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January 7, 1812: Duel of Nathaniel G.S. Hart

Nathaniel Gray Smith Hart (c. 1784 – January 23, 1813) was a Kentucky lawyer and brother-in-law to Henry Clay, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The Lexington Reporter, for January 11*, 1812, reported that "...Nathaniel G.S. Hart and Samuel E. Watson, both of Lexington, had fought a duel across the Ohio River from Louisville. After each fired one shot without effect, the encounter was ended". 

The same area had been the scene of Henry Clay's duel with  Humphrey Marshall in 1809. Humphrey Marshall had called Henry Clay a liar on the floor of the Kentucky's House of Representatives. The duel was fought on January 19, 1809. Clay's first shot wounded Marshall slightly on the side. The second shots exchanged missed both men. With the exchange of the third round of shots, Clay was wounded in the thigh. At that point, the duel ended with both men retiring from the field of "honour".  

As for Nathaniel Hart, he served as Captain of the Lexington Light Infantry during the War of 1812. He died in the River Raisin Massacre on January 23, 1813.

The encounter had started on January 22, 1813, British and Native Americans attacked the Americans who were attempting to retake Detroit. The Americans suffered about 397 deaths with many more being taken prisoner. It was the highest number of Americans killed in a singe battle during the War of 1812. Though it may sound incongruous to our ears, the cry of "Remember the River Raisin" was used by Americans as a rallying cry during the war. 

* In the tweet on January 10, 2012 and in an earlier version of this  post, I wrote that the news report was from January 10, 1812. In fact, the Lexington Reporter wrote about the duel on January 11, 1812. mea culpa


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