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Wilkes Spirit of the Times


_ In compliance with the wishes and requests of many of our readers, and because it was a notable instance of the relative powers of certain elements in prize fighting, we re-publish in this issue the report of the great fight between Tom Hyer and Yankee Sullivan. The latter was a man whose game and fighting powers had been tested in many lands, and who had never lost a battle. He possessed great experience, unflinching game, and tremendous powers of hitting. He had, too, in an eminent degree, that wary craft which distinguishes the vulpine breed. On the other hand, Hyer, though a comparative novice in the prize ring, had those advantages which youth, length, height, and weight, in a strong and symmetrical frame, must necessarily confer. Moreover, he was known to be a fine, effective fighter, a cool tactician, and on of undeniable game and endurance. In his first fight with McCleester he had abundantly exhibited those qualities which have always distinguished the great masters of the pugilistic art. He had won a desperate and obstinately contested battle of 101 rounds, in 2 hours and 55 minutes. Both men had been severely punished; but while McCleester was utterly beaten and exhausted, Hyer was comparatively fresh and strong, with lots of fight still in him. The battle, then, we think, was enough to justify his friends in backing him against Sullivan or any other man in the world, had they chosen to do so.


FOR $10,000
Won by Hyer in Seventeen
Minutes and Eighteen Seconds.
Wednesday, February 7, 1849

_ THE GREAT PRIZE-FIGHT, which had been the standard topic of conversation for many months in fighting circles, and which, to confess the truth, had occupied a large share of the attention of refined society for the same time, came off, according to the agreement, on Wednesday, the 7th of February, 1849, at Rock Point, mouth of Still Pond Creek, in Kent County, on the eastern shore of Maryland, about 40 miles from Baltimore.


_ At ten minutes past four everything was set, and notice was given to the parties in the house that all was ready.


_ Sullivan, shortly after this summons, emerged from the house, being preceded by one of his seconds who carried a pair of hot bricks, which were intended for his feet while waiting for the signal to begin. As he approached the ring his appearance was hailed with cheers, and when he threw in his cap, which was a velvet one of a rich dark green, the most enthusiastic shouts were heard from his friends. He took his seat upon a chair that was provided for him, and with his feet upon the bricks, waited for the entrance of his foe. In two or three minutes more, Hyer came forth, borne on the brawny shoulders of his friend Dutch Charley, and as he neared the ropes, he shyed his castor, a foggy-looking piece of felt, into the arena before him. Another burst of clamor then rent the sky, and amid increased enthusiasm, each man tied his colors to the stake. That of Hyer was the spangled ensign of his country, while Sullivan's was a green fogle with oval spots of white. Both men sat down on their seconds' knees. and confronted each other while the final preliminaries were arranged.
_ While thus awaiting the summons to the ordeal, the seconds, Joe Winrow and John Ling, the first for Hyer and the latter for Sullivan, came forward and made the toss for choice of ground. This was won for Sullivan, who, thereupon, reserved the corner, where he already sat, giving to his antagonist the bright and dazzling sun directly in his eyes. The seconds now took their corners, Tom Burns taking the place of the captured Thompson. Hyer's regular trainer, and Country McCleester supplying the absence of Tom O'Donnell, on the part of Sullivan. Outside the ropes, in waiting on the latter, was Stephen Wilson, acting as bottle holder, and on the other corner, similarly affixed, was the brother of the lofty champion. At twenty minutes past four exactly, Winrow asked the question: "Are you ready?" "Yes," said Sullivan, rising and beginning to strip off his outer clothes, an operation in which he was immediately followed by Hyer, and which was accomplished by both with the celerity of a stage metamorphosis. In less than a minute they stood stripped to the waist, and attired in their neat fighting clothes. Such was the absorbing interest which held possession of all minds during the proceedings, that but a single bet was offered and made. Indeed $35 was the entire amount that was wagered on the ground, and that bet was even.


_ As the antagonists stood up, all ready for the strife, there was a marked disparity in the appearance of the men. Hyer stood six feet two and a half inches, and Sullivan but five ten and a half. The weight of the former, woreover, was in the close neighborhood of 185 lb., while the avoirdupois of Sullivan was rated no higher than 155 lb., making the difference of thirty pounds in Hyer's favor. As to condition, both seemed equal. They were as finely developed in every muscle as their physical capacity could reach, and the bounding confidence which sparkled fiercely in their eyes, showed that their spirits and courage were at their highest mark. Sullivan, with his round compact chest, formidable head, shelving flinty brows, fierce glaring eyes, and clean-turned shoulder, looked the very incarnation of the spirit of mischievous genius; while Hyer, with his broad, formidable chest, and long muscular limbs, seemed as if he could almost trample him out of life, at will.


_ Before coming to the scratch, the umpire for Sullivan, asked the seconds of his side if they intended to examine Hyer's shoes, but they declined the formality as a matter of little consequence, upon which the word was given and the men came up. According to rule they were obliged to shake hands before they began, but they performed the ceremony warily, and at extreme arm's length. It was the business of the seconds next to do the same, but before they could reach the scratch to go through the idle ceremony, the eager crowd shouted them back, and they gave way at once to the gladiatorial show.
_ Round 1. Sullivan with his arms well up and every muscle swelling with it's preparation, darted towards Hyer, who stood resolutely awaiting for him with his body well forward and in formidable readiness; and coming up to him with a sort of run, let fly with his left at Hyer's head, but did not get it in; he then got away from a short attempt of Hyer to counter with his left, but Hyer followed the effort with an instant discharge of his right in Sullivan's forehead, which made a long abrasion on the scalp, but which, notwithstanding the power of the blow, showed neither blood nor discoloration at the time. Gathering himself for a return, Sullivan then rushed in at the body, and after two or three ineffective exchanges clinched his antagonist with the underhold and struggled for the throw. This was the great point on which was to depend the result of the fight. Sullivan relied mainly for success upon his superior wrestling, and it was calculated by his friends and backers, that a few of his favorite cross-buttocks would break his young antagonist in his lithe and graceful waist, and not only render him limpsey with weakness, but stun him with the falls. The most terrible anxiety therefore existed as to the result of this endeavor. In its fierce agitations, the spectators, who stood in an outer ring of plank laid over the snow some feet distant from the ropes of the arena, involuntarily rushed forward and swarmed against the ropes. Two or three times did Sullivan knot his muscles with an almost superhuman effort, but all served only to postpone his overthrow; for when he had spent his power by these terrible impulsions, his iron adversary wrenched him to the ground with the upperhold, and fell heavily, prone upon his body. This decided the largest part of the outside betting in favor of the upper man, and shouts of the most terrific joy went up for Hyer. The depression of Sullivan's friends was equal in degree, and they began to get an inkling that they had under-rated their opponent.
_ 2. As soon as time was called, both men hurried to the scratch, Hyer working to the upper slope of the ring, where stood the judges and the referee, and thus slanting the sun between his body and that of his opponent, instead of taking its beams directly in his eyes. As Sullivan came up this time, the blood from the scratch upon his forehead made crimson confession of its severity, and elated the friends of the tall one with shrieks of "first blood for Hyer!" Sullivan at this hosanna rushed desperately in, and meeting Hyer where he paused to receive his charge, delivered a heavy blow with his right on Hyer's left eye. taking a counter on his opposing ogle in return. Sullivan kept close up, and both kept striking with the rapidity of two cocks as they fly together, rendering it almost impossible to see where or how the hits were discharged. It was evident, however, that the rally had not been attended with serious effect to either side. A feint from Sullivan, and a dodge from Hyer, intervened; when another rally followed, Sullivan taking in return for a couple of body blows two severe discharges on the left eye, by a sort of half upper cut with the right hand, which brought the blood again. Sullivan then rushed in and clinched; he caught the underhold again, but efforts were nought, and he was twisted to the ground as if he had been a man of grass, his huge antagonist falling upon him as before with his entire weight. Shouts for Hyer.
_ 3. The hopes of Sullivan's friends were now fading fast, and indeed he seemed impressed himself with the idea that he was over-matched. He looked at his opponent with a sort of wild astonishment as he came up; but with a desperate courage, as if conscious nothing but the most reckless policy alone could help him, he rushed up to the scratch, and gathering cautiously after a wicked pause, he softened his apparent intention with a feint, but finding Hyer would not be drawn out, he let fly right and left, and catching Hyer with the latter blow upon the body (some say neck) staggered him backwards a couple of steps, and brought him to a sitting position on the ground. The shouts now went up on Sullivan's side, and amidst the uproarious glee he went smiling to his corner.
_ 4. Both came up this time with the utmost alacrity, Sullivan encouraged by his success, and Hyer showing the utmost eagerness to get even. Sullivan hurried up, and led of without getting in, and Hyer, in his excitement, not only returned short, but openhanded. This excited the attention of the former's backer, who, while on the point of crying out, "Now, you've got him, Jim," discovered that Sullivan was open-handed too. The warning, however, brought both of them to their senses, and made them close their fists. Hyer then hit out right and left, executing with the latter on the old spot, and taking a body blow in return. Sullivan then ran in and clinched, but his hold did him no good, for he was thrown in the same manner as before, Hyer falling on him and laying across him for several seconds, until his henchmen could come slowly and take him off. Expressions of dissatisfaction here broke out from Sullivan's friends, and the umpire of that side claimed "foul," on the score that the upper man was not sooner removed. The question was put to the referee, who, however, decided "fair."
_ 5. Sullivan, who suffered considerably in the last round by his eagerness to improve the advantage he had gained in the third, led off with the same reckless spirit, and with the same desperate aim. He struck wildly right and left at the head, but getting stopped, next tried the body. His incautiousness, however, received a heavy punishment in the shape of a tremendous right-hand Paixhan on the left eye, which hit him down upon his hand, with one knee touching the ground. Hyer rushed forward to hit again, but checking himself, he raised his hands as if afraid of being tempted to a foul blow, and moving backwards, turned towards his corner. At this moment Sullivan's umpire, supposing the round at an end, dropped his eye to his watch and started his time. It happened, however, that as Hyer had turned away, Sullivan, apparently wild, had risen, and recommenced the round; whereupon Hyer turned upon him, and pressed him by main strength to the ground. While this supplementary struggle was going on, the umpire raised his eyes, and supposing Hyer had turned to attack Sullivan after the round had finished, as he had marked it, called out "foul." The character of the renewal was explained to him, however, whereupon he withdrew his complaint.
_ 6. Sullivan now began to show his punishment and fatigue in a slight nervousness of his legs, but still he ran boldly up for desperate fighting, as game as a pebble, and as resolute as if the battle was still within his reach. Several rapid exchanges were then made, Sullivan catching it on the right eye-brow, in a counter to a body hit. Hyer then fought Sullivan to the ropes, and bent him backwards over them. Some sharp fibbing took place, which, proving rather unpleasant to Hyer, he seized Sullivan and threw him and fell on him, with his arm across his neck. He remained in this position for some moments without interference by his seconds, who saw that it was to his advantage, whereupon a claim of "foul" was made by Sullivan's judge. The referee, however, decided "fair." It was likewise claimed that in rising Hyer had pressed improperly on Sullivan's neck, but the claim was not made out.
_ 7. Sullivan, breathing short and exhibiting much fatigue, came up the same as ever, and Hyer, as before stood on the slope to forbid his passage one inch upon his ground. The little man, as he approached his huge antagonist, seemed as if dispirited by the decision of the referee, while he was nearly spent with the severe exertions that he had made to hit and get away. But he hit with no effect, while the blows of his powerful antagonist made the blood flow profusely down his face, although they had really less effect upon the unfortunate left eye than it seemed. Several exchanges were made, all against Sullivan, when he rushed in and again at his wrestling hold, and found the ground as he had done in these close encounters every time before.
_ 8. The hit in the eye which Hyer received in the second round, now showed its colors, and puffed up with dirty pride and vanity over the surrounding flesh. Sullivan's left eye was no better; indeed worse, and bore many testimonials in crimson crevices of Hyer's black and long knuckles. Sullivan again made play from the jump, but got nothing in. As he hit out at the body, Hyer struck short with the left, as was his custom every time, when he meditated mischief with his right hand, and then let go with his dexter mawley, driving the blood out from the left eye in gory spray, but still not knocking his staunch opponent down. Sullivan finding that he could not perry off these terrific hits, ran in again, but was thrown as before, Hyer falling on him, and lying with his breast across Sullivan's chest, neck, and face. Hyer's seconds were again slow in coming up to take him off, upon which another appeal of "foul" was made to the referee, who, however, decided "fair," though he admitted he could not see at all times, in consequence of the crowd getting between him and the men, and jostling him about since the first round.
_ 9. "Time" came around quick at this "call," as much of the thirty seconds was consumed while the men were on the ground. Both men came up bloody to the scratch; Sullivan being literally clotted with gore, while the clear crimson smoked on Hyer's chest, from a lance wound which had been made under his right eye to prevent it from closing out his sight. He was also dabbled with the drains which ran from Sullivan, and which painted his arms and bosom every time they closed. Sullivan walked up to the scratch this time with a freshened vigor, and showed the same determination as when he commenced the battle. Hyer, who was cool and apparently unfatigued, at once saw the real condition of his man, and concluding that it was now time to change his tactics, led off for the first time. The Yankee seemed better capable of resisting this mode of warfare than making a successful aggression, and dodged two wicked looking blows; but in endeavoring to return with a rush, he brought Hyer to his usual defensive position. He then took Sullivan's blows without wincing or endeavoring to stop them, being satisfied to take advantage of the right-hand counter, which from the first had told with such terrible effect. Sullivan rushed in again to save himself from punishment, and was thrown, with Hyer on him.
_ 10. Sullivan came up with his hands open and showing distress. He led off with ineffectual passes, which only served to provoke punishment, and give him the return of a wicked right-handed hit in the old place, which staggered him to the ground.
_ 11. Hyer, strong on his pins, respiring regularly, and evidently in possession of all his strength. He waited for Sullivan as before, and though Yankee came up rather slower than before, Hyer was content to wait his approach rather than alter a method by which he was getting on so well. On meeting at the scratch, a few rapid hits were made, which ended in a clinch and a wrestle to the ground, Hyer uppermost as before, but with Sullivan's leg locked over his until he was taken off.
_ 12. This time both men came up quick, and Sullivan led off hitting wildly and madly right and left, while his cool antagonist, watching his chance, took a short hit for the privilege of countering on the old spot. Sullivan, then rallying his energies, tried the Secor dodge, and endeavored to slip under Hyer with the left, on top of the head, with a round blow, which discharged him to the ground.
_ 13. Up to this time all the fighting was done in Sullivan's corner, making Hyer's boast good that he should not have an inch more than twelve feet to do his fighting in. This round commenced by sharp exchanges right and left, as if they had come together for the first time. At length Hyer, finding it was all his own way, rallied Sullivan sharply, and driving him to the ropes, backed him over them, and entered into a smart exchange of fibbing. Hyer caught hold of the ropes while thus engaged, when a man from Boston, by the name of Hennessey, seized his thumb, and bent it backwards from its hold, whereupon Hyer let go, and clinching Sullivan, wrenched him to the ground, and fell upon him.
_ 14. Sullivan giving out fast; Hyer, perceiving it, entered briskly on the offensive, fought him to the ropes, and fibbed him on them as before. After an exchange of this kind of work, Hyer jerked him from the ropes, and clinching, wrestled him to the ground, and fell upon him.
_ 15. Sullivan shaky on his pins, and Hyer apparently as strong as ever. As Sullivan came up and attempted to hit out, he slipped; Hyer rallied him to the ropes, hitting him right and left in the pursuit, and bending him again over the ropes. During this struggle he caught his arm, and bending it backward in its socket, gave it a wrench that must have caused the most agonizing pain; he then clinched and threw him to the ground, and fell upon him as before.
_ 16. When time was called, Sullivan was slow in rising from his second's knee, and it was evident that his fighting star had set, for the day at least. He walked in a limpsey manner towards the score, but when he put up his left arm the tremor which shook it showed that it was distressed by pain. Hyer did not wait for him, but advancing beyond the score, let fly both right and left in Sullivan's face, who, though he could not return it, took it without wincing in the least. Hyer then rushed him to the ropes again, and after a short struggle there, threw him and fell heavily upon him, in which position Sullivan locked his leg over him again, as if he would hold him in his place. When he was taken off, Sullivan was found to be entirely exhausted, and when lifted up reeled half around and staggered backward towards the ropes. The fight was done. He could not come in again, and one of his seconds took him from the ring, without waiting for time to be called. Hyer's second, as soon as this took place, advanced to take Sullivan's colors as their trophy, but being interfered with and denied by Ling, Hyer rushed forward himself, and seizing Ling by the arm, enabled his friend to take the prize. The shouts then went up for the victor, and the party commenced unthreading the stakes of their halyards, for the voyage back.
_ Thus ended a contest which had excited more interest than any other pugilistic encounter that ever took place in this country; but which, though it engaged thousands of minds for a period of six long months, was done up, when once begun, in seventeen minutes and eighteen seconds.
The boat soon got up sail after the battle was over, and made for Pool Island again on their return. On arriving at that place they found the steamer Boston still aground, and as her warlike freight came crowding to the side, the pungees gave them three times three as a compensation for the disappointment they had received, in neither arresting the principals, nor getting a peep at the fight.


_ The foregoing contest may be aptly termed a "hurricane fight." From the commencement to the close it was bitter, unremitting, and determined. On the part of Sullivan it consisted of a series of quick and almost super human efforts to outfight and stun his antagonist from the start, while Hyer, who seemed to be thoroughly aware of his intent, contented himself with standing at the scratch and forbidding any entrance to his side, by the tremendous counter hits which he delivered in return for Sullivan's rapid visitations. He did not attempt to make parrying a leading feature of his policy, but for the greater portion of the time cheerfully met Sullivan's blows for a chance at countering back. He had evidently settled upon this as his policy for the fight, judging correctly, that if hit and hit was to be the order of the day, the weakest structure must go to pieces in the struggle. In addition to this, Hyer showed excellent skill in fighting, and his method of hitting short with the left, as a preliminary to the Paixhan discharge of the right, in the style of a half upper cut, could not have been excelled in the use which he made of it, by the best hitters who have ever shown themselves in the prize ring. To help him still farther, he was cool and self-possessed, with the exception of a moment or two at the opening of the fourth round, when he seemed either shaken by his fall, or stung from his control by the cheers which greeted Sullivan for the handsome blow. Sullivan on the other hand fought wild and eager. He did not display that shrewdness and care which has characterized all his previous fights, but seemed to consider himself in the ring, not so much to decide some three hundred thousand dollars, as to revenge upon Hyer, in the bitterest and most sudden manner, the personal hatred that stood between them. He hurried to the scratch at every round, and commenced leading off right and left, and when obliged to take it more severely than he bargained for, invariably rushed in for a clinch, notwithstanding each succeeding round proved more conclusively than those which had gone before, he could not throw his man, and that these reverses invariably brought upon him the severest punishment of all. He was twisted to the ground invariably by the superior strength of his antagonist, and what in view of this, was surprising to his friends, he would resist strongly every time, instead of slipping down as easily as possible to save his strength. As to Hyer's lying on him to the extent he did, there has been much dispute, and while one party claims it to have been a "foul," the other insists that it was a pardonable advantage. Between these two opinions the referee decided "fair." He decided so properly. There is no rule in "Fistiana" which prescribes the length of time which a man may be allowed to lie upon another between the rounds, but the common law of the ring gives to each side the possession of their man the instant the round has ended. Sullivan was therefore, the property of his seconds the instant he touched the ground, and they were entitled to him, though obliged to throw twenty men from his body to get at him. It was natural for Hyer's seconds to let him lie when he had the advantage, but it was the duty of Sullivan's seconds to insist upon their rights, and to acquaint the other side, that, if they did not take their man off in time, they would throw him off. This they had a right to do, and the results of their not having done it, was, that while Hyer, after the struggle and throw, would repose at ease on Sullivan's body and draw respirations of fresh atmosphere, Sullivan was crushed with the incumbent weight, and capable of catching only a few muffled breaths.
_ There never was, perhaps, a battle in which there was so much fighting is so short a space of time; none, certainly, in which more resolute punishment was given and taken, without flinching on either side. The history of the fight consists in the fact that Sullivan was over-matched; and, in the further fact that Hyer showed himself capable of matching any man of his size and weight, doubtless, who exists in Britain or the United States.

Wilkes Spirit of the Times


_ A SPECIAL EDITION OF WILKES SPIRIT OF THE TIMES will be published on the arrival of Mr. Wilkes' account of the Fight, containing a full and exclusive account of the great international encounter.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ 100,000 COPIES
_ Will be ready for Delivery within Six Hours after the arrival of the steamer bringing the news. Agents will please order early to insure a supply.
N.B. - our Extra will contain the histories of the men, and the splendid likenesses of each which have appeared in our paper.

Wilkes Spirit of the Times

Wilkes Spirit of the Times
APRIL 7, 1860


Fight Between Tom Hyer and Yankee Sullivan
Historic boxing newspapers and articles.