Swordgate 2011

The Annmary Brown Memorial / library.brown.edu

The Annmary Brown Memorial, even more historic in black-and-white

The Annmary Brown Memorial on Brown St., with its forbidding and usually-closed bronze doors, might be the most mysterious building on campus. Luckily, a Library website details what students would find there if they went in: portraiture, bodies, swords. Former Civil War General Rush C. Hawkins established the memorial in 1903 for his wife, a descendant of Brown’s namesake family. They were both buried there and have been more-or-less resting in peace for decades.

But now, the Hawkinses are part of another North/South feud. A sword presented to Hawkins (then a Colonel) for his service during the war disappeared from the memorial in the 1970s. Recently, Brown identified the sword as part of a collection at Lee Hall Mansion, now a Civil War museum in Newport News, Virginia, and sued last week for its return. A federal judge granted an injunction to prevent the collector currently in possession of the sword from selling it–a good sign that it’s coming back to Brown soon.  

But we’re more interested in the sword itself, which, if recovered, would probably be one of Brown’s more badass possessions. According to the Daily Press, which covers happenings in Newport News:

According to the suit, the sword and scabbard were described in detail in the program at which the sword was presented to Hawkins, and it was mentioned in an 1893 book on Tiffany & Co.’s history.

“The sword and scabbard are both elaborately appointed and made of highly valuable metals,” the suit says. “The sword itself is comprised of sterling silver, except the blade.”

The sword’s handle also includes images, in sharp relief, of a soldier standing guard, with an inscription praising Hawkins for gallantry.

We can’t argue with a word like “gallantry.” Also, who knew Tiffany’s made swords?

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