B In looking back at this
duel, it is important to appreciate the state of the union at
the time as well as the state of
affairs in and around San Francisco. The country was deeply
divided by the issue of slavery
as it was also expanding westward. And the City by the Bay,
which had become the gateway
to gold fields, was a wild place.
The city had 30,000 residents
by 1856, with only a sixth of
those being women, and 700
bars. Heavy drinking was
rampant, personal disputes
were often settled violently and
San Francisco recorded more
than 500 murders the first 10
months of that year.
Duels were a favorite way
to handle such conflicts, and
both Broderick and Terry had
experience in that area. Brod-
erick once challenged a former
governor of Virginia and ardent
advocate of slavery, William X.
Smith, to a duel, and they faced
off on a piece of land in what is
now downtown Oakland. Brod-
erick’s gun jammed at the call
of “Fire!” and Smith shot him
in the stomach. Fortunately
for Broderick, the bullet hit a
heavy gold watch in his pocket,
injuring him only slightly.