Hachiman, Illustrated Scroll

Japanese illustrated scrolls 絵巻物

Images from a scroll depicting The Tale of Genji.

Images from a scroll depicting the story of the founding of Mount Shigi.

A scroll at the Tokyo National Museum.

The Okinawa Karate Kenkyū Kurabu (Okinawa Karate Research Club)

n 1918/04 a meeting place was established at the house of Mabuni Kenwa in Shuri. Here the Karate Kenkyūkai (Karate Research Society, short KRS) was created with shuri-te proponents as its members: Mabuni Kenwa, Hanashiro Chōmo, Chibana Chōshin, Tokuda Anbun, Ōshiro Chōjo, Gusukuma Shinpan, Tokumura Seitō, Ishigawa Hōkō, and others.

This association is well contrasted by the Karate Kenkyū Kurabu (Karate Research Club, short KRC), established in 1923 or 1924 in Asahigaoka in Naha Wakasa as an open air practice place. Members were of naha-te: Miyagi Chōjun, Kyoda Jūhatsu, Shinzato Jin’an, Madanbashi Keiyō, Shiroma Kōki, and others.

The Okinawa Karate Kenkyū Kurabu

According to the testimony of Miyagi Chōjun’s disciple Nakaima Genkai (1908-1984), after the death of Miyagi’s teacher, Higashionna Kanryō (1853-1915), Miyagi said

“The current study of Karate is as we don’t have a light in the dark it is like going blindly.”

In order to get the ball rolling again, Miyagi together with Nakaima visited various seniors from the karate circles to ask for instruction. It is said that Miyagi was keenly aware of the need for a collaborative research institute under participation of various masters of karate.

By merging the KRS and the KRC, in March 1925 the Okinawa Karate Kenkyū Kurabu (Okinawa Karate Research Club, short OKRC) came into being. It was established as an open-air practice era in the south of Naha Wakasa, obviously for the purpose of collaborative research of karate. Miyagi Chōjun (1888-1953) was the central figure of its establishment. He and Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952) were appointed the responsible instructors and Motobu Chōyū (1857-1928) acted as its chairman. The OKRC became the first ever collaborative and systematic Karate research institute in Okinawa.

In 1925, Miyagi Chōjun borrowed funds from financiers, with his friend Go Kenki of White Crane boxing (hakutsuru kenpō) acting as a guarantor. In the following year (1926) a dōjō was completed in the rear of Mr. Kishimoto’s house in Wakasa. The dōjō area was about 50 square meters, and besides there was a garden of about 165 square meters, which was employed as well as an earthen floor dōjō. It was also equipped with various auxiliary practice tools, such as hanging makiwara (sagi-makiwara), strength-stone (chin-chīshi), stone padlocks (ishisashi) etc.

Auxiliary exercise (hojo undō) equipment of Karate-jutsu in the rear of Mabuni Kenwa’s house, 1925.

On the 1 st and 15 th day of the old lunar calendar, all instructors gathered in front of the alcove worshipping a hanging scroll depicting a “martial deity” (bujin) painted by master artist Yamada Shinzan. Afterwards – and while drinking awamori and the like – everything was crowned by a karate discussion.

With many of the various Karate masters of Okinawa at the time participating, it was a revolutionary organization. As for the participants, there are some variations in the literature, but the following are to be noted (alphabetical order):

  • A certain Tomoyori (a police detective)
  • Go Kenki (1887-1940)
  • Gusukuma Shinpan (1890-1954)
  • Hanashiro Chōmo (1869-1945)
  • Kyan Chōtoku (1870-1945)
  • Kyoda Jūhatsu (1887-1968)
  • Mabuni Kenwa (1889-1952)
  • Miyagi Chōjun
  • Motobu Chōki (1870-1944)
  • Motobu Chōyū
  • Ōshiro Chōyo (1888-1939)
  • Tabaru Taizō
  • Teruya Kamesuke
  • Yabu Kentsū (1866-1937)

Besides, Uehara Seikichi served as a donzel responsible for the tea ceremony, and Nakaima Genkai participated as a student.

As to the name, there are some differences in the representation according to author. The following names were found in literature:

  • Okinawa Karate Kurabu
  • Okinawa Karatejutsu Kenkyū Kurabu
  • Okinawa Karate Kenkyū Kurabu
  • Okinawa Karate Kenkyū Kurabu (different writing than previous)
  • Okinawa Wakasa Kurabu
  • Okinawa no Tī Kenkyū Kurabu
  • Kurabu-gwā (common name)

Maybe there simply was no such thing as a formal official name.

Using auxiliary exercise (hojo undō) equipment of Karate-jutsu in the rear of Mabuni Kenwa’s house:
Madanbashi Keiyō (2nd from left), Shinzato Jin’an (4th from left), Chōjun Miyagi (5th from left)

From the beginning business was in deficit and the club gradually reached the end of its tether. With the death of Motobu Chōyū as the club’s chairman in the early Shōwa era, it was closed. The period of its closing is variously given in literature, spanning from 1927 to 1929.

With the inauguration of the Okinawa-ken Taiiku Kyōkai (Okinawa prefecture physical education association) on 1930/11/22, the idea of the OKRC was continued in the Karate branch of this new umbrella association. Active in it were Yabu Kentsū, Miyagi Chōjun, Ōshiro Chōjo and others.

Three years later in 1933/01/08, the Dai Nippon Butokukai became the organization authorized to control martial arts. And in 1936/12 the Okinawa-ken Karate-dō Shinkō Kyōkai (The Association for the Promotion of Karate-dō of Okinawa prefecture) was established for the same purpose.

The Okinawa Karate Kenkyū Kurabu: 2nd row from left: Higa Seikō (naha-te), Tabaru Taizō (unknown), Mabuni Kenwa (shuri-te), Miyagi Chōjun (naha-te), Kyoda Jūhatsu (naha-te), Shinzato Jin’an (naha-te), Madanbashi Keiyō (naha-te),
3rd row from left: Azama (later: Nanjō), Suki (naha-te), a certain person, Nakaima Genkai (naha-te), Yagi (unknown), Senaha (later Sakiyama), and Tatsutoku (naha-te). The others are unknown.

Where and when were herbals made?

A bestiary and herbal from Iran, circa 1600. (Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public domain)

Herbals are an ancient textual tradition. Medical in nature, these texts often codified knowledge that had long been orally passed on. In Han dynasty China, Shennong Ben Cao Jing (also known as Shennong's Materia Medica) was written down for the first time. However, the 365 plants categorized within it are said to originate in the knowledge and work of the ancient (possibly mythical) ruler and herbalist Shennong. Other ancient compilations of herbal knowledge can be traced in ancient Indian, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian traditions. The Greeks and Romans created some of the most influential herbal texts&mdashalthough the originals do not survive. Their knowledge was preserved in the medieval manuscripts of the Byzantines, the Islamic lands, and even Dark Age Europe.

The ancients were very interested in medicine as part of natural history. For example, Pliny the Elder wrote Naturalis Historia in the 1st century CE. While often cited as an herbal, the work is in fact a much larger attempt to synthesize knowledge of the natural world. Like other ancient works that survived, it is known through repeated medieval and early modern editions.

In the industrial age, growing herbs for medicinal uses became increasingly less critical to everyday life. Modern pharmacology&mdashwhile greatly in debt to botanical knowledge&mdashmeant that medical textbooks replaced illustrated herbals. However, the herbal text has never vanished into complete disuse. Gardening as a hobby has produced useful guides to diverse flora. Modern herbalists and those who use traditional medicines still turn to the healing properties of plants. While the elaborately illustrated manuscripts of medieval days have morphed into guides filled with photographs, the fascination with the uses of plants remains fundamental.

Japan Studies: Finding images

Lists various databases for visual resources such as early photographs, illustrations of modern folklore and Japanese picture scrolls. Below are some examples of the databases with brief descriptions provided by Nichibunken. - Some databases require registration.

Database of Foreign Images of Japan

"Nichibunken's collection of photographs, illustrations, and other visual images of Japan or Japan-related subjects from around the world."

Database of Early Photographs

"Hand-colored photographs of Japan and accompanying text dating from the end of the Edo Period through the beginning of the Meiji Period. "

Database of Japanese Art in Overseas Collections

"Images and textual information on Japanese art such as paintings, prints, ceramics, lacquerware, etc. , in foreign collections."

Space in Historical Perspective

"Contains information found in maps, primarily maps of early modern (mid-16th-mid-19th centuries) cities. Visual image data supplements information from maps in the collection of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies"

'Zuroku Bei-O kairan jikki'

"Zuroku Bei-O kairan jikki&lsquo (&ldquoIllustrated true account of the observations of the ambassadors plenipotentiary of America and Europe&rdquo) is a collection of illustrations and descriptive passages related to those illustrations from Tokumei zenken taishi Bei-O kairan jikki ( A true account of the observations of the ambassadors plenipotentiary of America and Europe) written by Kume Kunitake and , published in 1878."

Miyako nenju gyoji gajo (Picture Album of Annual Festivals in the Miyako)

"The Miyako nenju gyoji gajo (Showa 3, 1928) in the Nichibunken library collection is made available for electronic viewing. It is a two-volume album of hand painted pictures on silk by NAKAJIMA Soyo, depicting the annual festivals and customs of Kyoto at the beginning of the Showa period. These paintings are accompanied by explanatory texts written by the folklorist and Kyoto scholar EMA Tsutomu."

Emakimono (Picture Scrolls)

"Database of images of Emakimono (picture scrolls) held at the Nichibunken Library. Bibliographical information is also available."

Database of illustrations of Modern Folklore

"Database of images of esoshi(illustrated books that were popular during the Edo period) in the Nichibunken Library."


The Heiji scrolls date from the thirteenth century and represent a masterpiece of "Yamato" style painting. They can be documented as being treasured artifacts in the fifteenth century, when nobles mention viewing them, but they now only survive in fragmentary form. The scene appearing here, entitled "A Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace" is the property of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and provides a rare and valuable depiction of Japanese armor as it was worn during the early Kamakura era (1185-1333). By contrast, most surviving picture scrolls showing warriors date from the fourteenth century and show later styles of armor.

Epilogue: Matsudaira Sadanobu

Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758-1829), the grandson of Tokugawa Yoshimune, the eighth Tokugawa shogun (in the Edo shogunate), led, as senior councilor to the shogunate, what are known as the Kansei Reforms. He also surveyed and recorded the antiquities that had been handed down at temples and shrines or in old families in every region of Japan. He is famous for his love of antiquities and for publishing the Shūko Jisshu (Collected Antiquities in Ten Categories), a major catalog of cultural assets.

A devotee of classic painting, Sadanobu also produced the Koga Ruijū, the compilation of copies of pictures from ancient paintings, which is regarded as the sequel to the Shūko Jisshu. Although the title refers to koga (classic or antique paintings), the work consists of nearly 150 picture scrolls. Not only did Sadanobu survey and classify ancient cultural assets, but he showed such mettle, working tirelessly to copy, restore, and supplement picture scrolls, that one cannot speak of him without mentioning his mania for these scrolls.

The final section explores a new type of enthusiasm for picture scrolls in the late Edo period, when scholarly projects to protect and preserve cultural assets were forerunners of today’s scholarly research and preservation efforts.

*Unauthorized reproduction or use of texts or images from this site is prohibited.


Since precious few architectural drawings and no theoretical treatises on architecture remain from the premodern Islamic world, the Timurid pattern scroll in the collection of the Topkapi Palace Museum Library is an exceedingly rich and valuable source of information. In the course of her in-depth analysis of this scroll dating from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, Gülru Necipoğlu throws new light on the conceptualization, recording, and transmission of architectural design in the Islamic world between the tenth and sixteenth centuries. Her text has particularly far-reaching implications for recent discussions on vision, subjectivity, and the semiotics of abstract representation. She also compares the Islamic understanding of geometry with that found in medieval Western art, making this book particularly valuable for all historians and critics of architecture.

The scroll, with its 114 individual geometric patterns for wall surfaces and vaulting, is reproduced entirely in color in this elegant, large-format volume. An extensive catalogue includes illustrations showing the underlying geometries (in the form of incised “dead” drawings) from which the individual patterns are generated. An essay by Mohammad al-Asad discusses the geometry of the muqarnas and demonstrates by means of CAD drawings how one of the scroll’s patterns could be used co design a three-dimensional vault.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Notes to the Reader
  • Part 1: The Scroll Tradition
    • Chapter 1. Architectural Drawings and Scrolls in the Islamic World
    • Chapter 2. The Topkapi Scroll, Its Date and Provenance
    • Chapter 3. The Topkapi Scroll as a Mirror of Late Timurid-Turkmen Architectural Practice
    • Notes to Part 1
    • Chapter 4. Ornamentalism and Orientalism: The Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century European Literature
    • Chapter 5. Recent Studies on Geometric Ornament
    • Notes to Part 2
    • Chapter 6. Geometric Patterning Before the Mongols
    • Chapter 7. The Post-Mongol Synthesis
    • Notes to Part 3
    • Chapter 8. Theory and Praxis: Uses of Practical Geometry
    • Chapter 9. Manuals of Practical Geometry and the Scroll Tradition
    • Notes to Part 4
    • Chapter 10. The Aesthetics of Proportion and Light
    • Chapter 11. Geometric Abstraction and the Psychology of Visual Perception
    • Chapter 12. The Semiotics of Ornament
    • Notes to Part 5
    • List of Pattern Types
    • List of Drawings

    About the Author

    Gülru Necipoğlu is the Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Harvard University. She specializes in the arts and architecture of the pre-modern Islamic lands, with a focus on the Mediterranean. Necipoğlu edits the journal Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World and her books include: Architecture, Ceremonial and Power: The Topkapı Palace (1991), The Topkapı Scroll–Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (1995), and The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire (2005, 2011). Professor Necipoğlu is an elected member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Archittettura Andrea Palladio in Vicenza.

    Press Reviews and Awards

    “Featuring elaborate star-and-polygon patterns, the Topkapi scroll, probably made in Persia in the late 15th or early 16th century, was a manual of architectural designs used in complex vaults, geometric ornaments, mosaic tiles and polychromatic masonry. In this scholarly, sumptuously illustrated study, the scroll, preserved in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace Museum, serves as a point of departure for Necipoğlu’s history of Islamic architectural drawing and her trenchant critique of European ‘orientalist’ assumptions about Islamic culture. Professor of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard, Necipoğlu maintains that a shared classical heritage in the Latin West, Byzantium and the Islamic world was remodeled in each civilization by differing monotheistic traditions. She argues that Islamic geometric patterns, often dismissed as mere decoration, comprised a ‘sign system’ reflecting religious and ideological currents, mathematical and scientific advances and mystical beliefs throughout premodern Islamic history.” —Publishers Weekly

    “This sumptuously produced volume by the Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Harvard examines the Timurid pattern scroll preserved in the Topkapi Palace Museum Library in Istanbul. Since few architectural drawings or theoretical texts survive from the premodern Islamic world, this scroll is a very important source of information. Dating from the late 15th or early 16th century and featuring 115 geometrical patterns, the scroll is shown here in its entirety in clear and well-produced illustrations. The author’s analysis sheds new light on the transmission of Islamic architectural design between the tenth and 16th centuries. She also compares Islamic concepts with those found in medieval Western art. Though the volume is intended for the specialist, it will be of interest to anyone familiar with Islamic architecture. Well recommended for all art collections.” —Library Journal

    Understanding Heian nobles’ snobbishness

    Once upon a time — the fairy tale opening is apt, though it’s history we’re dealing with — peace lay so thick upon the land that war was inconceivable. The capital was a city named “Peace and Tranquility” — Hei-An (modern-day Kyoto). There was a ministry of war, but the war minister was no fighter nor was anyone else who mattered. A war minister has a major role in the classic 11th-century novel “The Tale of Genji” — his name is Kaoru (fragrance). He is described as being as beautiful as a woman and in a state of unabashed terror on journeys along deserted paths to a remote village. Imagine him on the field of battle! But there was no field of battle to imagine him on.

    The Heian Period (794-1185) was not totally demilitarized. In contemporary literature soldiers are objects of pity and derision. “The more elegantly he tried to arrange things,” we read of one in “Genji,” “the more blatantly was his vulgar, boorish, countrified nature exposed. … He knew nothing of music and the other pleasant sides of life, but he was an excellent shot with the bow.” It’s a skill that demeans rather than dignifies.

    Four centuries of almost unbroken peace are an odd prelude to a martial tradition as fierce and courageous as any in the world. But so it was. The Heian aristocrat was not bred for war. He was — none more so than the fictional Genji, the “shining prince” — soft, refined, indolent, elegant, artistic, exquisitely sensitive a poet, a calligrapher, a perfume-blender, a musician. He knew the beauty of things and he knew the sadness of things — knew, in short, that beauty, however beautiful, fades that life, however fleetingly satisfying, is doomed. Why fight? What was there to fight for, in a world that was a mere “dream of a dream”?

    Heian nobles were embarrassed by power. They despised crudity, and power is crude. They wanted to rule and they wanted the perks of office — insisted on them, indeed. But naked power was not their chosen means to their chosen end. They had other tricks up their wide and flowing sleeves.

    Not everything about them or their time is appealing. Those who deplore today’s widening gap between rich and poor should consider Heian, whose nobility — the only people who counted — numbered perhaps 1,000 in a city of 100,000 and a country of 5 million. To the nobles, the common folk were scarcely human. The literary court lady Sei Shonagon (966 to circa 1017), in her “Pillow Book” of random jottings, mentions some carpenters at work on palace repairs. She happened upon them at lunchtime: “The way carpenters eat is really odd. … The moment the food was brought, they fell on the soup bowls and gulped down the contents. Then they pushed the bowls aside and polished off the vegetables. … I suppose this must be the nature of carpenters. I should not call a very charming one.”

    Later, more egalitarian ages found Heian snobbishness insufferable. They found its erotic laxity repellent. They were not amused, for example, by Genji’s cuckolding of his own father, a reigning emperor the resulting child, assumed to be imperial offspring, ascends in due course to the throne, the awful secret known only to Genji.

    Disapprove by all means of what invites disapproval, but let’s give credit where it’s due. History is a wretched business — brutally violent, sadistically cruel. The proud boasts of ancient warriors (“And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and ass,” we read in the biblical Book of Joshua) finds its amplified echoes in our own time — in the 20th-century hells of world war, concentration camps and gulags, merging into the present century of random terrorism and heightened militarization with no end in sight.

    Perhaps it’s despair of the present that turns some of us back to Heian. For Heian has none of this. Its power politics are unsavory enough, but no insatiable cruelty darkens its memory.

    Power politics. A classic example dates to the close of the ninth century, roughly a century before Genji’s and Sei Shonagon’s time. “Even now in the 1970s,” wrote historian Ivan Morris, “every schoolchild in Japan is familiar with the name of Sugawara no Michizane.” So much the better, for he is the hero of our story — and what society in world history other than Heian would have made a hero of such a wan, cringing pawn as this scholarly court poet who wrote of his pathetic self as defeat closed in: “I have become mere scum that floats upon the water’s face”?

    Power at the time, and throughout Heian, was wielded by a branch of the great Fujiwara family. Emperors, mere children, were almost always Fujiwara grandsons or sons-in-law their abdication before coming of age was a matter of course a Fujiwara “regent” ruled behind the scenes. The system was rocked by Emperor Uda, a rare adult and non-Fujiwara claimant to the throne who, determined to rule as well as reign, appointed Sugawara, the leading scholar of the day, a poet prodigiously learned in the Chinese classics, as his chief counselor.

    The Fujiwaras were undone! Well, not quite. They could have murdered Sugawara a vicious civil war could have erupted — but this is Heian, and nothing of the sort even threatened. Sugawara instead was falsely charged with treason and, tears his only resistance, packed off to exile in remote Kyushu, where he died of “a broken heart.”

    The end? No. A series of disasters in the capital terrorized the Fujiwara into striving to placate the supposedly furious spirit of this docile, feckless man who in life had been putty in their hands. Promoted above mortality itself, Sugawara was made a deity — the god of literature and calligraphy, worshiped, Morris tells us, by more devotees down the ages than any other Japanese god except Hachiman — the god of war.

    Michael Hoffman’s new book, “In the Land of the Kami: A Journey into the Hearts of Japan,” is currently on sale.

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    Hachiman, Illustrated Scroll - History

    The story, as Parson Weems tells it, is that in 1754 a strapping young militia officer named George Washington argued with a smaller man, one William Payne, who made up for the disparity in size by knocking Washington down with a stick. It was the kind of affront that, among a certain class of Virginia gentlemen, almost invariably called for a duel. That must have been what Payne was expecting when Washington summoned him to a tavern the following day. Instead, he found the colonel at a table with a decanter of wine and two glasses. Washington apologized for the quarrel, and the two men shook hands.

    Whether or not this actually happened—and some biographers believe that it did—is almost beside the point. Weems’ intention was to reveal Washington as he imagined him: a figure of profound self-assurance capable of keeping an overheated argument from turning into something far worse. At a time in America when the code of the duel was becoming a law unto itself, such restraint was not always apparent. Alexander Hamilton was the most celebrated casualty of the dueling ethic, having lost his life in an 1804 feud with Aaron Burr on the fields ofWeehawken, New Jersey, but there were many more who paid the ultimate price— congressmen, newspaper editors, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (the otherwise obscure Button Gwinnett, famous largely for being named Button Gwinnett), two U.S. senators (Armistead T. Mason of Virginia and David C. Broderick of California) and, in 1820, the rising naval star Stephen Decatur. To his lasting embarrassment, Abraham Lincoln barely escaped being drawn into a duel early in his political career, and President Andrew Jackson carried in his body a bullet from one duel and some shot from a gunfight that followed another. Not that private dueling was a peculiarly American vice. The tradition had taken hold in Europe several centuries earlier, and though it was frequently forbidden by law, social mores dictated otherwise. During the reign of George III (1760-1820), there were 172 known duels in England (and very likely many more kept secret), resulting in 69 recorded fatalities. At one time or another, Edmund Burke, William Pitt the younger and Richard Brinsley Sheridan all took the field, and Samuel Johnson defended the practice, which he found as logical as war between nations: “Aman may shoot the man who invades his character,” he once told biographer James Boswell, “as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house.” As late as 1829 the Duke of Wellington, then England’s prime minister, felt compelled to challenge the Earl of Winchelsea, who had accused him of softness toward Catholics.

    In France, dueling had an even stronger hold, but by the 19th century, duels there were seldom fatal, since most involved swordplay, and drawing blood usually sufficed to give honor its due. (Perhaps as a way of relieving ennui, the French weren’t averse to pushing the envelope in matters of form. In 1808, two Frenchmen fought in balloons over Paris one was shot down and killed with his second. Thirty-five years later, two others tried to settle their differences by skulling each other with billiard balls.)

    In the United States, dueling’s heyday began at around the time of the Revolution and lasted the better part of a century. The custom’s true home was the antebellum South. Duels, after all, were fought in defense of what the law would not defend—a gentleman’s sense of personal honor—and nowhere were gentlemen more exquisitely sensitive on that point than in the future Confederacy. As self-styled aristocrats, and frequently slaveholders, they enjoyed what one Southern writer describes as a “habit of command” and an expectation of deference. To the touchiest among them, virtually any annoyance could be construed as grounds for a meeting at gunpoint, and though laws against dueling were passed in several Southern states, the statutes were ineffective. Arrests were infrequent judges and juries were loath to convict.

    In New England, on the other hand, dueling was viewed as a cultural throwback, and no stigma was attached to rejecting it. Despite the furious sectional acrimony that preceded the Civil War, Southern congressmen tended to duel each other, not their Northern antagonists, who could not be relied upon to rise to a challenge. Consequently, when South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks was offended by Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner’s verbal assault on the congressman’s uncle, he resorted to caning Sumner insensible on the floor of the Senate. His constituents understood. Though Brooks was reviled in the North, he was lionized in much of the South, where he was presented with a ceremonial cane inscribed “Hit Him Again.” (Brooks said he had used a cane rather than a horsewhip because he was afraid Sumner might wrestle the whip away from him, in which case Brooks would have had to kill him. He didn’t say how.)

    Curiously, many who took part in the duel professed to disdain it. Sam Houston opposed it, but as a Tennessee congressman, shot Gen. William White in the groin. Henry Clay opposed it, but put a bullet through Virginia senator John Randolph’s coat (Randolph being in it at the time) after the senator impugned his integrity as secretary of state and called him some colorful names. Hamilton opposed dueling, but met Aaron Burr on the same ground in New Jersey where Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip, had died in a duel not long before. (Maintaining philosophical consistency, Hamilton intended to hold his fire, a common breach of strict dueling etiquette that, sadly, Burr didn’t emulate.) Lincoln, too, objected to the practice, but got as far as a dueling ground in Missouri before third parties intervened to keep the Great Emancipator from emancipating a future Civil War general.

    So why did such rational men choose combat over apology or simple forbearance? Perhaps because they saw no alternative. Hamilton, at least, was explicit. “The ability to be in future useful,” he wrote, “ . . . in those crises of our public affairs which seem likely to happen . . . imposed on me (as I thought) a peculiar necessity not to decline the call.” And Lincoln, though dismayed to be called to account for pricking the vanity of a political rival, couldn’t bring himself to extend his regrets. Pride obviously had something to do with this, but pride compounded by the imperatives of a dueling society. For a man who wanted a political future, walking away from a challenge may not have seemed a plausible option.

    The Lincoln affair, in fact, affords a case study in how these matters were resolved—or were not. The trouble began when Lincoln, then a Whig representative in the Illinois legislature, wrote a series of satirical letters under the pseudonym Rebecca, in which he made scathing fun of State Auditor James Shields, a Democrat. The letters were published in a newspaper, and when Shields sent him a note demanding a retraction, Lincoln objected to both the note’s belligerent tone and its assumption that he had written more of them than he had. (In fact, Mary Todd, not yet Lincoln’s wife, is believed to have written one of the letters with a friend.) Then, when Shields asked for a retraction of the letters he knew Lincoln had written, Lincoln refused to do so unless Shields withdrew his original note. It was a lawyerly response, typical of the verbal fencing that often preceded a duel, with each side seeking the moral high ground. Naturally, it led to a stalemate. By the time Lincoln agreed to a carefully qualified apology provided that first note was withdrawn— in effect asking Shields to apologize for demanding an apology—Shields wasn’t buying. When Lincoln, as the challenged party, wrote out his terms for the duel, hopes for an accommodation seemed ended.

    The terms themselves were highly unusual. Shields was a military man Lincoln was not. Lincoln had the choice of weapons, and instead of pistols chose clumsy cavalry broadswords, which both men were to wield while standing on a narrow plank with limited room for retreat. The advantage would obviously be Lincoln’s he was the taller man, with memorably long arms. “To tell you the truth,” he told a friend later, “I did not want to kill Shields, and felt sure that I could disarm him . . . and, furthermore, I didn’t want the damned fellow to kill me, which I rather think he would have done if we had selected pistols.”

    Fortunately, perhaps for both men, and almost certainly for one of them, each had friends who were determined to keep them from killing each other. Before Shields arrived at the dueling spot, their seconds, according to Lincoln biographer Douglas L. Wilson, proposed that the dispute be submitted to a group of fair-minded gentlemen—an arbitration panel of sorts. Though that idea didn’t fly, Shields’ seconds soon agreed not to stick at the sticking point. They withdrew their man’s first note on their own, clearing the way for a settlement. Shields went on to become a United States senator and a brigadier general in the Union Army Lincoln went on to be Lincoln. Years later, when the matter was brought up to the president, he was adamant. “I do not deny it,” he told an Army officer who had referred to the incident, “but if you desire my friendship, you will never mention it again.”

    If Lincoln was less than nostalgic about his moment on the field of honor, others saw dueling as a salutary alternative to simply gunning a man down in the street, a popular but déclassé undertaking that might mark a man as uncouth. Like so many public rituals of the day, dueling was, in concept at least, an attempt to bring order to a dangerously loose-knit society. The Englishman Andrew Steinmetz, writing about dueling in 1868, called America “the country where life is cheaper than anywhere else.” Advocates of the duel would have said that life would have been even cheaper without it. Of course, the attitudes dueling was meant to control weren’t always controllable. When Gen. Nathanael Greene, a Rhode Islander living in Georgia after the Revolution, was challenged by Capt. James Gunn of Savannah regarding his censure of Gunn during the war, Greene declined to accept. But feeling the honor of the Army might be at stake, he submitted the matter to GeorgeWashington. Washington, who had no use for dueling, replied that Greene would have been foolish to take up the challenge, since an officer couldn’t perform as an officer if he had to worry constantly about offending subordinates. Indifferent to such logic, Gunn threatened to attack Greene on sight. Greene mooted the threat by dying peacefully the following year.

    Even more than Captain Gunn, Andrew Jackson was an excitable sort with a famously loose rein on his temper. Asurvivor— barely—of several duels, he nearly got himself killed following a meeting in which he was merely a second, and in which one of the participants, Jesse Benton, had the misfortune to be shot in the buttocks. Benton was furious, and so was his brother, future U.S. senator Thomas Hart Benton, who denounced Jackson for his handling of the affair. Not one to take denunciation placidly, Jackson threatened to horsewhip Thomas and went to a Nashville hotel to do it. When Thomas reached for what Jackson supposed was his pistol, Jackson drew his, whereupon the irate Jesse burst through a door and shot Jackson in the shoulder. Falling, Jackson fired at Thomas and missed. Thomas returned the favor, and Jesse moved to finish off Jackson. At this point, several other men rushed into the room, Jesse was pinned to the floor and stabbed (though saved from a fatal skewering by a coat button), a friend of Jackson’s fired at Thomas, and Thomas, in hasty retreat, fell backward down a flight of stairs. Thus ended the Battle of the City Hotel.

    It was just this sort of thing that the code of the duel was meant to prevent, and sometimes it may have actually done so. But frequently it merely served as a scrim giving cover to murderers. One of the South’s most notorious duelists was a hard-drinking homicidal miscreant named Alexander Keith McClung. Anephew of Chief Justice John Marshall—though likely not his favorite nephew, after engaging in a duel with a cousin—McClung behaved like a character out of Gothic fiction, dressing from time to time in a flowing cape, giving overripe oratory and morbid poetry, and terrifying many of his fellow Mississippians with his penchant for intimidation and violence.

    A crack shot with a pistol, he preferred provoking a challenge to giving one, in order to have his choice of weapons. Legend has it that after shooting Vicksburg’s John Menifee to death in a duel, the Black Knight of the South, as Mc- Clung was known, killed six other Menifees who rose in turn to defend the family honor. All of this reportedly generated a certain romantic excitement among women of his acquaintance. Wrote one: “I loved him madly while with him, but feared him when away from him for he was a man of fitful, uncertain moods and given to periods of the deepest melancholy. At such times he would mount his horse, Rob Roy, wild and untamable as himself, and dash to the cemetery, where he would throw himself down on a convenient grave and stare like a madman into the sky. . . . ” (The woman refused his proposal of marriage he didn’t seem the domestic type.) Expelled from the Navy as a young man, after threatening the lives of various shipmates, McClung later served, incredibly, as a U.S. marshal and fought with distinction in the Mexican War. In 1855, he brought his drama to an end, shooting himself in a Jackson hotel. He left behind a final poem, “Invocation to Death.”

    Though the dueling code was, at best, a fanciful alternative to true law and order, there were those who believed it indispensable, not only as a brake on shoot-on-sight justice but as a way of enforcing good manners. New Englanders may have prided themselves on treating an insult as only an insult, but to the South’s dueling gentry, such indifference betrayed a lack of good breeding. John Lyde Wilson, a former governor of South Carolina who was the foremost codifier of dueling rules in America, thought it downright unnatural. Ahigh-minded gentleman who believed the primary role of a second was to keep duels from happening, as he had done on many occasions, he also believed that dueling would persist “as long as a manly independence and a lofty personal pride, in all that dignifies and ennobles the human character, shall continue to exist.”

    Hoping to give the exercise the dignity he felt sure it deserved, he composed eight brief chapters of rules governing everything from the need to keep one’s composure in the face of an insult (“If the insult be in public . . . never resent it there”) to ranking various offenses in order of precedence (“When blows are given in the first instance and returned, and the person first striking be badly beaten or otherwise, the party first struck is to make the demand [for a duel or apology], for blows do not satisfy a blow”) to the rights of a man being challenged (“You may refuse to receive a note from a minor. . . , [a man] that has been publicly disgraced without resenting it. . . , a man in his dotage [or] a lunatic”).

    Formal dueling, by and large, was an indulgence of the South’s upper classes, who saw themselves as above the law— or at least some of the laws—that governed their social inferiors. It would have been unrealistic to expect them to be bound by the letter of Wilson’s rules or anyone else’s, and of course they were not. If the rules specified smoothbore pistols, which could be mercifully inaccurate at the prescribed distance of 30 to 60 feet, duelists might choose rifles or shotguns or bowie knives, or confront each other, suicidally, nearly muzzle to muzzle. If Wilson was emphatic that the contest should end at first blood (“no second is excusable who permits a wounded friend to fight”), contestants might keep on fighting, often to the point where regret was no longer an option. And if seconds were obliged to be peacemakers, they sometimes behaved more like promoters.

    But if bending the rules made dueling even bloodier than it had to be, strict adherence could be risky too. Some would-be duelists discovered that even the code’s formal preliminaries might set in motion an irreversible chain of events. When, in 1838, Col. James Watson Webb, a thuggish Whig newspaper editor, felt himself abused in Congress by Representative Jonathan Cilley, a Maine Democrat, he dispatched Representative William Graves of Kentucky to deliver his demand for an apology. When Cilley declined to accept Webb’s note, Graves, following what one Whig diarist described as “the ridiculous code of honor which governs these gentlemen,” felt obliged to challenge Cilley himself. Subsequently, the two congressmen, who bore each other not the slightest ill will, adjourned to a field in Maryland to blast away at each other with rifles at a distance of 80 to 100 yards. After each exchange of shots, negotiations were conducted with a view to calling the whole thing off, but no acceptable common ground could be found, though the issues still at stake seemed appallingly trivial. Graves’ third shot struck Cilley and killed him.

    Though President Van Buren attended Cilley’s funeral, the Supreme Court refused to be present as a body, as a protest against dueling, and Graves and his second, Representative Henry Wise of Virginia, were censured by the House of Representatives. On the whole, though, outrage seemed to play out along party lines, with Whigs less dismayed by the carnage than Democrats. Congressman Wise, who had insisted the shooting continue, over the protests of Cilley’s second, was particularly defiant. “Let Puritans shudder as they may,” he cried to his Congressional colleagues. “I belong to the class of Cavaliers, not to the Roundheads.”

    Ultimately, the problem with dueling was the obvious one. Whatever rationale its advocates offered for it, and however they tried to refine it, it still remained a capricious waste of too many lives. This was especially true in the Navy, where boredom, drink and a mix of spirited young men in close quarters on shipboard produced a host of petty irritations ending in gunfire. Between 1798 and the Civil War, the Navy lost two-thirds as many officers to dueling as it did to more than 60 years of combat at sea. Many of those killed and maimed were teenage midshipmen and barely older junior officers, casualties of their own reckless judgment and, on at least one occasion, the by-the-book priggishness of some of their shipmates.

    In 1800, Lt. Stephen Decatur, who was to die in a celebrated duel 20 years later, laughingly called his friend Lieutenant Somers a fool. When several of his fellow officers shunned Somers for not being suitably resentful, Somers explained that Decatur had been joking. No matter. If Somers didn’t challenge, he would be branded a coward and his life made unbearable. Still refusing to fight his friend Decatur, Somers instead challenged each of the officers, to be fought one after another. Not until he had wounded one of them, and been so seriously wounded himself that he had to fire his last shot from a sitting position, would those challenged acknowledge his courage.

    The utter pointlessness of such encounters became, in time, an insult to public opinion, which by the Civil War had become increasingly impatient with affairs of honor that ended in killing. Even in dueling’s heyday, reluctant warriors were known to express reservations about their involvement by shooting into the air or, after receiving fire, not returning it. Occasionally they chose their weapons—howitzers, sledgehammers, forkfuls of pig dung—for their very absurdity, as a way of making a duel seem ridiculous. Others, demonstrating a “manly independence” that John Lyde Wilson might have admired, felt secure enough in their own reputations to turn down a fight. It may not have been difficult, in 1816, for New Englander Daniel Webster to refuse John Randolph’s challenge, or for a figure as unassailable as Stonewall Jackson, then teaching at the Virginia Military Institute, to order court-martialed a cadet who challenged him over a supposed insult during a lecture. But it must have been a different matter for native Virginian Winfield Scott, a future commanding general of the Army, to turn down a challenge from Andrew Jackson after the War of 1812. (Jackson could call him whatever he chose, said Scott, but he should wait until the next war to find out if Scott were truly a coward.) And it had to be riskier still for Louisville editor George Prentice to rebuke a challenger by declaring, “I do not have the least desire to kill you. . . . and I am not conscious of having done anything to entitle you to kill me. I do not want your blood upon my hands, and I do not want my own on anybody’s. . . . I am not so cowardly as to stand in dread of any imputation on my courage.”

    If he did not stand in such dread, others did, since the consequences of being publicly posted as a coward could ruin a man. Yet even in dueling’s heartland south of the Mason- Dixon line, the duel had always had its opponents. Anti-dueling societies, though ineffectual, existed throughout the South at one time, and Thomas Jefferson once tried in vain to introduce in Virginia legislation as strict—though surely not so imaginative—as that in colonial Massachusetts, where the survivor of a fatal duel was to be executed, have a stake driven through his body, and be buried without a coffin.

    But time was on the side of the critics. By the end of the Civil War, the code of honor had lost much of its force, possibly because the country had seen enough bloodshed to last several lifetimes. Dueling was, after all, an expression of caste—the ruling gentry deigned to fight only its social nearequals— and the caste whose conceits it had spoken to had been fatally injured by the disastrous war it had chosen. Violence thrived murder was alive and well. But for those who survived to lead the New South, dying for chivalry’s sake no longer appealed. Even among old dueling warriors, the ritual came to seem like something antique. Looking back on life’s foolishness, one South Carolina general, seriously wounded in a duel in his youth, was asked to recall the occasion. “Well I never did clearly understand what it was about,” he replied, “but you know it was a time when all gentlemen fought.”

    - ROSS DRAKE is a former editor at People magazine who now writes from Connecticut. This is his first article for SMITHSONIAN.

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