12 August 2016

Ambrose Baber had the Misfortune to Kill Thomas Mitchell in a Duel

Grave of Dr. Ambrose Baber"It is hardly an exaggeration to say that not less than a thousand duels were fought in Georgia in consequence of this feudal enmity between Clark and Crawford; and there were few households in the State which were not bereaved, either directly or indirectly, by the countless sacrifices which were made during this period to appease the demands of this bloody Moloch." [Lucian Lamar Knight, Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends, Vol. II]

Ambrose Baber was a medical doctor who could not resist the political life.  He represented the United States as Minister to Sardinia, and he sat repeatedly in the Georgia State Senate.  "He was a power in politics," wrote L. L. Knight, "but among the other distinguishing marks of this accomplished gentleman was his deadly aim with a pistol and his expert use of the sword." In short, Dr. Baber was many things – including a duelist.

Dr. Baber was the attending surgeon for Major Robert A. Beall for his 1825 duel with the honorable Thomas D. Mitchell.  Two shots were exchanged without consequence, and Beall and Mitchell shook hands before leaving the field of honor.

Dr. Baber apparently couldn't leave things well enough alone and had a snide comment for Mitchell.  Mitchell retaliated by publishing a "card which gave offence to Dr. Baber, who, after a brief controversy on the subject, demanded of Col. Mitchell the satisfaction due a gentleman under the Code." The challenge was accepted, and the weapon of rifles was chosen.  The particulars follow:

baber-mitchellduelConnecticut Herald (New Haven, Conn.)
28 March 1826, via GenealogyBank

Another Fatal Duel. — We have a letter from a friend at Hamburg, S.C. dated the 9th inst. detailing the particulars and fatal result of an honorable meeting which took place early that morning at Campbell Town, S.C. three miles above Hamburg.  The parties were Doctor Baber and Thomas Mitchell, Esq. of Milledgeville, Geo.  The misunderstanding had its origins in a difference in political opinion, (the former being for "Troup and the treaty," and the latter a Crawfordite and Clarke man,) which proceeded to such lengths that Mitchell posted the Doctor, and made use of the epithets of coward, villain, &c.  The Doctor accordingly challenged him, which Mr. M. accepted, and being, by the rules of duelling [sic], entitled to the choice of weapons, &c. selected short rifles, and to fight at fifteen paces.  The first fire was without effect, when the seconds endeavoured [sic] to comprise the matter, to which the Doctor agreed, provided that Mr. M. would retract the aspersions cast on his character, but the latter refused, at the same time stating that what he had asserted he conscientiously believed, and therefore neither could or would retract.

The rifles were again loaded, and on their both firing at the word, Mr. M. fell mortally wounded, the ball of his antagonist having entered the left breast near the shoulder, and passed out at the right side near the shoulder blade.  He expired in fifteen minutes.

Mr. Mitchell was a native of South Carolina, but had resided for the last few years in Georgia, of which state he was Attorney General. – N.Y. Gaz.

Thomas Mitchell was in his early thirties and unmarried.  His brother, Dr. Isaac Mitchell, was at the duel as the attending surgeon for Thomas.  Dr. Baber lived another twenty years.  He died 8 March 1846 in his home town of Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, and was laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery.

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