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Top 10 Duels in History

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script Written by Ryan Hechler. Who isn't familiar with the dramatic threat, 'I challenge you to a duel?' Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 duels in history! For this list, we’re strictly reviewing conflicts between two individuals, although the manner of engagement varies based upon the historical time period and location. These duels feature a variety of weaponry, from swords to pistols. Special thanks to our users hecklenstein and Daniel Fong for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Duels in History


Who isn’t familiar with the dramatic threat, “I challenge you to a duel?” Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 duels in history!

For this list, we’re strictly reviewing conflicts between two individuals, although the manner of engagement varies based upon the historical time period and location. These duels feature a variety of weaponry, from swords to pistols.

#10: Wild Bill Hickok vs. Davis Tutt

In Springfield, Missouri on July 21, 1865, Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt resorted to arms after a series of disputes relating to a minor poker debt Hickok owed to Tutt. Hickok famously threatened Tutt not to venture into the town square “unless dead men can walk.” Needless to say, the two met in the square, faced each other sideways, and drew simultaneously. Tutt missed, and Hickok landed a bullet in Tutt’s left rib cage. Tutt’s last words were, “Boys, I’m killed.” Though this seems to be just the way it is in the movies, it was rare for such a shootout to play out this way. Nonetheless, this immortalized gunslinger duels in the Wild West.

#9: King Naresuan vs. Prince Minchit Sra

At the end of the Burmese-Siamese War in 1593, Burmese Crown Prince Minchit Sra confronted Siamese King Naresuan in Siam. Naresuan persuaded Minchit Sra to duel on the backs of war elephants. The younger and fitter Prince saw himself at an advantage, and so the duel commenced. Minchit Sra cut Naresuan’s hat, just missing him in the process. After carefully avoiding this fatal swipe, Naresuan proceeded to slash the Prince to death, though both remained on their elephants. Now known as the Elephant Battle, the date of this event – January 18 – is now eternalized as Royal Thai Armed Forces Day.

#8: Col. Barbier-Dufai vs. Capt. Raoul de Vere

During the French Restoration in Paris, all it took was one wrong comment about a hat to start a duel. In this case, two officers dueled it out with swords due to an insult levied by Col. Barbier-Dufai against Royal Guard Captain Raoul de Vere’s uniform cockade. Barbier-Dufai easily disarmed Raoul several times, but was not satisfied. The two decided to be much more extreme: they agreed to have their left arms bound to one another in the back of a moving carriage. With both armed with daggers, they brutally stabbed each other as the carriage made its rounds. Barbier-Dufai emerged from the carriage the victor, and Raoul was dead; however, Barbier-Dufour died a few days later anyway.

#7: Alexander Pushkin vs. Georges d’Anthès

French military officer George-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthès allegedly pursued Russian author Alexander Pushkin’s wife Natalia and, not surprisingly, Pushkin was furious. Perhaps to better his chances somehow, d’Anthès married Natalia’s sister. Shortly after the marriage, Pushkin wrote a letter denigrating d’Anthés. The rivaling brother-in-laws quickly found themselves dueling in Saint Petersburg, Russia on January 27, 1837. D’Anthès fired first and shot Pushkin in the stomach; Pushkin rose and fired, giving d’Anthès a minor bullet wound on his right arm. Pushkin died a few days later, though he pardoned d’Anthès.

#6: Andrew Jackson vs. Charles Dickinson

Before becoming president, Andrew Jackson dueled lawyer Charles Dickinson in 1806. Dickinson and Jackson’s feud originated with a poorly handled horseracing bet between Jackson and Dickinson’s father-in-law. After a year of insults, the quarrel reached its tipping point when Dickinson allegedly insulted Jackson’s wife. A duel was called for, but since dueling wasn’t legal in Tennessee, they crossed over to Kentucky. Dickinson fired first and shot Jackson in the chest, but seemingly did not faze him. Jackson misfired his gun, immediately re-cocked it, took aim, and shot Dickinson dead.

#5: Monsieur Le Pique vs. Monsieur de Grandpré

Picture it: Paris, France, 1808. Two Frenchmen, Monsieur Le Pique and Monsieur de Grandpré, famously agreed to a duel because they both shared the same lover. But not just any duel: a hot air balloon duel, because they thought they were too good for a traditional duel. Armed with shotguns 900 yards above the ground, Le Pique fired first, but somehow missed. De Grandpré subsequently blew away Le Pique’s hot air balloon and sent him tumbling to his death. To make matters worse, both duelists had a hot air balloon pilot with them, so Le Pique’s pilot died as well.

#4: Miyamoto Musashi vs. Sasaki Kojirō

Hearing about the exploits of fellow Japanese swordsman Sasaki Kojirō, rōnin Miyamoto Musashi arranged for a duel to be fought on a remote Japanese island on April 13, 1612. To psychologically throw Kojirō off, Musashi arrived hours late by boat and even fashioned an oversized bokken, or wooden sword, out of one of his oars for the duel. Furious at his opponent’s tardiness, Kojirō lunged at Musashi and failed to execute his famous swallow cut. Musashi knocked Kojirō down with his oversized bokken, killed him, and rowed away.

#3: Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr

Vice President Aaron Burr dueled Alexander Hamilton, former Secretary of the Treasury, after a series of political quarrels – because apparently that’s how you solved things in the nineteenth century. On July 11th, 1804, the two departed New York and met in Weehawken, New Jersey, which less rigorously prosecuted dueling. Hamilton fired into the air missing, perhaps treating this as an affair of honor or perhaps just because he was a bad shot. Burr, conversely, shot above Hamilton’s right hip, causing organ damage, and the bullet lodged into Hamilton’s spine, killing him the next day. Ironically, Hamilton’s son had died in November 1801, the result of a duel to protect his father’s honor.

#2: Humphrey Howarth vs. the Earl of Barrymore

British MP Humphrey Howarth squared off against the Earl of Barrymore due to a drunken quarrel after an evening of races in Brighton, England in 1806. The not-so-fit and past-his-prime Howarth showed up and supposedly disrobed before Barrymore, which – needless to say – shocked onlookers. Howarth had previously been a military surgeon and understood that most people who were killed by bullet wounds actually died from infection due to unclean clothing being pushed into the wound by the bullet. So Howarth stripped naked to increase his chances. Barrymore understandably felt awkward and neither shot the other, allowing both to walk away honorably. Ish.

Before we get to our number one duel, let’s review some honorable mentions:
- Lady Almeria Braddock vs. Mrs Elphinstone
- Isabella de Carazi vs. Diambra de Petinella
- Édouard Manet vs. Louis Edmond Duranty
- Jeffrey Hudson vs. Charles Crofts
- M. Melfant vs. M. Lenfant

#1: Gen. François Fournier-Sarlovèze vs. Gen. Pierre Dupont de l’Étang

An officer in Napoleon’s army, Fournier gained notoriety as a fervent duelist and Dupont was unfortunately charged with the task of delivering him some bad news. Enraged, Fournier challenged Dupont and they fought. This was in 1794, and while both lived, this duel resulted in as many as 30 more duels over the next two decades. These two frequently alternated between various swords and pistols, as well as between on foot and horseback. By 1813, Dupont was fed up with their relationship, longed to marry, got the upper hand on Fournier, and allowed him to live, finally ending their 19-year feud.

Do you agree with our list? What are your favorite duels in history? For more excellent Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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