Lot 3 of 703:
New York murder after Lincoln-Douglas hotheads election fight  

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$300 - $500

New York Irish Democrat vs. ‘Wide Awake’ Lincoln Republican leads to murder: Letter

Ball, S. H.

Brockport, NY


October 7, [1860]


Autograph Letter Signed (in pencil).  Brockport, New York, October 7, [1860]. 1 pg. To his father.

This inaccurate bystander account of the Brockport murder a month before the presidential election, ignores – as did newspaper accounts – what was really a violent political dispute over the issue of slavery. 

"…. We had one of the awfullest murders here last nite that ever was known.  There was a Douglas meeting here last nite & S.E.Church spoke.  Thomas Duffy broke into [the] cornes grocery & got one of his big meat knives & went in the cornes grocery stabbing Oscar Nobles in the stomach & he died in a few minutes after.  The blade of the knife blade was 16 inches long and ½ wide.  They have got the man that done the act in the lock up.  …”  After an alcohol-fueled rally for Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas, addressed by former Lt. Governor Sanford Church, Peter Duffy, a young Irish blacksmith of “notoriously quarrelsome disposition”, belonging to the pro-Douglas “Little Giants”, got into a fist fight in the street with George Brannan, a “Wide Awake” Lincoln supporter of “unrecorded pugnacity”.  Egged on by a mob of inebriated on-lookers, the fight moved to a grocery store and meat market on the canal docks, where Duffy grabbed a butcher knife and cut off Brannan’s thumb. When Oscar Nobles, a 23 year-old carpenter, tried to intervene, Duffy made a “furious lunge”, stabbing him in the abdomen. Nobles ran out into the street, where he collapsed and, carried to a hotel, soon died. Duffy was immediately arrested, soon brought to trial and convicted. To avoid what might have been a “dangerous inflammation of rivalry” between the Wide Awakes and Little Giants, Duffy’s Catholic Priest strongly condemned the slaying, a foretaste of the savage internecine conflict of Civil War.

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