Dueling In Hendersonville: Part II

By Dan Gibbs

No one seems to know the exact date of Hendersonville’s second duel between John Baxter and Marcus Erwin, but it probably occurred around 1857. This duel was fought over the politics of States Rights and Secessionists versus the supporters of the Union. 

John Baxter was an attorney that lived in Hendersonville that was a supporter of the Union and Marcus Erwin was the newspaper editor of The Asheville News and a supporter of States Rights and Secession. 

Several editorials were written by Erwin supporting his cause and John Baxter responded with several letters to Marcus Erwin that were all printed in the newspaper. The insults between the two grew stronger until finally they reached their boiling point. 

One morning Baxter was sitting on a bench out in front of his law office on Main Street in Hendersonville talking to a young resident of Hendersonville, Elias M. Gibbs when a lone rider came galloping down Main Street and pulled up in front of where Baxter and Gibbs were sitting and handed him a letter and then galloped off. 

Baxter tore the letter open and after reading its contents, furiously tore the letter up and threw it onto the ground. He jumped on his horse and galloped off in the direction in which the first rider had gone. 

Gibbs and a few of the other residents gathered the scraps of the letter and were able to piece it together enough to figure out that it was a challenge to a duel from Erwin to Baxter. The location of the duel was the same as the Vance-Carson duel thirty years earlier.

This duel did not receive the fanfare that the first duel did, and it occurred within the first few hours of the challenge. There were not many spectators there. On the command to “Fire!” both participants fired with Baxter missing his mark and Erwin’s shot lodged in the right shoulder of Baxter after glancing off his right hand. Erwin was viewed as having defended his honor. 

John Baxter soon moved to east Tennessee where the Union sentiments were much stronger, and he became politically active there. Marcus Erwin remained in the Asheville area.