America shocked when Alexander Hamilton died after a duel (1804)

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“The greatest man in America” has fallen in a duel

The Sprig Of Liberty (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) – July 27, 1804


It is with infinite regret that we have received the following melancholy information:

From our correspondents. New York. July 11

Alexander Hamilton dies

The greatest man in America has this morning fallen in a duel! — General Hamilton! — Yes — Hamilton!

Early this morning he and Colonel Burr, settled an affair of honor at Hoboken. Hamilton fell the first shot, without touching his antagonist, tho they fired nearly at the same instant.

General Hamilton was taken over to Colonel Bayard’s place, at Greenwich, where, an hour since he was supposed to be breathing his last! He was shot just under the ribs, and the ball lodged in his body. He bled profusely both from the wound and from the mouth. He did not speak until nearly half over the river, when in a very faint tone, he said he could not live, and expressed a wish to see his family.

The agitation which this affair has produced in this city is indescribably great. The cause of the duel is not known.

Numerous letters beside the foregoing were received in town this morning, confirmatory of this afflicting event. As far as we could learn none of them state the particular subject of the dispute.
– Philadelphia Gazette

Extract of a letter to the Editor of the Aurora, dated at New York, July 11, 1804:

“Burr and Hamilton have this morning fought a duel, general Hamilton is wounded, and is said mortally! That he is wounded there can be no doubt, but of the nature of the wound I know nothing. He now lies in the neighborhood of the state prison.

“At present I am left to conjecture only as to the cause of the duel. I presume that Burr has made some demand of concession respecting the charges of his negotiation for the presidential chair, with which Hamilton would not comply.”

Hamilton’s death confirmed

Carlisle Weekly Herald (Carlisle, Pennsylvania) – July 20, 1804

Philadelphia, July 13


The afflicting intelligence of the death of General Hamilton, in a duel with Colonel Burr, is unhappily so confirmed by letters from New York, as to leave no room to hope that the fatal catastrophe has not happened. The following is an extract of a letter which we have seen.

New York, Wednesday, 11 o’clock

An event has occurred this morning to be deplored by every friend to the true interest of this country. General Hamilton was shot in a duel with Col. Burr. The ball penetrated his right breast. He is lying at Mr Bayard’s about two miles from town, and his surgeon entertains but feeble hopes of his recovery.

My information is from the fountain head. Never did I witness so general a sensation of sorrow as pervades our city. Every countenance you meet is crowded with grief.

Alexander Hamilton fatally wounded in duel
HISTORIC SHOT — Alexander Hamilton falls, fatally wounded by the gun in the hand of Aaron Burr, in this drawing of the historic duel between two leading figures of the United States’ early life. The duel, which ended a bitter political quarrel between the two men, took place July 11, 1804, on a ledge across the Hudson River from Manhattan Island. Hamilton’s 20-year-old son had been killed in a duel on the same spot three years earlier. – The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Texas) – July 11, 1954


The Death of Alexander Hamilton

New York Evening Post (New York) – July 13, 1804

Alexander Hamilton dies New York Evening Post July 13 1804With emotions that we have not the hand to inscribe, have we to announce the death of ALEXANDER HAMILTON. He was cut off in the 48th year of his age, in the full vigor of his faculties, and in the midst of all his usefulness.

We have not the firmness to depict this melancholy, heart-rending event. Now — when death has extinguished all party animosity, the gloom that overspreads every countenance, the sympathy that pervades every bosom, bear irresistible testimony of the esteem and respect all maintained for him, and assure us that an impression has been made by his loss that no time can efface.

It becomes us not to enter into particulars; we have no doubt, that in compliance with the universal anxiety of the inhabitants, a statement will soon be exhibited to them containing all the circumstances necessary to enable them to form a just opinion of this tragic scene.

ln the meantime, we offer the following letter that we have received from the Reverend Bishop Moore. The testimony which this pious and venerable Clergyman bears to the virtues of the deceased, will we are sure, not be lost on a discerning community.

As soon as our feelings will permit, we shall deem it a duty to present a sketch of the character of our ever-to-be-lamented patron and best friend.

Letter from Reverend Bishop Benjamin Moore, witness to Hamilton’s last moments

Thursday Evening, July 12, 1804

Mr Coleman:

Yesterday morning, immediately after he was brought from Hoboken to the house of Mr. Bayard, at Greenwich, a message was sent informing me of the sad event, accompanied by a request from General Hamilton, that I would come to him for the purpose of administering the holy communion, I went; but being desirous to afford time for serious reflection, and conceiving that under existing circumstances, it would be right and proper to avoid every appearance of precipitancy in performing one of the most solemn offices of our religion, I did not then comply with his desire.

Alexander Hamilton full length portraitAt one o’clock I was again called on the visit him. Upon my entering the room, and approaching the bed, with the utmost calmness and composure he said, “My dear sir, you perceive my unfortunate situation, and no doubt have been made acquainted with the circumstances which led to it. It is my desire to receive the communion at your hands. I hope you will not conceive there is any impropriety in my request.” He added, “I was for some time past been the wish of my heart, and it was intention to take an early opportunity of uniting myself to the church, by the reception of that holy ordinance.”

…I then asked him, “Should it please God to restore you the health, sir, will you never be again engaged in a similar transaction? And will you employ all your influence in society to discountenance this barbarous custom?” His answer was, “That, sir, is my deliberate intention.”

I proceeded to converse with him on the subject of his receiving the Communion; and told him that with respect to the qualifications of those who wished to become partaker of that holy ordinance, my enquiries could not be made in language more expressive than that which was used by our Church — “Do you sincerely repent of your sins past? Have you a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of the death of Christ? And are you disposed to live in love and charity with all men?” He lifted up his hands and said “With the utmost sincerity of heart I can answer those questions in the affirmative — I have no ill-will against Col. Burr. I met him with a fixed resolution to do him no harm — I forgive all that happened.”

…The Communion was then administered, which he received with great devotion, and his heart afterwards appeared to be perfectly at rest. I saw him again this morning, when with his last faltering words he expressed a strong confidence in the mercy of God through the intercession of the Redeemer. I remained with him until 2 o’clock this afternoon, when death closed the awful scene — he expired without a struggle, and almost without a groan…

With great respect, I remain

Your friend and servant,


Portrait of Alexander Hamilton

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