Further Details Surrounding the Infamous Henry William Herbert Brawl of 1836

by Ann Neilson

In my brief absence, I found a few more followup articles on the Henry Herbert/McLeod and Neale/Tompkins skirmish at the Washington Hotel during May of 1836. I will post the four new articles in two separate posts. If this is your first time seeing this series, feel free to catch up with it by checking out the first and second entries.

From the Spectator, May 9, 1836

THE WASHINGTON HOTEL AFFRAY.—The Courier & Enquirer of this morning publishes not only the particulars of the scene on Monday night, and the names of the parties, but also a brief history of the intended duel between Messrs. Neale and Tompkins, out of which it grew, and the certificates furnished to Mr. Neale by his second on Montreal, Mr. Campbell Sweeny, and a British officer whose experience in the duello was invoked by the latter gentleman. The whole affair is silly, childish, and any thing but creditable to all the parties engaged in it.
Apropos to this last remark, we hold it proper to state that the Mr. Staples who was concerned in the affair at the Washington Hotel is a merchant; partner in the firm of Staples & Clark, and in no way related to the family of Seth P Staples, Esq., the eminent counsellor of this city.

From the Albany Argus, May 10, 1836

[From the New York Times.]
An affray occurred on Monday evening at the Washington Hotel, which from the nature of the events and the character of the parties excited very deep and general interest. It would be well if the affair could be buried in oblivion, but that is impossible; one newspaper has already published it, and will doubtless be followed by others who, unable to obtain accurate information, may give garbled or incorrect statements. It is but just therefore to all concerned that those who have the means should lay the facts truly before the community, however reluctant one might otherwise be to publish such an affair[.] The following is prepared from the accounts given almost unanimously shortly afterwards by the very large number of gentlemen who were present, and from other accurate sources of information.
For reasons sufficiently obvious, the narration can’t include events previous to those of Saturday last. The parties had been in controversy some time, and on that day, Mr. T. accompanied by Mr. S. called to demand of Mr. M. if he were responsible for a certain circular just put forth. Mr. M. declined to answer; Mr. T. said that he should then hold him to be the person, and therefore pronounced him a scoundrel. Mr. M. refused to notice any insult from Mr. T., alleging that Mr. T. was a disgraced man[.] During the afternoon he informed Mr. S. that he would notice any thing from him, if he (Mr. S.) chose to take Mr. T.’s place. Mr. S. replied that after the occurrences of that morning he could hold no communication with Mr. M., and so ended the campaign of the day.
On Sunday evening, Mr. H. a friend of Mr. M. referring to this reply, pronounced, in the public room of the Washington Hotel, Mr. S. to be a coward, and requested that Mr. T. might be told that he had done so.
On Monday evening, Mr. S. accompanied by Mr. T., and both unarmed, except that Mr. S. carried his usual walking stick which had a light sword within it, went to the Washington Hotel. Mr. H. coming in soon after, Mr. S. demanded whether it was true that he had pronounced him a coward. Mr. H. replied that he had; whereupon, Mr. S. waved his glove across the face of Mr. H., and pronounced him a liar.
Mr. H. drew out a pistol, but before he could fire it, his hand was arrested by Mr. T., who remonstrated against using such a weapon, and assured him he should have satisfaction. Mr. H. shook him off and retreated, presenting the pistol, and T. following to [?] it. They moved from the centre of the bar room across the hall into the reading room, H. threatening to shoot T. if he advanced, and T. defying him, and declaring he dare not fire. T. then dashed the pistol aside and struck H., when both were seized—T. by Capt. B. and H. by some young gentlemen. H. was directly released, however, and while T. was struggling with Capt. B. who held him against the door, and was nearly between the combatants, both barrels of the pistol were fired, the balls lodging in the door, above T. and the Captain.
The parties were separated, and for a few minutes the affray seemed to have ended. Mr. M. then ascended a chair in the front room, and proclaimed that Mr. S. and Mr. T. were both cowards and scoundrels; Mr. T. rushed upon him, and beat him severely before the by-standers could interfere—Those who seized Mr. T. forced him back across the room, he struggling to get free, when Mr. M. followed and struck him in the side with a dirk or knife. Upon that Mr. S drew the sword from his cane, and stabbed Mr. H. The effective hostilities were here arrested by the exertions of the gentlemen present, a second pistol being taken from Mr. H., and the parties soon separated, and retired for surgical aid.
Neither of the wounds are understood to be serious, or at all dangerous, and the parties have withdrawn from town.