Showdown on Bloody Island
There’s a little sandbar of an island in the Mississippi River. It’s early August 27, 1856. It’s quiet and cool – but the country is not. Northerners and Southerners are getting angrier and more divided over the slavery issue. In May in the US Capitol, a South Carolina Representative uses his cane to beat a Massachusetts Senator nearly to death! Now, on this river island, two of MO’s future governors are ready to shoot one another. And it’s not the first time men came out here to fight a duel, the traditional way of settling an argument or satisfying one’s honor. In the summer of 1817, MO's then future US Senator Thomas Hart Benton killed a man in a duel here on Bloody Island.
On this day in the summer of 1856, one the duelists is B. Gratz Brown, editor of the Missouri Democrat. (He’s part of the Free Soil movement, too meaning he and his newspaper are against slavery spreading west.) The other, Thomas C. Reynolds, is a proslavery lawyer. Bang, bang! Shots are fired. Brown misses and gets Reynold’s bullet in his leg. By the way, that bullet will still be there in 1871, when Gov. Brown (MO's 20th) limps into the brand new Governor's Mansion to take up residence. And, by the way one more time, Thos. Reynolds will be a MO Governor-in-Exile after his hotheaded predecessor croaks down in Arkansas in 1862, but oh my god, that's entirely another story!