Jackson met Charles Dickinson in a duel fought over a horse-racing debt and an insult to his wife on May 30, 1806. Dickinson shot Jackson in the ribs before Jackson returned the fatal shot. Jackson allowed Dickinson to shoot first, knowing him to be an excellent shot, and as his opponent reloaded, Jackson shot, even as the bullet lodged itself in his chest. The bullet that struck Jackson was so close to his heart that it could never be safely removed. A contemporaneous account follows:
A fleck of dust rose from Jackson’s coat and his left hand clutched his chest. For an instant he thought himself dying, but, fighting for self-command, slowly he raised his pistol.
Dickinson recoiled a step horror-stricken. “My God! Have I missed him?”
Overton [Jackson’s second] presented his pistol. “Back to the mark, sir!”
Dickinson folded his arms. Jackson’s spare frame straightened. He aimed… and fired. Dickinson swayed to the ground… [and later died].
[Jackson, too, was wounded, to the point where his left boot had filled with blood.]
Jackson’s surgeon found that Dickinson’s aim had been perfectly true, but he had judged the position of Jackson’s heart by the set of his coat, and Jackson wore his coats loosely on account of the excessive slenderness of his figure.
Dickinson’s bullet shattered two of Jackson’s ribs and buried itself in his chest, near his heart. More than a month passed before he could move around without difficulty. The wound never properly healed and bothered Jackson for the rest of his lie.