The dew lay heavy on the grass, the lowering clouds a harbinger of afternoon thunderstorm.
As previously arranged, the boatmen and surgeon turned their backs to the principals, for these affairs were now a prosecutable offense.
Van Ness produced the walnut case, a fine set of Wogdon & Barton’s finest pistols.
Pendleton selected one and carried it over. “Alexander, I urge you to reconsider,” he whispered. “Burr is in earnest.”
“You know my convictions, Nathaniel. Murder is a mortal sin.”
Van Ness brought out the coins and Hamilton won the toss for first shot.
He fired his pistol into the sky.
On July 11, 1804, the most famous duel in American history was fought between Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexender Hamilton. The meeting took place on a New Jersey cliff overlooking the Hudson River.
Eyewitness accounts vary. Pendleton, Hamilton’s second, said his principal fired deliberately into a tree, but Burr’s second said it was merely a misfire. They both agree that Burr remained upright while Hamilton fell, clutching a .54-caliber wound to the abdomen that shattered his liver, diaphragm and spine. Thirty-six hours later he was dead.