On May 3, 1856, the last recorded duel among North Carolinians, and one of the last duels in the South, was fought. Joseph Flanner and William Crawford Wilkings, both of Wilmington, battled just across the border in South Carolina. The duel resulted in Wilkings’ death.
Dueling was relatively rare in the colonial South, though British and French officers made the practice more popular in the region during the Revolutionary War. The first recorded duel was fought between two British naval officers in Brunswick in March 1765, and the first recorded duel between native North Carolinians was fought in Wilmington in July 1787.
The practice reached its peak of notoriety in North Carolina with the Stanly-Spaight Duel in 1802 in which John Stanly killed former governor Richard Dobbs Spaight. The General Assembly reacted to the incident by banning dueling. The law was largely unenforced, and the state’s political elites continuing to use duels to resolve rivalries into the second half of the 19th century.
Gradually though, public opinion began to shift against duels and the practice faded into history.
Read more about dueling on NCpedia.
For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.