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The Deadly History Of This New Jersey Township Is Terrifying But True

Weehawken, New Jersey is a wonderful town along the Hudson River with distinct neighborhoods and abundant history. Much of the town lies atop the Palisades Cliffs but, for decades, a deadly place stood just below the imposing wall of stone – the Weehawken Dueling Grounds. Most famous (or rather, infamous) for the fatal duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the site also hosted at least 18 other duels between 1700-1845. In a strange twist of fate, Alexander Hamilton’s son was also killed in a duel here, just 3 years before his own death. Dueling was a legal way to solve conflicts for many years, but had recently been criminalized at the time of the Burr-Hamilton Duel.

It was July 11th, 1804. Longtime political rivals, sitting Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary Of The Treasury Alexander Hamilton, took ferries into New Jersey from Manhattan. Their pistols were stored separately from their personage, hidden away in a carrying case. Only revealed just before the duel began, witnesses were also instructed to turn their backs to allow for plausible deniability. Still, there were several accounts of the event. Many believe Hamilton, who shot first, fired his gun into the air. Burr then fired at him, hitting Hamilton in his abdomen, fracturing his ribs. Due to the damage caused to his organs, he died the next day.

There are debates as to whether Hamilton intended to forfeit the dual or was simply a poor shot. Some also theorize that Burr may have also intended to fire a warning, but accidentally struck Hamilton instead. Whatever the case, Burr fled the scene and some say Hamilton collapsed on a boulder – this boulder still remains. Burr was charged with murder in both New York and New Jersey, but he was never convicted. While he did complete his term as Vice President, his political career was ruined.

The exact site of the dueling grounds is unknown, as the ledge used for dueling was destroyed in 1870 to make way for train tracks. The approximate location is marked with monuments and placards, and the boulder has been relocated to the same site, meant to commemorate the (tragic) historic event.

The short video below by ACG Travel Videos provides a more in-depth look at the area:

For more fascinating New Jersey history, learn about the Garden State spot where World War I officially ended.

Kristen Koennemann
Kristen is a freelance writer, editor and social-media manager who really loves her state. She's here to share all that New Jersey has to offer with residents and the rest of the world.