Lynn products graced field of combat as well as tables
January 26, 1995
By Pamela Cressey
A silver hilted sword made by Adam Lynn with an eagle head pommel and hilt with wood grip with twisted silver wire now on exhibit at the Lyceum. Lent by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The stunning Alexandria silver exhibit will only continue at the Lyceum until February 3. The large number of objects have been loaned by private individuals and institutions for this rare opportunity to view silver made in Alexandria.
While most of Alexandria’s silver once adorned tables, a few items had combative items. Two silver hilted swords are included in the exhibit, "In the Neatest, most Fashionable Manner." Both swords were made in approximately the same year, 1814.
While it is difficult to determine each sword’s history, the curator of the exhibit Catherine Hollan does state in the catalogue that the John Gauther sword blade was worn. Thanks to engraving scratched into the sword’s knuckle guard, we know that the owner was lieutenant C.I. Queen of the 36th Infantry, one of the battalions which defended Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
The second sword was made by silversmith Adam Lynn. He cast the sword pommel as a Philadelphia style eagle’s head. We know nothing of its owner or use. But we do know a bit about Lynn and his warfare background.
The silversmith and engraver was referred to in the community as both Colonel and General Lynn, ranks he achieved in the County Militia. In an earlier column, I discussed how Lynn’s fortunes diminished in the second decade of the 19th century. Lynn, however, faced even more threatening obstacles in the next decade.
In 1825, Lynn and Captain James McGuire resolved a "difficulty which has for some days existed" by a duel at sunrise near Oxon Hill (as reported in the National Intelligencer and reprinted in Brockett’s The Lodge of Washington). McQuire, a house joiner, lumberyard owner and Superintendent of Police, was a prominent Alexandrian.
Lynn chose to face west, leaving McGuire with the eastern exposure. Facing each other at 40 years, they readied their double barreled shot-guns. Their friends and the police constable, Slatford, gathered to witness the event. Just as McGuire took aim, the sun rose causing a glare. McGuire’s shot went wild, striking the fence rail where Slatford sat. The constable "fearing personal injury" moved to a gully beneath a bank. Mcguire aimed again, but the glare sent the shot into the dirt, throwing dust into Slatford’s eyes.
The perplexed Slatford decided to witness one more round, took his chances and boldly stood upon the bank ("though not without forebodings of evil"). Lynn’s shot went so near Slatford that he swore it "singed the hair of his wig." Mcguire demanded another firing; but the constable threatened to arrest them, believing that the combatants deliberately fired at him. So ended the Lynn-McGuire duel, a missed opportunity so-to-speak. Don’t miss the silver exhibit! Call the Lyceum at 703-838-4994 for times.
Pamela Cressey is the Alexandria City Archaeologist.