Hunter was following orders that General U. S. Grant had issued earlier that month: "the complete destruction [of the railroad] and of the canal on the James River is of great importance to us...You are to proceed to Lynchburg and commence there. It would be of great value to us to get possession of Lynchburg for a single day." Fortunately for Lynchburg, Hunter tarried on his way, taking time to burn the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington before crossing the Blue Ridge to attack the city. Hunter and his troops stopped long enough to plunder Poplar Forest early on the 17th, then reached Sandusky, which they commandeered for their use. Hunter's delay allowed time for Confederate General Jubal Early
to arrive from Charlottesville to defend Lynchburg. Fighting commenced that afternoon, but even during the fray, Early's men were hastily preparing the city's outer defenses. Their major effort was a breastwork fort, named for General Early, alongside the Salem Turnpike (today's Fort Avenue). Fighting temporarily ceased at nightfall, and Hunter and his men had dinner at Sandusky that evening. According to an account the Lynchburg Virginian published a week later, "the general offices were in very high spirits at the supper table on Friday night, and boasted that they would be in Lynchburg the next day." Hunter bragged to Hutter that "he had fifty thousand men and could take Lynchburg easily." Hutter replied that it might not be an easy task.
The battle commenced in earnest early Saturday morning, with skirmishes raging along Lynchburg's southwestern outskirts. Union signal officers cut a hole, or scuttle, in Sandusky's roof, reached from the attic by a ladder. They then positioned themselves "on the top of Major Hutter's house" to report the battle's progress. What they saw was not what they expected. Although a lookout first reported that the Union cavalry "were charging splendidly," he later saw them giving way, "and finally left his eyry in disgust." That evening, a somber mood prevailed at Sandusky's dinner table. As the Virginian reported, the officers "took their meal at the same board in perfect silence." After dinner, Hunter told Major Hutter that he wanted to hold a council of war in the house. He appropriated two rooms, carefully locking the doors so he and his men could decide their next course of action in private. Hunter, thinking that additional enemy troops were arriving and would overwhelm his men, and knowing that he was running low on ammunition, decided to retreat.
Later, in his official report, General Hunter recorded that during the night of the 18th, "trains on the different railroads were heard running without intermission, while repeated cheers, and the beating of drums indicated the arrival of large bodies of troops in the town." It was an extremely clever ruse, and it worked. Lynchburgers gathered at the station throughout the night to cheer the repeated "arrival" of a single engine and empty boxcars that continuously ran out of town, then reversed to return to the depot. There had been no reinforcements.
The next day, Sunday, June 19th, the Union forces retreated, retracing the path they had used before, via the Peaks of Otter, then across the Valley of Virginia and the Alleghenies into West Virginia. Before they left Sandusky, they took time to plunder Miss Hutter's chamber, "carrying away various ornaments and valuables." They also left "some 90 odd wounded Yankees...in Major Hutter's barn," four or five of whom died on Sunday. The battle was won, but the war, of course, would soon be lost.
Although Major George C. Hutter had retired from active military duty at the commencement of the Civil War, his three sons all served in the Confederate forces. The youngest, Colonel J. Risque Hutter, was wounded and captured during Pickett's ill-fated charge at Gettysburg. He was taken to the Union prison at Johnson's Island, just outside Sandusky, Ohio. In later years, he came to own Sandusky, and, after his tenure, his son inherited the property. Sandusky remained a Hutter family home for over a hundred years, serving five generations.
In 1952, Mr. and Mrs. Neville Adkinson purchased Sandusky, by then the centerpiece of a four-acre curtilage. The Adkinsons began a gradual restoration of the house, while modernizing service areas and installing heating, air-conditioning and new bathrooms. During their tenure, they were always mindful of the architectural and historical importance of the house, and took care to insure that modern conveniences would not intrude on the historic fabric. In 2000, Mrs. Adkinson, a widow, decided the time had come to sell Sandusky, noting that "when it is next sold it will be the second transfer in 158 years." Mrs. Adkinson let it be known that she would prefer selling it to a group who could purchase it and open it to the public.