Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Louise Wigfall Meets Gone With the Wind

Did you know that Texas politician Louis T. Wigfall was responsible for the caning of Charles Sumner?

South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks was carrying that cane as a result of injuries received years earlier in a duel with Wigfall. Here is an account of the duel as related by Wigfall's daughter, Louise Wigfall Wright:

Preston Brooks, of South Carolina, whose attack on Sumner is known to the world, had fought a duel with my father in 1841, in which they were both wounded. Preston Brooks was shot through the hip, and my father through both thighs. The latter was twenty-three years old and Preston Brooks twenty- two at the time. My father's second was John Laurens Manning, afterward Governor of South Carolina, and the second of Preston Brooks was Pierce M. Butler, afterward also Governor of the State. My father had been in several affairs of honor before this; but never fought another duel after his marriage. He seldom mentioned the subject, but when asked for his opinion would state with an earnestness of conviction, as refreshing as it was real, that he was a firm believer in the code duello as a factor in the improvement of both the morals and the manners of a community! He held that it engendered courtesy of speech and demeanor - had a most restraining tendency on the errant fancy, and as a preservative of the domestic relations was without an equal.

Mrs. Wright's memoir, by the way, is a wonder to behold, and well worth reading. Written at the beginning of the last century, it is a classic of Lost Cause literature. If you're hesitating, take a look first at this fine New York Times review from 1905, which captures nicely how Mrs. Wright combines the charming with the utterly grotesque.

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