I therefore pronounce him a Coward and a Scoundrel

This photo made my day when it arrived in my inbox. I don’t know who snapped it but I figured there had to be a story.

And there is.

William Tradewell, the man who declared General Leigh Read a “Coward and Scoundrel” was a member of the America conservative Whig party and slave owner in the Old South. General Leigh Read was a rising star in the Democrat party whose political naivety  cost him.

Tradewell requested a duel with Read because of Read’s refusal to “apologise for the insult offered” and the feud between Tradewell and Read’s respective political parties. Read, being a poor shot turned him down.

Another guy by the name of Augustus Alston also offered Read a duel (but no public notice on his ’scoundrelness.’)

Read accepted knowing he was going up against a man who was a good shot, wealthy, from a nepotistic family, and vehemently opposed the Democrat party’s bank reform bills. Read stood by his position knowing if he was going to go down, it had to be someone who was a “bulldog” of the dying Whig party.

In Alston’s arrogance, he misfired and Read killed him with one shot. Alston– and pretty much everybody– planned on a “victory banquet” but Alston’s itchy trigger finger and cockiness caused him a critical delay and certain death.

Even though this was a duel, that Alston initiated, his sisters deemed it “murder.” Alston’s sisters had the bullet removed and recast. They instructed their brother Willis Alston– then in Texas– to kill General Read with the same bullet that killed Augustus Alston. Willis Alston approached Read at a public speaking event a few weeks later dressed in a cloak and hat to disguise himself. He threw off his disguise and the crowd immediately recognized him. He attempted to stab Read with a knife but was foiled when Read grabbed his gun and grazed Willis Alston’s hand.

A few years later after keeping a low profile Willis Alston caught up to Read and shot him in the back. Willis Alston was arrested but through family connections and $30,000 in bribes managed to escape to Texas.

Dr. Stewart a Tallahassee native son and friend of Read living in Texas became enraged that Read’s killer lived nearby– and said several insults about Willis Alston. Rather than post a public notice to apologize, Willis Alston approached Dr. Stewart on horseback demanding he apologize for those ill remarks.

Stewart refused and shot Willis Alston in the stomach. Though injured, Willis Alston fired back and killed Dr. Stewart.

Again in jail, Willis Alston hatched an escape plan with his family connections. That night though, friends of Dr. Stewart formed a lynch mob and fired endlessly at Willis Alston until he laid dead.

Just goes to show you America was– and probably always will be– pretty fucked up.

Update: @ColinPeters found this wonderful painting by Christopher M. Still check out “18? for more on Tradewell-Read-Alston.

2 thoughts on “I therefore pronounce him a Coward and a Scoundrel

  1. Thanks for posting this. Very interesting indeed and gives nice insight behind the image of the placard currently doing the rounds online.

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