On this day, Dec. 31, in 1860, D.C. police arrest several Congressmen mere seconds before two of them were to duel in Silver Spring.
Earlier in the week, Rep. Lawrence Branch, of North Carolina, and Rep. Gulasha Grow, of Pennsylvania, traded insults on the House floor in a dispute over a post office appropriations bill. Grow already had been involved in the most infamous brawl involving dozens of lawmakers on the House floor two years earlier.
Branch later sent a letter to Grow challenging him to a duel. Dueling in the District of Columbia had been outlawed since the late 1830s, but individuals could still travel across the District line to Maryland to shoot at each other.
The parties agreed to secretly meet at the Silver Spring home of Francis P. Blair, Sr., the editor of the Congressional Globe. Branch was accompanied by Reps. Laurence Keitt of South Carolina and Roger Pryor of Virginia. Grow was seconded by Reps. De Witt Giddings of Texas and Reuben Fenton of New York.
But District police received a tip about the duel, and obtained a warrant for their arrests. Police tracked down and Branch, Grow, and their associates, shortly before the shooting.
Grow would later become Speaker of the House during the Civil War.