Two graves filled in name of honor

 

A lot of men–and a few women–came to Texas for reasons that had nothing to do with a simple desire to see some new country.

Some found that while they might escape bad debt, a bad marriage, or bad trouble in the form of an arrest warrant, they could not out-ride their own character. But splashing across the Sabine or Red River made them a Texan, for better or worse.

One man who rode into Texas with little more than a pair of saddlebags and a reputation was Junius Henry.

His story’s back trail led all the way east to Florida. During the Seminole Indian Wars in the 1830s, an officer named Graham (either Capt. William M. Graham or Lt. Lawrence Graham, an account of what would happen did not offer a given name) commanded a noted unit taking part in the conflict. At some point during the campaign, Graham received a letter from his wife in Augusta, Ga. that she was about to have their baby. In the polite parlance of the day, she was “on the eve of confinement.”

The Army officer left Florida immediately to be at her bedside. The next day, his outfit engaged in a particularly hard fight with the Indians. Not long after that, Graham’s hometown newspaper carried an article suggesting that his hasty departure from the field had more to do with his regard for his scalp than concern for his wife.

One of Graham’s staff officers, a Captain Henry, traveled to Augusta to find who was behind the attack on his commander. The newspaper editor, doubtless under pressure and possibly at pistol point, said the authority for the article was one of the general officers participating in the campaign. That man also was from Augusta.

Unknown to Henry, another of Graham’s loyal subordinates also had ridden to Augusta to seek satisfaction—the gentlemanly term for a duel—with the offending general. The general responded to Capt. Henry’s demand by saying that as soon has he took care of the other challenger, identified only as a Captain Williams, he would be happy to take up the matter with Henry as well.

In short order, somewhere in the vicinity of Augusta, the general mortally wounded the first Graham partisan in a Bowie knife duel. Pistols were agreed on as the weapon for the second duel, a contest the general also won.

With two men—the first duelist and now Captain Henry—already dead on account of a newspaper article and a foolhardy sense of honor, the Captain Henry’s brother Junius came to Augusta from Louisiana to avenge the death of his sibling. 

Not bothering with the formality of a duel, he opened fire on the general in an Augusta hotel. The melee left the general seriously wounded and Junius Henry lacking a third finger, the digit removed by one of several bullets sent his way during the gunfight with the senior officer. Out of bullets, the avenging brother lit into the general with a Bowie knife. Bystanders finally separated the two, but Henry vowed he would kill the general next time he saw him.

Three months later, with the general recovered, Henry went looking for him with a double-barreled shotgun. The buckshot in one of the barrels included a slug that had been cut from his dead brother’s body. This time, the general’s luck ran out. The first blast removed his shoulder. The second sent lead through his heart and he dropped dead.

After the encounter, Henry left Georgia for Texas. Not long after his arrival in the young republic, he ran into a man who made some disparaging remarks concerning Henry’s role in the Augusta vendetta. The result was another dead man. Not long after, however, some of the man’s friends cornered Henry and fatally perforated him with lead.  

An account of this feud, and its final act in Texas, was published in a long-extinct Atlanta newspaper in 1875, the Herald and picked up in numerous other newspapers. The article does not say where in Texas Junius Henry died for having taken up for his slain brother, who himself had died in defense of someone’s honor.

“This feud, involving the death of so many superb men and bankrupting two powerful families,” the newspaper said, “is but one of a thousand that might be traced through the system of Southern society.”

And somewhere in Texas are two graves filled in the name of honor.

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