Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fatal Duel

Taken from The Raleigh Register (Raleigh, NC) 9 Oct 1847

The Rest of The Story

On October first, 1847, H. F. Harris, a member of the legislature, fell in a duel with E. C. Yellowly. Both were young lawyers of the Greenville [Pitt County] bar. They were close friends, rivals at the bar and also for the graces of an only daughter of a wealthy planter.
According to Henry King in Sketches of Pitt County, a case in court caused the first difficulty. Harris had the first speech to the jury and severely criticized the management of the case by Yellowly. In his reply, Yellowly more severely criticized Harris.
After court, Harris made an attack on Yellowly. Friends prevented anything serious then. Harris challenged Yellowly to meet him on the field of honor, which challenge was accepted. However, both were arrested and put under heavy bonds to keep the peace one year. On the day the bond was out Harris renewed the challenge, which was again accepted.

The story that appeared in Lytell’s Living Age was somewhat different. As Lytell reported it, Harris was an impetuous, ill-disciplined, passionate man. He was the Whig representative last year, from his district. Mr. Yellowly, who is amiable, yet resolute, opposed his nomination. Harris was returned by only fifteen majority, when the party could have given him hundreds.
Stung by the smallness of the return, he [Harris] said, after the poll was over, to Yellowly—“You damned scoundrel, you are the cause of this. If you had not opposed my nomination, I should have had the usual majority.”
“I opposed your nomination,” replied Yellowly, “as I had a right to do, but I supported you at the ballot-box.”
          Thereupon Harris struck him—they clinched, and were separated. Many supposed this would end the matter. But Harris retired to the room, armed himself with a double-barreled gun, pursued Yellowly, swearing he would shoot him the first place he met him. The citizens here interfered, and bound both parties to keep the peace for twelve months.
          Whichever story is true, both reporters agree that though the letter of the law was kept, its spirit was violated. Every day, and often by moonlight, Harris was out practicing, until he had perfected himself. Lytell and King agree that on October first, 1847, Harris and Yellowly met on the North Carolina and Virginia State line, on the Dismal Swamp Canal, about four miles from the "Half-way House."*  Before fighting, Yellowly sent his second to see if the duel could then be stopped. Harris was obstinate and demanded that the duel proceed. 
In the first shot, Harris's shot went wild, and Yellowly fired up into the air. Again Yellowly attempted a reconciliation, but Harris said he went there for blood and would have it before he left. In the second shot Harris's shot again went wild. This time Yellowly's shot went true and Harris fell, pierced by the ball, nearly in the center of his forehead, a little over the right eye. 
Seeing Harris fall, Yellowly said to his second, "Go to him for God's sake, for I don't want to kill him." Harris was dead when the second reached him. Yellowly and his party left at once, but was arrested in Virginia, though the magistrate did not hold him.**
          According to King, "both Harris and Yellowly were brave, fearless men. Harris was an expert with the pistol. Both had practiced for the occasion, though Yellowly did not want to fight. Dr. J. Blow was Yellowly’s second, and also surgeon to both."

* Half-way house was another name for the Drummond Hotel which was on the Virginia/North Carolina line on the shore of Drummond Lake in the Dismal Swamp. By stepping to one side or the other, you could move from Virginia to North Carolina or North Carolina to Virginia. [Camden County, NC]

**  J. E. Wilkins, an eye-witness to part of the duel, gave this writer the following account of the affair. He said: "I was a srnall boy on a visit to my uncle, William Wallace, who lived at Culpepper Locks, on the Dismal Swamp Canal, in Virginia. I was in possession of my first gun and with a crowd of boys, some larger, my cousin, W. T. Wallace, son of my uncle, being in the crowd. Returning home, we came up the east bank of the canal and ahead of us saw two carriages and several men, walking about mixed up. A man came running meeting us, stopped us and told us to remain where we were. We were then about one hundred yards from the men and carriages. Soon there were pistol shots and again the men were busy getting about. Soon there were other pistol shots and again the men stirred about. A tall, small man and two or three others got into the carriage and drove off. The boys were much excited, and passing on up the canal bank -by where the shooting had taken place, they saw a man lying next the woods on the bank, with a red handkerchief over his face. The boys went on to William Wallace’s and told that a man had been killed on the canal bank and gave particulars. William Wallace was a magistrate. A warrant was issued and the party in the carriage containing the tall, small [sic] man were arrested at Deep Creek and had a hearing before three magistrates. After the hearing all the parties signed the paper and were released and left. The trial was held in the little inn at Deep Creek, kept by Major Sam Foreman. The body of the dead man was taken to Deep Creek and a coffin got from a wheelwright who kept them.”

Taken from  Sketches of Pitt County: A Brief History of the County 1704-1910 by Henry T. King, 1911 and Lyttell’s Lving Age. Vol. XV. October, November, December, 1847

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