George Eacker - Two Duels In Two Days

George Eacker - Two Duels In Two Days

George Eacker was a wealthy young New York attorney best known for shooting Philip Hamilton in a duel.

Eacker himself would tragically die young after falling ill with consumption.

Jacob Eacker

Palatine, New York had only recently been settled by German immigrants when the Revolutionary War broke out.  

Many members of this Upstate community joined the Continental Army because they were at odds with the Iroquois who lived in the area.  Since these Native Americans joined the British side, these Germans joined the colonials.

Jacob Eacker was one of these Germans.

After serving as a local judge, Jacob was elected to the New York State Assembly.  He made a nice enough income to send his children to prep school in the wealthy town of Schenectady.

One of these children was George Eacker.

George Eacker

George, the main character in our story, ended up going to New York City where he graduated from Columbia and studied law as an apprentice to Henry Brockholst Livingston.

Eacker began his law practice and established himself as one of New York’s premier attorneys.  

Tammany Hall

The wealthy and popular young man found himself associating politically with the Democratic-Republicans.  He became a friend of Aaron Burr who had recently built Tammany Hall into the United States’ first efficient political machine.

Associating with Burr automatically put George Eacker at odds with Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists.

The Speech

Things came to a head when Eacker gave an 1801 Fourth of July speech.

All accounts imply that Eacker’s oration focused solely on patriotism and only political opponents who were blinded by party had any negative reaction.

Unfortunately, it seems that Alexander Hamilton’s son, Philip, was one of the men so blinded.

The younger Hamilton and his friend, Stephen Price, sought out Eacker.  George was seeing a play when Hamilton and Price found him in his seat. The two men criticized Eacker publicly.

Eacker, embarrassed by the ordeal, called the two men ‘damned rascals’ (a common yet extremely harsh insult for the day) and both boys responded by challenging George to a duel.

Two Duels

Two days later, Eacker found himself on the Plains of Weehawken, a common dueling ground in New Jersey (where Alexander Hamilton would famously lose an engagement with Aaron Burr three years later).

First, Eacker met Price.  The two men exchanged four volleys, neither being hurt.  At this, their dispute was settled.

The next morning, George went back to Weehawken.  

This time he faced Philip Hamilton.   Eacker shot Hamilton through in the side, and Philip passed away the following day.

Afterwards

Eacker went back to his wealthy life but continued participating in his community.

Two months after his double duels, George was working with his volunteer fire brigade putting out a blaze when he caught a cold.  This cold developed into tuberculosis (then known as consumption) and he struggled with symptoms for the next two years.

Finally, in 1804, Eacker passed away at just 30 years old.

George Eacker does not have a biography of his own, but the Ron Chernow book (affiliate link below) which the hit play ‘Hamilton’ is based on discusses the duels at length.

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By Ron Chernow
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