SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A parish, a city, a mall, and other north Louisiana businesses bear the name of a Natchitoches-born Creole planter whose legendary final duel leaves historians wondering if he won the battle but lost the war.
Weeks before General Pierre E. Bossier faced off against General Francois Gaiennie a political rival on the Cane River in 1839; Gaiennie insulted Bossier in the presence of Mrs. Bossier at a social event. Bossier challenged Gaiennie to a duel.
Dueling was common and well documented in Louisiana. From Shreveport’s first mayor, John Sewall, to former Louisiana Governor William Claiborne, there was no political office out of reach of this form of precise, legal, and well-mannered gun violence. Many considered dueling to be murder, some thought it was suicide. Still, others felt it flattering to have duels fought in their honor. Nonetheless, it was a popular way to challenge others when one felt slighted in the United States, particularly among politicians.
When General Pierre E. Bossier and General Francois Gaiennie faced one another, rifles in hand, near the shore of the Cane River on a beautiful autumn day in 1839, their friends and enemies knew death was at hand for one of the two United States Congressmen.
The politicians were 40 paces apart; at least one was seconds away from the preplanned death known as the duel.
Two saddled horses grazed in the distance as a lone rider waited to choose which horse to ride, fast and feverishly, toward Gaiennie’s wife, who was waiting anxiously at home.
Gaiennie, the Whig, had been given pistols, swords, or rifles as dueling options. Gaiennie chose the most deadly of the three – rifles.
The two generals fired at once.
Gaiennie’s shot missed, but Bossier’s round entered through Gaiennie’s arm and pierced his heart. The messenger was dispatched on the black horse to deliver the news to Gaiennie’s wife.
In the end, the Gaienne-Bossier duel led to at least 11 deaths as supporters of both generals engaged in duels.
Four years after the death of General Gaiennie on the Cane River, old Claiborne Parish was carved into pieces and one of the new parishes was named Bossier Parish after Pierre Bossier.
In 1907, the former trading post known as Cane’s Landing, which had grown in size and become known by the name of Cane City, was renamed Bossier City.
It was rumored that Bossier took his own life following a series of honor killings related to Gaiennie’s death. Nothing in congressional archives supports that idea.
In 1864, it became illegal for those in the government, army, or Militia of the State of Louisiana to light a duel or accept a challenge in Louisiana.