One of Lexington’s most treasured landmarks, Russell Cave, lies on the property of Mt. Brilliant. The cave and its never-failing spring were home to several important political rallies in the early 19th Century. It was at one of these rallies in 1843 that noted anti-slavery leader Cassius Marcellus Clay was involved in a duel that nearly cost him his life.
His opponent, Samuel Brown, surprised Clay by hitting him from behind as Clay was heckling one of the evening’s speakers. Before most of the crowd knew what was happening, Brown’s quick draw had sent a bullet sailing straight for Clay’s heart. Clay was saved by a stroke of unbelievable luck when the bullet ricocheted off the silver-lined sheath of his Bowie knife, leaving nothing but a red mark above his heart.
Legend tells that Clay was so furious that he attacked Brown, splitting his head open, cutting of his ear and gouging out one of his eyes. This gruesome attack resulted in Clay being tried in court for mayhem. Luckily, Clay’s legendary cousin, Henry Clay was able to get him acquitted by claiming that Cassius Clay was simply acting in the manner suitable for a Kentuckian.