Montag, 14. Mai 2012

The history of Bloody Island

Bloody Island was a sandbar or "towhead" (river island) in the Mississippi River, opposite St. Louis, Missouri, which became densely wooded and a rendezvous for duelists because it was considered "neutral" and not under Missouri or Illinois control.

Appearing first above water in 1798 its continuous growth menaced the harbor of St. Louis. In 1837 Capt. Robert E. Lee, of U.S.A. Engineers, devised and established a system of dikes and dams that washed out the western channel and ultimately joined the island to the Illinois shore.
The south end of the island is now under the Poplar Street Bridge and is a train yard. Samuel Wiggins bought 800 acres (3.2 km2) around the island in the early 19th century and operated a ferry between East St. Louis and St. Louis (at one point using an 8-horse team on the ferry to provide the propulsion).
The Wiggins Ferry Service would develop the train yards which in the 1870s carted train cars across the river one at a time until the Eads Bridge opened in 1879. The train yard is now owned by the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis.

Among the duels: Thomas Biddle and Spencer Darwin Pettis on August 26, 1831.

One of the most famous duels to occur on Bloody Island, it is an example of how all politics is local. Pettis (a staunch Jacksonian Democrat) challenged Biddle (brother of Nicholas Biddle) because Biddle had publicly humiliated Pettis.

Because the Code Duello stated that the particulars of the duel were to be decided by the "chalengee," Biddle (who was near sighted) chose Bloody Island, and a distance of five feet.

It is argued that Biddle thought such a close distance would convince Pettis not to go through with the duel, but Pettis was undeterred. They fired at five feet, and both were killed.

Benjamin Gratz Brown and Thomas C. Reynolds on August 26, 1856.

Brown at the time was editor of the St. Louis Democrat and Reynolds was district attorney. Brown favored emancipation and Reynolds opposed it. Reynolds challenged Brown. Brown was shot in the leg and limped for the rest of his life. Reynolds was not hurt. The duel was called the "Duel of the Governors" because Reynolds would become the state's Confederate Governor and Brown would be elected Governor after the war.

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