Knife Taken from John Brown
John Brown's bowie knife, maunfactured in Sheffield, England, by G. Wostenholm & Son, features a tortoise shell handle and a steel blade marked with the identification: "THE REAL I*XL KNIFE / THE HUNTERS COMPANION." J. E. B. Stuart took this knife during John Brown's failed attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in October 1859. During the uprising, Stuart served as a volunteer aide to Colonel Robert E. Lee, a fellow Virginian who was in command of a Marine detachment. After Brown and his followers had taken hostages and barricaded themselves in an engine house, Lee sent Stuart under a flag of truce to try to negotiate a surrender. In a January 1860 letter to his mother, Elizabeth Letcher Stuart, Stuart boasted that he "immediately recognized Old Ossawottomie Brown, who had given us so much trouble … in Kansas" and that he took Brown's bowie knife as a souvenir.
Brown possessed an affinity for lethal weapons: he had previously used a broadsword to hack to death proslavery advocates in Kansas, and he had brought pikes with him to Harpers Ferry to distribute to the slaves whom he believed would rise up in revolt. These pikes were later circulated across the South as concrete evidence of what might happen if abolition took hold.
Stuart joined the Confederate army after Virginia seceded, but his father-in-law, fellow cavalryman and Virginian Philip St. George Cooke, remained loyal to the Union. Cooke's decision so upset Stuart that he changed the name of his months-old son from Philip St. George Cooke Stuart to James Ewell Brown Stuart Jr.