1819 The Last Fatal Duel

Historical period: The Union Engine Company

The last known fatal duel in Nova Scotia occurred on the morning of July 24, 1819; you may wonder what the connection is to the present topic, as you should. Although the event is not directly related to the fire establishment, it involved a member of the Hand in Hand Fire Company, who was a also a Fireward at the time, and a member of the Sun Fire Company, respectively, Richard John Uniacke and William Bowie. Below is an account from the Acadian Recorder.

On Wednesday morning between the hours of 4 and 5 o'clock, a meeting took place near the North Farm, about two miles from town, between Richard John Uniacke and Mr. William Bowie, both of this place; after exchanging the second shot, the latter fell mortally wounded. Assistance was immediately procured when Mr. Bowie was conveyed to the Farm House, and a messenger dispatched for a surgeon, who upon his arrival found Mr. Bowie's friend by his side. On examining the wound, it was ascertained the ball which entered a little above the right hip, had passed through the left side, which was immediately extracted, but alas! human skill was in vain; the approaching hour of dissolution became visible, and at 10 before 6 o'clock, on the evening of the same day, we lament to state, Mr. BOWIE breathed his last, in the 35th year of his age.

The dispute to which this unhappy event is to be attributed, arose from some observations made by Mr. Uniacke, when conducting a suit in the Supreme Court on Monday last, and which were considered by Mr. Bowie as an unjustified attack upon his integrity and reputation. On the following day a correspondence passed between the parties, which unfortunately terminated in a Challenge.

It is greatly to be lamented that on account, probably, of some unguarded words, two such worthy and respected members of the community, should have allowed their passions so far to get the better of their reason, as to lose sight of all consideration of Religion, Justice, and Humanity, and to risk their lives upon a point, which some friendly interference, or a moments cool reflection might have prevented.

It is a circumstance deserving of notice, (the truth of which we can vouch for) that the following lines from Barbauld, were found near the spot where Mr. Bowie fell, on the morning the duel took place; and which, in a very singular manner, delineates the sad fate of that unfortunate gentleman: "I have seen man in the pride of their strength; his cheeks glowed with beauty; his limbs were full of activity; he leaped; he walked; he ran; he rejoiced in that he was more excellent than these... I returned; he lay stiff and cold on the bare ground; his feet could no longer move, nor his hands stretch themselves out; his life was departed from him, and the breath out of his nostrils. Therefore do I weep because Death is in the world; the spoiler is among the works of God; all that is made must be destroyed; all that is born must die; let me alone, for I will weep yet longer."

On Thursday morning the Coroner held an inquest on the body of the deceased, and the Jurors after a minute and strict investigation of the case, returned their verdict, "That the said William Bowie came by his death in consequence of a wound, received from a ball, fired from a Pistol, by Richard Uniacke, the younger, in a Duel."

The same evening the body was conveyed to his late residence in town.

Yesterday, the mortal remains of Mr. Bowie were consigned to the grave. The Funeral moved with more than ordinary solemnity, from his late residence in Marchington's Lane about 3 o'clock, followed by a numerous and respectable attendance as ever we witnessed in this town. The urbanity of his manners and benevolent disposition made him esteemed and respected by all who knew him. His cheerful temper rendered him affable and communicative as a companion, and in his mercantile dealings he was distinguished by an inviolable integrity. The Flags of the vessels in the harbour, were hoisted half-mast high upon the occasion, and a general gloom seemed to pervaded all ranks of society.

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