By Thomas K. Pendergast
About 250 people gathered near Lake Merced on Sept. 13, 2009, just inside the Daly City line, to watch the re-enactment of a famous duel. No doubt some were already familiar with the events that led to a California state Supreme Court Justice shooting and killing a U.S. Senator on that day and at that place, exactly 150 years ago.
Historians say the victor, Justice David S. Terry, was working hard with the other U.S. senator from California, William Gwin, to bring slavery to the state; while the deceased, Sen. David C. Broderick, had built his political reputation by blocking their efforts at every turn.
The argument which led to the duel started when Terry blamed Broderick for his losing an election to be chief justice of the state's top court and accused him of being a phony Democrat. Broderick read this in a newspaper and cursed Terry loudly in public, within easy hearing of a friend of the judge, who then reported the comments to Terry.
Terry demanded an apology and when Broderick did not comply, he challenged Broderick to a duel, which Broderick accepted.
Yet how many gathered at the duel site, located next to a golf course, were aware that the duel may have been a key factor in the outcome of the Civil War? As usual, it was all about the state's gold.
California's gold helped pay for the Union army, but what does that have to do with a duel?