Monday, October 10, 2011

"The Lion of White Hall"

While we were in Richmond for the Dawkins presentation, we visited the grave and home of Cassius Marcellus Clay . . . "The Lion of White Hall." Clay was the American minister to the Russian court of Czar Alexander II (where he negotiated the purchase of Alaska), an emancipationist, publisher of the anti-slavery newspaper The True American, and Bowie knife carrying, cannon shootin' all-around bad-ass.

The burial site of Clay in the Richmond Cemetery.

From his obit in The New York Times:
"I haven't had a day's sickness for thirty years," he told a friend a few years ago, "except when I was laid up a little while because of a little encounter with a man named Turner." This Turner, the friend recalled, had cut about thirty gashes in the doughty General's body before the latter finally killed him.

White Hall . . . family home to Cassius Marcellus Clay.

The obituary in The New York Times also related this story:
It was during his campaign for Congress against Wickliffe that Gen. Clay had his bloodiest encounter, in which his only weapon was a bowie knife. He had challenged his opponent for using Mrs. Clay's name in a political speech, but their seconds called the fight off after each fired an ineffective shot. Then a bully named Brown, one of Wickliffe element, lay in wait for him at a meeting. The General for once had forgotten his pistols, but as Brown shot him above the heart, he closed in with his knife, cut off the assailant's nose and ears, and nearly killed him, receiving himself a dozen or so serious wounds from the hostile crowd that surrounded him.
Our docent also related this story, but added that Clay also gouged out one eye and cleaved the man's skull to the brain!

Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the beautiful home with its 44 rooms!

The docent also related this story about Clay being attacked in his own home . . . Clay had somehow found out about a plot to harm and rob him, so he lay in wait. The first intruder was dispatched by pistol. The second intruder was able to struggle with Clay hand-to-hand (Clay was singed by the fireplace during this struggle) with Clay finally able to wield his Bowie knife to effective use. This man was found later in the back yard dead. The third assailant, seeing the other two dispatched, fled before Clay could address him. And wait for the drum beat . . . Clay was 89 years old at the time of this incident! And, if all of this is not proof enough that he was a bad-ass and all around eccentric character, when he was 84 years old he married a 15 year old girl (his second wife. His first wife left him after he supposedly had an affair with a Russin ballerina), and Muhammad Ali's birth name was Cassius Marcellus Clay. And I didn't even go into the stories about his cannons.

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