Richmond, July 7, 1856.

Hugh R. Pleasants, a brother of the late John Hampden Pleasants, and formerly editor of the Penny Post of this city, went this morning into the Executive Chamber of the Capitol, where Gov. Wise was engaged writing, and taking a seat by invitation of the Governor, said, after a brief period: “I thought gizzard foot was here.” [2] Gov. Wise smilingly replied: “I am the man.”—Pleasants, rising from his seat, and approaching the table at which the Governor sat, said: “By God, I did not know you; and so you are ebo shin and gizzard foot?” “I am,” remarked Gov. Wise, with a smile, [3] “and you are Hugh Pleasants.” Pleasants thereupon commenced abusing the Governor, without any provocation whatever, when the Governor ordered him to leave the room, but he refused to do so. The Governor then rose from his seat, approached Pleasants, and taking hold of him, endeavored to push him out. Pleasants resisted, squared off, and placed himself in an attitude to strike, when the Governor struck him with his fist under the left eye, and cut him pretty severely. He then seized him by the arm, turned him round and kicked him.

At this time the messenger of the Executive came up, and had him removed by the order of the Governor. It is said that Pleasants was intoxicated.

[The foregoing is the account we find in the telegraphic columns of a distant paper, of this affair. We copy it as a news item without pretending to vouch its correctness.]


Source: Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner 11 July 1856. (Library of Virginia Archives)

Joe Essid, UR English Department, prepared this typescript.

[1] The locale for this piece is well outside the Old Southwest, but it may interest those studying violent encounters on the frontier. Real or apocryphal, Pleasants' fight with Wise reveals much about the expectation of violence between gentlemen of the 1850s. If one could walk into the Capitol of the Old Dominion, a long settled and supposedly genteel Southern state, to pick a fight with the governor, what would have been possible on the frontier? Richmond newspapermen were famous for their duels and brawls; see Dabney for vivid accounts of John Hampden Pleasants and others.

[2] Wise earned the nicknames “Old Gizzard Foot” and “Ebo-Shin” after he made the disparaging remark that African Americans were “ebo-shinned and gizzard-footed” (Dabney 16). Invective by Whigs against Wise included much abuse using the nick names and terms such as “his peacock Excellency” (“Washington-Like” 2).

[3] Typesetter error probable—original has quotation that begins “I am” ending here.

Works Cited:

Dabney, Virginius. Pistols and Pointed Pens: The Dueling Editors of Old Virginia. Chapel Hill, Algonquin, 1987.

“Washington-Like.” Richmond Daily Whig 14 July 1856.

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