Days Gone By - stories from the past

UPDATED WITH PODCAST -Two duels in early Alabama related to U. S. Senators and Judges

Duels were commonplace in early Alabama

(Lawrence County, Alabama)


Col. Edmond Saunders

written ca. 1890s

Col. Gallaway of Lawrence County, Alabama frequently served as arbitrator or second in duels in early Alabama. Memphis, Tennessee was a battlefield for duelists who flocked there from Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky, and from all parts of Tennessee.

A duel took place in Memphis between William A Lake and Henry C. Chambers, a son of Dr. Chambers, who was one of the first United States Senators from Alabama. The two men resided in Mississippi and were candidates for Congress in 1863. While making the canvass they had a personal difficulty and came to Memphis to adjust it.

More shots were fired

Chambers selected Colonel Gallaway of Alabama as his friend in the duel. The weapons fought with were rifles, and although awkward at first, Chambers became, in three days, quite a proficient marksman.

Chamber’s party chartered a boat and were on the ground about sunrise. Lake with his second, Walter Brooks, United States Senator, and his friends, came afterward. Lots were cast for the word, and Col. Gallaway won it. The word was given, and Chambers’ ball went whizzing by Lake’s head and Lake’s ball passed through Chambers goatee.

Neither party was satisfied and there was a second exchange of shots. After which Gallaway made an earnest effort to adjust the difficulty. He presented several propositions as to how the matter could be settled, all of which Lake’s friends declined to accept. In about two hours after the second fire, the rifles were again loaded; the hostile parties took their positions, and at the word three, Lake fell dead, Chambers’ ball having gone crashing through his brain.

Colonel Gallaway also served as a second for George T. Phelan, son of Judge James Phelan, a native of Huntsville, Ala., in a duel with James Brizzolari. At the second fire Phelan’s ball passed through the arm and body of his adversary who had already fired three shots without effect. The parties fought with Colts six-shooters and were to fire until all the barrels were emptied, or one of the parties fell.

Excerpt from Early Settlers Of Alabama: With Notes And Genealogies (Volume 1)

Early Settlers Of Alabama: With Notes And Genealogies (Volume 1) (Paperback)
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Early Settlers Of Alabama: With Notes And Genealogies (Volume 1) (Paperback)

By (author):  Saunders, Col. James Edmonds
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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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One comment

  1. They used the Bowie knife for duels in Alabama that is why Bowie knives are illegal to carry

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