north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     The Vance-Carson Duel took place in November 1827 south of the present-day Henderson County community of Tuxedo and, importantly, south of the state border in South Carolina. Dueling followed a peculiar code and was a distinctive aspect of Southern life in the antebellum era. The practice adhered closely to an accepted body of rules, by which gentlemen would arrive early in the morning, walk ten paces, and fire upon one another. The Vance-Carson duel was fought by Robert B. Vance and Samuel P. Carson, both members of respected families.

     Robert B. Vance was a United States Congressman born on Reems Creek in 1793. Onne of eight children born to David and Priscilla Vance, Vance attended Asheville’s Newton Academy and studied medicine under Dr. Charles Harris. In 1818 he began practicing medicine. Vance had a disability that made it hard to for him to practice medicine so he turned to other career choices. In 1823 Vance was elected to the Eighteenth Congress but was unsuccessful at being reelected to the Nineteenth Congress.

     Samuel P. Carson was a representative from North Carolina born in Pleasant Gardens near Marion on January 22, 1798. Carson was the eldest son of John Carson and his second wife. He was educated at home and took interest in agricultural pursuits. From 1822 to 1824 he served in the state senate. Carson was elected to the Nineteenth Congress in 1825 beating out his opponent, who was up for reelection, Robert B. Vance.

     The election of Carson forced Vance into an unwanted early retirement. Vance ran for election for the Twentieth Congress of 1827. It was a bitter campaign with Vance vying against Carson, trying to regain his old seat in the U.S. House. During the campaign, Vance made a disparaging remark about Carson’s father. Vance accused Carson’s father of turning Tory during the Revolutionary War and even called Carson a coward in his hometown. Carson held his temper until after the election, which he won.

     With his seat in Congress secure, Carson challenged Vance to a duel. Vance accepted the challenge and, fearing his end was near, composed a will. They elected to meet in South Carolina as the penalty for taking part would be less severe. Carson fatally wounded Vance, who had not fired his weapon. Vance died the following day. He was buried his family burial ground on Reems Creek. Carson was appointed Secretary of State for the Republic of Texas in September 1836, after moving to Texas. He died two years later on November 2, 1838, in Hot Springs, Arkansas.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 332-333, and VI, 83-84—sketches by Daniel M. McFarland and Martin Reidinger
Jack K. Williams, Dueling in the Old South: Vignettes of Social History (1980)
Biographical Guide to Congress online entries: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=V000018 (Vance) and
http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000193 (Carson)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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