The History of Weehawken's Historic Dueling Grounds
Dec 21, 2020
Today, Weehawken, New Jersey is perhaps best known for its scenic and convenient location across the Hudson River from New York City. But there is a lot of history in this community worth learning about if you live here or are thinking about moving to the Port Imperial residences.
Here’s what the Weehawken dueling grounds are all about so you can get a better sense of this New Jersey community’s history and legends.
Who Were Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr?
Both Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were American Revolutionary War veterans who held prestigious positions in the U.S. government. Hamilton was America’s first secretary of the treasury, while Burr was a New York senator and vice president. Leading up to the duel, Hamilton led the Federalist Party, and Burr led the Democratic-Republican Party, which means that their political views were at odds with each other.
The two men were rivals and were publicly known to dislike each other very much. Burr challenged Hamilton to the duel as a means of reviving his career in politics. Out of fear of ruining his own political career, Hamilton agreed to the duel despite actually wanting to avoid it.
The Historic Weehawken Duel
Duels were actually pretty common in the 1700s when these two men lived, although dueling became far less typical and even illegal shortly thereafter. The Hamilton-Burr duel took place on July 11, 1804 following an exchange of letters with regard to Burr allegedly attacking Hamilton’s character during a state governor race. The duel was scheduled for a strip of land that was accessible by the river for the sake of privacy from onlookers.
Historical accounts conflict with each other about whether Hamilton fired the first shot by accident or to end the duel. But when Burr returned fire, he hit Hamilton in the abdomen, causing organ damage and eventual death. The shots were fired from .56 caliber dueling pistols.
Burr was not injured in the duel. However, Hamilton died the next day, while Burr continued to serve as vice president. Despite this, Burr’s political career was not reinvigorated. In fact, he did not hold another elected office, and he was later charged with treason for trying to establish a new country out of territory from the Louisiana Purchase.
Visiting the Historic Site
You can visit the place where the Weehawken duel occurred today to learn more about this historic duel. A monument was originally built here in 1806 but was destroyed by souvenir hunters and later by the construction of a roadway. In 1935, John Rapetti sculped a bronze bust statue of Hamilton that stands still today. It is on Hamilton Avenue off of Boulevard East. This is the sculptor who also created the Weehawken World War I Memorial on J.R. Kennedy Boulevard.
Legend has it that Hamilton may have rested on a boulder after being hit during the duel, and that boulder remains here today as well. The monuments are approximate locations for the duel since the exact site of the historic duel in this area is unknown. Hamilton Park is located next to the monument and was created in Alexander Hamilton’s memory. This is a nice place to reflect upon the past and also enjoy the Manhattan skyline views.
Discover More About Weehawken
To learn more about this amazing area, we invite you to explore Port Imperial for yourself and see what we mean when we talk about Weehawken’s history, waterfront culture, and spectacular panoramic views. Check out our news section to follow the latest happenings, or contact us to become a part of this exciting community!