Stanly-Spaight Duel Takes Aim at Labor Day Weekend


Tryon Palace Brings Famous Story to Life on Saturday, Aug. 31

Gunfire and drumrolls will echo across Tryon Palace’s South Lawn during a live reenactment of the Stanly-Spaight Duel, held Labor Day weekend on Saturday, Aug. 31.

This famous story traces back to Sept. 5, 1802, when prominent New Bern lawyer John Stanly, Jr. met his political rival, Richard Dobbs Spaight, for a lethal duel on the streets of New Bern. Spaight, who had served as North Carolina’s first native-born governor, was mortally wounded after four rounds and Stanly was forced to flee the city. Stanly was eventually able to return to New Bern when his friend, Judge William Gaston, convinced the governor to grant North Carolina’s first gubernatorial pardon to Stanly.

“This is one of New Bern’s most famous stories, but you really have to see it to get the full experience of what that day must have been like,” said  Matt Arthur, Living History Program Coordinator for Tryon Palace. “Unlike large battle reenactments, this one is between two people, so it’s much more intimate and personal. Once you see those dueling pistols take aim and then hear the crack of each shot, you are immediately connected to the people and emotions behind this story.”

Beginning at 4 p.m. on the Tryon Palace South Lawn, visitors are invited to watch all the drama unfold with an afternoon of dueling and a performance by the Tryon Palace Fife and Drum Corps. In the event of rain, performances will be moved into the North Carolina History Center’s Cullman Performance Hall.

Admission to the Stanly-Spaight Duel is $6 for adults, $3 for students, and includes admission to the Tryon Palace gardens. A One Day Pass to Tryon Palace includes the duel at no additional cost, as well as admission to the Stanly House and the Regional History Museum, which includes an exhibit of dueling pistols from the early 1800s and a portrait of the man who helped Stanly get his pardon, Judge Gaston.

For more information about this program call 252-639-3500 or visit

Submitted by: Craig Ramey, Marketing and Communications, Manager, Tryon Palace