“Well, Button,” he thought to himself, “you've certainly gotten yourself into something big this time,” as he stared into the box containing the remaining dueling pistol.
It seems Button Gwinnett always ended up involved in big things.
He didn't remember this much turmoil in his gut being the first (after Continental Congress president John Hancock) to sign his name to the Declaration of Independence. That was a happier time, almost giddy. Even with so much responsibility and haunting fear. There was no time for timidity then, too much to do. He and John Adams had a wonderful sparring match as the two of them drew up a draft of Georgia's state constitution. Everyone thinks Adams so stodgy and strict. They should see his quick, nimble, able mind in action. Button returned to Georgia with the draft constitution rolled up in his pocket.
“What's the delay, Gwinnett? There's only one pistol left to choose.” Lachlan McIntosh, his opponent, taunted.
Oh how he would delight in shutting up that Scottish bastard McIntosh once and for all. Button now noticed his knees shaking. Don't let McIntosh see. If it weren't for that neighing bastard. . .
Were his knees shaking while leading the Georgia militia troops into Florida to attack the British? He couldn't recall. The attack had been so cleverly composed. Planned to eliminate any risk to chance.
And yet, chance intervened regardless. Only two days out, word came that the Legislature was convening to debate his proposed constitution. He had to attend. He left Colonel McIntosh in charge of the expedition. Even a simpleton like him couldn't foul up so simple, yet devious a plan.
The attack failed nonetheless. Failed miserably. News came back from Florida just as the legislature approved a reworked state constitution. Buoyed, Button began his campaign for governor.
This too failed – largely due to McIntosh blaming Gwinnett for the failed invasion of Florida! Even calling for a board of inquiry into the disaster. Shockingly, a board was appointed and it proved of little comfort that Button was exonerated of any wrongdoing. The accusation bit deep into his heart and soul.
Button challenged McIntosh to a duel. The trained Continental soldier almost gleefully accepted.
Button picked up the pistol. The hammer was already cocked.
“Gentlemen, take ten paces...”
“No,” Gwinnett barked, “five paces only.” He knew that at ten paces, the Scotsman would have an a great advantage as he was better trained in the use of firearms.
“Colonel, do you agree to five paces?” the man holding the empty pistol box asks.
“Aye, makes no difference,” McIntosh replies.
The two men took five paces, turned and each fired. McIntosh was hit in the leg; Gwinnett in the hip.
Button Gwinnett died of gangrene three days later. Lachlan McIntosh survived.
NOTE: As you can assume, this was written from Mr. Gwinnett's point of view. To this day, members of the McIntosh clan will tell you the problems with the militia resulted from Gwinnett's insistence of taking command (he was the civilian leader) over McIntosh (the military leader). Their squabbling may have been the deciding factor in the Florida raid.