Capture & Trial of Rebels
Diary of Governor John Floyd, September 1831
First day: General Eppes informed me that they had captured
about forty of the insurgents, that they have been confined in
the Southampton jail and have been turned over to the courts
of that County to be dealt with according to law.
Second day: The same information as yesterday.
Third day: General Eppes informs me by the return of Captain Harrison of the Cavalry, whose troops returned to-day, that a Court of Oyer and Terminer for Southampton County was convened on the thirty-first of August and continued the first of September and had convicted some of the prisoners of conspiracy and murder.
A few hours after this he sent an express with the record of the court, containing the trial and condemnation of four of the prisoners. Moses and Daniel, Andrew and Jack. The last two the court recommended their punishment to be commuted for transportation, to which I will agree. Moses and David will be hanged on Monday, the fifty. Through out this affair the most appalling accounts have been given of the conduct of the negroes, the most inhuman butcheries the mind can conceive of, men, women, and infants, their heads chopped off, their bowels ripped out, ears, noses, hands, and legs cut off, no instance of mercy shown. The white people shot them in self defense whenever they appeared.
But amidst these scenes there were slaves found to defend their masters and to give information of the approach of the hostile party. These insurgents progressed twenty miles before they were checked, yet all this horrid work was accomplished in two days.
Fourth day: I have written General Eppes to retain at Southampton a sufficient guard and to disband the rest of his forces.
Fifth day: I have received to-day by express a record of the trial of the other slaves, eight of them, concerned in the massacre at Southampton. They are all condemned to be executed on Friday and next Monday. I will not in these cases interfere with the operations of the law.
Sixth day: This day I have attended to the Executive business, James River Company, Board of Public Works and Northwestern Turnpike Company, all of which are ex officio duties. It has been a laborious day. I am not well to-day. I am feverish and thirsty with a bad taste in my mouth.
Seventh day: I am this day informed by a letter from Colonel Wm. A. Christian, Commandant of the twenty-seventh Regiment in Northampton, that the negroes in that county are in a state of insubordination and intend to create an insurrection in that county. Guns have been found among them and some they were compelled to take from them by force. That county and Accomack are well armed, I have sent them a good supply of ammunition by this day’s boat. I fear much this insurrection in Southampton is to lead to much more disastrous consequences than is at this time apprehended by anybody.
Ninth day: No news from Southampton though even Prince William County has its emissaries in it from among the free negroes of the District of Columbia. He is a Preacher. The whole of that massacre in Southampton is the work of these Preachers as daily intelligence informs me. I am still unwell.
Tenth Day: I received by express to-day the record of the trial of nine others of the slaves concerned in the insurrection of Southampton. Five of these slaves the court recommended to transportation which the law calls commuting this punishment. I am so unwell this afternoon that I have to go to bed.
Eleventh day: I hear nothing this morning from below. I do not feel so badly as yesterday. I had more appetite to-day and not so bad a taste in my mouth.
Twelfth day: I have transacted some official business, but have heard nothing from below.
Fourteenth day: Attended various Boards ex officio. This day the record of the trial of Misek, a negro in Greensville, for Conspiracy was brought. The evidence was too feeble and therefore I have reprieved him for sale and transportation.
Sixteenth day: I had a Council of State, transacted business and received the record of nine slaves condemned to be hanged by the Court of Sussex. One I have reprieved. No news from any other part of the State.
Seventeenth day: Had a Council. Received an express from Amelia to-day, asking arms as families have been murdered in Dinwiddie near the Nottoway line. Colonel Davidson of the thirty-ninth Regiment Petersburgh, states the same by report. I do not exactly believe the report.
Nineteenth day: News from the Colonel of the thirty-ninth says the whole is false as it relates to the massacre of Mrs. Cousins and family in Dinwiddie. The slaves are quiet and evince no disposition to rebel.
Twentieth day: Did little business except to receive and dispatch public letters. The alarm of the country is great in the counties between this and the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am daily sending them a portion of arms though I know there is no danger as the slaves were never more humble and subdued.
Twenty-first day: I went to the council chamber to-day to transact business which required a Council. There are no councillors [sic] in town but Daniel. After waiting until I was tired I left the Capitol. Mr. Daniel did not come at half after ten.
Twenty-second day: This day was spent in giving orders for arms to be distributed to various counties and regiments.
Twenty-third day: I received the record of the trial of Lucy and Joe of Southampton. They were of the insurgents. What can be done, I yet know not, as I am obliged by the Constitution first to require the advice of the Council, then I do as I please. This endangers the lives of these negroes, though I am disposed to reprieve for transportation I cannot do it until I first require advice of the Council of State in Richmond, wherefore the poor wretch must lose his life by their absence from their official duty.