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American Beacon (Norfolk, Virginia),

August 29, 1831




        Com. [Commodore] Elliot arrived in town from Southampton in the Southern Stage yesterday afternoon. He left there at 2 o’clock on Saturday, at which time perfect tranquility had been restored.


        Since our last paper a few of our volunteers who were engaged in the expedition against the Negroes in Southampton County have returned to their homes. They state that the object of the expedition has been effectually accomplished, and that the troops were on their return home. The insurgents, it is believed, had all been either killed or taken prisoner.


        We learned that Ned, the preacher or prophet, had been taken—75 whites killed and some missing—38 blacks killed—Nelson killed and Porter (Gen. so-called) killed—Negro Tom had made a general confession, being desperately wounded and about to die—Broadnax’s servants stated their object to be to reach the free states, where they expected to make proselytes and return to assist their brethren—Mr. Blunt, his son, overseer and Negroes beat off the party, which attacked his house. From all we can learn there appears to have been no contact with blacks in any other part of the state.


        A friend has permitted us to make the following extract of a letter from a gentleman attached to the Richmond Cavalry, dated


                                                                                                            Southampton County

                                                                                                            August 25 – 12M


            “There appears to have been about 70 white persons murdered. I have just been conversing with one of the ring leaders who is mortally wounded and will probably die tonight. He says the insurrection was urged and headed by a black preacher, who is not yet taken—that they commenced with six only under the impression that all would join if their masters were murdered, and this they would get a larger force and sufficient ammunition, ect. There appears to have been no concert with the blacks of any other part of the state. From what we learn there have been about 40 blacks killed and taken prisoners, and about 30 probably remaining, which are dispersed in the swamps, and [p. 50] must in a day or two surrender themselves to the detachments which are in pursuit of them.”




Extract of a letter from a gentleman of Norfolk (one of the mounted volunteers) to the editor, dated:

                                                                                                         Southampton, August 26th, 1831


        “On our arrival in Jerusalem within [figures blurred] miles of the scene of the massacre and devastation, after the Norfolk and Portsmouth Volunteers had reported themselves to Gen. [General] Eppes, the Commanding Officer, they received orders to proceed to Cross Keys, the immediate vicinity of the massacre, here they succeeded in making prisoners and bringing in 12 men and one woman who is said to have taken a very active part, together with the head of the celebrated Nelson, called by the blacks, ‘Gen. Nelson,’ and the paymaster, Henry, whose head is expected in momentarily, Hark (the blacks’s abbreviation of Herculeus) and Gen. Nat [word blurred] have also been shot and taken prisoners: in fact almost all the ring leaders, with the exception of the Prophet, have been either taken or killed—Several have been captured who have confessed assisting in the murder of their mistress’ children. The country we have passed through is completely deserted and the inhabitants have absolutely left their doors unbarred—In the vicinity of the massacre we witnessed the greatest scene of devastation imaginable. The inhabitants are regaining confidence and returning to their homes.


        We saw several children who brains were knocked out, and we have accounts of the number of 58 men, women and children.


        The skull of Nelson, taken by us, is in the possession of Dr. [blank] and will be taken to Norfolk.


        We are very much fatigued having rode 65 miles the first 16 hours. Our horses wore out and ourselves completely knocked up.


        The Norfolk and Portsmouth Volunteers have done their duty.”



From Henry Irving Tragle, The Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831: A Compilation of Source Material (Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1971), pp. 49-50.

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