The Story of a Forgotten American Hero

Authors: Vic Butsch and Tommy Coletti
Genre: Historical Fiction
Cover Type: Soft Cover
Pages: 485
Size: 6×9
ISBN: 978-1935258-66-7
Cost: $18.95
Publisher: Husky Trail Press LLC  
Purchase Book or Ebook: Amazon

Aaron Dwight Stevens, a tumultuous, ill-tempered, zealous but noble young man is an often overlooked American hero. Throughout his 29 full years, Stevens acted upon his convictions, adventured near and far, and ultimately awoke the nation to the start of a new chapter in America’s history—the end of slavery.

Through historical facts and fictional flare, authors Vic Butsch and Tommy Coletti resurrect the story of a true 1800s adventurist and legend. In this gripping novel, readers will thrill to riveting tales of Stevens’s journey through the Mexican War, the Dragoons, Bloody Kansas, his love for two women, and the destined collision at Harpers Ferry. Paired with the emotional credence of Stevens’s beliefs and his unwavering devotion to his fellow abolitionists, A Journey to the Gallows brings history to life in a most entertaining way.

“In this novel, we experience all the drama of this era through the extraordinary journey of one man who almost no one realizes was at the center of it all. After reading A Journey to the Gallows, I’ll never again question how one person can change the entire course of history.”
~ Karen Cook
Head of Social Studies and History at Norwich Free Academy

Writing the book: A Journey to the Gallows

Aaron Dwight Stevens

My name is Vic Butsch and I never considered becoming an author until after I had done about ten years of research on Aaron Dwight Stevens. I had moved to Norwich Connecticut in the year 2000 and being very interested in history, attended adult education classes on the history of Norwich, taught by the City Historian Dale Plummer. In one of the classes he mentioned the name of Aaron Dwight Stevens, who was with John Brown at the famous raid at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, and who was actually from Norwich. Being a history major in college I had a good idea how important that was. That raid was one of the major events that led to the Civil War and the end of slavery in our country.

Those few key events which led us directly into the war which is now estimated to have cost our country over 800,000 men are:

  • The End of the Mexican War – Many Generals and other officers came from that experience.
  • Fugitive Slave Act – Led to the Underground Railroad
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin – by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Bleeding Kansas – blood is spilled over slavery
  • Charles Sumner attacked by Preston Brooks in U.S. congress over speech against slavery
  • The Dred Scott case – Blacks could not be citizens
  • John Brown Raid – on Harper’s Ferry to free slaves
  • Lincoln elected President – not even on the ballot in Southern States

After collecting a large amount of information on Dwight, as he was called, I had no idea what to do with it. At Electric Boat, where I worked for many wonderful years, I was friends with a man, Tom Coletti, who had written several successful novels on his own, and I asked him to look at the information I had gathered on Aaron Dwight Stevens. Tom, a knowledgeable history and Civil War “buff” himself, reviewed the information and was excited about doing a book, but he first had to complete a book he was currently working on. Within a few months, Tom finished his own book and we then started to write A Journey to the Gallows at the beginning of 2014. 

It took a year with Tom doing the preponderance of the writing as I supplied the data, research and various timelines to Tom. We reviewed each chapter over and over throughout that year and the next. It is one of the more amazing things I have ever witnessed, but over the years we have worked together, and with all the suggestions back and forth about wording, changes, new ideas etc. we have never had significant disagreements. Tom, especially, has been very open to what he wrote and I “maybe” have been sometimes extremely “picky” about words and phrasing. However, I have to say that the whole experience of co-writing and presenting our books has been one of the best adventures in my life.

Tom and I have tried very hard to be extremely accurate with all of the historic people, places, and events which touched the wonderful life of Aaron Dwight Stevens.  Before going any further, I must confess that I personally have grown to like, respect and idolize Aaron Stevens for what he became, what he believed in and his commitment to those beliefs. Aaron, John Brown and that small group of raiders that attacked Harper’s Ferry in October of 1859, were so far ahead of their time that I wonder if we aren’t still trying to catch up a bit. In a nutshell, Brown and Aaron firmly believed in the true equality of all mankind, including women and blacks. This sounds kind of passé and we’ve all heard similar words like them so many, many times before. However, they meant in a very literal way. The abolitionist of the mid 1800’s were all for the freedom for Negroes, but didn’t necessarily think that they were really equal to themselves. They certainly didn’t want to share their schools, neighborhoods, jobs and numerous other quality of life items with them. However, John Brown and Aaron Dwight Stevens were representatives of a number of people who did think that we were all equal in the eyes of God, regardless of what or who each of them thought their God was. 

Also, I have grown to like Aaron as a person even though he was obviously not a hero in the South at the time of his hanging. He was also considered a villain of the worst kind by many in Missouri when he killed the unfortunate Mr. Cruise while capturing and freeing (or stealing as thought in Missouri at the time) his slaves. Dwight grew up an adventurer and developed into an American hero who had his faults but had an unbelievable sense of right and wrong. He also had that strong American trait of fighting and sticking up for the underdog, the oppressed, and the weaker ones who have trouble fighting for themselves. He was also one tough son of a gun who you would probably not want to be an enemy of. He is the type of guy who you would be happy to call your friend because it was certainly much safer and because he was simply a very good person whom most of us would truly like and respect.