Eighteen members of the Rissler family of West Virginia accompanied the metal part of a sledgehammer to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., to formally hand it over during an official military ceremony. It was one of the tools Marines used in their efforts to bash open the doors of the firehouse at Harpers Ferry where radical abolitionist John Brown had barricaded himself and others in 1853.
Brown failed to secure the guns he needed to start an armed uprising among slaves, and the Marines succeeded in getting into the building and seizing the raiders. Brown was tried and later hung.
Officials at the museum said they were delighted to have the historic, 28-pound piece of steel and plan to showcase it soon in the museum’s “Defending the New Republic” exhibit, reported the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.
According to the story, the sledgehammer was picked up at the scene of the raid by a town resident, who gave it to a friend, who eventually sold it at auction in 1914. The buyer was Richard Johnston, who was the great-nephew of Alice J. Rissler’s husband. As the family’s 94-year-old matriarch, she signed the papers transferring the historic object to the museum.