Aaron Burr: The Cheating Dueler

Vice President Aaron Burr and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton took part in what used to be America’s most famous duel; a duel that is marred by death by deceit.

In the summer of 1804, tensions rose to a climax after Hamilton called Burr’s character into question during the 1804 New York gubernatorial race in which Burr was a candidate. As part of a bluff, Burr offered the challenge of a duel to Hamilton – which Hamilton accepted. Shocked at this turn of events, Burr began to worry because he was a notoriously bad shot.

The two men met on July 11, 1804 at the Heights of Weekhawken in New Jersey, where dueling had not yet been outlawed. Arrangements were also made so that none of the seconds who were with the two men saw the pistols or saw either man fire. Burr, however, had also arranged for a sharpshooter to hide in a nearby thicket.

Hamilton’s second began to count off paces when the men were set. After the appropriate number of steps, both Burr and Hamilton spun around and aimed. Hamilton’s shot went high and wide. Burr’s shot rang out just as his sharpshooter pulled the trigger. Hamilton went down, mortally wounded, and died the next day at 2:00 p.m. Which man killed Hamilton is not known to this day.

The altercation was covered up for the most part and made to look like an accident. Not until 2006 has a similar event occurred. On February 11, 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington while “quail hunting.”


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