Year
1777
Month Day
May 16

Georgia Patriot Button Gwinnett is fatally wounded in duel

On May 16, 1777, British-born Georgia Patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence Button Gwinnett receives a bullet wound in a duel with his political rival, Georgia city Whig Lachlan McIntosh. Three days later, Gwinnett died as a result of the gangrenous wound. McIntosh was also shot in the duel, but the wound was not fatal.

Button Gwinnett was born in Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire, England, and was baptized in Gloucester in 1735. He was married and began a career in trading while still in Britain. In the 1760s, Gwinnett moved first to Charleston, South Carolina, then to Savannah, Georgia, where he had established himself as a trader by 1765. Entering politics in 1769, he was elected to the Commons House of Assembly. Taking up residence on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia, in 1770, Gwinnett left commerce for farming. His politics were deeply influenced by his contempt for the wealthy and powerful city Whigs of Savannah. Gwinnett’s political base of country Whigs consisted of less prosperous coastal dwellers like himself and backcountry farmers. When first made commander of Georgia’s Patriot forces, Gwinnett was forced to resign by the outcry of city Whigs. He went on to win election to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia and became a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

Gwinnett returned to Georgia immediately after signing the declaration to find city Whig Lachlan McIntosh commanding Georgia’s nascent military efforts. Determined to take control of Georgia politics, Gwinnett became speaker of the legislature, guided the Georgia Constitution of 1777 into existence and took over as governor when Archibald Bulloch died suddenly in office.

Gwinnett then wanted to lead an expedition to secure Georgia’s border with Florida. A dispute between McIntosh and Gwinnett over who would command the effort ultimately led to their duel and Gwinnett’s death.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Discovery of Ozone Hole announced

In the scientific journal Nature on May 16, 1985, three scientists from the British Antarctic Survey announce their detection of abnormally low levels of ozone over the South Pole. Their discovery, commonly known as the Ozone Hole, became a palpable example of mankind's ability ...read more

Pioneering TV journalist Barbara Walters signs off

On May 16, 2014, broadcast journalist and TV personality Barbara Walters retires from ABC News and as co-host of the daytime program “The View.” In a landmark career that spanned some 50 years on air, the 84-year-old Walters blazed a trail for women in TV news. On Walter’s May ...read more

French dauphin, Louis, marries Marie Antoinette

At Versailles, Louis, the French dauphin, marries Marie Antoinette, the daughter of Austrian Archduchess Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. France hoped their marriage would strengthen its alliance with Austria, its longtime enemy. In 1774, with the death of King ...read more

Worker protests mount in France

In France, the May 1968 crisis escalates as a general strike spreads to factories and industries across the country, shutting down newspaper distribution, air transport and two major railroads. By the end of the month, millions of workers were on strike, and France seemed to be ...read more

Warsaw Ghetto uprising ends

In Poland, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising comes to an end as Nazi soldiers gain control of Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto, blowing up the last remaining synagogue and beginning the mass deportation of the ghetto’s remaining dwellers to the Treblinka extermination camp. Shortly after the ...read more

First Academy Awards ceremony

On this day in 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out its first awards, at a dinner party for around 250 people held in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California. The brainchild of Louis B. Mayer, head of the powerful MGM film ...read more

Basketball great, Magic Johnson, plays center as a rookie, wins championships

On May 16, 1980, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson steps in for injured center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and scores 42 points, leading the Lakers to a four games-to-two series win over the Philadelphia 76ers for their first championship since 1972. In 1979, Magic ...read more

Senate acquits President Andrew Johnson of high crimes and misdemeanors

On May 16, 1868, the U.S. Senate votes against impeaching President Andrew Johnson and acquits him of committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.” He would not be fully acquitted of all charges until 10 days later, on May 26, 1868.  In February 1868, the House of Representatives ...read more

Satirical writer, Voltaire, is imprisoned in the Bastille

Writer Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, is imprisoned in the Bastille on May 16, 1717. The outspoken writer was born to middle-class parents, attended college in Paris, and began to study law. However, he quit law to become a playwright and made a name for himself ...read more

First Academy Awards ceremony is held

May 16, 1929 marks the first-ever Academy Awards ceremony, Hollywood’s annual celebration of the best its creative artists have to offer over the previous year. The official Academy Awards banquet took place in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Some 270 people ...read more

A nurse stabs expectant mother to death, steals unborn baby

Norma Jean Armistead checks herself into Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles, California, with a newborn that she claims to have given birth to at home. Some staff members were already aware that Armistead, a nurse at the hospital, had a pregnancy listed on her medical charts the ...read more

U.S.-Soviet summit meeting collapses after U-2 spy plane shot down

In the wake of the Soviet downing of an American U-2 spy plane on May 1, 1960, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev lashes out at the United States and President Dwight D. Eisenhower at a Paris summit meeting between the two heads of state. Khrushchev’s outburst angered Eisenhower ...read more

U.S. Congress passes Sedition Act

On May 16, 1918, the United States Congress passes the Sedition Act, a piece of legislation designed to protect America’s participation in World War I. Along with the Espionage Act of the previous year, the Sedition Act was orchestrated largely by A. Mitchell Palmer, the United ...read more