Account of Duel between Armand and William Snickers
Frederick town December the 26th 1782
We the Subscribers declare
That on the 21st instant we were called upon in fredericktown by Colo. Armand to be witnesses of the Conduct of the parties Concerned in a difference to be determined at Harpers ferry by 12’ o clock the next day.1
Early in the Morning that day we sett out with the Colonel—Lieut. Fontevieux his Second, Major Schaffner & three other officers of the Legion who Considered themselves injuried by the adverse party and attended in Expectation of receiving Satisfaction 2—when we had arrived abt a mile of the place appointed, by the desire of Colo. Armand we and his Second went forward and crossed the Ferry, where after being informed who made up the party of Captn Snickers Captn Morris recrossed the river and informed the Colonel they Consisted of Captn Snickers—Major Willis his Second—and Genl Morgan,3 informing him at the same time that major Willis objected to any being present at the Combat but the principles and their Seconds—Lieut. Fontevieux said those Gentlemen being officers of the Maryland Line had attended at the instance of the Colonel as witnesses of the proceedings of the Day—Major Willis said he would acquaint Captn Snickers of it—on his return said the Captn would admit one of the Gentlemen, provided Colo. Armand had no objection to Captn Brady’s 4 being present also—which on the Colonels landing was agreed to—the Colonel then Enquired after Mr Throghmorton and Major Nevil,5 and was answeared they were not here to which he replied that he expected from what he had wrote they would have attended, but supposed they considered it more safe to stay away, that his injuried officers had Come to the other side of the River, and would Cross to receive satisfaction from Snickers or any Gentleman who would Stand in his place, Genl Morgan answeared he would evouch for Major Nevil’s attending had he conceived himself under any obligation, the Colonel said he must know he is Charged with writing the piece, he was answeared by the General that the piece was acknowledged by its subscriber Captn Snickers to be his own 6—well, well, we Shall soon see how it will be—replied the Colonel—Captn Morris then asked if there was no way of Settling the Matter without its being Carried to the greatest Extreems, was answeared by the Colonel with a degree of warmth, at the same time puting his hand into his pocket and taking out some Pistolballs, with Shewing his pistols, said these must Settle it[,] there is no other way—Major Willis replied take Notice the motion did not come from our Side.
the principles their Seconds and the appointed Spectators Captn Brady and Dyer, retired to the field, when after the Necessary preparations were made, and the distance of tenn paces prescribed—the Combatants took their Posts and fired—some thing though not material was said by Captn Brady for an accommodation, it not being attended to, they Called for their pistols for an other round, when the Colonel missed fire—Major Willis then proposed that an accomodation take place, and was answered 7 by Colo. Armand, if he Captn Snickers, will take in his publication he may go about his Bussiness, and I to my troop—Captn Snickers replied, if you will first acknowledge you treated me ill, I will withdraw the piece, the Colonel said—that can never be, come take your Pistols Sir—on which a third round ensued, the Colonels pistol again missing fire, when Major Willis renewed his good intentions for accommodating the Matter—which commenced and Continued through as in the last, when Captn Snickers proposed to Colo. Armand a settlement, by withdrawing that part of the publication that opperated against him, which he in plain terms rejected and desired him to take his pistol again, that as yet he had made but one fire, some altercation ensuing, when major Willis took possession of Captn Snickers Pistols, and declared they Should not further be used on this occassion—it was his opinion they had fought enough, to Continue it further he thought could be of no addition to the honor of Either, and at the risque of his reputation was determined to keep them, and Called on Genl Morgan, who at this time with the rest of the absentees were present, for his assistance as a superior officer, to prevent any further fighting—at this juncture the General and Major Schaffner were in Conversation when the later said if Colo. Armand was done with Captn Snickers, he would take the Colonels place, the General replied, he Snickers Should fight no more if he was done with the Colonel, the major Said he has injuried me, his fighting the Colonel is not giving me Satisfaction for if one Gentleman insults ten, he has ten Gentlemen to give satisfaction to, or his friends must do it and I believe you to be his friend, the General with a Shew of warmth asked him if he knew whom he was talking to, he said he did, I know you are an Officer and I am an other, to this was replied he would arrest both him and Colo. Armand if they persisted in Continuing the matter the Colonel answeared he Should obey no arrest from him on the Occassion, the General said, I am a General officer and will let you know you Shall obey any arrest from me the Colonel replied, I know you are a Genl officer, but you have on this occassion made void your authority by knowing and attending the bussiness of this day and more especially by admitting it to take place, which done, we may continue or decline on such principles as we may think proper 8 without paying any respect to your authority—the gentlemen present interposing the Dispute dropt—when Motion was made that although the principles had fought, the parties concerned in the Difference still remained in the same disagreable situation they were in, and recommended that four or five of the Gentlemen present should be appointed to settle the Dispute, which after some time was agreed to, and all adjourned to Captn Brady’s an adjassant house, where the Matter was settled in the Manner and form of which you have a true Copy.
Jona. Morriss Captn 1st Maryland Regt
Edwd Dyer Captn 3d Maryland Regt9
Jonathan Morris was made a first lieutenant in the 7th Maryland Regiment on 10 Dec. 1776 and served in the Maryland forces until his retirement in April 1783. After making captain in April 1777, Morris was wounded at the Battle of Camden on 16 Aug. 1780, and then in January 1781 he was assigned to the 2d Maryland Regiment. Edward Dyer, a Marylander, became a second lieutenant in the Maryland 2d Regiment on 14 Jan. 1777, first lieutenant on 27 May 1778, captain lieutenant on 10 Sept. 1780, and retired on 1 Jan. 1783. In a letter to William Jackson on 20 Oct. 1783, Otho Williams referred to Dyer as “a plain, honest, poor man” with “a large, and an amicable family” (DNA:PCC, item 152).
1. Frederick, Md., is 22 miles from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
2. The aggrieved officers of Armand’s Legion who were with him on the day of the duel were: Lieutenant Fontevieux, Lieutenant de Coutoures who acted as Armand’s second in the duel, Maj. George Schaffner (Schaeffer) of Pennsylvania, Captain de Bert, Capt. John Sharp of Pennsylvania, and Cornet James McDougall.
3. William Snickers (b. 1759) was the son of Edward Snickers (d. 1791) of Frederick County, Va., with whom GW had had occasional dealings since 1756. Young Snickers survived the duel to have his horse Paul Jones win the Jockey Club purse in Alexandria on 10 Oct. 1786, in GW’s presence, and to marry in 1793 GW’s cousin Frances Washington (b. 1775), daughter of Warner Washington. Snickers held a captaincy in Charles Mynn Thruston’s Additional Continental Regiment from March 1777 until the end of January 1778. Francis Willis, Jr. (1745–1829), held the rank of captain in William Grayson’s Additional Continental Regiment from January 1777 to May 1778, was probably at this time living in Berkeley County, the location of Harpers Ferry where the duel was fought. For further identification of Willis, see Ralph Wormeley, Jr., to GW, 16 July 1784, n.1. Gen. Daniel Morgan left Gen. Nathanael Greene’s army in February 1781 because of ill health and returned to Frederick County, Va., where he built his house, Saratoga, in 1782.
4. William Brady, former captain of the Berkeley County militia and of Stephenson’s rifles, resigned his captaincy in the 11th Virginia Regiment in September 1778, when this notation was entered by his name: “Never done any duty, behaved infamously, and recommended to be struck off” (Heitman, Officers of the Continental Army, description begins Francis B. Heitman. Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783. 1893. Rev. ed. Washington, D.C., 1914. description ends 96).
5. “Throghmorton” is probably Albion Throckmorton of Frederick County who married Warner Washington’s daughter Mildred in December 1785 and so was to become the brother-in-law of one of the principals in the duel when Snickers married Mrs. Throckmorton’s sister in 1793 (see Dolphin Drew to GW, 13 Feb. 1784, n.2). Presley Nevill (1756–1818) and his father John Nevill (1731–1803) left Frederick County, Va., shortly before the Revolution and built houses on either side of Chartiers Creek near Pittsburgh. The younger Nevill, like his father, served with the Virginia forces during the Revolution. He was aide-de-camp to Lafayette in 1778 and was brevetted lieutenant colonel, the rank he held to the end of the war.
6. The “piece” that Snickers wrote has not been identified. Nevill was General Morgan’s son-in-law.
7. GW struck out what appears to be “assures” and wrote in “answered.”
8. GW inserted “on such principles as we may think proper,” which presumably he took from the original when he compared it with this copy.
9. Below this the copyist wrote “at your particular request we have been thus particular in our narrative state of this affair, which we think is correct—and have only to wish when requisit it may prove satisfactory,” followed by “Jona. Morris[,] Edwd Dyer[,] Frederick town December the 26th 1782.”
GW inserted “Sir,” followed by a comma, at the beginning, and at the end, before the signatures, “we are Sir Yr Mo. Obt & very Hble Servt.” He also added below the date line: “Colo. Armand,” which seems to indicate that the narrative was written for Armand at GW’s direction.
On another sheet the copyist wrote: “We the subscribers being Called upon to settle a dispute between Colo. Armand Major Schaffner—Captn de Bert—Captn Sharp—Lieut. decoutures and Cornet McDougle of his Corps on the one side and Captn Snickers and Mr Throgmorton of the other—are of Opinion that the Matter arose from a misunderstanding Colo. Armand and Captn Snickers who have been principles in this Matter by their Conduct at this meeting Evinced this opinion—we do therefore in the Names of those Gentlemen desire that an immidiate stop may be put to all publications on this head and that this unhappy dispute may be Buried in oblivion,” signed by Edward Dyer, Jonathan Morris, “Wm Bready,” and Francis Willis, Junior.