“ Ay, gouge and bite—pull hair and scratch !”

The fight—the fight—oh, yes ! I will tell you the story ! It was at a small ordinary tavern in ------. I had dined, and was sitting at the fire, toasting my toes, and smoking a segar. A noise attracted my attention, and on turning I found it proceeded from half a dozen burley fellows—beauties, they called themselves—that had come there to wind up their constitutions with potations of rye whiskey. Glass after glass of the crittur went down their throats with the accompaniment of oaths and yells, and with each glass they became more and more elated. It was election-day, and they were qualifying themselves to give plumpers for their crack candidate, who had just finished a stump speech about a half a mile off.

“ He’s a screamer,” said one.

“ He’s bottom,” said another.

“ He’s grit to the back bone—plenty of liquor,” said a third.

“ He’s real republican—no ruffled shirt or clean hands about him,” said a fourth.

“ Hurrah ! hurrah !” they yelled together, and were just leaving the room when they saw me.

“ Aha ! a Yankee, by all that’s mighty !” cried one of them ; “ come, stranger, tote out here, and bolt this liquor”—and, as this was said, a tumbler filled to the brim with raw whiskey was put into my hand.

“ I’m a temperance man,” said I ; “ it is against my principles.”

“ D—n your principles !—run the water !” cried one.

“ Pour it into his ears !” exclaimed a second.

“ Or down his throat with a funnel,” said a third.

“ Come, stranger,” bawled a fourth, approaching and grabbing me by the collar—

“ Handle him !” cried another.

“ Gentlemen, I----"

“ Don’t gentlement us,” said the first ; “ we’re no gentlemen, no how you can fix it ; we’re raal wolf-breed, born in a canebrake and suckled by a hippopotamus—raal Kentuck from the tips of our noses to the end of our toe-nails.”

“ But, gentlemen----"

“ Come, none of your gumfudgeon to us ; down with the liquor at once, or, instead of a gentleman, we’ll make less than a man of you in the twinkling of a thunderclap.”

As he finished, I set the glass down. They swore I should drink it. I remonstrated in gentle terms ; told them I loathed it ; pretended sickness ; but they cursed me all round the compass, and calling me a white-livered fool, swore I should drink it.

Gentle words having no effect, I thought to intimidate them by a show of bravery, and to that end took out one of my pistols. They told me they were not to be skeered so easy, and only cursed me the more roundly, while one of them again put the glass into my hand. I must confess that I found my courage fast leaving me ; and I was in the act of raising my hand to quaff the liquor, thinking it the only way to be rid of a bad scrape, when a yell of triumph burst from them, and determined me on a different course. I dashed the vessel into ten thousand atoms.

In a moment a scoundrel had me by the collar ; the next I had flung him off, and was standing in the corner with my pistol presented.

“ I will shoot the first man that dares to touch me,” said I.

“ Hurrah, stranger, that’s gritty!” shouted one, a giant of a fellow, as he approached.

“ I shall fire,” said I.

“ And be d—d,” said he, still advancing.

I took deliberate aim, and, the instant he touched me, I pulled.

The cloth flew from his frock, and, retreating a step or two, he broke into oaths :

“ By Gaud, stranger,” said he, “ do you know me ?--do you know what stuff I’m made off ? Clear steamboat, sea horse, alligator—run agin me, run agin a snag—jam up—whoop! Got the best jack-knife, smartest wife, blackest child, shaggiest dog, fastest horse, prettiest sister, and biggest whiskers of any man hereabouts—I can lick my weight in wild cats, or any man in all Kentuck !” [1]

“ Well,” said I ; and I stood stock still, looking at the fellow, and wondering what he meant.

“ Come out here,” said he ; “ come out here, if you’re a man—rough and tumble !”

“ Gouging !” said one of the gang.

“ Look ye !” said I, “ look ye, scoundrels—I do not well understand you—you are large men, I am small—but let me caution you, that you won’t find me so feeble as you think. I can thrash the whole of you, one at a time.”

Years before I had practiced sparring successfully and upon that ability I was determined to rely.

There was a pause.

“ What say you,” said I, “ are we to quarrel.”

They all nodded, and began to rub their hands.

“ Well,” said I, “ chose any one of your numbers—promise you will not interfere, any of you, and there is my pistol.”

As I said this, I discharged it—the ball rattled against the chimney and rolled back on the floor. One of them picked it up.

“ Hellfireation, it was loaded,” said he, “ it’s black with powder, and hot now.”

“ Loaded,” said the fellow I had shot, “ to be sure it was—see there !” running his hand into his bosom, and pulling it out covered with blood—“ loaded, yes that it was, and we must have it out.”

“ Then you and I are to fight, hey,” said I.

“ To be sure—all ready !—cocked and primed—all ready !”

At this there was a general outcry, all present setting up a shout, and shaking their hats.

“ Wait a moment,” said I, “ I’m not ready so fast—I heard you speak of gouging—are we going to gouge ?”

“ Ay, gouge and bite—pull hair and scratch !” was the answer, and again they yelled in chorus.

“ And strangle too, I suppose,” said I, thinking if any thing would have an effect on them, it would be a show of self-confidence and coolness.

As I spoke, I tore off my stock with a jerk, and the collar and bosom of my shirt followed—by which means my chest became exposed, and as he caught sight of it, I saw him quail—and well he might, for it is frightful—constant exercise and daily habit of sparring has thrown out the muscles, so that when he saw them they were quivering among the luxuriant black hair with which my breast is covered, like a wounded and exasperated snake.—

“ Come on,” said I, throwing myself into a position to receive him.

He leaped at me—I sprang aside, and he struck the wall with such violence that it stunned him, and he fell at my feet. Impatient I waited his recovery, for I felt that I could easily level him. At length, he gathered himself up, and with curses set upon me—I parried his blows, and gave him two in return—one in the pit of the stomach, and one in the face, that made the blood gush from his nostrils in a steady stream—he staggered against the wall, and stood there retching and panting for more than a minute, with the blood and whiskey running together from his mouth—but the next moment I was under him, as helpless as a babe, stunned and suffocating. Suddenly, I felt his great hand wreathed in my hair, and the thumb approaching my right eye, digging about my temple. I remembered what I had heard—it was gouging !—the thought was madness—with one effort I grappled at his throat—I reached it—I seized the loose flesh, and twisted it—he uttered a shriek of agony—his hold began to loosen—his swollen tongue lolled out of his mouth—his hand fell, and his breath rattled in his throat—I quit my hold, and he rolled from me senseless, black in the face, and apparently dead.

I trembled in every joint, shuddered for fear I was a murderer, and fell senseless at his side.

* * * * * *

I revived—opposite was my antagonist, already recovered, and his comrades. He took me by the hand, and acknowledged himself beat. We spent the day together, and they were ready to worship me—to fight for me, for I had conquered their champion.— New England Galaxy.


Source: New York Spirit of the Times 5.50 (12 December 1835): 2. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Original text omits final quotation mark.

We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.