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Nat Turner's Rebellion - Aftermath

The news of the Southampton insurrection thrilled the whole country, North as well as South. The newspapers teemed with the accounts of it. Rumors of similar outbreaks prevailed all over the State of Virginia and throughout the South. There were rumors to the effect that Nat Turner was everywhere at the same time. People returned home before twilight, barricaded themselves in their homes, kept watch during the night, or abandoned their homes for centers where armed force was adequate to their protection.

Every community in near proximity beat the bushes, as a local phrase puts it, to see if there were any additional plots subsidiary to the greater one in Virginia. There is little or nothing to indicate that the South Carolina slaves were in any way concerned. However, in Laurens district two slaves were tried and convicted of being in an agreement to meet others and to join in such an undertaking if the opportunity should arise. f The Nashville Republican and State Gazette of October 22, 1831, copies a letter from the Baltimore Chronicle to the effect that it was believed that the Turner plot was widespread and that an attack on Cheraw had been planned.

But the people were not satisfied with this flow of blood and passions were not subdued with these public wreakings. Nat Turner was still at large. He had eluded their constant vigilance ever since the day of the raid in August. That he was finally captured was more the result of accident than of design, on October 30. During the examination Nat evinced great intelligence and much shrewdness. He was promptly found guilty and sentenced to be hanged Friday, November 11, 1831, twelve days after his capture.

In sentencing, the Judge - Jeremiah Cobb, Esq. - said "The time between this and your execution, will necessarily be very short; and your only hope must be in another world. The judgment of the court is, that you be taken hence to the jail from whence you came, thence to the place of execution, and on Friday next, between the hours of 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. be hung by the neck until you are dead! dead! dead! and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul."

It is said that Nat Turner's body was given over to the surgeons for dissection. He was skinned to supply such souvenirs as purses, his flesh made into grease, and his bones divided as trophies to be handed down as heirlooms.

The trial and execution over, the Confessions of Nat were published in pamphlet form and had a wide sale. An accurate likeness by John Crawley, a former artist of Norfolk at that time, lithographed by Endicott and Sweet of Baltimore, accompanied the edition which was printed for T.R. Gray, Turner's attorney. Fully 50,000 copies of this pamphlet are said to have been sold within a few weeks of its publication.

The Governor believed that the persons most active in stirring up the revolt were Negro preachers. "They had acquired," said he, "great ascendency over the minds of their fellows, and infused all their opinions which had prepared them for the development of the final design". He considered it a weakness in the laws of the State that facilities for assembly, to plot, treason, and conspiracy, to revolt and make insurrection, had been afforded by the lack of legislation to the contrary to prevent such freedom of movement among the Negroes. He believed, therefore, the public good required that the Negro preachers be silenced, "because, full of ignorance, they were incapable of inculcating anything but notions of the wildest superstition, thus preparing fit instruments in the hands of crafty agitators, to destroy the public tranquility."

William Styronís Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, released in 1967, remains controversial. The White author took the voice of the black slave revolutionary, and told a story drenched with fevered sexual obsessions for white women.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2017 18:03:26 ZULU