|William Hogarth, 1759, London. -Yale University|
On Tuesday the 20th of this Instant, was determined at New Kent Court House, the great Cock Match between Gloucester" and New Kent, for Ten Pistoles a Battle and an Hundred the Main, there fell Eighteen in the Match, of which the New Kent Men won Ten and Gloucester Seven, one a drawn Battle: Some James River Cocks that fell on the New Kent Side, distinguished themselves in a very extraordinary manner.
-Virginia Gazette, May 23, 1755
A pistole was worth anywhere from 18 to 22 shillings at the time.
Here below is an account of cock-fighting during the time of the Revolution by the Marquis de Chastellux as he traveled through the state.
" . . .we arrived at one o clock at Willis inn or ordinary*; for the inns which in the other provinces of America are known by the name of taverns, or public houses, are in Virginia called ordinaries. This consisted of a little house placed in a solitary situation in the middle of the woods, not withstanding which we there found a great deal of company. As soon as I alighted, I inquired what might be the reason of this numerous assembly, and was informed it was a cock-match. This diversion is much in fashion in Virginia, where the English customs are more prevalent than in the rest of America. When the principal promoters of this diversion, propose to match their champions, they take great care to announce it to the public, and although there are neither posts, nor regular conveyances, this important news spreads with such facility, that the planters, for thirty or forty miles round, attend, some with cocks, but all with money for betting, which is sometimes very considerable. They are obliged to bring their own provisions, as so many people with good appetites could not possibly be supplied with them at the inn. As for lodgings, one large room for the whole company, with a blanket for each individual, is sufficient for such hearty country men, who are not more delicate about the conveniences of life, than the choice of their amusements.
Whilst our horses were feeding, we had an opportunity of seeing a battle. The preparation took up a great deal of time; they arm their cocks with long steel spurs, very sharp, and cut off a part of their feathers, as if they meant to deprive them of their armour(sic). The stakes were very considerable; the money of the parties was deposited in the hands of one of the principal persons, and I felt a secret pleasure in observing that it was chiefly French. I know not which is the most astonishing, the insipidity of such diversion, or the stupid interest with which it animates the parties. This passion appears almost innate among the English, for the Virginians are yet English in many respects. Whilst the interested parties animated the cocks to battle, a child of fifteen, who was near me, kept leaping for joy, and crying, Oh! It is a charming diversion."
-TRAVELS NORTH AMERICA, IN THE YEARS 1780-81-82. BY THE MARQUIS DE CHASTELLUX, ONE OF THE FORTY MEMBERS OF THE FRENCH ACADEMY, AND MAJOR-GENERAL IN THE FRENCH ARMY, SERVING UNDER THE COUNT DE ROCHAMBEAU. TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH, BY AN ENGLISH GENTLEMAN, WHO RESIDED IN AMERICA AT THAT PERIOD. . . 1828
* Willis' Ordinary was in Louisa County
A good article on the subject from the CW Journal of autumn 2008.