Robert Triplett’s neighbor in Owensboro, KY, couldn’t understand Triplett’s preoccupation with death at-first. Triplett was wealthy and in robust health, yet the 33-year old Virginia-born lawyer drew up his will and proceeded to make other final arrangements.
His neighbor understood when Triplett confided that he would soon be involved in a duel with fellow Owensboro attorney Phillip Thompson.
The Thompson family was well established in the “city of churches” as Owensboro was called. A early house of worship there, where slaves met for worship, was in a Thompson log cabin. Duels were not deterred by occupation, status, religion nor neighbors in that era however. Triplett’s neighbor couldn’t dissuade him from going through with the duel with Phillip Thompson.
“How do you feel Robert?” a friend asked Triplett when he and several friends arrived on the morning of the duel, February 10, 1829.
“Strange, very strange,” Triplett answered. “It hasn’t grasped me. Although I’m facing a duel, facing possible death, things seem much like any other day. I’m sure I’ll feel much different when I see Mr. Thompson’s face.”
Triplett had moved to Kentucky and did legal work on land speculations and became quite rich.
“You accuse me of dishonesty,” Triplett stated. “Is that what you mean to say?”
“I am responsible for my words,” Thompson answered tersely.
Triplett then approached Thompson in anger with his cane held high before cooler heads prevailed.
“I’ll not hit a crippled man nor will I challenge you,” the irate Triplett said. “But I will defend myself if I must. I’ll answer to your challenge.”
Later that day the lame Thompson drafted a note and sent it to Triplett who immediately accepted his challenge. He also countered with the terms of the duel; “pistols at ten paces back to back, the second to count off one, two, three, fire. The parties are to whirl on three and fire on command.”
Thompson objected to standing back to back. Although he didn’t offer Triplett an explanation he felt his handicap put him at a disadvantage should he have to “whirl and fire.”
“Then we’ll face each other with our weapons at our side,” Triplett replied.
It was agreed as was the site of the duel. They would meet on the opposite banks of the Ohio River in Indiana. The men also agreed to remain mum about the impending duel to avoid possible arrest and prosecution.
Thompson was late in arriving for the duel so Triplett used the time to practice, using pistols Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton with in a famous duel.
The two combatants did not acknowledge each other when Thompson arrived but their seconds gathered and talked in low tones. The grounds were selected and the weapons were readied and loaded.
The stillness of the morning was violated as he seconds tested the working condition of the pistols by firing into the sky.
“Are you gentlemen ready?” one of them asked. “No,” Triplett answered. “I must see if my nerves are steady.”
He took one of the pistols and fired at a piece of wood in a snowbank, 150 feet away.
Soon the two men faced each other from 30 feet and when the word came to fire the weapons, they were discharged in unison. Neither man moved for what seemed like a long while but then Thompson stumbled forward and clutched his chest
“I am a dead man,” he mumbled as he slumped to his knees.
A doctor caught him before he fell. He opened his shirt and found where the ballshot entered at the right breast and passed through his body.
“It is hopeless,” the surgeon said. “He will die within hours.”
Thompson was rowed back across the Ohio River and was cared for in his home. Day after day passed however and Thompson hung on to life. Surprisingly after a few weeks he began to regain strength.
He sent word to Triplett after a few months saying he harbored no further hard feelings and wanted to patch their differences.
“I want to thank you, Mr. Triplett,” Thompson said. “You did with a ballshot from your gun what doctors and hospitals could not do. You have cured me of my lameness and my rheumatism which plagued me for ten years. You sir, are a good surgeon but quite severe with your remedy.
Triplett accepted the treaty and lived for another twenty years.
Thompson, often an angry man, attacked a man on an Owensboro street in 1836 and was slain.
Editor’s note: Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read periodically at bereaonline.com. Don’t miss a single segment.
A voice for God – a voice for good
I’ve read the Bible more in recent weeks than I have since I was a young Christian. With my historical writings ‘From the Mountains,’ radio work and other concerns I was having some difficulty sleeping at night late last year. Too often I awoke thinking of various matters and I was slow going back to sleep.
I prayed to God and decided on one of those sleepless nights to read my Bible. The manner I began reading may be beneficial to some. I deal a lot in history, my research, stories and much of the music we play on our radio programs. Some have heard me mention on the radio or write in columns about “fellow time travelers.” These are individuals interested in history like myself… those whose work seemingly has them traveling through time, through history and it’s various aspects.
Let me emphasize that the Bible is historical reading. Many findings, even today, mesh with what our grandparents and those long before, read about the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I started with Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. It’s comprised of many situations from the time of Jesus. I’m using the word situations instead of stories because the latter has been used for contrived (made up) stories whereas the Bible is historically based.
When I awoke prematurely I opened my Bible to Matthew and read until I felt I was ready to get back to sleep. The next time I awoke I resumed my reading where I left off before. Let me say I found my reading interesting and informative. The segments are direct and of short duration. Readers get to the gist of what is being said right away.
This has helped me in going to sleep and improved the quality of my rest. In the past I dreamt of having car trouble at night in a strange city and not being able to find my vehicle. What dreams I remember now seem to be pleasant. That makes for having a better and more restful sleep.
I need to discontinue this writing now so I can get to bed… to sleep and likely awaken a little later for some great historical reading, the Bible that is.
Our good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. Every day I am reminded in some fashion of my nearness to Him and can feel his touch in my life.