Capture & Trial of Rebels
Diary of Governor John Floyd, August 1831
John Floyd (1783-1837) began his first term as
Virginia’s governor in 1829. A medical doctor
by training, Floyd had a long career in politics,
having served in the Virginia House of Delegates
and the U.S. Congress for a total of seventeen
years before being elected governor.
Twenty-third day: This will be a very noted day in Virginia. At daylight this morning the Mayor of the City put into my hands a notice to the public, written by James Trezvant [sic] of Southampton County, stating that an insurrection of the slaves in that county had taken place, that several families had been massacred and that it would take a considerable military force to put them down.
Upon the receipt of this information, I began to consider how to prepare for the crisis. To call out the militia and equip a military force for that service. But according to the forms of this wretched and abominable Constitution, I must first require advice of Council, and then disregard it, if I please. On this occasion there was not one councilor in the city. I went on, having all my orders ready for men, arms, ammunition, etc., when by this time one of the council came to town, and that vain and foolish ceremony was gone through. In a few hours the troops marched, Captain Randolph with a fine troop of cavalry and Captain John B. Richardson with light artillery, both from this city and two companies of Infantry from Norfolk and Portsmouth. The light Artillery had under their care one thousand stand of arms for Southampton and Sussex, with a good supply of ammunition. All these things were dispatched in a few hours.
Twenty-fourth day: This day was spent in distributing arms below this [sic] where it was supposed it would be wanted.
Twenty-fifty day: I received dispatches from Brigadier Richard Eppes, stating with local militia those I sent him were more than enough to suppress the insurrection.
Twenty-sixth day: Constant application for arms are made. I received letters from W.O. Goode of Mecklenburg and James H. Gholson for arms. They were sent. General Eppes disbanded the Artillery and Infantry who returned home.
Twenty-seventh day: I received from Brigadier-General Broadnax a letter giving an account of his having assumed command of Brunswick and of the insurrection at Hick’s Ford in Greensville.
Twenty-eighth day: General Broadnax disbanded those troops and returned home. He reports several families killed the same day dispatches were received from General Eppes stating the names of many who were killed. From the two accounts, I find that there have been murdered by the negro insurgents sixty-one persons! The accounts received from the seat of war informs me that the operation of the troops is now confined to the capturing of the insurgents as they can make no further resistance and are endeavoring to escape.
Twenty-ninth day: The news heretofore from below, Surry and Nansemond, is in expectation of an insurrection. The Commandants of those regiments ask for arms. They are sent them.
A few days ago the mayor of Fredericksburg and the Colonel of that regiment informed me that the negroes there have been detected in a conspiracy, and desired arms. They have been sent them.
Thirtieth day: The news as heretofore. General Thomas captured most of the insurgents. The principal leaders yet untaken. Nat, alias Nat Turner, by the negroes called General, heretofore a preacher and a slave, Artis and some others are yet sought.
Thirty-first day: I learn that many negroes have been taken in the county of Nansemond, about forty, some of whom inform us of its being intended as a general rising of the negroes.