Matthew G. Schoenbachler

in Murder and Madness

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780813125664
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135373 | DOI:

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Most of what is known about the Kentucky Tragedy comes from three remarkable documents: the published proceedings of Beauchamp's murder trial, Beauchamp's confession, and a vindication of Solomon Sharp written by his devoted brother, Dr. Leander Sharp. The transcripts of the trial—one version printed in Amos Kendall's Argus of Western America, the other published in pamphlet form shortly after the verdict was returned—substantially agree with one another and provide exceptional and credible information on the crime and its aftermath. But the other two sources—The Confession of Jereboam O. Beauchamp and Vindication of the Character of the Late Col. Solomon P. Sharp—are far more problematic. In many ways, the so-called Kentucky Tragedy was supremely atypical, and the Beauchamps were as aberrant, deviant, and bizarre individuals as early America ever produced. The mythology they created bore little resemblance to actual events: Anna was never seduced, and Jereboam was no defender of honor or female purity. But they had a better story than the truth and they knew what the people wanted to hear, and that is how the Beauchamps, although they both paid with their lives, got away with murder in the end.

Keywords: Kentucky Tragedy; Jereboam O. Beauchamp; Solomon P. Sharp; Anna Cooke Beauchamp; mythology; honor; female purity; murder

Chapter.  5242 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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