Nathaniel Pendleton Holds A Bloody Hamilton In His Arms

Nathaniel Pendleton Holds A Bloody Hamilton In His Arms

Nathaniel Pendleton was Alexander Hamilton’s number two during the nation’s most famous duel.

Pendleton had significant Founder cred in his own right, holding several positions throughout the United States.


Comparing Seconds

Yesterday we took a look at William P. Van Ness, Aaron Burr’s Second in the famous duel with Alexander Hamilton. In the interest of fairness, today we will review the life of Hamilton’s Second…Nathaniel Pendleton.

The first thing that jumps out in a comparison of these two men is the age difference. While Van Ness was a much younger man, Pendleton was the same age as the duelists.

Additionally, while Van Ness was just beginning his career, Nathaniel Pendleton was more or less retired. Pendleton had already accomplished much by this time. He was exactly the type of successful, disinterested community leader that Hamilton was likely to be friends with.

Furthermore, since the Capital had recently been moved to Washington DC, the remaining amount of ‘proper gentlemen’ to choose from had slimmed out. This seems to have made Pendleton an easy choice for Mr. Hamilton.


Nathaniel Pendleton

Nathaniel was born into the Revolutionary Pendleton Family. As such, his politics were radical from an early age.

Like Hamilton and Burr, Pendleton signed up for the Continental Army before his twentieth birthday. He spent time in the Southern Department serving as an aide de camp to General Nathanael Greene, assisting in some of the most significant battles of the Revolutionary War.

Afterward, Pendleton relocated from his home in Virginia to Georgia where he set up a successful law practice.


Georgian Politician

Nathaniel Pendleton quickly rose through the ranks of respected lawyers in Georgia. Just three years after he took up residence in that State, Nathaniel was elected its Attorney General.

In 1787, Pendleton was selected as a Delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He decided not to attend, owing mostly to the distance he would have had to travel. Unfortunately, this mean he is NOT one of the men who signed the Constitution, literally leaving his name out of the history books (well, not all history books, I mean, we’re talking about him here, right?).

When, in September of 1789, President George Washington nominated the United States’ first round of federal Justices, Nathaniel was suggested and approved. He was the inaugural holder of the office of United States District Attorney for the District of Georgia. (Funny enough, his future opposite, Van Ness, would later become US District Attorney for New York.)


New York

After seven years a District Attorney, Nathaniel Pendleton resigned his position.

For some reason (which I cannot seem to find), Pendleton decided to relocate north. He moved to Hyde Park, about a hundred miles outside New York City.

Nathaniel was chosen as a County Judge and would spend the remainder of his life in this position.

It was during this time that he was asked to participate in the nation’s most famous duel. His correspondence with the younger Van Ness set the parameters of engagement.

When Alexander Hamilton was shot, Nathaniel Pendleton was the man who rushed to his side. Pendleton is the one who held Hamilton as he looked at the physician on site and said ‘this is a mortal wound, Doctor.’ Pendleton is the one who rowed Hamilton across the Hudson River to his family.

Nathaniel Pendleton and William P. Van Ness were the only two people who have ever been present when a Vice President of the United States of American shot dead the leader of the opposition party.

If you would like to learn about other Founders who skipped important conventions, check my articles on Robert Goldsborough and Leonard Gansevoort.

To learn more about the Hamilton/Burr duel, pick up a copy of ‘A More Despicable Opinion’ through the affiliate link below. It is the letters of the men involved laid out in the proper order to allow those who were there to tell you the story themselves.

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