Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton's firstborn was nineteen when he confronted the Republican lawyer George Eacker, his elder by less than a decade, at the Park Theater in New York on the evening of 20 November 1801. Philip objected to the attacks that Eacker had leveled at his father in the course of a Fourth of July oration delivered earlier that year. Insults were exchanged, not withdrawn, and a challenge was issued and accepted.
Philip and Eacker met at Weehawken, New Jersey, near the ground where Alexander Hamilton would duel Aaron Burr less than two years later. It is likely that the same set of pistols were used in both contests: a pair of Wogdon dueling pistols belonging to Alexander's brother-in-law John B. Church; Church's son Philip acted as second for the younger Hamilton. Hamilton, perhaps advised by his father, refused to fire the first shot. Eacker shot Hamilton in the right hip and the latter then discharged his weapon, the result, perhaps, of an involuntary muscle spasm. Philip was rowed back to New York City and taken to the home of his aunt and uncle, where he died the next morning, attended by his mother and father.
In this apparently previously unpublished letter, Philip's Aunt Angelica conveys the bitter news, stressing the fortitude and faith with which Philip faced his demise:
"My dear Nephew Philip Hamilton received a mortal wound from Mr. Eacker in a duel yesterday at three oClock, of which he expired this morning, with perfect resignation, and in Faith and hopes of an immortal existence.
"His conduct was extremely satisfactory during this Trial; I cannot write particulars now. My sister is a little composed, and the corpse will be removed from my house in an hour
"Pray my dear Brother be with mama immediately on the receipt of this letter, our parents require all your care at this afflicting moment."
David Hosack, the physician who tried to save Philip's life—and who would care for Alexander Hamilton after his duel—later wrote about the incident for John Church Hamilton, Philip's younger brother: "In the meantime I had previously been called upon and had gone to Greenwich whither Philip had been conveyed from Hoboken after receiving his fatal wound. General Hamilton upon recovering his feelings immediately repaired to the house … where I was in attendance upon his son. As soon as your Father ascertained the direction of the wound, examined the countenance and felt the pulse of your brother, he instantly turned from the bed, and taking me by the hand, which he pressed with all the agony of grief, he exclaimed in tones and manner that can never be effaced from my memory, 'Doctor, I despair.'" Thomas Rathbone, a classmate of Philip's, attended the funeral and wrote to his sister that "His poor father was with difficulty supported to the grave of his hopes!" (both quoted in Papers, ed. Syrett, 25:437, 436).
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