The Death of Mr. Carneal

Contributed 2 Aug 2003 by Sue Moore (email sbmoore@swbell.net).
From Anson De Puy Van Buren’s, Jottings of a Year's Sojourn in the South, published in 1859.
Making of America Books Collection at University of Michigan

The Vicksburg Sentinel, of the 13th ult.  [NOTE: Archaic use from the Latin "ultimo mense" meaning last month], gives the following account of the shooting of Mr. Thomas Carneal,son-in-law of Governor Foote:

”We have abstained thus long from giving any notice of the sad affair which resulted in the death of Mr. Thomas Carneal, the son-in-law of the governor of our state, that we might get the particulars. It seems that the steamer E. C. Watkins, with Mr. Carneal as a passenger, landed at or near the plantation of Judge James, in Washington County. ”

”Mr. Carneal had heard that the judge was an extremely brutal man to his slaves, and was likewise excited with liquor; and, upon the judge inviting him and others to take a drink with him, Carneal replied that he would not drink with a man who abused his negroes; this the judge resented as an insult, and high words ensued. The company took their drink, however, all but Mr. Carneal, who went out upon the bow of the boat, and took a seat, where he was sought by Judge James, who desired satisfaction for the insult. Carneal refused to make any,and asked the old gentleman if any of his sons would resent the insult if he was to slap him in the mouth; to which the judge replied that he would do it himself, if his sons would not; whereupon Mr. Carneal struck him in the mouth with the back of his hand. The judge resented it by striking him across the head with a cane, which stunned Mr.Carneal very much, causing the blood to run freely from the wound. As soon as Carneal recovered from the wound, he drew a bowie-knife, and attacked the judge with it, inflicting several wounds upon his person, some of which were thought to be mortal.”

”Some gentlemen, in endeavoring to separate the combatants, were wounded by Carneal. When Judge James arrived at his house, bleeding, and in a dying state, as was thought, his son seized a double-barreled gun, loaded it heavily with large shot, galloped to where the boat was, hitched his horse, and deliberately raised his gun to shoot Carneal, who was sitting upon a cotton-bale. Mr. James was warned not to fire, as Carneal was unarmed, and he might kill some innocent person. He took his gun from his shoulder, raised it again, and fired both barrels in succession, killing Carneal instantly.”

”It is a sad affair, and Carneal leaves, besides numerous friends, a most interesting and accomplished widow, to bewail his tragical end.”

(My note: This newspaper notice was found in a book published in 1854 by Daniel Drayton, his personal memoirs, and is taken from the MOA collection of the U of Michigan.Although the actual date of the killing is uncertain, it was likely in 1853, since the deceased man had a posthumous son born in 1853 or 1854.Mr. Carneal’s father-in-law was the Governor of the State of Mississippi, Henry Stuart Foote, a noted speaker and politician of the era.Born in Virginia and a graduate of Washington College, he was admitted to the Alabama bar in 1824. However, after a series of four duels there, by 1826 he removed to Mississippi where he chose to practice law in various Mississippi cities, including Vicksburg. He also served Mississippi as a United States Senator.He was a noted firebrand there, and once even exchanged blows on the floor of the Senate with Thomas Hart Benton. )