Most of us have heard about the fascinating duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, ending in Alexander’s death.
But something that some of us might not know about is the other Hamilton duel. One might assume that this other duel could have just been another duel with Alexander, but this was not the case. The duel I am talking about was between Philip Hamilton, Alexander’s eldest son, and George Eacker. The duel took place years before the Hamilton-Burr duel. The two duels did have some similarities, but they were really very different. In this report I will explain information on the duel that would end young Philip’s life, leaving the Hamilton family devastated. The story begins on July fourth, 1801, a nice sunday morning. A man named George Eacker insulted Alexander Hamilton while giving a speech at a school called Columbia University.
His accusations ended up in the newspaper, which resulted in Philip Hamilton (Alexander’s eldest son) reading it. Philip was disgusted with Eacker’s comments, and was very angry because at that point a family’s honor was everything they had. Don’t worry Philip left the situation alone…..for four months.
Personally, I think he did pretty well at ignoring it, but not well enough! Now here’s a quick disclaimer, when reading this story one has to understand that the Hamilton family was not that group of perfect, lovely human beings. For thousands of years, the Hamilton men have been questioned about their honor, but let’s get back to the story….. According to Wikipedia’s article on Philip Hamilton, four months following Philip reading the article, Philip met up with his friend, Richard Price. The two young men traveled to Park Theatre to watch a play. As they arrived, the two men saw Eacker. They decided to confront him. It did not go well! The young men were screaming and yelling at each other for awhile.
Eacker was insulting them and eventually the friends could not take it anymore. They challenged him to a duel. This may sound crazy, but dueling was not that irregular of a thing back then. Duels were not just standing around in a park and shooting at someone. The now completely uncivilized tradition, was really kept as civilized as possible.
According to Its Hamiltime.com, dueling was illegal in New York so the men had to go somewhere else. Keep in mind, people didn’t just duel anywhere they wanted, there were actually dueling grounds.
Price, Hamilton, and Burr met on the Weehawken Dueling Grounds, on November 22, 1801. The funny thing is, Philip’s father would later take part in a duel, in which he would get mortally wounded, in the same place! You would think he would learn from his son’s mistakes! Remember that Philip wasn’t the only person who had challenged eacker to a duel. Richard Price also took part in this action. Price exchanged shots with eacker the day before Philip did, and no one got hurt. Anyway, Philip had consulted his father Alexander for help before the duel. Philip was obviously nervous..
.who wouldn’t be if you were about to let a man shoot at you!? Alexander had encouraged his son to not shoot first. He had told Philip to refuse to be the first one to shoot.
So, the next day (the day of the duel) Philip took his father’s advice. Eacker wouldn’t shoot either. The two men stood there for a couple minutes waiting for the other one to take their shot. Hamilton held his ground so Eacker raised his pistol, and shot him. The bullet hit Philip just above the right hip, and traveled through his body. The bullet ended up stuck in the young man’s left arm. What a painful experience! At this point Philip probably knew and understood that he would not recover.
Medical advances at this time in history were seldom heard of, and doctors definitely did not have access to the medical material that we have today. Both men were most likely aware that Philip was as good as gone.Even though we do not know if it was just out of shock, Philip also shot his gun before he fell onto the ground. Luckily the bullet did not hit anybody.
People have said that Philip handled it well and did not loudly scream in pain for hours. He just lay there, quietly wincing in pain. According to the Post, “His manner on the ground was calm and composed beyond expression. The idea of his own danger seemed to be lost in anticipation of the satisfaction which he might receive from the final triumph of his generous moderation.” The injured Hamilton was quickly rushed to his aunt, Angelica Schuyler Church’s, house across the river in Manhattan. This would be the place where Philip Hamilton spent his last moments.
As soon as Alexander heard of his son’s defeat, he hurried to Dr. David Hosack’s house and explained that they would be needing his medical expertise. Then the group traveled to Alexander’s sister-in-law’s house to see Philip. When Alexander got their he instantly panicked and became overwhelmed with grief as he saw his mortally injured son laying in bed.
Dr. David Hosack said, “Then, he instantly turned from the bed and, taking me by the hand, which he grasped with all the agony of grief, he exclaimed in a tone and manner that can never be effaced from my memory, ‘Doctor, I despair.'”Soon after Philip’s father had arrived at the house, the boy’s mother, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, was there. The parents stayed with their son all night and hoped desperately that he would survive. They did not receive what they hoped for! The next day, at five o’clock in the morning, Philip died.
According to Wikipedia’s article on Philip Hamilton, the Hamilton family would never recover from this loss. Tons of the Hamilton’s friends reported that the two parents were never the same after that. The whole family was extremely changed by their loved-one’s death. According to It’shamiltime.com, this was including Philip’s sister Angelica Elizabeth Hamilton, who was severely impacted by the boy’s passing.
The young girl had what some people called a mental breakdown after her beloved brother’s death. She lived the rest of her life in what is described as an ‘eternal-childhood’. She would even talk to her brother sometimes as though he was still alive! What a terrible toll this tragedy took on the Hamilton family! A fun fact that I learned from Today’s History Lesson.wordpress.com, Philip’s mother had been pregnant when Philip had died, so a couple months later, when Elizabeth had her baby, she named him Philip Hamilton (after her deceased son). That is really interesting that they honored him like that, don’t you think? I feel so bad for the Hamilton family that they had to go through such a terrible time.
Well now you know about the other Hamilton duel. It is a fascinating topic. It still blows my mind how similar the two famous duels were. They both took place in Weehawken dueling grounds, they both resulted in Hamiltons dying, they both used the same kind of dueling pistols, I mean come on! These two historical events were so similar you would think it was just a repeating tradition!