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The Dudley-Richardson Duel:
When he joined the Transylvania faculty, Drake was unprepared for the
academic polemics, and worse, that he encountered. But he later
demonstrated a natural aptitude for the art of invective.
Dissension had erupted during the organizational meeting of the medical
faculty at the beginning of the year, and continued throughout the
session. Controversy was stirred when Benjamin Dudley, Professor of
Anatomy and Surgery, objected to the presence on the faculty of William
Richardson, Professor of Obstetrics, who held no degree in medicine.
Tension remained high after the session ended in early March 1818 and a
conflagration, to be ignited, needed only a spark.
This was provided by Drake's letter of resignation from the faculty in
late March of 1818. Dudley openly accused Drake of breaking a promise to
remain on the faculty two years, and of trying to destroy the
Transylvania Medical College. In the ensuing correspondence with Drake,
Dudley made insulting references to Richardson who became incensed when
they came to his attention, and challenged Dudley to a duel. Although
illegal in Kentucky, duels were still countenanced in defense of a
"gentleman's honor", broadly construed. Dudley accepted the challenge
and chose pistols as the weapons. To avoid intervention by the
authorities, the duel took place in secrecy in the summer of 1818.
Dudley's shot struck Richardson in the groin, lacerating a major artery,
presumably the femoral. He would probably have bled to death from the
wound had not Dudley rushed to his side and made pressure with his thumb
on the artery proximally, thereby preventing further blood loss while
Richardson's surgeon tied the vessel - without the benefit of either
anesthesia or asepsis, both then unknown to medicine as we have already
mentioned. All hail to the surgeon who performed this difficult
operation on a patient stretched on the ground in a remote forest
Dudley recovered and, according to some versions of the affair, he and
Richardson later became "fast friends." Although questionable, this
outcome gains some credibility from the fact that they were both Past
Masters of the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Masons in Kentucky.
The Grand Lodge first suspended the duelists, and then reinstated them
as a result of "the reconciliation which has happily taken place between
said brothers." 
The unfortunate Richardson had in
Drake at least one forthright and effective advocate. Recognizing the
importance to Richardson of obtaining medical credentials if he was to
survive in the academic arena, Drake on 31 December 1817 wrote to David
Hosack, MD, at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York
requesting that Richardson be given an honorary MD degree.
degree of Doctor of Medicine was awarded to Richardson on 6 April 1819,
thus bespeaking Drake's already considerable stature in the medical
profession at the age of 33. The cause of the delay in awarding the
degree is unknown but was probably related to the complicated process by
which such degrees were conferred, not by the College but by the Regents
of the University of the State of New York.
personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which
may or may not be completely documented)