The Other Hamilton Duel: Philip Hamilton and George Eacker

While Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr’s 1804 duel is notorious in history and pop culture, a lesser-known deadly duel occurred three years earlier between Hamilton’s oldest son, Philip, and George Eacker, a critic of Hamilton and supporter of Burr.

Hamilton took great pride in his son’s academic achievements.  He wrote to him regularly while Philip was studying at boarding school, and created a rigorous set of rules to govern Philip’s study schedule.  In 1797, when Philip was a young teenager, he contracted a deadly illness and Hamilton reportedly “administered every dose of medicine” to his son during his recovery.

The close relationship between father and son may have contributed to Philip’s eagerness to defend his father’s name.  Eacker, a 27-year-old lawyer, had made a speech in July accusing Alexander Hamilton of being willing to overthrow Thomas Jefferson’s presidency by force.  In the speech, Eacker accused Hamilton of misusing his position as Inspector General during the Adams administration to intimidate his political enemies.  On November 20, 19-year-old Philip and his friend Richard Price confronted Eacker about the speech when the three men were at a social event. After Eacker insulted them, the boys challenged Eacker to a duel.  Dueling was already illegal in New York, so the men planned to meet in New Jersey.  Eacker and Richard Price took the field first at Weehawken, on November 22. They exchanged shots, but no one was injured; according to convention, honor was satisfied.  The next day, Philip faced Eacker and fell to a ball from Eacker’s smoothbore dueling pistol.  He died the next day.  The death caused a massive strain on the Hamilton family and led to the nervous breakdown of Hamilton’s daughter Angelica.

Robert Troup observed about Hamilton after Philip’s death in a December 5, 1801 letter to Rufus King:

Never did I see a man so completely overwhelmed with grief as Hamilton had been.  The scene I was present at, when Mrs. Hamilton came to see her son on his deathbed (he died about a mile out of the city) and when she met her husband and son in one room, beggars all description!  Young Hamilton was very promising in genius and acquirements, and Hamilton formed high expectations of his future greatness!”

Alexander Hamilton was killed three years later, on the same dueling grounds in Weehawken and with the same dueling pistols.


8 thoughts on “The Other Hamilton Duel: Philip Hamilton and George Eacker

  1. Alex Harper says:

    I haven’t been able to find an answer to this question, that is plaguing my mind as of late, in my minimal researching. If you please, as this was not specified in the text above, who was Philip Hamilton’s second? I was going over my limited knowledge of dueling in that day and came to the realization that I had read an article not too long ago saying that George Eaker was never tried for murder, which he should have if, assuming my sources are correct, Philip Hamilton had shot at the sky. Continuing from my prior realization, I realized as well that someone would have had to have witnessed Philip aiming at the sky and George shooting him if they would have had any way for him to have possibly been tried for murder. Therefore, there must have been someone there who was not the doctor (who would most likely be turned around according to my sources) and my mind points to Philip’s second as George’s second would have no foreseeable reason to speak truthfully as it would bring George’s honor into question. Please write back soon.
    -Alex H.

    1. Annmarie says:

      I’m a little late on the subject, but David Jones was Philip’s second. I believe he was a friend of Alexander, if I remember correctly.

    2. Madison says:

      I know I am… Terribly late, but, not that I’m trying to defend Eacker, Philip apparently didn’t actually shoot the sky. They basically stood there awkwardly for a couple minutes, then Philip moved to aim at the sky and Eacker shot out of defense. I just wanted to correct that, so Eacker did nothing wrong, unlike what the musical says. Again, not defending him.

  2. Alex Harper says:

    I would like to add, it sounds as though Richard Price was Philip’s second, although it is not blatantly mentioned.

  3. Emily Sara says:

    Does anyone know where I could get more information on George Eacker? Hamilton has taken over the world and my professor is assigning us to write an entire essay on characters that weren’t mentioned that much in the musical.

    By information I’m talking about his home life and where he’s from, stuff like that.

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