Rebellion of a Slave Coffle, October 15, 1799

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 

 

 

[p. 45] At a court of Oyer & Terminer held for the county of Southampton at the courthouse on the 25th day of October 1799 for the trial of Sam a negro man slave belonging or supposed to belong to Joshua Butt of the state of Georgia and county of Warren charged withothers of conspiring and making insurrection and rebelling against his lawful master and of having feloniously assaulted and murdered the aforesaid Joshua Butt and Harris Spears on the high road leading from Broadwater to Jerusalem on the evening of the 15th Instant

 

Present: Benjamin Blunt, Edm’d Tyler, Robt. Goodwyn, Sam Calvert, James Millar, Charles Briggs, Jesse Browne, and Dan’l Butts} Gentlemen

 

The court being thus constituted the prisoner was set to the bar by the Sheriff of this county and was charged with the felony and murder aforesaid to which he plead not guilty he was heard by council in his own defense and divers witnesses being examined the court on consideration thereof and the circumstances of the case are of opinion the prisoner is guilty and it is ordered he be taken to the goal from whence he came from thence to the place of execution and there on Monday the 25 day of November between the hours of one and three o’clock in the afternoon be hung by the neck until he is dead and it is ordered that the Shff [sic] of this county see the same performed.

 

Memo the court value the slave Sam to two hundred and sixty dollars.

 

[p. 46] At a court of Oyer & Terminer held for the county of Southampton at the courthouse on the 25th day of October 1799 for  the trial of Isaac, belonging to [sic] Hatter Isaac, and Jerry, Isaac and Jerry belonging or supposed to belong to Harris Spears of the county of Columbia & state of Georgia and Hatter Isaac belonging or supposed to belong to Joshua Butt of the county of Warren and state aforesaid each charged with others of  conspiring and making insurrection and rebelling against their lawful masters and of having feloniously assaulted and murdered and aiding and abetting in assaulting & murdering the aforesaid Butte and Spears with sticks knives and pistols on the high road leading from Broadwater to Jerusalem on the evening of 15th of this Instant.

 

Present: Benjamin Blunt, Edm’d Tyler, Robt. Goodwyn, Sam Calvert, James Millar, Charles Briggs, Dan’l Butts, and Jesse Browne} Gent.

 

The court being thus constituted the prisoners were set to the bar by the Sheriff of this county and were charged with the felony and murder aforesaid to which they plead not guilty they were heard by council in their own defense and divers witnesses being examined the court on consideration thereof and the circumstances of the case are of opinion the prisoners are guilty and it is ordered they be taken to the goal from whence they came from thence to the place of execution and there on Monday the 25th day of November between the hours of one and three o’clock in the afternoon be hung by the neck until they are dead and it is ordered that the Sheriff of this county see the same performed.

 

Memo the court value the value [sic] the salves Isaac, Hatter Isaac, and Jerry each to three hundred and sixteen dollars.

 

[p. 47] At a court of Oyer & Terminer held for the county of Southampton at the courthouse on the 25th day of October 1799 for the trial of young Sam a negro man slave belonging or supposed to belong to Harris Spears of the county of Columbia and state of Georgia charged with others of conspiring and making insurrection and rebelling against his lawful master and of having feloniously assaulted and murdered and aiding and abetting in assaulting and murdering the  aforesaid Harris Spears and Joshua Butte with sticks knives and pistols and of having robbed the said Butte of Spears of then by [sic] seven dollars on the high road leading from Broadwater to Jerusalem on the evening of the 15th Instant.

 

Present: Benj. Blunt, Edm’d Tyler, Robt. Goodwyn, Sam Calvert, James Millar, Chs. Briggs, Jesse Browne, and Dan’l Butts} Gent.

 

The court being thus constituted the prisoner was set to the bar by the Sheriff of this county and was charged with the felony and murder aforesaid to which he plead not guilty he was heard by council in his own defense and divers witnesses being examined the court on consideration thereof and the circumstances of the case are of opinion the prisoner is not guilty of the murder but that he is guilty of the other charges and the prisoner being asked why sentence of death should not be passed on him claimed the benefit of clergy which is granted him whereupon court directed that the said prisoner should be branded in the hand which was accordingly executed by the Sheriff in the presence of the court and that he receive 39 lashes on his bare back and that Sh(eri)ff see the same performed which being done it is ordered that the prisoner be discharged.

 

[p. 48] Memo whereas it appears to the court from sufficient information that the slaves Sam, Isaac, Hatter Isaac, and Jerry this day condemned by the sentence of this court were purchased by Ben Drew & W. Boykin in the state of Maryland to wit old Sam by W. Boykin and the other three by Ben Drew and imported into this state three months last past that the said Sam was sold by W. Boykin & the others three [sic] by Ben Drew to Harris Spears and Joshua Butte [struck out: aforesaid] citizens of the state of Georgia who knew the said slaves were so imported that the s(ai)d Spears & Butte were convoying these slaves with many others thr(o)u(gh) this county to Georgia or some of the Southern states when the murder was committed for which they are condemned and the court concerning that such importations of slaves are contrary to the speech and meaning of the existing laws of this state direct and order that the examinations aforesaid be represented and entitled to the executive.

 

[p. 67] This court being informed that the execution of the slaves (belongs to Harris Spears & Joshua Butte) called Sam Isaac & Hatter Isaac who were condemned for murder on the 25th of November last is still suspended and upon enquiry into the cause of the suspension have received information that a petition and remonstrance was sent to the executive from this county telling forth that these negroes were not slaves but freemen or at least intitled to freedom. The court are of opinion that this petition was set forth on vague & unfounded report and are informed that it was signed only by a few persons two only of who are inhabitants of this county & but a few of them was present at the Trial of these negroes. The court further represent that a second suspension was caused by the clerks not having mentioned

 

[p. 68] in the report of the proceedings of the court to the executive that the court was unanimous in their opinion. Therefore it is ordered that the clerk immediately write to the executive & inclose [sic] the foregoing and that the court having the law before them at the trial could not have condemned the slaves if there had been a dissenting voice and that in the opinion of the court the intention of the legislature in passing a law inflicting the punishment of death was to deter the being from perpetuating the like offense which [illegible] in the present case is discharged. The court also further [illegible] that this county is burdened with a considerable expense for guards & which on like occasions the auditor has refused to pay. The court are further informed that the condemned negro Jerry is pardoned upon information to the executive that he is an idiot or of unsound mind. Nothing like this appeared to the court of Oyer which was composed of 8 members. There it is that a motion was made to the court to recommend him to a proper pension for pardon & something said about his youth & weak intellect but after inquiry of those who knew the man the motion was unanimously rejected. The court also request the executive not grant any further suspension until they receive certain information which requires their interference.

 

Court Minute Book, Southampton County, Virginia, 1793-1799: Pg. 45, 46, 47, 48, 67, and 68.

http://www.brantleyassociation.com/southampton_project/gallery/minbk_1799_1803/index.html

 

On the evening of October 15, 1799, Joshua Butte and Harris Spears were leading a slave coffle through Southampton County when fifteen of their slaves rose up againest them. Armed with guns, knives, and sticks the slaves killed the two slave traders and ran away. A slave patrol was sent after them and eventually ten were killed. The surviving five were named Old Sam, Young Sam, Jerry, Hatter Isaac, and Isaac. Their trial lasted seven months. In that time, Young Sam was given "benefit of clergy" and sentenced to thirty-nine lashes and a branding, Old Sam died in jail, Jerry was pardoned by Governer James Monroe for being "an idiot or of unsound mind," and the other two were executed.