The Kit Carson Duel with Captain Shunan
On one of these occasions, the bully became unbearable in his behavior. He knocked down several weak and inoffensive persons, and swaggered back and forth through camp, boasting that he could trounce any one there. In the midst of his bluster, Carson walked up in front of him and said in a voice loud enough to be heard by those around:
"Captain Shunan, there are plenty here who can easily chastise you, but they prefer to submit to your impudence for the sake of peace: however, we have had enough and now I notify you to stop at once or I shall kill you!"
These were astounding words, and, as may be supposed, when uttered by a man six inches shorter and many pounds lighter than the blustering Captain, they fairly took away his breath. Carson spoke in his quiet, soft voice, as though there was not the least cause for excitement; but those who knew him, noted the flash of his clear, gray eye and understood his deadly earnestness.
Captain Shunan was infuriated by the words of Carson. As soon as he could recover himself, he turned about and without speaking a word, walked to his quarters. Kit did not need be told what that meant. He did the same, walking to his own lodge, from which he speedily emerged holding a single barrel pistol. He was so anxious to be on the ground in time, that he caught up the first weapon that presented itself.
Almost at the same moment, Captain Shunan appeared with his rifle. Carson observed him, and, though he could have secured without difficulty a similar weapon, he did not do so. He was willing to give his burly antagonist the advantage, if it should prove such. The other trappers as may be supposed, watched the actions of the two men with breathless interest. The quarrel had taken such a course that they were convinced that one or the other of the combatants would be killed. Captain Shunan had been so loud in his boasts that he did not dare swallow the insult, put on him by the fragile Kit Carson. Had he done so, he would have been hooted out of camp and probably lynched.
As for Kit, his courage was beyond suspicion. He feared no man and was sure to acquit himself creditably no matter in what circumstances he was placed. He was the most popular member of the large company, while his antagonist was the most detested; but the love of fair play was such that no one would interfere, no matter how great the need for doing so.
The duellists, as they may be called, mounted each his horse and circling about the plain, speedily headed toward each other and dashed forward on a dead run. As they approached, they reined up and halted face to face, within arm's length.
Looking his antagonist straight in the eye, Carson demanded:
"Are you looking for me?"
"Have you any business with me?"
"No," growled the savage Frenchman; but, while the words were in his mouth, brought his rifle to his shoulder, and, pointing it at the breast of Carson, pulled the trigger; but Kit expected some such treacherous act, and, before the gun could be fired, he threw up his pistol and discharged it as may be said, across the barrel of the leveled weapon.
The ball broke the forearm of Captain Shunan, at the very moment he discharged his gun. The shock diverted the aim so that the bullet grazed his scalp, inflicting a trifling wound; but the combatants were so close that the powder of the rifle scorched the face of the mountaineer.
Captain Shunan had been badly worsted, and was disabled for weeks afterward. He accepted his fate without complaint and was effectually cured of his overbearing manner toward his associates.
Excerpt from Chapter XII The Life of Kit Carson online book by Edward S. Ellis (1840-1916)