“Dueling Banjos” was a popular instrumental composition from the 1972 movie Deliverance. In the film two musicians play off one another in an impromptu concert. Friendly duels to see who can outdo whom are often competitive, but inspiring. In the Civil War, individual duels were much more deadly.
When one thinks of the Civil War, the first mental image is often of sweeping, Pickettesque charges across open fields while the cannon roar. However, often the encounters between combatats was much smaller and more personal, but no less theatening. Here is an anecdote about one such incident in Warrington Township here in York County, Pennsylvania.
John R. Chambliss’s Confederate brigade had just passed by the rustic bridge at Emig’s Mill in northwestern York County. One trooper spotted a fine horse in a nearby field. He broke ranks and rode back to the rear of the column, and then slipped away to the Warrington Township farm of Solomon Bushey. By the time he reached the farm, he was more than a mile behind his comrades, and Robert E. Lee had issued orders against stealing, but the allure of a free horse was too great. He captured the horse and returned to the road, intending to catch up to the brigade.
His actions had not gone unnoticed, however. A patrol of Union cavalry from Judson Kilpatrick’s division had been sent from East Berlin to keep an eye on J.E.B. Stuart’s movements. A trio of Yankees spotted the wayward Confederate horseman leading his prize and became determined to capture him. They spurred their mounts and clattered across the bridge, with one Union saddle soldier making better time than his colleagues. He galloped up a hill and closed to within fifty yards of the Rebel, who was fording Doe Run on the farm of a local named Richard Young.
The Yank pointed his carbine and exclaimed, “Surrender!” The startled Virginia cavalier spurred his mount and galloped off to rejoin Chambliss’s main body. The Union trooper leveled his carbine and squeezed off two or three hastily aimed shots, which missed their mark. The Johnny turned in the saddle, placed his finger on the trigger, and prepared to return the fire. However, by now he had ridden out of effective range of his weapon, so he spurred his horse again and escaped uninjured to his distant column.