Petersburg (Virginia) Intelligencer,

August 26, 1831

 

THE INSURRECTIONS

 

      A great excitement has prevailed in this town for some days past, in consequence of the receipt of information on Monday night last, that an insurrection had broken out among the negroes in Southampton. The rumours have been so numerous and contradictory that we are unable to state to our readers, at present, the precise state of affairs in that county. It appears, however, that the disturbance commenced on Sunday night last, in the neighborhood of the Cross Keys, about ten miles from the Court House, and has been almost entirely confined to that section of the county. The number of insurgents has been variously estimated from 150 to 400, acting in detached parties. From twenty five to thirty families are said to have fallen victim to their ferocity. We are happy to say that the latest intelligence from the scene of the disorder assures us that the further progress of these wretches has been arrested, that they are seeking shelter in the swamps, and that they are by this time surrounded by the militia and volunteers. The letter, which we give below, written by a highly intelligent and respectable gentleman of this town, is the latest account received here, and relieves us from the necessity of detailing the various rumours in circulation.

 

[p. 39]

       Our friends at a distance may rest assured that we are prepared to meet any emergency. The Governor and Council have taken prompt and efficient measures to put a speedy end to the disturbance. A finely equipped troop of horse, commanded by Capt. [Captain] Harrison, and a troop of horse from Prince George, left this place on Wednesday last for Southampton. We understand that a Company of Artillery went down in the steam boat from Richmond on Tuesday; and that detachments of the militia of surrounding counties have already taken up the line of march. We have not yet been able to send any assistance to our unfortunate neighbors, not having had arms more than sufficient to supply our own wants. The arms ordered by the Executive did not arrive until Wednesday night; we are, therefore, now prepared to act when and where occasion may require. We trust, however, from the force already on the scene of action, that, by this time, tranquility has been restored.

 

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Belfield, (Greenville County) Aug. 24, 1831

 

       “In the greatest haste I write you a few lines, I can merely say that we are all in arms and in great excitement on account of the insurrection, which broke out on Sunday night last—between eighty and a hundred of the whites have already been butchered—their heads severed from their bodies. The intention of the negroes was to reach the Dismal Swamp. I think, however, that we have them so hemmed in as to render it impossible for them to do so. On Monday night I reached Belfield (headquarters of the troops), and was given the command of a small body and a piece of Artillery, which I stationed so as to command the bridge. I was up the whole night visiting each of my sentinels every ten minutes. At Jerusalem the blacks made three desperate attempts to cross the bridge but were repulsed with some loss. No whites have been lost in any of the skirmishes which have taken place.—Those fellows commenced by murdering a family, taking their arms and horses, and pushing on to the next house with all possible speed, where they massacred every white, even to the infant in the cradle. They continue in this manner until they are interrupted, when they disperse and skulk about in the woods, until another favorable opportunity occurs of collecting together and repeating their horrible massacres. Between 25 and 30 families have already been entirely destroyed. Three families were yesterday murdered, one consisting of 10 persons. Something will be effected today, as very active officers and well armed men are at the heels of these villains. Yesterday a [p. 40] very spirited resistance was made by a party, sent out to reconnoiter and discover the position of these fellows, consisting of four against twenty blacks; the whites repulsed them, killed 3 or 4, and took several prisoners. Many of the blacks are well mounted; their leader was shot in the attempt to force the bridge at Jerusalem.”

 

       “We do not know their strength, but think that they are now effectually hemmed in and must all perish within a few days. Dr. Scott left Belfield yesterday, with a strong party of horse, and the determination of pursuing them until every man of them was taken or destroyed.”

 

Henry Irving Tragle, The Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831: A Compilation of Source Material (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1971), 38-40.