Wednesday, September 28, 2016

John Brown Rope at Historic Sandusky

I must yet again seek forgiveness for my recent silence through this forum. I feel that in many different ways it has been a demanding summer, which in turn has taken a toll on my energy level to write posts on a more regular basis. However, last week during the middle of a much appreciated vacation respite, Michele and I visited Lynchburg for a little sightseeing and learning.  

Our first stop was to Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest (pictured above). If you have not visited this historic site, I highly recommend it. The painstaking restoration process that this architectural treasure is receiving is truly impressive and the tour was very informative.

Our second stop was to Historic Sandusky (pictured above). We were not aware that it was closed during the week at this time of year, but fortunately our ring at the visitor center building door was answered and we were offered an educational tour of this early-nineteenth century home, which served as the headquarters to Union General David Hunter during the Battle of Lynchburg in June 1864. The house contains a treasure trove of family and period furnishings. However, it was an artifact in one of the visitor center/museum's cases that I found particularly fascinating.

I have commented some about John Brown's hanging rope on a couple of past posts and one of those mentions that some pieces of the rope survive at a few different historical organizations. When I saw the one at Historic Sandusky I was somewhat skeptical, but the provenance that they provided, to me, sounds air tight.  

As the label (shown above) associated with this fascinating artifact describes, the rope fragment was obtained by James Risque Hutter. Hutter was the son of George C. Hutter, the owner of Sandusky, and was a Virginia Military Institute cadet at the time of John Brown's hanging in Charlestown, Virginia. The young man was present at the December 2, 1859, affair and took a piece of the rope as a souvenir.

James Risque Hutter graduated from VMI in 1860, and as one might expect, enlisted in the Confederate army serving as a captain with Company H, 11th Virginia Infantry, when the state seceded. A quick internet search indicates that Hutter received promotions to major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel. He was wounded and captured during Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg and held until the winter of 1865. Finally exchanged, Hutter was captured once more at Five Forks on April 1, 1865, and incarcerated until that summer. Interestingly, Hutter married a cousin at his relatives' home at Poplar Forest, who had purchased it from Jefferson's heirs. Hutter apparently lived a long life, dying at Sandusky at age 81, in 1923.

One never knows what might turn up at visits to historic sites. I know I keep being amazed at all of the things I find, learn, and see. Maybe that is one reason why I enjoy it so much.