August 24, 1865: Killing off the hotheads

The Duel

The New York Times speculates, a bit optimistically, that the temporary decline of violence in the South due to the absence of fallen soldiers will continue. The author expects that the abolition of slavery will transform southern culture.

Public Order in the South The Fate of the Bravos.
Published: August 24, 1865

In looking over our exchanges received from all parts of the Southern States, we are struck with the infrequency of any mention of those personal assaults with bowie-knife or pistol, which used to be so very common in that section. Prior to the war, we could hardly take up a paper published in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, or any State of the far South, without learning of a fracas in which two or more hot-headed individuals had taken part, in which knives or pistols were drawn, and in which there was either killing or maiming. Now, we should judge, Mississippi is as free from this kind of thing as Maine; Arkansas knows as little of it as Vermont.

The fact is — and it is a terrible fact, though not without its compensations — that during the war the greater part of these Southern hot-heads were killed. They were in the rebel army of course; they were brave, beyond a question; and in all desperate adventures, in charges upon artillery, or upon works, or with the bayonet, or in cavalry service, they were first and foremost. They carried their recklessness to the field of battle, and there the career of most of them was brief.

A gentleman of this city, on meeting a rebel officer recently from the South, made inquiry concerning the bravos in a certain Southern town in which both parties were well acquainted. “Where is A?” asked the New-Yorker. “Why, he is dead.” “Where is B?” “He was killed in the Shenandoah Valley.” “Where is C?” “He is at home, with his right arm shot off.” “Where is D?” “He fell at Fredericksburgh.” “Where is E?” “Died in a Northern hospital of his wounds.” “Where is F?” “He was taken prisoner, and shot in attempting to escape.” And so the inquiries continued, until it appeared that of all the fire-eating bullies living in that Southern town five years ago, only a few were left alive, and most of these were lacking of an arm or a leg. Such is the tragical experience of many a Southern town and county. It is tragical enough in itself; but their loss will inure to the peace and quiet of many Southern localities. And they are not likely to have successors of their own kind, for the system of slavery, of which they were the foul blossom, has passed away.

This entry was posted in Southern culture. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *