrong, Company , Ohio
volunteers. All these preliminaries were carried on in, or very near
in, Camargo. The Adjutant readily accepted the invitation to step out
and be shot at; and, having scared up his second, and having no heirs
or assigns, goods, chattels, or other sublunary matters to adjust, no
time was lost in making wills or leaving posthumous information. The
duel went forward with alacrity, but all of a sudden it was discovered
by the several interested parties that no arms were in the crowd. It
would not very well do to go to camp and look for duelling weapons; so
it was proposed to do the best that could be done under the
circumstances, and buy such murderous tools as could be found at hand,
and go into the merits of the case at once. At length the Adjutant and
friend chanced upon a machine supposed to be a pistol, brought over to
the Continent, most probably, by Cortez, in the year 1sometime. It
was a scrougin' thing to hold powder and lead, and went off once
in three times with the intonation of a four-pounder.
Hang the difference, says the Adjutant; it will do.
Must do, the second replies; and so paying for the tool, and
swallowing down a fresh invoice of ardiente, the fighting men
start to muster up their opponents, whom they found armed and equipped,
upon a footing equal to the other side, or pretty near it, the
Lieutenant having a little heavier piece, with a bore into which
a gill measure might be thrown.
Butthe difference! cried seconds and principals.
Let's fight, not talk, says the Adjutant.
That's my opinion, gentlemen, exactly, the Lieutenant responds.
Where shall we go?
Better get out into the chaparral, say the cautious seconds;
don't want a crowd. Come on! continue the seconds, very valorously;
Here's the ground! cries one, as the parties reach a chaparral, a
mile or so from town; here is our ground!
The principals stared around as if rather uncertain about that, for
the bushes were so thick and high that precious little ground
It ain't worth while, gentlemen, to toss up for positions, is it?
says the Adjutant's second.
No, cry both principals. Measure off the ground, if you
can find it; let us go to work.
That's the talk! says the Adjutant's second.
Measure off thirty paces, the Lieutenant's second responds.
No, ten! cry the principals.
Twenty paces or no fight! insists the Adjutant's second. Twenty
paces; one, two, three
And the seconds trod off as best they could the distance, the pieces
were loaded, the several bipeds took a drink all around from an ample
jug of the R. G. they brought for the purpose, and then began the
memorable duel. The principals were placed in their respective
positions, to rake down each other; and from a safer point of the
compass the seconds gave the word.
Bang-g-g! went the Adjutant's piece, knocking him down flat as a
F-f-f-izzy! and the Lieutenant's piece hung fire.
The seconds flew to their men; a parley took place upon a question
whether the Lieutenant had a right to prime and fire again, or
not. The Adjutant being set upon his pins; declared himself ready and
willing to let the Lieutenant blaze away! The point was finally settled
by loading up the Adjutant's piece, and priming that of the Lieutenant,
placing the men, and giving the word,
One, two, three!
The seconds ran, or hobbled forward, each to his man, both being
down; but whether by concussion, recoil of their fusees, force of the
liquor, or weakness of the knee-pans, was a hard fact to solve.
Not a bit! cries the Adjutant, getting up.
No, sir! shouts the Lieutenant; good as new!
Set 'em up!
Take your places, gentlemen! cry the seconds.
All ready. Wang! bang! go the pieces, and down ker-chug go
both men again. The seconds rush forward, raise their men, all safe,
load up again, take a drink, all right.
Make ready, take aim, fire!
Both down again, the Lieutenant's coat-tail slightly dislocated, and
the Adjutant dangerously wounded in the leg of his breeches! Both
parties getting very mad, very tired, and very anxious to try it on at
ten paces. Seconds object, pieces loaded up again, principals arranged,
One, two, three, fire!
All download up againtake a drinkfire! and down they go again.
It is very natural to suppose that all this firing attracted somebody's
attention, and somebody came poking around to see what it was all
about; and just then, as four or five Mexicans came peeping and peering
through the chaparral, Dick and Wash. let driveBang-g! wang-g! and
though it seemed impossible to hit one another, the slugs, ricochetting
over and through the chaparral, knocked down two Mexicans, who yelled
sanguinary murder, and the rest of their friends took to their heels.
The seconds, not quite so tight as the principals, took
warning in time to evacuate the field of honor, Lieut. Dick's second
taking him one way, and Ajt. Wash.'s friend going another, just as a
Corporal's Guard made their appearance to arrest the rioters.
In spite of the poor Mexicans' protestations, or endeavors to make out
a true case, they were taken up and carried to the Guard-House, for
shooting one another, and raising a row in general. A night's repose
brought the morning's reflection, when the previous day's performances
were laughed at, if not forgotten. Wash, and Dick became good friends,
of course, and cemented the bonds of fraternity in the bloody work of a
day or two afterwards, in storming Monterey.