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1882 One Hundred Years Ago

July 2024
1min read

N EW O RLEANS : Shortly after dawn on the morning of June 7, Major E. A. Burke, state treasurer of Louisiana, faces C. H. Parker, the editor of the Picayune , in a field behind a slaughter-house. Both men are holding pistols. Long after the era for this sort of bloody punctilio has passed, they are going to fight a duel.

They’re here because Parker, according to an account drafted by his seconds, “rashly inquired through the columns of the Picayune into certain discrepancies in Mr. Burke’s accounts as State Treasurer. He even insinuated that a man who could stuff ballot boxes could steal, and further hinted that in Major Burke’s dictionary could was synonymous with would.”

Burke issued his challenge on the second of June; Parker accepted. He had the choice of arms, Burke the choice of distance. Parker named rifles; Burke, knowing his opponent to be a skillful hand with that particular weapon, promptly redressed the odds by fixing the distance at two and a half paces. Now, after negotiations among the seconds, both parties have settled on pistols at twenty paces.

On the word from one of Parker’s seconds, both men fire. Both miss. Parker s men ask if honor is satisfied. Burke says no.

They fire again, and miss again. On the fourth exchange of shots, they run out of ammunition, and there’s a long, nervous wait while more is scared up. When the bullets finally arrive, they turn out to be too small and must be wrapped in paper to fit snugly in the barrels.

At last, on the fifth fire, Major Burke is hit, the bullet, according to The New York Times , entering his “right thigh, passing through into the left thigh and within a quarter of an inch of the skin, from which it was at once removed. …”

Parker’s unforgiving seconds indicate that “thigh” is a nicety and, announcing that Major Burke “has at last succeeded in getting himself shot in the field, and in the seat, of honor,” offer the consolation that the “hole drilled by … Parker will be of inestimable value to Mr. Burke when next the White League parades, for he can run a lariat through it and tie himself on his horse.”

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