On this day in WNC history: In a previous post, we discussed a reported WNC duel which was simply a rumor. On November 5, 1827, however, a famous duel did, in fact, leave a famous resident dead as the result of a political feud.
Robert Brank Vance (uncle of Zebulon Vance) and Samuel P. Carson came from two prominent WNC families and grew up together. Both of their fathers served in the American Revolution, and both young men eventually found themselves in politics. After backing Vance’s first election to the U.S. House in 1824, Carson decided to run against him in 1827 as a Jacksonian Democrat. The two men dissolved their friendship.
Their campaign devolved into bitter name calling and insults. Vance, whose growth was stunted due to a childhood disability, called Carson a demagogue while Carson retorted that he would hold Vance accountable if not for his diminutive size. Vance called the younger Carson and his father cowards, impugning his service in the American Revolution. Carson’s brothers and father were outraged, and ultimately Samuel accepted a challenge to a duel after defeating Vance in the August election.
The two picked a spot just across the South Carolina line in the Saluda Gap, along the Buncombe Turnpike/SC state road, adjacent to the later site of the Happy Land Kingdom. One unsubstantiated legend holds that Vance chose Daniel Boone as his second. Vance reportedly expected to die, and made his will just a few days prior. Meeting in their affair of honor, Vance likely did not intend to hit his opponent, but Carson’s bullet mortally wounded him, and after nearly thirty hours, Vance died at the nearby Oakland plantation/inn. Carson went on to serve on the North Carolina constitution committee in 1835, and ultimately moved to Texas to become their secretary of state.