Wednesday, May 30

Charlie Dissed Andy

Image- Garland County library
By Grant Davies

On this day in 1806, a guy named Charlie Dickinson, a Tennessee lawyer, was shot to death. Normally, in a violent world like ours, such an incident would hardly go down in history. But this killing is notable because of the identity of the killer, instead of the killee. (When talking about lawyers it's best to use legal terms.)

Charles Dickinson was a former law student of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall who also made formal recommendations and introductions for him. His legal pedigree was only outshone by his legendary reputation as an expert marksman. He was also a guy with a big mouth and it ended up getting him a bullet in the chest after he shot it off more often than his pistol.

The main target for his verbal ammunition was a certain former Tennessee militia leader named Andy who had a run-in over a horse race bet with Charlie's father-in-law. It seems that the horse that his wife's daddy was running came up lame at the post, and according to the agreement he made, he owed $800 to Andy because of it.

Anyway, friends of friends got involved, called each other names and the whole thing led to Charlie putting an ad in the paper calling Andy a "worthless scoundrel, a poltroon and a coward." The scoundrel and coward parts were bad enough, but "poltroon" sealed the deal. No one I know would stand for that.

For those of you who seldom get called names from the 19th century, it's synonymous for sissy. Today that might be included as a desirable trait in a "men seeking men" ad, but Andy didn't go that way, so he was righteously indignant and decided to propose a duel with Charlie. (A duel in 1806 was like a cowboy era showdown, minus the quick draw. Basically you just stand there like idiots and fire at each other).

It didn't help that Charlie had also insulted Andy's wife by pointing out that due to a legal technicality in her previous divorce paperwork, she was a bigamist. What a mess.

During a personal confrontation Andy had called him on it. But Charlie got a little weak-kneed at that meeting, mumbled something about not remembering saying it and asked forgiveness. "If I said that, I must have been drunk. Yeah, that's it, I was drunk." It's a tried and true excuse, and it worked. Andy accepted the apology, but when the ad calling him a sissy appeared in the local newspaper, he lost his sense of humor entirely.

Being law abiding citizens, they met in Logan, Kentucky to try and shoot each other because it was illegal in Tennessee. You sure don't want to break any laws when you blow a hole in someone's chest.

Charlie shot first, but his aim wasn't as good as advertised because he only wounded Andy, who then took his time, took dead aim, and Charles Dickinson passed into history. A number of years later, Andy took careful aim at an important position of power in this country and hit that target as well.

The shooter was none other than Andrew Jackson, lucky number seven on your list of Presidents of the United States. Today, a lot of native Americans probably still use Jackson's picture on the twenty dollar bill as a target, and who could blame them? But that's a story for a different day in history.

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