|Field of Honor: Duels in Old New Orleans
|"The DeLissue - Le Bouisque Duel in 1841"
Old Dueling Ground, City Park, New Orleans
They met under the oaks. As neither was skilled with rapier or pistol, they chose cavalry
sabers. Bozonier was a trifle above the middle height, but remarkably active and muscular.
Coppens was small in stature, but wiry and of feline activity. Both were "dandies in dress
and lions in courage," the reporter wrote:
In a twinkling the coats were on the grass. The principals were placed in position, and the
usual recommendations made by the seconds, comprising the instructions that the fight was
to last till one of the adversaries should be completely disabled.
The first pass was terrible; Bozonier engaged Coppens in a tierce, made a feint, then taking
advantage of the movement of his adversary to parry, rapidly passed over his sword and
made a swinging stroke at him, which would inevitably have severed his head from his body,
had not Coppens, by a timely movement, warded off partly the effect of the blow.
But there was a vigor to spare in the cut, for Coppens fell, the blood spurting like water
from a terrible gash on the cheek and a severe cut in the chest.
It was lucky for him at that moment that Bozonier's generous soul prevented him following
up his advantage, for he had his foe at his mercy. He paused till Coppens rose. This rise
was the spring of a wounded tiger; a furious coup de pointe penetrated Bozonier's
sword-arm above the elbow, cutting the muscles and disabling him. Then Coppens had it all
his own way, though his plucky adversary did his best, handicapped as he was by his now
almost useless arm, which could scarcely hold the weapon. The seconds did not see his
terrible position in time, neither could his furious foe appreciate it, and before the former
could interfere, Bozonier had received two coup de pointe in the side. He was bleeding at
Bozonier, however, did not die. Careful nursing and medical attention saved his life, but his
magnificent physique was ruined forever. Coppens became a colonel in the Louisiana
Zouaves and lost his life during the Civil War.
The old newspaper files are full of these duels. The list seems endless. And on many of the
tombs in the older cemeteries of New Orleans, you will find the inscriptions: "Died on the
field of honor" or "He fell in a duel."
The days of sword-play are over now, but in City Park you will find the old oak trees...the
scene of a thousand encounters.
|Above & below, the old Dueling Ground, City Park