Marker Monday: The Birthplace of George McDuffie

Image credit: David Seibert

This week’s #MarkerMonday explores The Birthplace of George McDuffie historical marker in McDuffie County. George McDuffie was born in 1790 to a family with little means, but he would later become a South Carolina congressman, senator, and governor. He would also become involved in an infamous political dispute over his support of presidential candidate John C. Calhoun leading to four duels between himself and Col. William Cumming.  

McDuffie began working as a store clerk in what is today McDuffie County around age 12, and later moved to work with the Calhoun family in nearby Augusta. The Calhouns guided McDuffie through school at the Willington Academy, and after graduating from South Carolina College McDuffie began practicing law in 1813. While serving as a congressman in South Carolina in 1822, McDuffie became involved in a political dispute that John Quincy Adams referred to as a “sort of historical incident.”  

It began in 1821 when an article in the Milledgeville Gazette condemning the Monroe administration and promoting presidential candidate William Crawford of Georgia was published under the pseudonym trio. It was suspected that Colonel William Cumming was a member of the trio. A response was published in the Georgia Advertiser claiming that the trio was attempting to manipulate the public. Although it was signed with a pseudonym, McDuffie was suspected as the author. More articles were published attacking each author and the political candidates they backed. Cumming supported William H. Crawford of Georgia for President over South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, who was McDuffie’s preferred candidate. Eventually, the feud was too large to settle through the paper and Cumming challenged McDuffie to a duel. The original date was set for Saturday, June 8, 1822, but the location was contested. The location was moved near Augusta on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River, but on the morning of the duel Cumming did not like what McDuffie was wearing. He claimed that the silk clothing could deflect the bullet. Despite this, they continued with McDuffie missing his shot, and Cumming lodging a bullet close to McDuffie’s spine.  

Their feud unresolved, McDuffie and Cumming met three more times. Although McDuffie was shot in the arm at their final meeting on November 30, 1822, Cumming was never hit by McDuffie. The two settled their disagreements, but McDuffie continued to carry the bullet in his back until his death on March 11, 1851.  

Explore the links below to learn more: 

Full Marker Text 

Related Marker Text – McDuffie County 

South Carolina Encyclopedia—McDuffie, George 

George McDuffie: 25th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1834 to 1836 

“The Cumming-McDuffie Duel and Richard Henry Wilde”