October 29, 2009
Here at True West we are still debating the Cross vs. Mowry gunfight. Here is Mark Boardman's response:
"You may be overthinking this Cross-Mowry gunfight thing.
"I mean, there's no evidence that the duel was fixed, with both intending to miss every shot. I've been through a bunch of accounts, some including witness statements, and none indicates suspicion over the fight. And neither combatant, so far as I can tell, ever said that the fix was in.
"Sure, they were shooting the daylights out of targets the day before. They were both good shots. But a strong crosswind would have hurt their aims. And the tension of actually facing a guy who was firing back could very well thrown off their shots. That was a common occurrence in the Old West, as we both know. Look at how many shots missed everyone at the Tombstone Street Fight--and those guys were practically able to touch their opponents.
"And while both Cross and Mowry had military experience, and may have been in battle before, a duel is a different animal--no chance to take cover (without looking like a wuss) or surprise the opponent.
"This is one of those cases where I fall back on Occam's Razor, which says, "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better." In this case, the simpler theory is that they both intended to shoot the other guy--but they both missed.
"That's my two cents worth..."
And here's Marshall Trimble's take on the fight:
"I think Mowry fired over Cross’s head on purpose as a gallant gesture. That was typical of his Southern personality he’d acquired.
"Cross was born in 1832 in Lancaster, NH and received and education at a local common school and academy. At age 15 he went to work as a printer and a few years later he became editor for the Cincinnati Times. It was through these connections that he met the Wrightson brothers of Cincinnati who were the financiers for the Sonora Mining and Exploring Company of Tubac. He was a member of the Know Nothing Party and when it collapsed he joined the new Republican Party, read that Northerners. He was pretty outspoken and Mowry had Southern sympathies and a West Point grad. I believe he could have killed Cross if he chose but chose not to. Earlier they’d had enough editorial disagreements and exchange of insults to fight a duel.
"According to witnesses both men practiced on the day before the duel. Cross 'picked the cactus leaves from the top of the Tubac church at almost every shot.' Mowry was 'Playing havoc with a small cottonwood tree.'
"This could all been a show of bravado for both. Both men were good shots.
"They were using Burnside Rifles at 40 paces. Four shots, actually three were fired without effect said the July 14th issue of the Arizonian. Mowry’s second shot was a misfire.
"During the duel there was a strong cross wind blowing preventing an accurate aim. they exchanged shots but on the second time around, Mowry’s weapon misfired. His second, a man named George Mercer, demanded another shot. Cross agreed to let him have another.
"Mowry’s friend Wm. S. Oury stepped up to Mowry and asked if he intended to shoot his adversary and Mowry replied, “Do you think I would try to kill a defenseless man?”
"Cross faced him unarmed and Mowry fired into the air saying he was satisfied.
"They did shake hands but according to the article, they weren’t any friendlier afterwards, despite the 42-gallon barrel of whiskey. The two men issued public apologies for their remarks about the integrity and reputation of the other."
By the way, the Know Nothing Party (1854) advocated the exclusion of Catholics and foreigners from public office and called for a 21-year residency before immigrants could become citizens. The party collapsed after the 1856 election and many joined the Republican Party.
"Glenn Beck is still a member of The Know Nothing Party."
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