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Nelson Edwards


Nelson Edwards and Nat Turner grew up about two miles from each other, and they seemed to know each other well.


Who were Nelson's owners?

Nelson Edwards has two possible original masters, James Edwards or William Brittle, during the early 1800s. Regardless of who his first master was, by 1820 Nelson was under the ownership of Peter Edwards.


How old was Nelson?

Historian David Allmendinger claims Nelson Edwards was thirty-three in 1831. Yet, other sources put his age a bit higher.


  • "Nelson was about thirty five years of age, was uncommonly likely, and worth at least $400 and had been mine, I would not have taken $500 for him.”

- Supporting Affidavit, Petition of Peter Edwards: Joseph Joiner


What did Nelson do during the revolt?

Nelson Edwards fully participated in Nat Turner's revolt. He might have recruited two other slaves, named Jim and August, from the Edwards’ household to join him.


  • “Levi Waller who is of lawful age saith that, James, Austin, and Nelson were at his house with the other insurgents, at the time this affiants family were massacred, and he see [sic] Nelson knock one of the family’s brains out with the but [sic] of his musket.”

- Supporting Affidavit, Petition of Peter Edwards: Levi Waller


  • “We went to Peter Edwards and got dinner and while resting an alarm was given that his man Nelson was in the orchard. We turned out after him and lost him.”

- Supporting Affidavit, Petition of Peter Edwards: John Womack


What happened to Nelson?

Nelson Edwards was killed by militia forces near the Edwards’ farm.


  • “Peter Edwards of the County of Southampton respectfully represents that during the late insurrection of the slaves of this county three of his slaves were killed, to wit Nelson aged 33, August aged 22 and Jim aged 19.”

- Petition of Peter Edwards, November 21, 1831


  • “This affiant further states that on Thursday morning, (two days after), he with a party came up, with another one of the said Peter Edwards negroes, named Nelson, who this affiant also believed was guilty of insurrection;--the negro retreated and this affiant and other fired on him, and he was also killed before he was arrested."

- Supporting Affidavit, Petition of Peter Edwards: Joseph Joiner



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

- American Beacon, August 29, 1831


Information about Nelson Edwards was retrieved from David F. Allmendinger, “The Inner Circle,” in Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2014), 98-99.



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