The Sandbar Fight, Mississippi

Sandbar Fight in Mississippi

Sandbar Fight in Mississippi

The Sandbar Fight occurred just north of Natchez, Mississippi, on a sandbar in the Mississippi River on September 19, 1827. When two men, Samuel Levi Wells, III, and Dr. Thomas Maddox, decided to solve their issues by participating in a duel, Jim Bowie attended as Wells’ “second.” In those days, a “second” always attended an “official” duel to ensure that the proper rules were followed. Surrounding the duelers were several spectators, including Wells supporters, Major George McWhorter, and General Samuel Cuny. Supporting Maddox were his “second,” Major Norris Wright, Colonel Robert Crain, and brothers, Carey and Alfred Blanchard. Others were also gathered to watch the spectacle, numbering about 16 men.

Neither hit the other when the principles exchanged shots, but all hell broke loose. From the crowd surrounding the duel, Robert Crain fired upon Samuel Cuny, and when Cuny fell, Bowie stepped in and fired at Crain but missed.

Norris then shot Bowie through the lower chest, at which time Bowie drew his long knife, which he was known to wear, and began to chase down Wright. The Blanchard brothers then shot Bowie in the thigh, while Write and Alfred Blanchard stabbed him in several places. However, Bowie still fought back, plunging his long knife into Wright’s chest and slicing Alfred Blanchard’s forearm. Carey Blanchard then fired a second shot at Bowie, and then he and his brother, Alfred, fled. However, Carey Blanchard was shot and wounded by Major McWhorter as he ran.

James Bowie

James Bowie

Though the Battle of the Sandbar lasted less than ten minutes, it left General Samuel Cuny and Major Norris Wright dead and Jim Bowie and Alfred Blanchard wounded. Eyewitnesses who remembered Bowie’s “big butcher knife” began to spread the word of Bowie’s prowess with the lethal blade, capturing public attention and starting the legend of Bowie’s reputation as the South’s most formidable knife fighter. Soon, men asked blacksmiths and cutlers to make them a “Bowie Knife.”


By Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated February 2024.

Also See:

Adventures in the American West

Explorers & Frontiersmen

James Bowie – Dying at the Alamo

Old West Gunfights