Hark Moore

 

From 1823 to 1831, Hark Moore and Nat Turner lived together on the farm belonging first to Captain Henry Moore and later to Joseph Travis. They were the only two adult male slaves on the property at the time of the rebellion. Evidence suggests Hark was perhaps a year younger than Nat Turner, who turned 31 on October 2, 1831.

 

  • “Colonel Worth, who saw Hark after his capture, said he was one of the most perfectly framed men he ever saw--a regular black Apollo.”

- William Drewry , Southampton Insurrection, 35n2

 

Who were Hark’s owners?

Hark Moore’s earliest master was Edmund Turner, Jr. Edmund died in 1821, and Hark was sent to work under Jarrell Turner, Edmund's first cousin and neighbor. Moore appropriated Hark two years later, after the death of Jarrell. When Thomas Moore died in 1827, Hark remained under the ownership of Moore’s widow, Sarah. Eventually, Sarah married Joseph Travis, and Hark became his property. Hark would remain on the Travis farm until the rebellion.

  • “General Moore, who occasionally figures as second in command, in the newspaper narratives of that day, was probably the Hark or Hercules before mentioned; as no other of the confederates had belonged to Mrs. Travis, or would have been likely to bear her previous name of Moore.”

- Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Monthly, August, 1861

Did Hark have a wife?

Among the slaves of Joseph Reese Sr., were Jack Reese and Jack's sister, whose name may have been Edith. Evidence suggests Hark Moore married Jack's sister, and they had a son named Tom. 

  • "Hark had Jack’s sister for a wife"

- Trial of Jack Reese, September 5, 1831

What did Hark do during the revolt?

Hark Moore was one of the four confidantes with whom Nat Turner shared his plans to revolt after the eclipse in February 1831. Close to the time the rebellion began, Hark recruited his brother-in-law Jack Reese. Hark brought a pig to the feast held hours before the core group launched the rebellion. When Jack asked what the plan was, Hark told him, "as they went on and killed the whites the blacks would join them." (Trial of Jack Reese, September 3, 1831)

At the first site of attack, Hark leaned the ladder against the Travis house to enable Nat Turner to go up into the attic, descend the stairs, and unlock the door for the others. When the rebels killed Sarah Newsom, the sister of Hark's former master, it was reported that Hark "shed tears."

During the revolt, Hark took on a leadership role. Levi Waller noted that he heard other rebels refer to Hark as "Captain Moore." At points where the company divided into two groups to attack more households more quickly, Hark led one of the detachments. In the confrontation at Samuel Blunt's house, on the second day of the revolt, Hark was wounded and had his horse shot from under him.

  • “Levi Waller was sworn as a witness for the Commonwealth and says that he saw the prisoner Hark in the yard with a number of insurgent negroes on Monday 22d August 1831 with a gun in his hands that the prisoner acted as one of the company of the insurgents—he heard the rest of the insurgents call the prisoner Captain Moore.”

- Trial of Hark Travis (Moore), September 3, 1831

What happened to Hark?

Hark Moore was captured on the morning of Tuesday, August 23, in the unsuccessful assault on Dr. Samuel Blunt’s house. He was found with the wallet of Augustus Doyel, who was killed on Monday morning, in his pocket. He appeared in court on September 3, 1831, and was sentenced to be hanged.

  • “They made an attack upon Mr. Blunt, a gentleman who was very unwell with the gout, and who instead of flying determined to brave them out. He had several pieces of firearms, perhaps seven or eight, and he put them into the hands of his own slaves, who nobly and gallantly stood by him. They repelled the brigands—killed one, wounded and took prisoner (Gen. Moore), and we believe took a third who was not wounded at all.”

- The Richmond Enquirer, August 30, 1831

See David F. Allmendinger, Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2014), for more information about Hark Moore.