This much is certain; Brigadier General Enoch Poor died in early September, 1780. Although there are numerous contemporary accounts that indicate he died from disease while Washington's army was in Northern New Jersey, a conspiracy theory dating from the 1830s insists that the real cause of his demise was covered up, and that General Poor was actually mortally wounded in a duel with one of his subordinates.
This theory has been voiced once again by a local historian named Dick Burdon, who believes;
"It was covered up because dueling was a court-martialed offence during the Revolutionary War. Also, Washington did not want the British to know that one of his key generals was killed by one of his own men in a secret duel."
There is a great deal that we still do not know about the American Revolution. We do not know, for example, whether certain items of material culture such as the "New and Improved Knapsack/Haversack" or "Pickering's Tool" described in the procurement records of various state governments were actually made and distributed, as there are no surviving examples of either of these items. In the case of the death of General Poor, however, a careful search of the historic record offers a body of evidence against which various hypotheses can and should be tested.
This series of blog posts will consider both the official version and the alternative hypothesis for the cause of death of General Poor and test them both against the available evidence. It will discuss how dueling was perceived among the officer class during the American Revolution and how policies relating to dueling in the various armies were enforced. Like any good detective story, there will be consideration given to motive and method, not only of the protagonists but of those who wrote about them after the fact. Short of actually exhuming whatever remains of General Poor, we are limited in this inquiry to what history records, and the quality of historical research in the past and in our own time.