Lot 381

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"Stonewall" Jackson ALS to Fellow John Brown Execution Witness, Re: Hypnosis

Signed "T.J. Jackson" and addressed to a Mr. "Truheart." 2pp (front and back) plus blank sheet, measuring 7.75" x 9.75", Lexington, Virginia, dated October 12, 1852. Jackson was teaching at the Virginia Military Institute as a Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and an Instructor of Artillery and wrote to discuss a series of experiments recently performed by Mr. [Lawrence] Hale, a popular nineteenth-century hypnotist. Together with a carte-de-visite portrait of a young Jackson (ca. early 1850s) and an 1866 lithograph of Jackson during the Civil War. The letter has flattened mail folds, along with light soiling, toning, and foxing throughout. Boldly signed.

Jackson's letter reads in part:

"My Dear Truheart…I am highly pleased at your having gone to the University, and sincerely hope that distinction will not only reward you whilst there, but in your future career at the Bar…I suppose that you are aware of Mr. Harris a graduate of 1851 being here in Maj. Preston's Department. Major [John Thomas Lewis] Preston will soon leave for the west on business. During the past few days, we have been favored with a series of interesting experiments in Electro-Byology [sic] by a Mr. Hale. Our little Lecture room has been crowded so that one evening I suppose that the number equaled, if it did not surpass four hundred…"

It is very possible that the Mr. Truheart that Jackson was writing to would later serve with him at Harper's Ferry nearly seven years later. Truheart is mentioned in a letter Jackson wrote to his wife, dated December 2, 1859, when abolitionist John Brown was hanged. He wrote in part: "My command was still in front of the cadets, all facing south. One howitzer I assigned to Mr. Truheart on the left of the cadets, and with the other I remained on the right. Other troops occupied different positions around the scaffold, and altogether it was an imposing but very solemn scene…" If this is the case, then both men served as witnesses to Brown's execution.

Since VMI’s establishment, the institute sought to expose cadets to the newest and most advanced scientific research and often hosted guest speakers to give presentations on "scientific" issues. One of these early lectures was conducted by Professor Lawrence Hale, whose performance involved "freezing" volunteers from the audience into statues of well-known figures, such as Atlas and Diane, whom he would then compare to models he brought with him of those same figures. Jackson served at the VMI until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Despite a decade-long tenure, Jackson was not remembered as a popular instructor. A humorless disciplinarian, he favored the rote learning style of teaching and once had a cadet expelled for disrespect. This behavior resulted in Jackson being the subject of many classroom pranks, and a group of alumni went so far as to petition to have him dismissed in 1856. It is remarkable then that such a seemingly un-scientific lecture would appeal to Jackson.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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August 17, 2022 10:30 AM EDT
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