On this day, 27 September, 1851, Sir Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General and well-known explorer, took part in Australia’s last known duel. The duel was held at the Water Reserve (now Centennial Park, Sydney). Mitchell’s opponent was Stuart Alexander Donaldson, the future first premier of New South Wales. Legend has it that the kerfuffle began when Donaldson accused Mitchell of maladministration. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of 30 September 1851, three shots were fired. One narrowly missed Mitchell’s neck, and another ruined Donaldson’s hat. No blood was shed and the only casualties – apart from Mr Donaldson’s hat – were the great men’s reputations.
Top: Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, ca. 1830s (Digital order no. a928393); Bottom: Mr Stuart Donaldson, from Eminent citizens [of] New South Wales, 1850-1900 (Digital order no. a1304018). Both images courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.