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Black Rebellion by Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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[Transcriber's note: This text contains five chapters of T.W. Higgison's
'Travellers and Outlaws'. This collection is commonly referred to as
'Black Rebellion: five slave revolts'.]


Episodes In American History


With An Appendix Of Authorities

* * * * *


The author would express his thanks to the proprietors and editors of the
_Atlantic Monthly_, _Harper's Magazine_, and the _Century_, for their
permission to reprint such portions of this volume as were originally
published in those periodicals.


* * * * *








* * * * *


The Maroons! it was a word of peril once; and terror spread along the
skirts of the blue mountains of Jamaica when some fresh foray of those
unconquered guerrillas swept down from the outlying plantations, startled
the Assembly from its order, Gen. Williamson from his billiards, and Lord
Balcarres from his diplomatic ease,--endangering, according to the
official statement, "public credit," "civil rights," and "the prosperity,
if not the very existence, of the country," until they were "persuaded to
make peace" at last. They were the Circassians of the New World, but they
were black, instead of white; and as the Circassians refused to be
transferred from the Sultan to the Czar, so the Maroons refused to be
transferred from Spanish dominion to English, and thus their revolt
began. The difference is, that while the white mountaineers numbered four
hundred thousand, and only defied Nicholas, the black mountaineers
numbered less than two thousand, and defied Cromwell; and while the
Circassians, after years of revolt, were at last subdued, the Maroons, on
the other hand, who rebelled in 1655, were never conquered, but only made
a compromise of allegiance, and exist as a separate race to-day.

When Admirals Penn and Venables landed in Jamaica, in 1655, there was not
a remnant left of the sixty thousand natives whom the Spaniards had found
there a century and a half before. Their pitiful tale is told only by
those caves, still known among the mountains, where thousands of human
skeletons strew the ground. In their place dwelt two foreign races,--an
effeminate, ignorant, indolent white community of fifteen hundred, with a
black slave population quite as large and infinitely more hardy and
energetic. The Spaniards were readily subdued by the English: the negroes
remained unsubdued. The slaveholders were banished from the island: the
slaves only exiled themselves to the mountains; thence the English could
not dislodge them, nor the buccaneers whom the English employed. And when
Jamaica subsided into a British colony, and peace was made with Spain,
and the children of Cromwell's Puritan soldiers were beginning to grow
rich by importing slaves for Roman-Catholic Spaniards, the Maroons still
held their own wild empire in the mountains, and, being sturdy heathens
every one, practised Obeah rites in approved pagan fashion.

The word Maroon is derived, according to one etymology, from the Spanish
word _Marrano_, a wild boar,--these fugitives being all boar-hunters;
according to another, from _Marony_, a river separating French and Dutch
Guiana, where a colony of them dwelt and still dwells; and by another
still, from _Cimarron_, a word meaning untamable, and used alike for apes
and runaway slaves. But whether these rebel marauders were regarded as
monkeys or men, they made themselves equally formidable. As early as
1663, the Governor and Council of Jamaica offered to each Maroon, who
should surrender, his freedom and twenty acres of land; but not one
accepted the terms. During forty years, forty-four Acts of Assembly were
passed in respect to them, and at least a quarter of a million pounds
sterling were expended in the warfare against them. In 1733, the force
employed in this service consisted of two regiments of regular troops,
and the whole militia of the island; but the Assembly said that "the
Maroons had within a few years greatly increased, notwithstanding all the
measures that had been concerted for their suppression," "to the great
terror of his Majesty's subjects," and "to the manifest weakening and
preventing the further increase of strength and inhabitants of the

The special affair in progress, at the time of these statements, was
called Cudjoe's War. Cudjoe was a gentleman of extreme brevity and
blackness, whose full-length portrait can hardly be said to adorn
Dallas's History of the Maroons; but he was as formidable a guerrilla as
Marion. Under his leadership, the various bodies of fugitives were
consolidated into one force, and thoroughly organized. Cudjoe, like
Schamyl, was religious as well as military head of his people; by Obeah
influence he established a thorough freemasonry among both slaves and
insurgents; no party could be sent forth, by the government, but he knew
it in time to lay an ambush, or descend with fire and sword on the region
left unprotected. He was thus always supplied with arms and ammunition;
and as his men were perfect marksmen, never wasted a shot, and never
risked a battle, his forces naturally increased, while those of his
opponents were decimated. His men were never captured, and never took a
prisoner; it was impossible to tell when they were defeated; in dealing
with them, as Pelissier said of the Arabs, "peace was not purchased by
victory;" and the only men who could obtain the slightest advantage
against them were the imported Mosquito Indians, or the "Black Shot," a
company of Government negroes. For nine full years this particular war
continued unchecked, Gen. Williamson ruling Jamaica by day and Cudjoe by

The rebels had every topographical advantage, for they held possession of
the "Cockpits." Those highlands are furrowed through and through, as by
an earthquake, with a series of gaps or ravines, resembling the
California canons, or those similar fissures in various parts of the
Atlantic States, known to local fame either poetically as ice-glens, or
symbolically as purgatories. These Jamaica chasms vary from two hundred
yards to a mile in length; the rocky walls are fifty or a hundred feet
high, and often absolutely inaccessible, while the passes at each end
admit but one man at a time. They are thickly wooded, wherever trees can
grow; water flows within them; and they often communicate with one
another, forming a series of traps for an invading force. Tired and
thirsty with climbing, the weary soldiers toil on, in single file,
without seeing or hearing an enemy, up the steep and winding path they
traverse one "cockpit," then enter another. Suddenly a shot is fired from
the dense and sloping forest on the right, then another and another, each
dropping its man; the startled troops face hastily in that direction,
when a more murderous volley is poured from the other side; the heights
above flash with musketry, while the precipitous path by which they came
seems to close in fire behind them. By the time the troops have formed in
some attempt at military order, the woods around them are empty, and
their agile and noiseless foes have settled themselves into ambush again,
farther up the defile, ready for a second attack, if needed. But one is
usually sufficient; disordered, exhausted, bearing their wounded with
them, the soldiers retreat in panic, if permitted to escape at all, and
carry fresh dismay to the barracks, the plantations, and the Government

It is not strange, then, that high military authorities, at that period,
should have pronounced the subjugation of the Maroons a thing more
difficult than to obtain a victory over any army in Europe. Moreover,
these people were fighting for their liberty, with which aim no form of
warfare seemed to them unjustifiable; and the description given by
Lafayette of the American Revolution was true of this one,--"the grandest
of causes, won by contests of sentinels and outposts." The utmost hope of
a British officer, ordered against the Maroons, was to lay waste a
provision-ground, or cut them off from water. But there was little
satisfaction in this: the wild-pine leaves and the grapevine-withes
supplied the rebels with water; and their plantation-grounds were the
wild pineapple and the plantain-groves, and the forests, where the wild
boars harbored, and the ringdoves were as easily shot as if they were
militiamen. Nothing but sheer weariness of fighting seems to have brought
about a truce at last, and then a treaty, between those high contracting
parties, Cudjoe and Gen. Williamson.

But how to execute a treaty between these wild Children of the Mist and
respectable diplomatic Englishmen? To establish any official relations
without the medium of a preliminary bullet, required some ingenuity of
manoeuvring. Cudjoe was willing, but inconveniently cautious: he would
not come halfway to meet any one; nothing would content him but an
interview in his own chosen cockpit. So he selected one of the most
difficult passes, posting in the forests a series of outlying parties, to
signal with their horns, one by one, the approach of the
plenipotentiaries, and then to retire on the main body. Through this line
of dangerous sentinels, therefore, Col. Guthrie and his handful of men
bravely advanced; horn after horn they heard sounded, but there was no
other human noise in the woods, and they had advanced till they saw the
smoke of the Maroon huts before they caught a glimpse of a human form.

A conversation was at last opened with the invisible rebels. On their
promise of safety, Dr. Russell advanced alone to treat with them; then
several Maroons appeared, and finally Cudjoe himself. The formidable
chief was not highly military in appearance, being short, fat,
humpbacked, dressed in a tattered blue coat without skirts or sleeves,
and an old felt hat without a rim. But if he had blazed with regimental
scarlet, he could not have been treated with more distinguished
consideration; indeed, in that case, "the exchange of hats" with which
Dr. Russell finally volunteered, in Maroon fashion, to ratify
negotiations, might have been a less severe test of good fellowship. This
fine stroke of diplomacy had its effect, however; the rebel captains
agreed to a formal interview with Col. Guthrie and Capt. Sadler, and a
treaty was at last executed with all due solemnity, under a large
cotton-tree at the entrance of Guthrie's Defile. This treaty recognized
the military rank of "Capt. Cudjoe," "Capt. Accompong," and the rest;
gave assurance that the Maroons should be "forever hereafter in a perfect
state of freedom and liberty;" ceded to them fifteen hundred acres of
land; and stipulated only that they should keep the peace, should harbor
no fugitive from justice or from slavery, and should allow two white
commissioners to remain among them, simply to represent the British

During the following year a separate treaty was made with another large
body of insurgents, called the Windward Maroons. This was not effected,
however, until after an unsuccessful military attempt, in which the
mountaineers gained a signal triumph. By artful devices,--a few fires
left burning with old women to watch them,--a few provision-grounds
exposed by clearing away the bushes,--they lured the troops far up among
the mountains, and then surprised them by an ambush. The militia all
fled, and the regulars took refuge under a large cliff in a stream, where
they remained four hours up to their waists in water, until finally they
forded the river, under full fire, with terrible loss. Three months after
this, however, the Maroons consented to an amicable interview, exchanging
hostages first. The position of the white hostage, at least, was not the
most agreeable; he complained that he was beset by the women and children
with indignant cries of "Buckra, Buckra," while the little boys pointed
their fingers at him as if stabbing him, and that with evident relish.
However, Capt. Quao, like Capt. Cudjoe, made a treaty at last; and hats
were interchanged, instead of hostages.

Independence being thus won and acknowledged, there was a suspension of
hostilities for some years. Among the wild mountains of Jamaica, the
Maroons dwelt in a savage freedom. So healthful and beautiful was the
situation of their chief town, that the English Government has erected
barracks there of late years, as being the most salubrious situation on
the island. They breathed an air ten degrees cooler than that inhaled by
the white population below; and they lived on a daintier diet, so that
the English epicures used to go up among them for good living. The
mountaineers caught the strange land-crabs, plodding in companies of
millions their sidelong path from mountain to ocean, and from ocean to
mountain again. They hunted the wild boars, and prepared the flesh by
salting and smoking it in layers of aromatic leaves, the delicious
"jerked hog" of buccaneer annals. They reared cattle and poultry,
cultivated corn and yams, plantains and cocoas, guavas, and papaws and
mameys, and avocados, and all luxurious West-Indian fruits; the very
weeds of their orchards had tropical luxuriance in their fragrance and in
their names; and from the doors of their little thatched huts they looked
across these gardens of delight to the magnificent lowland forests, and
over those again to the faint line of far-off beach, the fainter
ocean-horizon, and the illimitable sky.

They had senses like those of American Indians; tracked each other by the
smell of the smoke of fires in the air, and called to each other by
horns, using a special note to designate each of their comrades, and
distinguishing it beyond the range of ordinary hearing. They spoke
English diluted with Spanish and African words, and practised Obeah rites
quite undiluted with Christianity. Of course they associated largely with
the slaves, without any very precise regard to treaty stipulations;
sometimes brought in fugitives, and sometimes concealed them; left their
towns and settled on the planters lands when they preferred them: but
were quite orderly and luxuriously happy. During the formidable
insurrection of the Koromantyn slaves, in 1760, they played a dubious
part. When left to go on their own way, they did something towards
suppressing it; but when placed under the guns of the troops, and ordered
to fire on those of their own color, they threw themselves on the ground
without discharging a shot. Nevertheless, they gradually came up into
reputable standing; they grew more and more industrious and steady; and
after they had joined very heartily in resisting D'Estaing's threatened
invasion of the island in 1779, it became the fashion to speak of "our
faithful and affectionate Maroons."

In 1795, their position was as follows: Their numbers had not materially
increased, for many had strayed off and settled on the outskirts of
plantations; nor materially diminished, for many runaway slaves had
joined them; while there were also separate settlements of fugitives, who
had maintained their freedom for twenty years. The white superintendents
had lived with the Maroons in perfect harmony, without the slightest
official authority, but with a great deal of actual influence. But there
was an "irrepressible conflict" behind all this apparent peace, and the
slightest occasion might, at any moment, revive all the old terror. That
occasion was close at hand.

Capt. Cudjoe and Capt. Accompong, and the other founders of Maroon
independence, had passed away; and "Old Montagu" reigned in their stead,
in Trelawney Town. Old Montagu had all the pomp and circumstance of
Maroon majesty: he wore a laced red coat, and a hat superb with gold lace
and plumes; none but captains could sit in his presence; he was helped
first at meals, and no woman could eat beside him; he presided at
councils as magnificently as at table, though with less appetite; and
possessed, meanwhile, not an atom of the love or reverence of any human
being. The real power lay entirely with Major James, the white
superintendent, who had been brought up among the Maroons by his father
(and predecessor), and who was the idol of this wild race. In an evil
hour, the Government removed him, and put a certain unpopular Capt.
Craskell in his place; and as there happened to be, about the same time,
a great excitement concerning a hopeful pair of young Maroons, who had
been seized and publicly whipped on a charge of hog-stealing, their
kindred refused to allow the new superintendent to remain in the town. A
few attempts at negotiation only brought them to a higher pitch of wrath,
which ended in their despatching the following peculiar diplomatic note
to the Earl of Balcarres: "The Maroons wishes nothing else from the
country but battle, and they desires not to see Mr. Craskell up here at
all. So they are waiting every moment for the above on Monday. Mr. David
Schaw will see you on Sunday morning for an answer. They will wait till
Monday, nine o'clock, and if they don't come up, they will come down
themselves." Signed, "Col. Montagu and all the rest."

It turned out, at last, that only two or three of the Maroons were
concerned in this remarkable defiance; but meanwhile it had its effect.
Several ambassadors were sent among the insurgents, and were so favorably
impressed by their reception as to make up a subscription of money for
their hosts, on departing; only the "gallant Col. Gallimore," a Jamaica
Camillus, gave iron instead of gold, by throwing some bullets into the
contribution-box. And it was probably in accordance with his view of the
subject, that, when the Maroons sent ambassadors in return, they were at
once imprisoned, most injudiciously and unjustly; and when Old Montagu
himself and thirty-seven others, following, were seized and imprisoned
also, it is not strange that the Maroons, joined by many slaves, were
soon in open insurrection.

Martial law was instantly proclaimed throughout the island. The fighting
men among the insurgents were not, perhaps, more than five hundred;
against whom the Government could bring nearly fifteen hundred regular
troops and several thousand militiamen. Lord Balcarres himself took the
command, and, eager to crush the affair, promptly marched a large force
up to Trelawney Town, and was glad to march back again as expeditiously
as possible. In his very first attack, he was miserably defeated, and had
to fly for his life, amid a perfect panic of the troops, in which some
forty or fifty were killed,--including Col. Sandford, commanding the
regulars, and the bullet-loving Col. Gallimore, in command of the
militia,--while not a single Maroon was even wounded, so far as could be

After this a good deal of bush-fighting took place. The troops gradually
got possession of several Maroon villages, but not till every hut had
been burnt by its owner. It was in the height of the rainy season; and,
between fire and water, the discomfort of the soldiers was enormous.
Meanwhile the Maroons hovered close around them in the woods, heard all
their orders, picked off their sentinels, and, penetrating through their
lines at night, burned houses and destroyed plantations far below. The
only man who could cope with their peculiar tactics was Major James, the
superintendent just removed by Government; and his services were not
employed, as he was not trusted. On one occasion, however, he led a
volunteer party farther into the mountains than any of the assailants had
yet penetrated, guided by tracks known to himself only, and by the smell
of the smoke of Maroon fires. After a very exhausting march, including a
climb of a hundred and fifty feet up the face of a precipice, he brought
them just within the entrance of Guthrie's Defile. "So far," said he,
pointing to the entrance, "you may pursue, but no farther; no force can
enter here; no white man except myself, or some soldier of the Maroon
establishment, has ever gone beyond this. With the greatest difficulty I
have penetrated four miles farther, and not ten Maroons have gone so far
as that. There are two other ways of getting into the defile, practicable
for the Maroons, but not for any one of you. In neither of them can I
ascend or descend with my arms, which must be handed to me, step by step,
as practised by the Maroons themselves. One of the ways lies to the
eastward, and the other to the westward; and they will take care to have
both guarded, if they suspect that I am with you; which, from the route
you have come to-day, they will. They now see you, and if you advance
fifty paces more, they will convince you of it." At this moment a Maroon
horn sounded the notes indicating his name; and, as he made no answer, a
voice was heard, inquiring if he were among them. "If he is," said the
voice, "let him go back, we do not wish to hurt him, but as for the rest
of you, come on and try battle if you choose." But the gentlemen did not

In September the House of Assembly met. Things were looking worse and
worse. For five months a handful of negroes and mulattoes had defied the
whole force of the island, and they were defending their liberty by
precisely the same tactics through which their ancestors had won it. Half
a million pounds sterling had been spent within this time, besides the
enormous loss incurred by the withdrawal of so many able-bodied men from
their regular employments. "Cultivation was suspended," says an
eye-witness; "the courts of law had long been shut up; and the island at
large seemed more like a garrison under the power of law-martial, than a
country of agriculture and commerce, of civil judicature, industry, and
prosperity." Hundreds of the militia had died of fatigue, large numbers
had been shot down, the most daring of the British officers had fallen;
while the insurgents had been invariably successful, and not one of them
was known to have been killed. Capt. Craskell, the banished
superintendent, gave it to the Assembly as his opinion, that the whole
slave population of the island was in sympathy with the Maroons, and
would soon be beyond control. More alarming still, there were rumors of
French emissaries behind the scenes; and though these were explained
away, the vague terror remained. Indeed, the lieutenant-governor
announced in his message that he had satisfactory evidence that the
French Convention was concerned in the revolt. A French prisoner, named
Murenson, had testified that the French agent at Philadelphia (Fauchet)
had secretly sent a hundred and fifty emissaries to the island, and
threatened to land fifteen hundred negroes. And though Murenson took it
all back at last, yet the Assembly was moved to make a new offer of three
hundred dollars for killing or taking a Trelawney Maroon, and a hundred
and fifty dollars for killing or taking any fugitive slave who had joined
them. They also voted five hundred pounds as a gratuity to the Accompong
tribe of Maroons, who had thus far kept out of the insurrection; and
various prizes and gratuities were also offered by the different
parishes, with the same object of self-protection.

The commander-in-chief being among the killed, Col. Walpole was promoted
in his stead, and brevetted as general, by way of incentive. He found a
people in despair, a soldiery thoroughly intimidated, and a treasury not
empty, but useless. But the new general had not served against the
Maroons for nothing, and was not ashamed to go to school to his
opponents. First, he waited for the dry season; then he directed all his
efforts towards cutting off his opponents from water, and, most effectual
move of all, he attacked each successive cockpit by dragging up a
howitzer, with immense labor, and throwing in shells. Shells were a
visitation not dreamed of in Maroon philosophy, and their quaint
compliments to their new opponent remain on record. "Damn dat little
buckra!" they said, "he cunning more dan dem toder. Dis here da new
fashion for fight: him fire big ball arter you, and when big ball 'top,
de damn sunting [something] fire arter you again." With which Parthian
arrows of rhetoric the mountaineers retreated.

But this did not last long. The Maroons soon learned to keep out of the
way of the shells, and the island relapsed into terror again. It was
deliberately resolved at last, by a special council convoked for the
purpose, "to persuade the rebels to make peace." But as they had not as
yet shown themselves very accessible to softer influences, it was thought
best to combine as many arguments as possible, and a certain Col.
Quarrell had hit upon a wholly new one. His plan simply was, since men,
however well disciplined, had proved powerless against Maroons, to try a
Spanish fashion against them, and use dogs. The proposition was met, in
some quarters, with the strongest hostility. England, it was said, had
always denounced the Spaniards as brutal and dastardly for hunting down
the natives of that very soil with hounds; and should England now follow
the humiliating example? On the other side, there were plenty who eagerly
quoted all known instances of zooelogical warfare: all Oriental nations,
for instance, used elephants in war, and, no doubt, would gladly use
lions and tigers also, but for their extreme carnivorousness, and their
painful indifference to the distinction between friend and foe; why not,
then, use these dogs, comparatively innocent and gentle creatures? At any
rate, "something must be done;" the final argument always used, when a
bad or desperate project is to be made palatable. So it was voted at last
to send to Havana for an invoice of Spanish dogs, with their accompanying
chasseurs; and the efforts at persuading the Maroons were postponed till
the arrival of these additional persuasives. And when Col. Quarrell
finally set sail as commissioner to obtain the new allies, all scruples
of conscience vanished in the renewal of public courage and the chorus of
popular gratitude; a thing so desirable must be right; thrice they were
armed who knew their Quarrell just.

But after the parting notes of gratitude died away in the distance, the
commissioner began to discover that he was to have a hard time of it. He
sailed for Havana in a schooner manned with Spanish renegadoes, who
insisted on fighting every thing that came in their way,--first a Spanish
schooner, then a French one. He landed at Batabano, struck across the
mountains towards Havana, stopped at Besucal to call on the wealthy
Marquesa de San Felipe y San Jorge, grand patroness of dogs and
chasseurs, and finally was welcomed to Havana by Don Luis de las Casas,
who overlooked, for this occasion only, an injunction of his court
against admitting foreigners within his government; "the only accustomed
exception being," as Don Luis courteously assured him, "in favor of
foreign traders who came with new negroes." To be sure, the commissioner
had not brought any of these commodities; but then he had come to obtain
the means of capturing some, and so might pass for an irregular
practitioner of the privileged profession.

Accordingly, Don Guillermo Dawes Quarrell (so ran his passport) found no
difficulty in obtaining permission from the governor to buy as many dogs
as he desired. When, however, he carelessly hinted at the necessity of
taking, also, a few men who should have care of the dogs,--this being,
after all, the essential part of his expedition,--Don Luis de las Casas
put on instantly a double force of courtesy, and assured him of the
entire impossibility of recruiting a single Spaniard for English service.
Finally, however, he gave permission and passports for six chasseurs.
Under cover of this, the commissioner lost no time in enlisting forty; he
got them safe to Batabano; but at the last moment, learning the state of
affairs, they refused to embark on such very irregular authority. When he
had persuaded them, at length, the officer of the fort interposed
objections. This was not to be borne, so Don Guillermo bribed him and
silenced him; a dragoon was, however, sent to report to the governor; Don
Guillermo sent a messenger after him, and bribed him too; and thus at
length, after myriad rebuffs, and after being obliged to spend the last
evening at a puppet-show in which the principal figure was a burlesque on
his own personal peculiarities, the weary Don Guillermo, with his crew of
renegadoes, and his forty chasseurs and their one hundred and four
muzzled dogs, set sail for Jamaica.

These new allies were certainly something formidable, if we may trust the
pictures and descriptions in Dallas's History. The chasseur was a tall,
meagre, swarthy Spaniard or mulatto, lightly clad in cotton shirt and
drawers, with broad straw hat, and moccasins of raw-hide; his belt
sustaining his long, straight, flat sword or _machete_, like an iron bar
sharpened at one end; and he wore by the same belt three cotton leashes
for his three dogs, sometimes held also by chains. The dogs were a fierce
breed, crossed between hound and mastiff, never unmuzzled but for attack,
and accompanied by smaller dogs called _finders_. It is no wonder, when
these wild and powerful creatures were landed at Montego Bay, that terror
ran through the town, doors were everywhere closed, and windows crowded;
not a negro dared to stir; and the muzzled dogs, infuriated by
confinement on shipboard, filled the silent streets with their noisy
barking and the rattling of their chains.

How much would have come of all this in actual conflict, does not appear.
The Maroons had already been persuaded to make peace upon certain
conditions and guaranties,--a decision probably accelerated by the
terrible rumors of the bloodhounds, though they never saw them. It was
the declared opinion of the Assembly, confirmed by that of Gen. Walpole,
that "nothing could be clearer than that, if they had been off the
island, the rebels could not have been induced to surrender."
Nevertheless, a treaty was at last made, without the direct intervention
of the quadrupeds. Again commissioners went up among the mountains to
treat with negotiators at first invisible; again were hats and jackets
interchanged, not without coy reluctance on the part of the well-dressed
Englishmen; and a solemn agreement was effected. The most essential part
of the bargain was a guaranty of continued independence, demanded by the
suspicious Maroons. Gen. Walpole, however, promptly pledged himself that
no such unfair advantage should be taken of them as had occurred with the
hostages previously surrendered, who were placed in irons; nor should any
attempt be made to remove them from the island. It is painful to add,
that this promise was outrageously violated by the Colonial Government,
to the lasting grief of Gen. Walpole, on the ground that the Maroons had
violated the treaty by a slight want of punctuality in complying with its
terms, and by remissness in restoring the fugitive slaves who had taken
refuge among them. As many of the tribe as surrendered, therefore, were
at once placed in confinement, and ultimately shipped from Port Royal to
Halifax, to the number of six hundred, on the 6th of June, 1796. For the
credit of English honor, we rejoice to know that Gen. Walpole not merely
protested against this utter breach of faith, but indignantly declined
the sword of honor which the Assembly had voted him, in its gratitude,
and then retired from military service forever.

The remaining career of this portion of the Maroons is easily told. They
were first dreaded by the inhabitants of Halifax, then welcomed when
seen, and promptly set to work on the citadel, then in process of
reconstruction, where the "Maroon Bastion" still remains,--their only
visible memorial. Two commissioners had charge of them, one being the
redoubtable Col. Quarrell; and twenty-five thousand pounds were
appropriated for their temporary support. Of course they did not prosper;
pensioned colonists never do, for they are not compelled into habits of
industry. After their delicious life in the mountains of Jamaica, it
seemed rather monotonous to dwell upon that barren soil,--for theirs was
such that two previous colonies had deserted it,--and in a climate where
winter lasts seven months in the year. They had a schoolmaster, and he
was also a preacher; but they did not seem to appreciate that luxury of
civilization, utterly refusing, on grounds of conscience, to forsake
polygamy, and, on grounds of personal comfort, to listen to the doctrinal
discourses of their pastor, who was an ardent Sandemanian. They smoked
their pipes during service time, and left Old Montagu, who still
survived, to lend a vicarious attention to the sermon. One discourse he
briefly reported as follows, very much to the point: "Massa parson say no
mus tief, no mus meddle wid somebody wife, no mus quarrel, mus set down
softly." So they sat down very softly, and showed an extreme
unwillingness to get up again. But, not being naturally an idle race,--at
least, in Jamaica the objection lay rather on the other side,--they soon
grew tired of this inaction. Distrustful of those about them, suspicious
of all attempts to scatter them among the community at large, frozen by
the climate, and constantly petitioning for removal to a milder one, they
finally wearied out all patience. A long dispute ensued between the
authorities of Nova Scotia and Jamaica, as to which was properly
responsible for their support; and thus the heroic race, that for a
century and a half had sustained themselves in freedom in Jamaica, were
reduced to the position of troublesome and impracticable paupers,
shuttlecocks between two selfish parishes. So passed their unfortunate
lives, until, in 1800, their reduced population was transported to Sierra
Leone, at a cost of six thousand pounds; since which they disappear from

It was judged best not to interfere with those bodies of Maroons which
had kept aloof from the late outbreak, at the Accompong settlement, and
elsewhere. They continued to preserve a qualified independence, and
retain it even now. In 1835, two years after the abolition of slavery in
Jamaica, there were reported sixty families of Maroons as residing at
Accompong Town, eighty families at Moore Town, one hundred and ten
families at Charles Town, and twenty families at Scott Hall, making two
hundred and seventy families in all,--each station being, as of old,
under the charge of a superintendent. But there can be little doubt,
that, under the influences of freedom, they are rapidly intermingling
with the mass of colored population in Jamaica.

The story of the exiled Maroons attracted attention in high quarters, in
its time: the wrongs done to them were denounced in Parliament by
Sheridan, and mourned by Wilberforce; while the employment of bloodhounds
against them was vindicated by Dundas, and the whole conduct of the
Colonial Government defended, through thick and thin, by Bryan Edwards.
This thorough partisan even had the assurance to tell Mr. Wilberforce, in
Parliament, that he knew the Maroons, from personal knowledge, to be
cannibals, and that, if a missionary were sent among them in Nova Scotia,
they would immediately eat him; a charge so absurd that he did not
venture to repeat it in his History of the West Indies, though his
injustice to the Maroons is even there so glaring as to provoke the
indignation of the more moderate Dallas. But, in spite of Mr. Edwards,
the public indignation ran quite high in England, against the bloodhounds
and their employers, so that the home ministry found it necessary to send
a severe reproof to the Colonial Government. For a few years the tales of
the Maroons thus emerged from mere colonial annals, and found their way
into annual registers and parliamentary debates; but they have long since
vanished from popular memory. Their record still retains its interest,
however, as that of one of the heroic races of the world; and all the
more, because it is with their kindred that the American nation has to
deal, in solving one of the most momentous problems of its future career.


When that eccentric individual, Capt. John Gabriel Stedman, resigned his
commission in the English Navy, took the oath of abjuration, and was
appointed ensign in the Scots brigade employed for two centuries by
Holland, he little knew that "their High Mightinesses the States of the
United Provinces" would send him out, within a year, to the forests of
Guiana, to subdue rebel negroes. He never imagined that the year 1773
would behold him beneath the rainy season in a tropical country, wading
through marshes and splashing through lakes, exploring with his feet for
submerged paths, commanding impracticable troops, and commanded by an
insufferable colonel, feeding on greegree worms and fed upon by
mosquitos, howled at by jaguars, hissed at by serpents, and shot at by
those exceedingly unattainable gentlemen, "still longed for, never seen,"
the Maroons of Surinam.

Yet, as our young ensign sailed up the Surinam River, the world of tropic
beauty came upon him with enchantment. Dark, moist verdure was close
around him, rippling waters below; the tall trees of the jungle and the
low mangroves beneath were all hung with long vines and lianas, a maze of
cordage, like a fleet at anchor; lithe monkeys travelled ceaselessly up
and down these airy paths, in armies, bearing their young, like
knapsacks, on their backs; macaws and humming-birds, winged jewels, flew
from tree to tree. As they neared Paramaribo, the river became a smooth
canal among luxuriant plantations; the air was perfumed music, redolent
of orange-blossoms and echoing with the songs of birds and the sweet
plash of oars; gay barges came forth to meet them; "while groups of naked
boys and girls were promiscuously playing and flouncing, like so many
tritons and mermaids, in the water." And when the troops
disembarked,--five hundred fine young men, the oldest not thirty, all
arrayed in new uniforms and bearing orange-flowers in their caps, a
bridal wreath for beautiful Guiana,--it is no wonder that the Creole
ladies were in ecstasy; and the boyish recruits little foresaw the day,
when, reduced to a few dozens, barefooted and ragged as filibusters,
their last survivors would gladly re-embark from a country beside which
even Holland looked dry and even Scotland comfortable.

For over all that earthly paradise there brooded not alone its terrible
malaria, its days of fever and its nights of deadly chill, but the worse
shadows of oppression and of sin, which neither day nor night could
banish. The first object which met Stedman's eye, as he stepped on shore,
was the figure of a young girl stripped to receive two hundred lashes,
and chained to a hundred-pound weight. And the few first days gave a
glimpse into a state of society worthy of this exhibition,--men without
mercy, women without modesty, the black man a slave to the white man's
passions, and the white man a slave to his own. The later West-Indian
society in its worst forms is probably a mere dilution of the utter
profligacy of those early days. Greek or Roman decline produced nothing
more debilitating or destructive than the ordinary life of a Surinam
planter, and his one virtue of hospitality only led to more unbridled
excesses and completed the work of vice. No wonder that Stedman himself,
who, with all his peculiarities, was essentially simple and manly, soon
became disgusted, and made haste to get into the woods and cultivate the
society of the Maroons.

The rebels against whom this expedition was sent were not the original
Maroons of Surinam, but a later generation. The originals had long since
established their independence, and their leaders were flourishing their
honorary silver-mounted canes in the streets of Paramaribo. Fugitive
negroes had begun to establish themselves in the woods from the time when
the colony was finally ceded by the English to the Dutch, in 1674. The
first open outbreak occurred in 1726, when the plantations on the
Seramica River revolted; it was found impossible to subdue them, and the
government very imprudently resolved to make an example of eleven
captives, and thus terrify the rest of the rebels. They were tortured to
death, eight of the eleven being women: this drove the others to madness,
and plantation after plantation was visited with fire and sword. After a
long conflict, their chief, Adoe, was induced to make a treaty, in 1749.
The rebels promised to keep the peace, and in turn were promised freedom,
money, tools, clothes, and, finally, arms and ammunition.

But no permanent peace was ever made upon a barrel of gunpowder as a
basis; and, of course, an explosion followed this one. The colonists
naturally evaded the last item of the bargain; and the rebels, receiving
the gifts, and remarking the omission of the part of Hamlet, asked
contemptuously if the Europeans expected negroes to subsist on combs and
looking-glasses? New hostilities at once began; a new body of slaves on
the Ouca River revolted; the colonial government was changed in
consequence, and fresh troops shipped from Holland; and after four
different embassies had been sent into the woods, the rebels began to
listen to reason. The black generals, Capt. Araby and Capt. Boston,
agreed upon a truce for a year, during which the colonial government
might decide for peace or war, the Maroons declaring themselves
indifferent. Finally the government chose peace, delivered ammunition,
and made a treaty, in 1761; the white and black plenipotentiaries
exchanged English oaths and then negro oaths, each tasting a drop of the
other's blood during the latter ceremony, amid a volley of remarkable
incantations from the black _gadoman_ or priest. After some final
skirmishes, in which the rebels almost always triumphed, the treaty was
at length accepted by all the various villages of Maroons. Had they known
that at this very time five thousand slaves in Berbice were just rising
against their masters, and were looking to them for assistance, the
result might have been different; but this fact had not reached them, nor
had the rumors of insurrection in Brazil among negro and Indian slaves.
They consented, therefore, to the peace. "They write from Surinam," says
the "Annual Register" for Jan. 23, 1761, "that the Dutch governor,
finding himself unable to subdue the rebel negroes of that country by
force, hath wisely followed the example of Gov. Trelawney at Jamaica, and
concluded an amicable treaty with them; in consequence of which, all the
negroes of the woods are acknowledged to be free, and all that is passed
is buried in oblivion." So ended a war of thirty-six years; and in
Stedman's day the original three thousand Ouca and Seramica Maroons had
multiplied, almost incredibly, to fifteen thousand.

But for those slaves not sharing in this revolt it was not so easy to
"bury the whole past in oblivion." The Maroons had told some very plain
truths to the white ambassadors, and had frankly advised them, if they
wished for peace, to mend their own manners and treat their chattels
humanely. But the planters learned nothing by experience,--and, indeed,
the terrible narrations of Stedman were confirmed by those of Alexander,
so lately as 1831. Of course, therefore, in a colony comprising eighty
thousand blacks to four thousand whites, other revolts were stimulated by
the success of this one. They reached their highest point in 1772, when
an insurrection on the Cottica River, led by a negro named Baron, almost
gave the finishing blow to the colony; the only adequate protection being
found in a body of slaves liberated expressly for that purpose,--a
dangerous and humiliating precedent. "We have been obliged to set three
or four hundred of our stoutest negroes free to defend us," says an
honest letter from Surinam, in the "Annual Register" for Sept. 5, 1772.
Fortunately for the safety of the planters, Baron presumed too much upon
his numbers, and injudiciously built a camp too near the seacoast, in a
marshy fastness, from which he was finally ejected by twelve hundred
Dutch troops, though the chief work was done, Stedman thinks, by the
"black rangers" or liberated slaves. Checked by this defeat, he again
drew back into the forests, resuming his guerrilla warfare against the
plantations. Nothing could dislodge him; blood-hounds were proposed, but
the moisture of the country made them useless: and thus matters stood
when Stedman came sailing, amid orange-blossoms and music, up the winding

Our young officer went into the woods in the condition of Falstaff,
"heinously unprovided." Coming from the unbounded luxury of the
plantations, he found himself entering "the most horrid and impenetrable
forests, where no kind of refreshment was to be had,"--he being
provisioned only with salt pork and pease. After a wail of sorrow for
this inhuman neglect, he bursts into a gush of gratitude for the private
generosity which relieved his wants at the last moment by the following
list of supplies: "24 bottles best claret, 12 ditto Madeira, 12 ditto
porter, 12 ditto cider, 12 ditto rum, 2 large loaves white sugar, 2
gallons brandy, 6 bottles muscadel, 2 gallons lemon-juice, 2 gallons
ground coffee, 2 large Westphalia hams, 2 salted bullocks' tongues, 1
bottle Durham mustard, 6 dozen spermaceti candles." The hams and tongues
seem, indeed, rather a poor halfpennyworth to this intolerable deal of
sack; but this instance of Surinam privation in those days may open some
glimpse at the colonial standards of comfort. "From this specimen,"
moralizes our hero, "the reader will easily perceive, that, if some of
the inhabitants of Surinam show themselves the disgrace of the creation
by their cruelties and brutality, others, by their social feelings,
approve themselves an ornament to the human species. With this instance
of virtue and generosity I therefore conclude this chapter."

But the troops soon had to undergo worse troubles than those of the
commissariat. The rainy season had just set in. "As for the negroes,"
said Mr. Klynhaus, the last planter with whom they parted, "you may
depend on never seeing a soul of them, unless they attack you off guard;
but the climate, the climate, will murder you all." Bringing with them
constitutions already impaired by the fevers and dissipation of
Paramaribo, the poor boys began to perish long before they began to
fight. Wading in water all day, hanging their hammocks over water at
night, it seemed a moist existence, even compared with the climate of
England and the soil of Holland. It was a case of "Invent a shovel, and
be a magistrate," even more than Andrew Marvell found it in the United
Provinces. In fact, Raynal evidently thinks that nothing but Dutch
experience in hydraulics could ever have cultivated Surinam.

The two gunboats which held one division of the expedition were merely
old sugar-barges, roofed over with boards, and looking like coffins. They
were pleasantly named the "Charon" and the "Cerberus," but Stedman
thought that the "Sudden Death" and the "Wilful Murder" would have been
titles more appropriate. The chief duty of the troops consisted in lying
at anchor at the intersections of wooded streams, waiting for rebels who
never came. It was dismal work, and the raw recruits were full of the
same imaginary terrors which have haunted other heroes less severely
tested: the monkeys never rattled the cocoa-nuts against the trees, but
they all heard the axes of Maroon wood-choppers; and when a sentinel
declared, one night, that he had seen a negro go down the river in a
canoe, with his pipe lighted, the whole force was called to arms--against
a firefly. In fact, the insect race brought by far the most substantial
dangers. The rebels eluded the military, but the chigres, locusts,
scorpions, and bush-spiders were ever ready to come half-way to meet
them; likewise serpents and alligators proffered them the freedom of the
forests, and exhibited a hospitality almost excessive. Snakes twenty feet
long hung their seductive length from the trees; jaguars volunteered
their society through almost impenetrable marshes; vampire bats perched
by night with lulling endearments upon the toes of the soldiers. When
Stedman describes himself as killing thirty-eight mosquitoes at one
stroke, we must perhaps pardon something to the spirit of martyrdom. But
when we add to these the other woes of his catalogue,--prickly-heat,
ringworm, putrid-fever, "the growling of Col. Fougeaud, dry sandy
savannas, unfordable marshes, burning hot days, cold and damp nights,
heavy rains, and short allowance,"--we can hardly wonder that three
captains died in a month, and that in two months his detachment of
forty-two was reduced to a miserable seven.

Yet, through all this, Stedman himself kept his health. His theory of the
matter almost recalls the time-honored prescription of "A light heart and
a thin pair of breeches," for he attributes his good condition to his
keeping up his spirits and kicking off his shoes. Daily bathing in the
river had also something to do with it; and, indeed, hydropathy was first
learned of the West-India Maroons,--who did their "packing" in wet
clay,--and was carried by Dr. Wright to England. But his extraordinary
personal qualities must have contributed most to his preservation. Never
did a "meagre, starved, black, burnt, and ragged tatterdemalion," as he
calls himself, carry about him such a fund of sentiment, philosophy,
poetry, and art. He had a great faculty for sketching, as the engravings
in his volumes, with all their odd peculiarities, show; his deepest woes
he coined always into couplets, and fortified himself against hopeless
despair with Ovid and Valerius Flaccus, Pope's Homer and Thomson's
"Seasons." Above all reigned his passion for natural history, a ready
balm for every ill. Here he was never wanting to the occasion; and, to do
justice to Dutch Guiana, the occasion never was wanting to him. Were his
men sickening, the peccaries were always healthy without the camp, and
the cockroaches within; just escaping from a she-jaguar, he satisfies
himself, ere he flees, that the print of her claws on the sand is
precisely the size of a pewter dinner-plate; bitten by a scorpion, he
makes sure of a scientific description in case he should expire of the
bite; is the water undrinkable, there is at least some rational interest
in the number of legs possessed by the centipedes which pre-occupy it.
This is the highest triumph of man over his accidents, when he thus turns
his pains to gains, and becomes an entomologist in the tropics.

Meanwhile the rebels kept their own course in the forests, and
occasionally descended upon plantations beside the very river on whose
upper waters the useless troops were sickening and dying. Stedman himself
made several campaigns, with long intervals of illness, before he came
any nearer to the enemy than to burn a deserted village or destroy a
rice-field. Sometimes they left the "Charon" and the "Cerberus" moored by
grape-vines to the pine-trees, and made expeditions into the woods,
single file. Our ensign, true to himself, gives the minutest schedule of
the order of march, and the oddest little diagram of manikins with cocked
hats, and blacker manikins bearing burdens. First, negroes with
bill-hooks to clear the way; then the van-guard; then the main body,
interspersed with negroes bearing boxes of ball-cartridges; then the
rear-guard, with many more negroes, bearing camp-equipage, provisions,
and new rum, surnamed "kill-devil," and appropriately followed by a sort
of palanquin for the disabled. Thus arrayed, they marched valorously
forth into the woods, to some given point; then they turned, marched back
to the boats, then rowed back to camp, and straightway went into the
hospital. Immediately upon this, the coast being clear, Baron and his
rebels marched out again, and proceeded to business.

In the course of years, these Maroons had acquired their own peculiar
tactics. They built stockaded fortresses on marshy islands, accessible by
fords which they alone could traverse. These they defended further by
sharp wooden pins, or crows'-feet, concealed beneath the surface of the
miry ground,--and, latterly, by the more substantial protection of
cannon, which they dragged into the woods, and learned to use. Their
bush-fighting was unique. Having always more men than weapons, they
arranged their warriors in threes,--one to use the musket, another to
take his place if wounded or slain, and a third to drag away the body.
They had Indian stealthiness and swiftness, with more than Indian
discipline; discharged their fire with some approach to regularity, in
three successive lines, the signals being given by the captain's horn.
They were full of ingenuity: marked their movements for each other by
scattered leaves and blazed trees; ran zigzag, to dodge bullets; gave
wooden guns to their unarmed men, to frighten the plantation negroes on
their guerrilla expeditions; and borrowed the red caps of the black
rangers whom they slew, to bewilder the aim of the others. One of them,
finding himself close to the muzzle of a ranger's gun, threw up his hand
hastily. "What!" he exclaimed, "will you fire on one of your own party?"
"God forbid!" cried the ranger, dropping his piece, and was instantly
shot through the body by the Maroon, who the next instant had disappeared
in the woods.

These rebels were no saints: their worship was obi-worship; the women had
not far outgrown the plantation standard of chastity, and the men drank
"kill-devil" like their betters. Stedman was struck with the difference
between the meaning of the word "good" in rebellious circles and in
reputable. "It must, however, be observed, that what we Europeans call a
good character was by the Africans looked upon as detestable, especially
by those born in the woods, whose only crime consisted in avenging the
wrongs done to their forefathers." But if martial virtues be virtues,
such were theirs. Not a rebel ever turned traitor or informer, ever
flinched in battle or under torture, ever violated a treaty or even a
private promise. But it was their power of endurance which was especially
astounding; Stedman is never weary of paying tribute to this, or of
illustrating it in sickening detail; indeed, the records of the world
show nothing to surpass it; "the lifted axe, the agonizing wheel," proved
powerless to subdue it; with every limb lopped, every bone broken, the
victims yet defied their tormentors, laughed, sang, and died triumphant.

Of course they repaid these atrocities in kind. If they had not, it would
have demonstrated the absurd paradox, that slavery educates higher
virtues than freedom. It bewilders all the relations of human
responsibility, if we expect the insurrectionary slave to commit no
outrages; if slavery has not depraved him, it has done him little harm.
If it be the normal tendency of bondage to produce saints like Uncle Tom,
let us all offer ourselves at auction immediately. It is Cassy and Dred
who are the normal protest of human nature against systems which degrade
it. Accordingly, these poor, ignorant Maroons, who had seen their
brothers and sisters flogged, burned, mutilated, hanged on iron hooks,
broken on the wheel, and had been all the while solemnly assured that
this was paternal government, could only repay the paternalism in the
same fashion, when they had the power. Stedman saw a negro chained to a
red-hot distillery-furnace; he saw disobedient slaves, in repeated
instances, punished by the amputation of a leg, and sent to boat-service
for the rest of their lives; and of course the rebels borrowed these
suggestions. They could bear to watch their captives expire under the
lash, for they had previously watched their parents. If the government
rangers received twenty-five florins for every rebel right-hand which
they brought in, of course they risked their own right hands in the
pursuit. The difference was, that the one brutality was that of a mighty
state, and the other was only the retaliation of the victims. And after
all, Stedman never ventures to assert that the imitation equalled the
original, or that the Maroons had inflicted nearly so much as they had

The leaders of the rebels, especially, were men who had each his own
story of wrongs to tell. Baron, the most formidable, had been the slave
of a Swedish gentleman, who had taught him to read and write, taken him
to Europe, promised to manumit him on his return--and then, breaking his
word, sold him to a Jew. Baron refused to work for his new master, was
publicly flogged under the gallows, fled to the woods next day, and
became the terror of the colony. Joli Coeur, his first captain, was
avenging the cruel wrongs of his mother. Bonny, another leader, was born
in the woods, his mother having taken refuge there just previously, to
escape from his father, who was also his master. Cojo, another, had
defended his master against the insurgents until he was obliged by ill
usage to take refuge among them; and he still bore upon his wrist, when
Stedman saw him, a silver band, with the inscription,--"True to the
Europeans." In dealing with wrongs like these, Mr. Carlyle would have
found the despised negroes quite as ready as himself to take the
total-abstinence pledge against rose-water.

In his first two-months' campaign, Stedman never saw the trace of a
Maroon; in the second, he once came upon their trail; in the third, one
captive was brought in, two surrendered themselves voluntarily, and a
large party was found to have crossed a river within a mile of the camp,
ferrying themselves on palm-trunks, according to their fashion. Deep
swamps and scorching sands, toiling through briers all day, and sleeping
at night in hammocks suspended over stagnant water, with weapons
supported on sticks crossed beneath,--all this was endured for two years
and a half, before Stedman personally came in sight of the enemy.

On Aug. 20, 1775, the troops found themselves at last in the midst of the
rebel settlements. These villages and forts bore a variety of expressive
names, such as "Hide me, O thou surrounding verdure," "I shall be taken,"
"The woods lament for me," "Disturb me, if you dare," "Take a tasting, if
you like it," "Come, try me, if you be men," "God knows me, and none
else," "I shall moulder before I shall be taken." Some were only
plantation-grounds with a few huts, and were easily laid waste; but all
were protected more or less by their mere situations. Quagmires
surrounded them, covered by a thin crust of verdure, sometimes broken
through by one man's weight, when the victim sank hopelessly into the
black and bottomless depths below. In other directions there was a solid
bottom, but inconveniently covered by three or four feet of water,
through which the troops waded breast-deep, holding their muskets high in
the air, unable to reload them when once discharged, and liable to be
picked off by rebel scouts, who ingeniously posted themselves in the tops
of palm-trees.

Through this delectable region Col. Fougeaud and his followers slowly
advanced, drawing near the fatal shore where Capt. Meyland's detachment
had just been defeated, and where their mangled remains still polluted
the beach. Passing this point of danger without attack, they suddenly met
a small party of rebels, each bearing on his back a beautifully woven
hamper of snow-white rice: these loads they threw down, and disappeared.
Next appeared an armed body from the same direction, who fired upon them
once, and swiftly retreated; and in a few moments the soldiers came upon
a large field of standing rice, beyond which lay, like an amphitheatre,
the rebel village. But between the village and the field had been piled
successive defences of logs and branches, behind which simple redoubts
the Maroons lay concealed. A fight ensued, lasting forty minutes, during
which nearly every soldier and ranger was wounded; but, to their great
amazement, not one was killed. This was an enigma to them until after the
skirmish, when the surgeon found that most of them had been struck, not
by bullets, but by various substitutes, such as pebbles, coat-buttons,
and bits of silver coin, which had penetrated only skin deep. "We also
observed that several of the poor rebel negroes, who had been shot, had
only the shards of Spa-water cans instead of flints, which could seldom
do execution; and it was certainly owing to these circumstances that we
came off so well."

The rebels at length retreated, first setting fire to their village; a
hundred or more lightly built houses, some of them two stories high, were
soon in flames; and as this conflagration occupied the only neck of land
between two impassable morasses, the troops were unable to follow, and
the Maroons had left nothing but rice-fields to be pillaged. That night
the military force was encamped in the woods; their ammunition was almost
gone, so they were ordered to lie flat on the ground, even in case of
attack; they could not so much as build a fire. Before midnight an attack
was made on them, partly with bullets, and partly with words. The Maroons
were all around them in the forest, but their object was a puzzle; they
spent most of the night in bandying compliments with the black rangers,
whom they alternately denounced, ridiculed, and challenged to single
combat. At last Fougeaud and Stedman joined in the conversation, and
endeavored to make this midnight volley of talk the occasion for a
treaty. This was received with inextinguishable laughter, which echoed
through the woods like a concert of screech-owls, ending in a _charivari_
of horns and hallooing. The colonel, persisting, offered them "life,
liberty, victuals, drink, and all they wanted;" in return, they ridiculed
him unmercifully. He was a half-starved Frenchman, who had run away from
his own country, and would soon run away from theirs; they profoundly
pitied him and his soldiers; they would scorn to spend powder on such
scarecrows; they would rather feed and clothe them, as being poor white
slaves, hired to be shot at, and starved for fourpence a day. But as for
the planters, overseers, and rangers, they should die, every one of them,
and Bonny should be governor of the colony. "After this, they tinkled
their bill-hooks, fired a volley, and gave three cheers; which, being
answered by the rangers, the clamor ended, and the rebels dispersed with
the rising sun."

Very aimless nonsense it certainly appeared. But the next day put a new
aspect on it; for it was found, that, under cover of all this noise, the
Maroons had been busily occupied all night, men, women, and children, in
preparing and filling great hampers of the finest rice, yams, and
cassava, from the adjacent provision-grounds, to be used for subsistence
during their escape, leaving only chaff and refuse for the hungry
soldiers. "This was certainly such a masterly trait of generalship in a
savage people, whom we affected to despise, as would have done honor to
any European commander."

From this time the Maroons fulfilled their threats. Shooting down without
mercy every black ranger who came within their reach,--one of these
rangers being, in Stedman's estimate, worth six white soldiers,--they
left Col. Fougeaud and his regulars to die of starvation and fatigue. The
enraged colonel, "finding himself thus foiled by a naked negro, swore he
would pursue Bonny to the world's end." But he never got any nearer than
to Bonny's kitchen-gardens. He put the troops on half-allowance, sent
back for provisions and ammunition,--and within ten days changed his
mind, and retreated to the settlements in despair. Soon after, this very
body of rebels, under Bonny's leadership, plundered two plantations in
the vicinity, and nearly captured a powder-magazine, which was, however,
successfully defended by some armed slaves.

For a year longer these expeditions continued. The troops never gained a
victory, and they lost twenty men for every rebel killed; but they
gradually checked the plunder of plantations, destroyed villages and
planting-grounds, and drove the rebels, for the time at least, into the
deeper recesses of the woods, or into the adjacent province of Cayenne.
They had the slight satisfaction of burning Bonny's own house, a
two-story wooden hut, built in the fashion of our frontier guardhouses.
They often took single prisoners,--some child, born and bred in the
woods, and frightened equally by the first sight of a white man and of a
cow,--or some warrior, who, on being threatened with torture, stretched
forth both hands in disdain, and said, with Indian eloquence, "These
hands have made tigers tremble." As for Stedman, he still went
barefooted, still quarrelled with his colonel, still sketched the scenery
and described the reptiles, still reared greegree worms for his private
kitchen, still quoted good poetry and wrote execrable, still pitied all
the sufferers around him, black, white, and red, until finally he and his
comrades were ordered back to Holland in 1776.

Among all that wasted regiment of weary and broken-down men, there was
probably no one but Stedman who looked backward with longing as they
sailed down the lovely Surinam. True, he bore all his precious
collections with him,--parrots and butterflies, drawings on the backs of
old letters, and journals kept on bones and cartridges. But he had left
behind him a dearer treasure; for there runs through all his eccentric
narrative a single thread of pure romance, in his love for his beautiful
quadroon wife and his only son.

Within a month after his arrival in the colony, our susceptible ensign
first saw Joanna, a slave-girl of fifteen, at the house of an intimate
friend. Her extreme beauty and modesty first fascinated him, and then her
piteous narrative,--for she was the daughter of a planter, who had just
gone mad and died in despair from the discovery that he could not legally
emancipate his own children from slavery. Soon after, Stedman was
dangerously ill, was neglected and alone; fruits and cordials were
anonymously sent to him, which proved at last to have come from Joanna;
and she came herself, ere long, and nursed him, grateful for the visible
sympathy he had shown to her. This completed the conquest; the passionate
young Englishman, once recovered, loaded her with presents which she
refused; talked of purchasing her, and educating her in Europe, which she
also declined as burdening him too greatly; and finally, amid the
ridicule of all good society in Paramaribo, surmounted all legal
obstacles, and was united to the beautiful girl in honorable marriage. He
provided a cottage for her, where he spent his furloughs, in perfect
happiness, for four years.

The simple idyl of their loves was unbroken by any stain or
disappointment, and yet always shadowed with the deepest anxiety for the
future. Though treated with the utmost indulgence, she was legally a
slave, and so was the boy of whom she became the mother. Cojo, her uncle,
was a captain among the rebels against whom her husband fought. And up to
the time when Stedman was ordered back to Holland, he was unable to
purchase her freedom; nor could he, until the very last moment, procure
the emancipation of his boy. His perfect delight at this last triumph,
when obtained, elicited some satire from his white friends. "While the
well-thinking few highly applauded my sensibility, many not only blamed
but publicly derided me for my paternal affection, which was called a
weakness, a whim." "Nearly forty beautiful boys and girls were left to
perpetual slavery by their parents of my acquaintance, and many of them
without being so much as once inquired after at all."

But Stedman was a true-hearted fellow, if his sentiment did sometimes run
to rodomontade; he left his Joanna only in the hope that a year or two in
Europe would repair his ruined fortunes, and he could return to treat
himself to the purchase of his own wedded wife. He describes, with
unaffected pathos, their parting scene,--though, indeed, there were
several successive partings,--and closes the description in a
characteristic manner: "My melancholy having surpassed all description, I
at last determined to weather one or two painful years in her absence;
and in the afternoon went to dissipate my mind at a Mr. Roux' cabinet of
Indian curiosities; where, as my eye chanced to fall on a rattlesnake, I
will, before I leave the colony, describe this dangerous reptile."

It was impossible to write the history of the Maroons of Surinam except
through the biography of our ensign (at last promoted captain), because
nearly all we know of them is through his quaint and picturesque
narrative, with its profuse illustrations by his own hand. It is not
fair, therefore, to end without chronicling his safe arrival in Holland,
on June 3, 1777. It is a remarkable fact, that, after his life in the
woods, even the Dutch looked slovenly to his eyes. "The inhabitants, who
crowded about us, appeared but a disgusting assemblage of ill-formed and
ill-dressed rabble,--so much had my prejudices been changed by living
among Indians and blacks: their eyes seemed to resemble those of a pig;
their complexions were like the color of foul linen; they seemed to have
no teeth, and to be covered over with rags and dirt. This prejudice,
however, was not against these people only, but against all Europeans in
general, when compared to the sparkling eyes, ivory teeth, shining skin,
and remarkable cleanliness of those I had left behind me." Yet, in spite
of these superior attractions, he never recrossed the Atlantic; for his
Joanna died soon after, and his promising son, being sent to the father,
was educated in England, became a midshipman in the navy, and was lost at
sea. With his elegy, in which the last depths of bathos are sadly sounded
by a mourning parent,--who is induced to print them only by "the effect
they had on the sympathetic and ingenious Mrs. Cowley,"--the "Narrative
of a Five Years' Expedition" closes.

The war, which had cost the government forty thousand pounds a year, was
ended, and left both parties essentially as when it began. The Maroons
gradually returned to their old abodes, and, being unmolested themselves,
left others unmolested thenceforward. Originally three thousand,--in
Stedman's time, fifteen thousand,--they were estimated at seventy
thousand by Capt. Alexander, who saw Guiana in 1831; and a later American
scientific expedition, having visited them in their homes, reported them
as still enjoying their wild freedom, and multiplying, while the Indians
on the same soil decay. The beautiful forests of Surinam still make the
morning gorgeous with their beauty, and the night deadly with their
chill; the stately palm still rears, a hundred feet in air, its straight
gray shaft and its head of verdure; the mora builds its solid, buttressed
trunk, a pedestal for the eagle; the pine of the tropics holds out its
myriad hands with water-cups for the rain and dews, where all the birds
and the monkeys may drink their fill; the trees are garlanded with
epiphytes and convolvuli, and anchored to the earth by a thousand vines.
High among their branches, the red and yellow mocking-birds still build
their hanging nests, uncouth storks and tree-porcupines cling above, and
the spotted deer and the tapir drink from the sluggish stream below. The
night is still made noisy with a thousand cries of bird and beast; and
the stillness of the sultry noon is broken by the slow tolling of the
_campanero_, or bell-bird, far in the deep, dark woods, like the chime of
some lost convent. And as Nature is unchanged there, so apparently is
man; the Maroons still retain their savage freedom, still shoot their
wild game and trap their fish, still raise their rice and cassava, yams
and plantains,--still make cups from the gourd-tree and hammocks from the
silk-grass plant, wine from the palm-tree's sap, brooms from its leaves,
fishing-lines from its fibres, and salt from its ashes. Their life does
not yield, indeed, the very highest results of spiritual culture; its
mental and moral results may not come up to the level of civilization,
but they rise far above the level of slavery. In the changes of time, the
Maroons may yet elevate themselves into the one, but they will never
relapse into the other.


In exploring among dusty files of newspapers for the true records of
Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner, I have caught occasional glimpses of a plot
perhaps more wide in its outlines than that of either, which has lain
obscure in the darkness of half a century, traceable only in the
political events which dated from it, and the utter incorrectness of the
scanty traditions which assumed to preserve it. And though researches in
public libraries have only proved to me how rapidly the materials for
American history are vanishing,--since not one of our great institutions
possessed, a few years since, a file of any Southern newspaper of the
year 1800,--yet the little which I have gained may have an interest that
makes it worth preserving. Three times, at intervals of thirty years, did
a wave of unutterable terror sweep across the Old Dominion, bringing
thoughts of agony to every Virginian master, and of vague hope to every
Virginian slave. Each time did one man's name become a spell of dismay
and a symbol of deliverance. Each time did that name eclipse its
predecessor, while recalling it for a moment to fresher memory: John
Brown revived the story of Nat Turner, as in his day Nat Turner recalled
the vaster schemes of Gabriel.

On Sept. 8, 1800, a Virginia correspondent wrote thus to the Philadelphia
_United-States Gazette:_--

"For the week past, we have been under momentary expectation of a
rising among the negroes, who have assembled to the number of
nine hundred or a thousand, and threatened to massacre all the
whites. They are armed with desperate weapons, and secrete
themselves in the woods. God only knows our fate: we have strong
guards every night under arms."

It was no wonder, if there were foundation for such rumors. Liberty was
the creed or the cant of the day. France was being disturbed by
revolution, and England by Clarkson. In America, slavery was habitually
recognized as a misfortune and an error, only to be palliated by the
nearness of its expected end. How freely anti-slavery pamphlets had been
circulated in Virginia, we know from the priceless volumes collected and
annotated by Washington, and now preserved in the Boston Athenaeum.
Jefferson's "Notes on Virginia," itself an anti-slavery tract, had passed
through seven editions. Judge St. George Tucker, law-professor in William
and Mary College, had recently published his noble work, "A Dissertation
on Slavery, with a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of it in the State
of Virginia." From all this agitation, a slave insurrection was a mere
corollary. With so much electricity in the air, a single flash of
lightning foreboded all the terrors of the tempest. Let but a single
armed negro be seen or suspected, and at once, on many a lonely
plantation, there were trembling hands at work to bar doors and windows
that seldom had been even closed before, and there was shuddering when a
gray squirrel scrambled over the roof, or a shower of walnuts came down
clattering from the overhanging boughs.

Early in September, 1800, as a certain Mr. Moseley Sheppard, of Henrico
County in Virginia, was one day sitting in his counting-room, two negroes
knocked at the door, and were let in. They shut the door themselves, and
began to unfold an insurrectionary plot, which was subsequently repeated
by one of them, named Ben Woodfolk or Woolfolk, in presence of the court,
on the 15th of the same month.

He stated, that about the first of the preceding June, he had been asked
by a negro named Colonel George whether he would like to be made a Mason.
He refused; but George ultimately prevailed on him to have an interview
with a certain leading man among the blacks, named Gabriel. Arrived at
the place of meeting, he found many persons assembled, to whom a
preliminary oath was administered, that they would keep secret all which
they might hear. The leaders then began, to the dismay of this witness,
to allude to a plan of insurrection, which, as they stated, was already
far advanced toward maturity. Presently a man named Martin, Gabriel's
brother, proposed religious services, caused the company to be duly
seated, and began an impassioned exposition of Scripture, bearing upon
the perilous theme. The Israelites were glowingly portrayed as a type of
successful resistance to tyranny; and it was argued, that now, as then,
God would stretch forth his arm to save, and would strengthen a hundred
to overthrow a thousand. Thus passed, the witness stated, this
preparatory meeting. At a subsequent gathering the affair was brought to
a point; and the only difficult question was, whether to rise in
rebellion upon a certain Saturday, or upon the Sunday following. Gabriel
said that Saturday was the day already fixed, and that it must not be
altered; but George was for changing it to Sunday, as being more
convenient for the country negroes, who could travel on that day without
suspicion. Gabriel, however, said decisively that they had enough to
carry Richmond without them; and Saturday was therefore retained as the
momentous day.

This was the confession, so far as it is now accessible; and on the
strength of it, Ben Woolfolk was promptly pardoned by the court for all
his sins, past, present, or to come, and they proceeded with their
investigation. Of Gabriel little appeared to be known, except that he had
been the property of Thomas Prosser, a young man who had recently
inherited a plantation a few miles from Richmond, and who had the
reputation among his neighbors of "behaving with great barbarity to his
slaves." Gabriel was, however, reported to be "a fellow of courage and
intellect above his rank in life," to be about twenty-five years of age,
and to be guiltless of the alphabet.

Further inquiry made it appear that the preparations of the insurgents
were hardly adequate to any grand revolutionary design,--at least, if
they proposed to begin with open warfare. The commissariat may have been
well organized, for black Virginians are apt to have a prudent eye to the
larder; but the ordnance department and the treasury were as low as if
Secretary Floyd had been in charge of them. A slave called "Prosser's
Ben" testified that he went with Gabriel to see Ben Woolfolk, who was
going to Caroline County to enlist men, and that "Gabriel gave him three
shillings for himself and three other negroes, to be expended in
recruiting men." Their arms and ammunition, so far as reported, consisted
of a peck of bullets, ten pounds of powder, and twelve scythe-swords,
made by Gabriel's brother Solomon, and fitted with handles by Gabriel
himself. "These cutlasses," said subsequently a white eye-witness, "are
made of scythes cut in two and fixed into well-turned handles. I have
never seen arms so murderous. Those who still doubt the importance of the
conspiracy which has been so fortunately frustrated would shudder with
horror at the sight of these instruments of death." And as it presently
appeared that a conspirator named Scott had astonished his master by
accidentally pulling ten dollars from a ragged pocket which seemed
inadequate to the custody of ten cents, it was agreed that the plot might
still be dangerous, even though the resources seemed limited.

And indeed, as was soon discovered, the effective weapon of the
insurgents lay in the very audacity of their plan. If the current
statements of all the Virginia letter-writers were true, "nothing could
have been better contrived." It was to have taken effect on the first day
of September. The rendezvous for the blacks was to be a brook six miles
from Richmond. Eleven hundred men were to assemble there, and were to be
divided into three columns, their officers having been designated in
advance. All were to march on Richmond,--then a town of eight thousand
inhabitants,--under cover of night. The right wing was instantly to seize
upon the penitentiary building, just converted into an arsenal; while the
left wing was to take possession of the powder-house. These two columns
were to be armed chiefly with clubs, as their undertaking depended for
success upon surprise, and was expected to prevail without hard fighting.
But it was the central force, armed with muskets, cutlasses, knives, and
pikes, upon which the chief responsibility rested; these men were to
enter the town at both ends simultaneously, and begin a general carnage,
none being excepted save the French inhabitants, who were supposed for
some reason to be friendly to the negroes. In a very few hours, it was
thought, they would have entire control of the metropolis. And that this
hope was not in the least unreasonable, was shown by the subsequent
confessions of weakness from the whites. "They could scarcely have failed
of success," wrote the Richmond correspondent of the Boston _Chronicle_;
"for, after all, we could only muster four or five hundred men, of whom
not more than thirty had muskets."

For the insurgents, if successful, the penitentiary held several thousand
stand of arms; the powder-house was well stocked; the Capitol contained
the State treasury; the mills would give them bread; the control of the
bridge across James River would keep off enemies from beyond. Thus
secured and provided, they planned to issue proclamations summoning to
their standard "their fellow-negroes and the friends of humanity
throughout the continent." In a week, it was estimated, they would have
fifty thousand men on their side, with which force they could easily
possess themselves of other towns; and, indeed, a slave named John
Scott--possibly the dangerous possessor of the ten dollars--was already
appointed to head the attack on Petersburg. But in case of final failure,
the project included a retreat to the mountains, with their new-found
property. John Brown was therefore anticipated by Gabriel, sixty years
before, in believing the Virginia mountains to have been "created, from
the foundation of the world, as a place of refuge for fugitive slaves."

These are the statements of the contemporary witnesses; they are repeated
in many newspapers of the year 1800, and are in themselves clear and
consistent. Whether they are on the whole exaggerated or under-stated, it
is now impossible to say. It is certain that a Richmond paper of Sept. 12
(quoted in the New-York _Gazette_ of Sept. 18) declares that "the plot
has been entirely exploded, which was shallow; and, had the attempt been
made to carry it into execution, but little resistance would have been
required to render the scheme entirely abortive." But it is necessary to
remember that this is no more than the Charleston newspapers said at the
very crisis of Denmark Vesey's formidable plot. "Last evening," wrote a
lady from Charleston in 1822, "twenty-five hundred of our citizens were
under arms to guard our property and lives. But it is a subject _not to
be mentioned_ [so underscored]; and unless you hear of it elsewhere, say
nothing about it." Thus it is always hard to know whether to assume the
facts of an insurrection as above or below the estimates. This Virginian
excitement also happened at a period of intense political agitation, and
was seized upon as a boon by the Federalists. The very article above
quoted is ironically headed "Holy Insurrection," and takes its motto from
Jefferson, with profuse capital letters: "The Spirit of the Master is
abating, that of the Slave rising from the dust, his condition

In view of the political aspect thus given to the plot, and of its
ingenuity and thoroughness likewise, the Virginians were naturally
disposed to attribute to white men some share in it; and speculation
presently began to run wild. The newspapers were soon full of theories,
no two being alike, and no one credible. The plot originated, some said,
in certain handbills written by Jefferson's friend Callender, then in
prison at Richmond on a charge of sedition; these were circulated by two
French negroes, aided by a "United Irishman" calling himself a Methodist
preacher, and it was in consideration of these services that no Frenchman
was to be injured by the slaves. When Gabriel was arrested, the editor of
the _United-States Gazette_ affected much diplomatic surprise that no
letters were _yet_ found upon his person "from Fries, Gallatin, or Duane,
nor was he at the time of his capture accompanied by any United
Irishman." "He, however, acknowledges that there are others concerned,
and that he is not the principal instigator." All Federalists agreed that
the Southern Democratic talk was constructive insurrection,--which it
certainly was,---and they painted graphic pictures of noisy "Jacobins"
over their wine, and eager dusky listeners behind their chairs. "It is
evident that the French principles of liberty and equality have been
effused into the minds of the negroes, and that the incautious and
intemperate use of the words by some whites among us have inspired them
with hopes of success." "While the fiery Hotspurs of the State vociferate
their _French babble_ of the natural equality of man, the insulted negro
will be constantly stimulated to cast away his cords, and to sharpen his
pike." "It is, moreover, believed, though not positively known, that a
great many of our profligate and abandoned whites (who are distinguished
by the burlesque appellation of _Democrats_) are implicated with the
blacks, and would have joined them if they had commenced their
operations.... The Jacobin printers and their friends are panic-struck.
Never was terror more strongly depicted in the countenances of men."
These extracts from three different Federalist newspapers show the
amiable emotions of that side of the house; while Democratic Duane, in
the _Aurora_, could find no better repartee than to attribute the whole
trouble to the policy of the administration in renewing commercial
intercourse with San Domingo.

I have discovered in the Norfolk _Epitome of the Times_, for Oct. 9,
1800, a remarkable epistle written from Richmond Jail by the unfortunate
Callender himself. He indignantly denies the charges against the
Democrats, of complicity in dangerous plots, boldly retorting them upon
the Federalists. "An insurrection at this critical moment by the negroes
of the Southern States would have thrown every thing into confusion, and
consequently it was to have prevented the choice of electors in the whole
or the greater part of the States to the south of the Potomac. Such a
disaster must have tended directly to injure the interests of Mr.
Jefferson, and to promote the slender possibility of a second election of
Mr. Adams." And, to be sure, the _United-States Gazette_ followed up the
thing with a good, single-minded party malice which cannot be surpassed
in these present days, ending in such altitudes of sublime coolness as
the following: "The insurrection of the negroes in the Southern States,
which appears to be organized on the true French plan, must be decisive,
with every reflecting man in those States, of the election of Mr. Adams
and Gen. Pinckney. The military skill and approved bravery of the general
must be peculiarly valuable to his countrymen at these trying moments."
Let us have a military Vice-President, by all means, to meet this
formidable exigency of Gabriel's peck of bullets, and this unexplained
three shillings in the pocket of "Prosser's Ben"!

But Gabriel's campaign failed, like that of the Federalists; and the
appointed day brought disasters more fatal than even the sword of Gen.
Pinckney. The affrighted negroes declared that "the stars in their
courses fought against Sisera." The most furious tempest ever known in
Virginia burst upon the land that day, instead of an insurrection. Roads
and plantations were submerged. Bridges were carried away. The fords,
which then, as now, were the frequent substitutes for bridges in that
region, were rendered wholly impassable. The Brook Swamp, one of the most
important strategic points of the insurgents, was entirely inundated,
hopelessly dividing Prosser's farm from Richmond; the country negroes
could not get in, nor those from the city get out. The thousand men
dwindled to a few hundred, and these half paralyzed by superstition;
there was nothing to do but to dismiss them, and before they could
re-assemble they were betrayed.

That the greatest alarm was instantly created throughout the community,
there is no question. All the city of Richmond was in arms, and in all
large towns of the State the night-patrol was doubled. It is a little
amusing to find it formally announced, that "the Governor, impressed with
the magnitude of the danger, has appointed for himself three
aides-de-camp." A troop of United-States cavalry was ordered to Richmond.
Numerous arrests were made. Men were convicted on one day, and hanged on
the next,--five, six, ten, fifteen at a time, almost without evidence.
Three hundred dollars were offered by Gov. Monroe for the arrest of
Gabriel; as much more for another chief named Jack Bowler, _alias_
Ditcher; whereupon Bowler _alias_ Ditcher surrendered himself, but it
took some weeks to get upon the track of Gabriel. He was finally captured
at Norfolk, on board a schooner just arrived from Richmond, in whose hold
he had concealed himself for eleven days, having thrown overboard a
bayonet and bludgeon, which were his only arms. Crowds of people
collected to see him, including many of his own color. He was arrested on
Sept. 24, convicted on Oct. 3, and executed on Oct. 7; and it is known of
him further, only, that, like almost all leaders of slave insurrections,
he showed a courage which his enemies could not gainsay. "When he was
apprehended, he manifested the greatest marks of firmness and confidence,
showing not the least disposition to equivocate, or screen himself from
justice,"--but making no confession that could implicate any one else.
"The behavior of Gabriel under his misfortunes," said the Norfolk
_Epitome_ of Sept. 25, "was such as might be expected from a mind capable
of forming the daring project which he had conceived." The _United-States
Gazette_ for Oct. 9 states, more sarcastically, that "the general is said
to have manifested the utmost composure, and with the true spirit of
heroism seems ready to resign his high office, and even his life, rather
than gratify the officious inquiries of the Governor."

Some of these newspapers suggest that the authorities found it good
policy to omit the statement made by Gabriel, whatever it was. At any
rate, he assured them that he was by no means the sole instigator of the
affair; he could name many, even in Norfolk, who were more deeply
concerned. To his brother Solomon he is said to have stated that the real
head of the plot was Jack Bowler. Still another leader was "Gen. John
Scott," already mentioned, the slave of Mr. Greenhow, hired by Mr.
McCrea. He was captured by his employer in Norfolk, just as he was boldly
entering a public conveyance to escape; and the Baltimore _Telegraphe_
declared that he had a written paper directing him to apply to Alexander
Biddenhurst or Weddenhurst in Philadelphia, "corner of Coats Alley and
Budd Street, who would supply his needs." What became of this military
individual, or of his Philadelphia sympathizers, does not appear. But it
was noticed, as usually happens in such cases, that all the insurgents
had previously passed for saints. "It consists within my knowledge," says
one letter-writer, "that many of these wretches who were or would have
been partakers in the plot have been treated with the utmost tenderness
by their masters, and were more like children than slaves."

These appear to be all the details now accessible of this once famous
plot. They were not very freely published, even at the time. "The
minutiae of the conspiracy have not been detailed to the public," said
the Salem (Mass.) _Gazette_ of Oct. 7, "and perhaps, through a mistaken
notion of prudence and policy, will not be detailed in the Richmond
papers." The New-York _Commercial Advertiser_ of Oct. 13 was still more
explicit. "The trials of the negroes concerned in the late insurrection
are suspended until the opinions of the Legislature can be had on the
subject. This measure is said to be owing to the immense numbers who are
interested in the plot, whose death, should they all be found guilty and
be executed, will nearly produce the annihilation of the blacks in this
part of the country." And in the next issue of the same journal a
Richmond correspondent makes a similar statement, with the following
addition: "A conditional amnesty is perhaps expected. At the next session
of the Legislature [of Virginia], they took into consideration the
subject referred to them, in secret session, with closed doors. The whole
result of their deliberations has never yet been made public, as the
injunction of secrecy has never been removed. To satisfy the court, the
public, and themselves, they had a task so difficult to perform, that it
is not surprising that their deliberations were in secret."

It is a matter of historical interest to know that in these mysterious
sessions lay the germs of the American Colonization Society. A
correspondence was at once secretly commenced between the Governor of
Virginia and the President of the United States, with a view to securing
a grant of land whither troublesome slaves might be banished. Nothing
came of it then; but in 1801, 1802, and 1804, these attempts were
renewed. And finally, on Jan. 22, 1805, the following vote was passed,
still in secret session: "_Resolved_, that the Senators of this State in
the Congress of the United States be instructed, and the Representatives
be requested, to use their best efforts for the obtaining from the
General Government a competent portion of territory in the State of
Louisiana, to be appropriated to the residence of such people of color as
have been or shall be emancipated, or hereafter may become dangerous to
the public safety," etc. But of all these efforts nothing was known till
their record was accidentally discovered by Charles Fenton Mercer in
1816. He at once brought the matter to light, and moved a similar
resolution in the Virginia Legislature; it was almost unanimously
adopted, and the first formal meeting of the Colonization Society, in
1817, was called "in aid" of this Virginia movement. But the whole
correspondence was never made public until the Nat Turner insurrection of
1831 recalled the previous excitement; and these papers were demanded by
Mr. Summers, a member of the Legislature, who described them as "having
originated in a convulsion similar to that which had recently, but more
terribly, occurred."

But neither these subsequent papers, nor any documents which now appear
accessible, can supply any authentic or trustworthy evidence as to the
real extent of the earlier plot. It certainly was not confined to the
mere environs of Richmond. The Norfolk _Epitome_ of Oct. 6 states that on
the 6th and 7th of the previous month one hundred and fifty blacks,
including twenty from Norfolk, were assembled near Whitlock's Mills in
Suffolk County, and remained in the neighborhood till the failure of the
Richmond plan became known. Petersburg newspapers also had letters
containing similar tales. Then the alarm spread more widely. Near
Edenton, N.C., there was undoubtedly a real insurrection, though promptly
suppressed; and many families ultimately removed from that vicinity in
consequence. In Charleston, S.C., there was still greater excitement, if
the contemporary press may be trusted; it was reported that the
freeholders had been summoned to appear in arms, on penalty of a fine of
fifteen pounds, which many preferred to pay rather than risk taking the
fever which then prevailed. These reports were, however, zealously
contradicted in letters from Charleston, dated Oct. 8; and the Charleston
newspapers up to Sept. 17 had certainly contained no reference to any
especial excitement. This alone might not settle the fact, for reasons
already given. But the omission of any such affair from the valuable
pamphlet published in 1822 by Edwin C. Holland, containing reminiscences
of insurrections in South Carolina, is presumptive evidence that no very
extended agitation occurred.

But wherever there was a black population, slave or emancipated, men's
startled consciences made cowards of them all, and recognized the negro
as a dangerous man, because an injured one. In Philadelphia it was
seriously proposed to prohibit the use of sky-rockets for a time, because
they had been employed as signals in San Domingo. "Even in Boston," said
the New-York _Daily Advertiser_ of Sept. 20, "fears are expressed, and
measures of prevention adopted." This probably refers to a singular
advertisement which appeared in some of the Boston newspapers on Sept.
16, and runs as follows:--


"The officers of the police having made returns to the subscriber
of the names of the following persons who are Africans or
negroes, not subjects of the Emperor of Morocco nor citizens of
any of the United States, the same are hereby warned and directed
to depart out of this Commonwealth before the tenth day of
October next, as they would avoid the pains and penalties of the
law in that case provided, which was passed by the Legislature
March 26, 1788.

"CHARLES BULFINCH, Superintendent.

"By order and direction of the Selectmen."

The names annexed are about three hundred, with the places of their
supposed origin, and they occupy a column of the paper. So at least
asserts the _United-States Gazette_ of Sept. 23. "It seems probable,"
adds the editor, "from the nature of the notice, that some suspicion of
the design of the negroes is entertained; and we regret to say there is
too much cause." The law of 1788 above mentioned was "An Act for
suppressing rogues, vagabonds, and the like," which forbade all persons
of African descent, unless citizens of some one of the United States or
subjects of the Emperor of Morocco, from remaining more than two months
within the Commonwealth, on penalty of imprisonment and hard labor. This
singular statute remained unrepealed until 1834.

Amid the general harmony in the contemporary narratives of Gabriel's
insurrection, it would be improper to pass by one exceptional legend,
which by some singular fatality has obtained more circulation than all
the true accounts put together. I can trace it no farther back than Nat
Turner's time, when it was published in the Albany _Evening Journal_;
thence transferred to the _Liberator_ of Sept. 17, 1831, and many other
newspapers; then refuted in detail by the _Richmond Enquirer_ of Oct. 21;
then resuscitated in the John-Brown epoch by the Philadelphia _Press_,
and extensively copied. It is fresh, spirited, and full of graphic and
interesting details, nearly every one of which is altogether false.

Gabriel in this narrative becomes a rather mythical being, of vast
abilities and life-long preparations. He bought his freedom, it is
stated, at the age of twenty-one, and then travelled all over the
Southern States, enlisting confederates and forming stores of arms. At
length his plot was discovered, in consequence of three negroes having
been seen riding out of a stable-yard together; and the Governor offered
a reward of ten thousand dollars for further information, to which a
Richmond gentleman added as much more. Gabriel concealed himself on board
the "Sally Ann," a vessel just sailing for San Domingo, and was revealed
by his little nephew, whom he had sent for a jug of rum. Finally, the
narrative puts an eloquent dying speech into Gabriel's mouth, and, to
give a properly tragic consummation, causes him to be torn to death by
four wild horses. The last item is, however, omitted in the more recent
reprints of the story.

Every one of these statements appears to be absolutely erroneous. Gabriel
lived and died a slave, and was probably never out of Virginia. His plot
was voluntarily revealed by accomplices. The rewards offered for his
arrest amounted to three hundred dollars only. He concealed himself on
board the schooner "Mary," bound to Norfolk, and was discovered by the
police. He died on the gallows, with ten associates, having made no
address to the court or the people. All the errors of the statement were
contradicted when it was first made public, but they have proved very
hard to kill.

Some of these events were embodied in a song bearing the same title with
this essay, "Gabriel's Defeat," and set to a tune of the same name, both
being composed by a colored man. Several witnesses have assured me of
having heard this sung in Virginia, as a favorite air at the dances of
the white people, as well as in the huts of the slaves. It is surely one
of history's strange parallelisms, that this fatal enterprise, like that
of John Brown afterwards, should thus have embalmed itself in music. And
twenty-two years after these events, their impression still remained
vivid enough for Benjamin Lundy, in Tennessee, to write: "So well had
they matured their plot, and so completely had they organized their
system of operations, that nothing but a seemingly miraculous
intervention of the arm of Providence was supposed to have been capable
of saving the city from pillage and flames, and the inhabitants thereof
from butchery. So dreadful was the alarm and so great the consternation
produced on this occasion, that a member of Congress from that State was
some time after heard to express himself in his place as follows: 'The
night-bell is never heard to toll in the city of Richmond, but the
anxious mother presses her infant more closely to her bosom.'" The
Congressman was John Randolph of Roanoke, and it was Gabriel who had
taught him the lesson.

And longer than the melancholy life of that wayward statesman,--down even
to the beginning of the American civil war,--there lingered in Richmond a
memorial of those days, most peculiar and most instructive. Before the
days of secession, when the Northern traveller in Virginia, after
traversing for weary leagues its miry ways, its desolate fields, and its
flowery forests, rode at last into its metropolis, he was sure to be
guided ere long to visit its stately Capitol, modelled by Jefferson, when
French minister, from the Maison Carree. Standing before it, he might
admire undisturbed the Grecian outline of its exterior; but he found
himself forbidden to enter, save by passing an armed and uniformed
sentinel at the doorway. No other State of the Union then found it
necessary to protect its State House by a permanent cordon of bayonets.
Yet there for half a century stood sentinel the "Public Guard" of
Virginia; and when the traveller asked the origin of the precaution, he
was told that it was the lasting memorial of Gabriel's Defeat.


On Saturday afternoon, May 25, 1822, a slave named Devany, belonging to
Col. Prioleau of Charleston, S.C., was sent to market by his
mistress,--the colonel being absent in the country. After doing his
errands, he strolled down upon the wharves in the enjoyment of that
magnificent wealth of leisure which usually characterized the former
"house-servant" of the South, when beyond hail of the street-door. He
presently noticed a small vessel lying in the stream, with a peculiar
flag flying; and while looking at it, he was accosted by a slave named
William, belonging to Mr. John Paul, who remarked to him, "I have often
seen a flag with the number 76, but never one with the number 96 upon it
before." After some further conversation on this trifling point, William
suddenly inquired, "Do you know that something serious is about to take
place?" Devany disclaiming the knowledge of any graver impending crisis
than the family dinner, the other went on to inform him that many of the
slaves were "determined to right themselves." "We are determined," he
added, "to shake off our bondage, and for that purpose we stand on a good
foundation; many have joined, and if you will go with me, I will show you
the man who has the list of names, and who will take yours down."

This startling disclosure was quite too much for Devany: he was made of
the wrong material for so daring a project; his genius was culinary, not
revolutionary. Giving some excuse for breaking off the conversation, he
went forthwith to consult a free colored man, named Pensil or Pencell,
who advised him to warn his master instantly. So he lost no time in
telling the secret to his mistress and her young son; and on the return
of Col. Prioleau from the country, five days afterward, it was at once
revealed to him. Within an hour or two he stated the facts to Mr.
Hamilton, the intendant, or, as he would now be called, mayor; Mr.
Hamilton at once summoned the corporation, and by five o'clock Devany and
William were under examination.

This was the first warning of a plot which ultimately filled Charleston
with terror. And yet so thorough and so secret was the organization of
the negroes, that a fortnight passed without yielding the slightest
information beyond the very little which was obtained from these two.
William Paul was, indeed, put in confinement, and soon gave evidence
inculpating two slaves as his employers,--Mingo Harth and Peter Poyas.
But these men, when arrested, behaved with such perfect coolness, and
treated the charge with such entire levity;--their trunks and premises,
when searched, were so innocent of all alarming contents;--that they were
soon discharged by the wardens. William Paul at length became alarmed for
his own safety, and began to let out further facts piecemeal, and to
inculpate other men. But some of those very men came voluntarily to the
intendant, on hearing that they were suspected, and indignantly offered
themselves for examination. Puzzled and bewildered, the municipal
government kept the thing as secret as possible, placed the city guard in
an efficient condition, provided sixteen hundred rounds of ball
cartridges, and ordered the sentinels and patrols to be armed with loaded
muskets. "Such had been our fancied security, that the guard had
previously gone on duty without muskets, and with only sheathed bayonets
and bludgeons."

It has since been asserted, though perhaps on questionable authority,
that the Secretary of War was informed of the plot, even including some
details of the plan and the leader's name, before it was known in
Charleston. If so, he utterly disregarded it; and, indeed, so well did
the negroes play their part, that the whole report was eventually
disbelieved, while--as was afterwards proved--they went on to complete
their secret organization, and hastened by a fortnight the appointed day
of attack. Unfortunately for their plans, however, another betrayal took
place at the very last moment, from a different direction. A class-leader
in a Methodist church had been persuaded or bribed by his master to
procure further disclosures. He at length came and stated, that, about
three months before, a man named Rolla, slave of Gov. Bennett, had
communicated to a friend of his the fact of an intended insurrection, and
had said that the time fixed for the outbreak was the following Sunday
night, June 16. As this conversation took place on Friday, it gave but a
very short time for the city authorities to act, especially as they
wished neither to endanger the city nor to alarm it.

Yet so cautiously was the game played on both sides that the whole thing
was still kept a secret from the Charleston public; and some members of
the city government did not fully appreciate their danger till they had
passed it. "The whole was concealed," wrote the governor afterwards,
"until the time came; but secret preparations were made. Saturday night
and Sunday morning passed without demonstrations; doubts were excited,
and counter orders issued for diminishing the guard." It afterwards
proved that these preparations showed to the slaves that their plot was
betrayed, and so saved the city without public alarm. Newspaper
correspondence soon was full of the story, each informant of course
hinting plainly that he had been behind the scenes all along, and had
withheld it only to gratify the authorities in their policy of silence.
It was "now no longer a secret," they wrote; adding, that, for five or
six weeks, but little attention had been paid by the community to these
rumors, the city council having kept it carefully to themselves until a
number of suspicious slaves had been arrested. This refers to ten
prisoners who were seized on June 18, an arrest which killed the plot,
and left only the terrors of what might have been. The investigation,
thus publicly commenced, soon revealed a free colored man named Denmark
Vesey as the leader of the enterprise,--among his chief coadjutors being
that innocent Peter and that unsuspecting Mingo who had been examined and
discharged nearly three weeks before.

It is matter of demonstration, that, but for the military preparations on
the appointed Sunday night, the attempt would have been made. The
ringleaders had actually met for their final arrangements, when, by
comparing notes, they found themselves foiled; and within another week
they were prisoners on trial. Nevertheless, the plot which they had laid
was the most elaborate insurrectionary project ever formed by American
slaves, and came the nearest to a terrible success. In boldness of
conception and thoroughness of organization there has been nothing to
compare with it; and it is worth while to dwell somewhat upon its
details, first introducing the _dramatis personae_.

Denmark Vesey had come very near figuring as a revolutionist in Hayti,
instead of South Carolina. Capt. Vesey, an old resident of Charleston,
commanded a ship that traded between St. Thomas and Cape Francais, during
our Revolutionary War, in the slave-transportation line. In the year 1781
he took on board a cargo of three hundred and ninety slaves, and sailed
for the Cape. On the passage, he and his officers were much attracted by
the beauty and intelligence of a boy of fourteen, whom they unanimously
adopted into the cabin as a pet. They gave him new clothes, and a new
name, Telemaque, which was afterwards gradually corrupted into Telmak and
Denmark. They amused themselves with him until their arrival at Cape
Francais, and then, "having no use for the boy," sold their pet as if he
had been a macaw or a monkey. Capt. Vesey sailed for St. Thomas; and,
presently making another trip to Cape Francais, was surprised to hear
from his consignee that Telemaque would be returned on his hands as being
"unsound,"--not in theology nor in morals, but in body,--subject to
epileptic fits, in fact. According to the custom of that place, the boy
was examined by the city physician, who required Capt. Vesey to take him
back; and Denmark served him faithfully, with no trouble from epilepsy,
for twenty years, travelling all over the world with him, and learning to
speak various languages. In 1800 he drew a prize of fifteen hundred
dollars in the East Bay-street Lottery, with which he bought his freedom
from his master for six hundred dollars,--much less than his market
value. From that time, the official report says, he worked as a carpenter
in Charleston, distinguished for physical strength and energy. "Among
those of his color he was looked up to with awe and respect. His temper
was impetuous and domineering in the extreme, qualifying him for the
despotic rule of which he was ambitious. All his passions were
ungovernable and savage; and to his numerous wives and children he
displayed the haughty and capricious cruelty of an Eastern bashaw."

"For several years before he disclosed his intentions to any one, he
appears to have been constantly and assiduously engaged in endeavoring to
imbitter the minds of the colored population against the white. He
rendered himself perfectly familiar with all those parts of the
Scriptures which he thought he could pervert to his purpose, and would
readily quote them to prove that slavery was contrary to the laws of God;
that slaves were bound to attempt their emancipation, however shocking
and bloody might be the consequences; and that such efforts would not
only be pleasing to the Almighty, but were absolutely enjoined, and their
success predicted, in the Scriptures. His favorite texts when he
addressed those of his own color were Zech. xiv. 1-3, and Josh. vi. 21;
and in all his conversations he identified their situation with that of
the Israelites. The number of inflammatory pamphlets on slavery brought
into Charleston from some of our sister States within the last four years
(and once from Sierra Leone), and distributed amongst the colored
population of the city, for which there was a great facility, in
consequence of the unrestricted intercourse allowed to persons of color
between the different States in the Union, and the speeches in Congress
of those opposed to the admission of Missouri into the Union, perhaps
garbled and misrepresented, furnished him with ample means for inflaming
the minds of the colored population of the State; and by distorting
certain parts of those speeches, or selecting from them particular
passages, he persuaded but too many that Congress had actually declared
them free, and that they were held in bondage contrary to the laws of the
land. Even whilst walking through the streets in company with another, he
was not idle; for if his companion bowed to a white person, he would
rebuke him, and observe that all men were born equal, and that he was
surprised that any one would degrade himself by such conduct; that he
would never cringe to the whites, nor ought any one who had the feelings
of a man. When answered, 'We are slaves,' he would sarcastically and
indignantly reply, 'You deserve to remain slaves;' and if he were further
asked, 'What can we do?' he would remark, 'Go and buy a spelling-book,
and read the fable of Hercules and the Wagoner,' which he would then
repeat, and apply it to their situation. He also sought every opportunity
of entering into conversation with white persons, when they could be
overheard by negroes near by, especially in grog-shops,--during which
conversation he would artfully introduce some bold remark on slavery; and
sometimes, when, from the character he was conversing with, he found he
might still be bolder, he would go so far, that, had not his declarations
in such situations been clearly proved, they would scarcely have been
credited. He continued this course until some time after the commencement
of the last winter; by which time he had not only obtained incredible
influence amongst persons of color, but many feared him more than their
owners, and, one of them declared, even more than his God."

It was proved against him, that his house had been the principal place of
meeting for the conspirators, that all the others habitually referred to
him as the leader, and that he had shown great address in dealing with
different temperaments and overcoming a variety of scruples. One witness
testified that Vesey had read to him from the Bible about the deliverance
of the children of Israel; another, that he had read to him a speech
which had been delivered "in Congress by a Mr. King" on the subject of
slavery, and Vesey had said that "this Mr. King was the black man's
friend; that he, Mr. King, had declared he would continue to speak,
write, and publish pamphlets against slavery the longest day he lived,
until the Southern States consented to emancipate their slaves, for that
slavery was a great disgrace to the country." But among all the reports
there are only two sentences which really reveal the secret soul of
Denmark Vesey, and show his impulses and motives. "He said he did not go
with Creighton to Africa, because he had not a will; he wanted to stay
and see what he could do for his fellow-creatures." The other takes us
still nearer home. Monday Gell stated in his confession, that Vesey, on
first broaching the plan to him, said "he was satisfied with his own
condition, being free; but, as all his children were slaves, he wished to
see what could be done for them."

It is strange to turn from this simple statement of a perhaps intelligent
preference, on the part of a parent, for seeing his offspring in a
condition of freedom, to the _naive_ astonishment of his judges. "It is
difficult to imagine," says the sentence finally passed on Denmark Vesey,
"what infatuation could have prompted you to attempt an enterprise so
wild and visionary. You were a free man, comparatively wealthy, and
enjoyed every comfort compatible with your situation. You had, therefore,
much to risk and little to gain." Yet one witness testified: "Vesey said
the negroes were living such an abominable life, they ought to rise. I
said, I was living well; he said, though I was, others were not, and that
'twas such fools as I that were in the way and would not help them, and
that after all things were well he would mark me." "His general
conversation," said another witness, a white boy, "was about religion,
which he would apply to slavery; as, for instance, he would speak of the
creation of the world, in which he would say all men had equal rights,
blacks as well as whites, etc.; all his religious remarks were mingled
with slavery." And the firmness of this purpose did not leave him, even
after the betrayal of his cherished plans. "After the plot was
discovered," said Monday Gell, in his confession, "Vesey said it was all
over, unless an attempt were made to rescue those who might be condemned,
by rushing on the people and saving the prisoners, or all dying

The only person to divide with Vesey the claim of leadership was Peter
Poyas. Vesey was the missionary of the cause, but Peter was the
organizing mind. He kept the register of "candidates," and decided who
should or should not be enrolled. "We can't live so," he often reminded
his confederates; "we must break the yoke." "God has a hand in it; we
have been meeting for four years, and are not yet betrayed." Peter was a
ship-carpenter, and a slave of great value. He was to be the military
leader. His plans showed some natural generalship: he arranged the
night-attack; he planned the enrolment of a mounted troop to scour the
streets; and he had a list of all the shops where arms and ammunition
were kept for sale. He voluntarily undertook the management of the most
difficult part of the enterprise,--the capture of the main
guard-house,--and had pledged himself to advance alone and surprise the
sentinel. He was said to have a magnetism in his eyes, of which his
confederates stood in great awe; if he once got his eye upon a man, there
was no resisting it. A white witness has since narrated, that, after his
arrest, he was chained to the floor in a cell, with another of the
conspirators. Men in authority came, and sought by promises, threats, and
even tortures, to ascertain the names of other accomplices. His
companion, wearied out with pain and suffering, and stimulated by the
hope of saving his own life, at last began to yield. Peter raised
himself, leaned upon his elbow, looked at the poor fellow, saying
quietly, "Die like a man," and instantly lay down again. It was enough;
not another word was extorted.

One of the most notable individuals in the plot was a certain Jack
Purcell, commonly called Gullah Jack,--Gullah signifying Angola, the
place of his origin. A conjurer by profession and by lineal heritage in
his own country, he had resumed the practice of his vocation on this side
the Atlantic. For fifteen years he had wielded in secret an immense
influence among a sable constituency in Charleston; and as he had the
reputation of being invulnerable, and of teaching invulnerability as an
art, he was very good at beating up recruits for insurrection. Over those
of Angolese descent, especially, he was a perfect king, and made them
join in the revolt as one man. They met him monthly at a place called
Bulkley's Farm, selected because the black overseer on that plantation
was one of the initiated, and because the farm was accessible by water,
thus enabling them to elude the patrol. There they prepared cartridges
and pikes, and had primitive banquets, which assumed a melodramatic
character under the inspiriting guidance of Jack. If a fowl was privately
roasted, that mystic individual muttered incantations over it; and then
they all grasped at it, exclaiming, "Thus we pull Buckra to pieces!" He
gave them parched corn and ground-nuts to be eaten as internal safeguards
on the day before the outbreak, and a consecrated _cullah_, or crab's
claw, to be carried in the mouth by each, as an amulet. These rather
questionable means secured him a power which was very unquestionable; the
witnesses examined in his presence all showed dread of his conjurations,
and referred to him indirectly, with a kind of awe, as "the little man
who can't be shot."

When Gullah Jack was otherwise engaged, there seems to have been a sort
of deputy seer employed in the enterprise, a blind man named Philip. He
was a preacher; was said to have been born with a caul on his head, and
so claimed the gift of second-sight. Timid adherents were brought to his
house for ghostly counsel. "Why do you look so timorous?" he said to
William Garner, and then quoted Scripture, "Let not your heart be
troubled." That a blind man should know how he looked, was beyond the
philosophy of the visitor; and this piece of rather cheap ingenuity
carried the day.

Other leaders were appointed also. Monday Gell was the scribe of the
enterprise; he was a native African, who had learned to read and write.
He was by trade a harness-maker, working chiefly on his own account. He
confessed that he had written a letter to President Boyer of the new
black republic; "the letter was about the sufferings of the blacks, and
to know if the people of St. Domingo would help them if they made an
effort to free themselves." This epistle was sent by the black cook of a
Northern schooner, and the envelope was addressed to a relative of the

Tom Russell was the armorer, and made pikes "on a very improved model,"
the official report admits. Polydore Faber fitted the weapons with
handles. Bacchus Hammett had charge of the fire-arms and ammunition, not
as yet a laborious duty. William Garner and Mingo Harth were to lead the
horse-company. Lot Forrester was the courier, and had done, no one ever
knew how much, in the way of enlisting country negroes, of whom Ned
Bennett was to take command when enlisted. Being the governor's servant,
Ned was probably credited with some official experience. These were the
officers: now for the plan of attack.

It was the custom then, as later, for the country negroes to flock
largely into Charleston on Sunday. More than a thousand came, on ordinary
occasions, and a far larger number might at any time make their
appearance without exciting any suspicion. They gathered in, especially
by water, from the opposite sides of Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and from
the neighboring islands; and they came in a great number of canoes of
various sizes,--many of which could carry a hundred men,--which were
ordinarily employed in bringing agricultural products to the Charleston
market. To get an approximate knowledge of the number, the city
government once ordered the persons thus arriving to be counted,--and
that during the progress of the trials, at a time when the negroes were
rather fearful of coming into town; and it was found, that, even then,
there were more than five hundred visitors on a single Sunday. This fact,
then, was the essential point in the plan of insurrection. Whole
plantations were found to have been enlisted among the "candidates," as
they were termed; and it was proved that the city negroes, who lived
nearest the place of meeting, had agreed to conceal these confederates in
their houses to a large extent, on the night of the proposed outbreak.

The details of the plan, however, were not rashly committed to the mass
of the confederates; they were known only to a few, and were finally to
be announced only after the evening prayer-meetings on the appointed
Sunday. But each leader had his own company enlisted, and his own work
marked out. When the clock struck twelve, all were to move. Peter Poyas
was to lead a party ordered to assemble at South Bay, and to be joined by
a force from James's Island; he was then to march up and seize the
arsenal and guard-house opposite St. Michael's Church, and detach a
sufficient number to cut off all white citizens who should appear at the
alarm-posts. A second body of negroes, from the country and the Neck,
headed by Ned Bennett, was to assemble on the Neck, and seize the arsenal
there. A third was to meet at Gov. Bennett's Mills, under command of
Rolla, and, after putting the governor and intendant to death, to march
through the city, or be posted at Cannon's Bridge, thus preventing the
inhabitants of Cannonsborough from entering the city. A fourth, partly
from the country, and partly from the neighboring localities in the city,
was to rendezvous on Gadsden's Wharf, and attack the upper guard-house. A
fifth, composed of country and Neck negroes, was to assemble at Bulkley's
Farm, two miles and a half from the city, seize the upper
powder-magazine, and then march down; and a sixth was to assemble at
Denmark Vesey's, and obey his orders. A seventh detachment, under Gullah
Jack, was to assemble in Boundary Street, at the head of King Street, to
capture the arms of the Neck company of militia, and to take an
additional supply from Mr. Duquercron's shop. The naval stores on Mey's
Wharf were also to be attacked. Meanwhile, a horse-company, consisting of
many draymen, hostlers, and butcher-boys, was to meet at Lightwood's
Alley, and then scour the streets to prevent the whites from assembling.
Every white man coming out of his own door was to be killed; and, if
necessary, the city was to be fired in several places,--slow-match for
this purpose having been purloined from the public arsenal, and placed in
an accessible position.

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