September 20, 1831
We understand that accounts have been received by the Governor from Southampton, that the Court has adjourned, and twenty-one slaves have been condemned; of those, nine have been recommended for reprieve and transportation; three being boys of 14 or 15 years of age and all of them being forced to join the band of murderers. Some of the twelve have been already executed, and others remain for execution. The military force has been disbanded, with the exception of a small force of about seventeen men, who assist in guarding the jail, and will continue in service until all the executions have taken place.
Thirty or forty slaves have been tried in Nansemond, but only one has been sentenced to death. It was said that he was present of the blacks; at which a black preacher (from the Isle of Wight or Surrey) had asked such as were willing to join, to hold up their hands—this fellow was identified as one of those who held up their hands.
We understand that eight or nine convictions have taken place in the county of Sussex. And in Prince George, a black preacher, and by trade a blacksmith, has also been sentenced to death. . . . We had an unpleasant rumor on Sunday, about the murder of an old lady, two young ones, and two maid servants, in the county of Dinwiddie. But is turns out to be all a hoax, or rather a dream. Many of the militia had proceeded to the scene before the hoax was discovered. . .
The accounts from our Sister State of North Carolina have been very much exaggerated; though as they relate to the designs and plans of the Banditti, they are of a more serious complexion. The Raleigh and Warrenton papers, which reached us on Saturday, teemed with very unpleasant accounts—as for instance, according to the P.S. of the Warrenton paper, that Wilmington had been burnt, its inhabitants massacred, and that a large force, swelled up to 2000, was on the march for Raleigh. All these reports turn out to be “the mere coinage of the brain,” and it is now exceedingly questionable whether a single black has been under arms. It is certain that not a drop of white [p. 86] man’s blood has been shed. The following Extras from the Offices of the Raleigh Star, and the Fayetteville Observer, present the most authentic accounts we have had upon this subject.
Raleigh, Thursday Evening, Sept 15
Knowing the deep interest which pervades the community with respect to an insurrection of the blacks reported to have broken out in Sampson and Duplin counties on Sunday night last, we hasten to lay before the public in this extra slip, such intelligence as has reached us since our paper went to press, from which it is gratifying to learn that no overt act of rebellion has taken place, and that the alarming reports now circulating through the country, about the burning of property and the massacre of several white families, are entirely erroneous. . .
Clinton, Sampson County
Sept. 13, 1831
To The Governor of North Carolina,
Sir: —The inhabitants of Sampson have been alarmed with an insurrection of the Negroes. We have ten or fifteen Negroes in Jail, and we have such proof that most of them will be bound over to our Supreme Court. We wish you to issue an order to command the Colonel of the county to appoint a guard to guard the Jail until the Negroes shall have their trial. The people of Duplin county have examined ten or fifteen Negroes, and found two guilty, and have put them to death. There never was such excitement in Sampson and Duplin before.
R. C. HOLMES
H. C. HOLMES
Observer Office, Fayeteville)
Sept. 14, 3 P.M.)
Two of the gentlemen who went from this place to Clinton on Monday night, have this moment returned, there being no danger, though the existence of the plot is clearly established. We have procured from one of them the following statement [p. 87] drawn up by himself yesterday at Clinton. It is worthy of entire reliance:
On Sunday the 4th inst. the first information of the contemplated rising of the Blacks was sent from the South Washington. The disclosure was made by a free mulatto man to Mr. Usher of Washington, who sent the information to Mr. Kelly, of Duplin. It appears from the mulatto’s testimony that Dave, a slave belonging to Mr. Morrissey of Sampson, applied to him to join the conspirators, stating that the negroes in Sampson, Duplin and New Hanover, were regularly organized and prepared to rise on the 4th October.
Dave was taken up and on this testimony convicted. After his conviction he made a confession of the above to his master, and in addition, gave the names of the four principal ringleaders in Sampson, Duplin and several in Wilmington, named several families that they intended to murder. Their object was to march to Wilmington by two routes, spreading destruction and murder on their way. At Wilmington they expected to be reinforced and then return. Three of the ringleaders in Duplin have been taken, and Dave and Jim executed. There are 24 negroes in jail in Duplin County, all of them, no doubt, concerned in the conspiracy. Several have been whipped and some released. In Sampson, 25 are in jail, all concerned directly or indirectly in the plot. . . . A very intelligent Negro Preacher, named David, was put on his trial to-day, and clearly convicted by the testimony of another negro. The people were so much enraged that they scarcely could be prevented from shooting him on his passage from the Court House to the jail…. The rumors of a large force having been seen collected together are unfounded.
An Extra from the Fayetteville Journal of the 16th is before us. It states “that there has been no overt act of insurrection in either of the counties named, unless it be inferred from several negroes having been seen together in the lower part of Sampson county—no outrage has been committed. . . .
Keep a good lookout for Nat Turner. The description in the Governor’s Proclamation points the hue and cry by proper marks to his body.
Henry Irving Tragle, The Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831: A Compilation of Source Material (Amherst, MA: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1971), 85-87.