It started out as a project to learn more about family history. What a Nebraska woman discovered was an amazing story of love and war that's now a book.
"This particular thing is a hand-colored wood cut." Amy Sadle is no stranger to art galleries. She's been a professional artist for 50 years, but a love of research and a family tale led her down a different path. "My husband's great-grandfather William Hunter had always told his children that he found his great-grandmother in Natchez and arrested her for smuggling medicine in her bustle." For six-and-a-half years, Sadle researched the claim. William Hunter himself provided help. "He left a journal and I could tell how flamboyant his speech was. He wrote a lot of poetry." After three years fighting for the Union, Hunter was sent to Mississippi in 1864. "He became a white officer of black troops in Natchez." And he met Sarah Scothorne. "She was a Confederate widow whose baby had died a month before the father had died, and then the story got bigger and bigger." It starts when Hunter meets the southern woman. "His job is to catch spies." The captain visits Sarah, who believes she's about to be caught. "It was so exciting, you'd just find one little piece and then you'd have to fit it into the puzzle." But Sadle never found evidence of Sarah's arrest. The artist used unique methods to research the story. "I analyzed the handwriting, which I believe because of my painting experience a very valid sign of your personality and I found that that man had the same personality and value system as my son and so I'd say, 'how would he court?'" At one point, Hunter ponders his chances. "My love was insurmountable as were the political and philosophical differences between us." Hunter eventually wins Sarah over. Sadle said the story is historically accurate. "I absolutely trust that it's hauntingly true because every time I would pray for information, it would come."
The couple married after the Civil War, eventually moving to Nebraska. William Hunter became good friends with William Jennings Bryan. The senator was at Hunter's side when he died in 1901. Sadle said anyone can do research on ancestors by checking historical records such as public documents, newspaper clippings, and letters, and looking for clues. Her own odyssey resulted in the book, "Hunter Hall: A Historic Odyssey and Civil War Romance."