Dueling Oak

Stop 6 of 13 in the City Park tour

Many myths are associated with the "Dueling Oaks." An 1892 Times-Democrat article noted that "Blood has been shed under the old cathedral aisles of nature. Between 1834 and 1844 scarcely a day passed without duels being fought at the Oaks. Why, it would not be strange if the very violets blossomed red of this soaked grass! The lover for his mistress, the gentleman for his honor, the courtier for his King; what loyalty has not cried out in pistol shot and scratch of steel! Sometimes two or three hundred people hurried from the city to witness these human baitings. On the occasion of one duel the spectators could stand no more, drew their swords, and there was a general melee."

One of the frequently referenced duels involved a "European scientist insulting the Mississippi River by calling it ‘but a tiny rill compared to the great rivers of Europe.' A Creole overheard the insult and immediately came to the defense of the river, challenging the scientist to a duel, which the Creole won."

Before the Dueling Oaks became a favorite spot for disrespected Creoles, a frequent dueling site had been St. Anthony's Garden, located behind the St. Louis Cathedral. In 1855, laws against dueling began to be enforced, so most duels moved to the city's outskirts. Some sources claim that the last duel was fought beneath the oaks in 1890, while others contend the last one took place during the first decade of the Twentieth Century.

One of the Dueling Oaks was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1940's. The remaining one is thought to be 300 years old with a height of 70 feet and a girth of 25 feet.

Images

This is the last hand-painted sign still in existence. Once displayed throughout City Park, these signs were created by Mrs. Joy Luke in her office on the second floor of the Casino building, which is now called the Timken Center. This one is located in front of the remaining Dueling Oak. The other famous oak was lost in 1949. In removing the dead tree, city park workers uncovered a pair of eyeglasses, which a local optometrist and City Park Board Member pronounced to be 100 years old; two large knives were also discovered. Image courtesy of Kimberly Jochum. View File Details Page

The Oaks: Famous New Orleans Dueling Ground as it appeared in Former Days.

The Oaks: Famous New Orleans Dueling Ground as it appeared in Former Days.

Depicts practice of former days, mid 19th century. Lithograph by Harry Fenn dates from the late 1890s. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. View File Details Page

Duel at the Halfway House, New Orleans.

Duel at the Halfway House, New Orleans.

1866. Sketch by Alfred R. Waud. Pencil and gray paper. The Halfway House, situated midway between the city center and the lakefront, was located about one mile from City Park. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Kimberly Jochum , “Dueling Oak ,” New Orleans Historical, accessed July 26, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/109.

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