Family Stories

Casto-Metcalfe 1862 Duel


William T. Casto, born January 24, 1824, died May 8, 1862.  Maysville Cemetery, Mason County, Kentucky

from The Lexington Observer and Reporter

May 10, 1862

Fatal Duel

A duel took place at half past four o’clock on Thursday evening last, at some point not far from the city of Maysville, between William W. Casto, Esquire, a lawyer of that city, and Col. Leonidas Metcalfe, of Nicholas County. The challenge, we understand, was sent by Casto, and the difficulty grew out of his arrest sometime last winter by Col. Metcalfe, and his being sent to Fort Lafayette. Casto was an ardent Secessionist, and Col. Metcalfe was in command of a Kentucky regiment at the time.

Col. Metcalfe received the challenge on Wednesday, promptly accepted it, fixed Thursday evening at 4 ½ o’clock as the time, colt’s rifles as the weapons, and sixty yards as the distance. The parties met, in pursuance to this arrangement, and at the first fire Casto was killed instantly, the ball passing through his heart. Casto, it is said, fired at the word one, and Metcalfe at the word two. Col. Metcalfe was not injured.


Casto Family Gravestone

Historic Marker (in Bracken County on the Mason County line, KY8)

On the Ohio River shore near here one of the last duels fought in Kentucky under the “code duello” took place on May 8, 1862, between William T. Casto, former Maysville Mayor, and Col. Leonidas Metcalfe, U.S. Army, son of former Governor Thomas Metcalfe. Colts rifles were used at 60 years. On the first fire, Casto was mortally wounded. Metclafe was not hit.

The duel climaxed a bitter Civil War episode. In October, 1861, Metcalfe was ordered to arrest 7 men, including Casto, for aiding Confederates. They were sent north to Union prisons; all were later released, Casto in February, 1862. His belief that Col. Metcalfe was responsible for his arrest led Casto to challenge him to a duel which ended in his own life.


Susan, wife of Abijah Casto, born May 9, 1792, died March 12, 1835

William T. Casto was the son of Abijah and Susan Casto.  After the duel that took his life he was buried beside his mother, along with two infant siblings, William and Thomas.  This stone marks their final resting place.  Dueling was an out-moded social custom and had been outlawed in Kentucky for over fifty years.


W. T. Casto.  A Patriot, his country’s first unwavering Friend, he was willing to die for his Principles, and as a Man of Honor, nobly fell a Votary of the sacred and inviolable right of Personal Liberty.

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