Texas Freedom: Last Stand at the Alamo
September 19, 1827
"Prepare your firearms!"
Two men faced each other left side to left side, each holding a flintlock pistol at eight paces. They stood on a long, wooded sandbar that protruded out on the Mississippi River, a few hundred yards from the outskirts of the sleepy town of Natchez. Although the late morning sun was still making its rise in the east, the shimmering heat and thick humidity remained as a silent witness to the unfolding confrontation.
Fifteen men stood along the Mississippi bank of the shoreline watching the action, with expressions that ranged from the mildly interested to the downright hostile. Supporters for each duelist, they came out to show their allegiance and to see the bloodletting that often accompanied these fights. Their clothing represented all walks of life, from politicians and lawmen to butchers, blacksmiths and farmers.
The river was narrow at this point; no more than seventy feet across to the opposite shoreline which constituted the outskirts of Vidalia, Louisiana, and the banks on each side were dotted by small brush and tall grasses. The insects were out in abundance, causing many of the men to swat at them in a vain attempt to keep them at bay. The heat was not oppressive this time of year, allowing the distinctive fragrance of the majestic eight foot tall yellow spicebush to flourish along the banks.
The sandbar, although small and narrow, provided a unique location for local duels. Situated offshore, it was isolated from the town proper yet provided a good vantage point to watch the unfolding events. When Dr. Thomas Maddox challenged to a duel a member of a rival political group in Alexandria, it was meant to end the hostilities that clearly divided their small town. Samuel Levy Wells IV reluctantly agreed to the staged fight, although he wished his opponent was anyone other than his learned friend.
Wells, who also acted as the current sheriff of Rapides County, deep in Louisiana, knew the stakes all too well. Twice before in recent months rival members met to end their differences in an honorable duel – and both times the events had ended without any fight at all. This duel today was going to end it one way or another. Honor for both sides demanded nothing less. Once agreed on, the date, time, and location of the duel became a simple matter of a business arrangement.