Sandbar Fight

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The Sandbar Fight, also known as the Vidalia Sandbar Fight, was an 1827 brawl featuring Jim Bowie. The brawl occurred at the conclusion of a duel, and resulted in Bowie being seriously injured. Bowie was nonetheless the victor.[1][2]


On September 19, 1827, both Bowie and Major Norris Wright attended a duel on a sandbar outside of Natchez, Mississippi. Bowie supported duelist Samuel Levi Wells III, while Wright favored Dr. Thomas Harris Maddox, both of Alexandria, Louisiana.[3] About 16 men were present. Wells had also brought supporters, including Major George McWhorter and General Samuel Cuny. Maddox was supported by Colonel Robert Crain, Carey Blanchard, Alfred Blanchard, and several unnamed others. Wright was late, and had not yet arrived when the duel began.[citation needed]

The duelists each fired two shots, and, as neither man was injured, resolved their duel with a handshake.[3]


As the duelists turned to leave, Bowie came forward to meet them. Seeing this, Maddox's friends ran forward to join the group. Cuny, who had previously fought with Crain, is recorded as having called out to him, "Col. Crain, this is a good time to settle our difficulty."[4] Crain fired, missing Cuny but striking Bowie in the hip and knocking him to the ground. Cuny and Crain then exchanged fire, with Crain sustaining a flesh wound in the arm and Cuny dying from a shot to the chest.[4]

Bowie, rising to his feet, drew his knife and charged at Crain, who struck him so hard with his empty pistol upon the head that it broke and sent Bowie to his knees. Wright appeared, drew a pistol, and shot at the fallen Bowie, missing. Wright then drew his sword cane and stabbed Bowie in the chest, but the thin blade was deflected by his sternum. As Wright attempted to pull the blade free, Bowie reached up, grabbed his shirt, and pulled him down upon the point of his Bowie knife.[5][6] Wright died quickly, and Bowie, with Wright's sword still protruding from his chest, was shot again and stabbed by another member of the group.[7] As Bowie stood, pulling the sword cane from his chest, both Blanchard brothers fired at him, and he was struck once in the arm. Bowie spun and cut off part of Alfred's forearm. Carey fired a second shot at Bowie, but missed. As the brothers fled, Carey was shot and wounded by Major McWhorter.

The Battle of the Sandbar lasted more than 10 minutes, leaving Samuel Cuny and Norris Wright dead, and another four men—Alfred Blanchard, Carey Blanchard, Robert Crain and Jim Bowie—wounded.

Crain helped carry Bowie away, with Bowie recorded as having thanked him, saying, "Col. Crain, I do not think, under the circumstances, you ought to have shot me."[4] One doctor reputedly said "How he (Bowie) lived is a mystery to me, but live he did."[8] The doctors who had been present for the duel managed to patch Bowie's wounds.[7]


Newspapers picked up the story, which became known as the Sandbar Fight in some circles[clarification needed] and the Great Sandbar Duel nationally. Bowie's fighting prowess and his knife were described in detail. Eyewitness accounts agreed that Bowie did not attack first, and the others had focused their attack on Bowie because "they considered him the most dangerous man among their opposition."[9] After the Sandbar Fight and subsequent battles in which Bowie successfully used his knife to defend himself, his knife became very popular. Many craftsmen and manufacturers made their own versions of it, and many major cities of the Southwest had "Bowie knife schools", which taught "the art of cut, thrust, and parry."[10] His fame, and that of his knife, spread to England, and by the early 1830s, many British knife manufacturers were also producing Bowie knives, exporting many of them to the United States for sale.[11] The design of the knife continued to evolve, and it is generally agreed to have a blade 8.25 inches (21 centimeters) long and 1.25 inches (3.18 centimeters) wide, with a curved point. It had a "sharp false edge cut from both sides" and a cross-guard to protect the user's hands.[12]


  1. ^ Mississippi Department of Archives and History. "The James Bowie Sandbar Fight Historical Marker". Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  2. ^ Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. "The Sand Bar Fight Historical Marker". Retrieved August 9, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Hopewell (1994), pp. 28, 30.
    Edmondson (2000), pp. 97–98.
  4. ^ a b c "The Bowies and Bowie Knives" (PDF). New York Times. January 27, 1895. Retrieved 2007-10-15. 
  5. ^ Hopewell (1994), p. 31.
  6. ^ Edmondson (2000), pp. 99–101.
  7. ^ a b Hopewell (1994), p. 32.
  8. ^ Archimedia Interactive Alamo: victory or death 1995
  9. ^ Hopewell (1994), pp.33–34.
  10. ^ Hopewell (1994), p. 55.
  11. ^ Hopewell (1994), p. 56. Edmondson (2000), p. 122.
  12. ^ Hopewell (1994), pp. 40, 42.