Affair of Honor | American Revolution War Song

About the author

Frank Moore
Frank Moore

Frank Moore was a journalist and Revolutionary historian. He published a number of books on the American Revolution during his career in the mid-19th century, including Songs and Ballads of the American Revolution, Diary of the American Revolution and The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution.

The author of this humorous ballad is unknown. It was written at Charleston, South Carolina, a short time after the event it commemorates, and published in the ministerial issues and broadsides, as “an authentic account of the affair of honor between General Robert Howe1 and Lieutenant-Governor Christopher Gadsden,2 and too good a story to be told in simple prose.”

Affair of Honor

IT was on Mr. Peroy’s land,
At squire Rugeley’s corner,
Great H. and G. met sword in hand,
upon a point of honor.

G. went before with Colonel E.,
Together in a carriage;
On horseback followed H. and P.,
As if to steal a marriage.

On chosen ground they now alight,
For battle duly harness’d,
A shady place and out of sight,
It show’d they were in earnest.

They met, and in the usual way
With hat in hand saluted,
Which was, no doubt, to show how they
Like gentlemen disputed.

And then they both together made
This honest declaration,
That they came there, by honor led,
But not by inclination.

That if they fought ’twas not because
Of rancor, spite or passion,
But only to obey the laws
Of custom and the fashion.

The pistols then, before their eyes,
Were fairly prim’d and loaded !
R. wished, and so did G. likewise,
The custom was exploded !

But as they now had gone so far
In such a bloody business,
For action straight they both prepare
With – mutual forgiveness.

But lest their courage should exceed
The bounds of moderation,
Between the seconds ’twas agreed
To fix them each a station.

The distance stepp’d by Colonel P. 3
Was only eight short paces;
“Now, gentlemen,” says Colonel E., 4
“Be sure to keep your places.”

Quoth H. to G – ” Sir, please to fire !”
Quoth G. – “No, pray begin, sir;”
And truly one must needs admire
The temper they were in, sir.

“We’ll fire both at once,” said he,
And so they both presented;
No answer was returned by G.,
But silence, sir, consented.

They paus’d awhile, these gallant foes,
By turns politely grinning,
Till after many cons and pros,
H. made a brisk beginning.

He missed his mark, but not his aim,
The shot was well directed;
It sav’d them both from hurt and shame,
What more could be expected?

Then G. to show he meant no harm,
But hated jars and jangles,
His pistol fired across his arm,
From H. almost at angles.

H. now was called upon by G.,
To fire another shot, sir;
He smiled, and “After this,” quoth he,
“No, truly, I cannot, sir.”

Such honor did they both display,
They highly were commended;
And thus in short, this gallant fray
Without mischance was ended.

No fresh dispute, we may suppose,
Will e’er by them be started,
For now the chiefs, no longer foes,
Shook hands, and so they parted.

  1. General Robert Howe was born at Brunswick, North Carolina, in 1734. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He was one of the earliest and boldest patriots of the South. For his gallantry during the early part of the Revolution, Congress appointed him a Brigadier- General, and ordered him to Virginia. In 1778 he was assigned to the command of the southern troops. After the unsuccessful expedition against Florida, and the defeat at Savannah, his conduct was severely, though unjustly, censured. Among others, Gadsden declaimed against him, and refusing to retract, a duel ensued, in which the only injury done was a slight scratch made upon Gadsden’s cheek by the ball from Howe’s weapon.
  2. Christopher Gadsden was a native of Charleston, South Carolina, where he was born in 1724. He was a member of the Congress of 1765, and also of that which met in 1774. After the capitulation of Charleston, 1780, Gadsden was sent to St. Augustine, by order of Cornwallis, and there confined in the castle nearly a year. In later life he was chosen Lieutenant-Governor, and in 1782 elected Governor, but declined on account of his age. He died in 1805.
  3. Colonel P., afterwards General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, was Howe’s second in this affair.
  4. Colonel E. Bernard Elliot was Gadsden’s second.

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