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The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831)
Thomas R. Gray Nat Turner Paul Royster (Depositor)
University of Nebraska-Lincoln,

Gray, Thomas R.; Turner, Nat; and Royster, Paul (Depositor), "The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831)" (1831). Electronic Texts in American Studies. Paper 15.

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5. THE LEADER OF THE LATE INSURRECTION IN SOUTHAMPTON. and acknowledged by him to be such when read before the Court of Southampton. . VA. GRAY. for his trial. AND THERE SENTENCED. under seal of the Court convened at Jerusalem. ————— Baltimore: published by thomas r. gray. A N AU T H EN T I C ACCOUNT OF THE WHOLE INSURRECTION. As fully and voluntarily made to THOMAS R. Lucas & Deaver. A L S O. Nov. &c. 1831. In the prison where he was confined. WITH LISTS OF THE WHITES WHO WERE MURDERED. AND OF THE NEGROES BROUGHT BEFORE THE COURT OF SOUTHAMPTON. with the certificate. print.THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER. 1831.

” the right whereof he claims as proprietor. which is in the words as following: “The Confessions of Nat Turner. for his trial. Every thing connected with this sad affair was wrapt in mystery. this 10th day of November. have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of my office. This “great Bandit” was taken by a single individual. and there sentenced. without attempting to make the slightest resistance. on Sunday. in a cave near the residence of his late owner. eighteen hundred and thirty-one. Also.TO THE PUBLIC. but throughout every portion of our country. by permission of the Jailor. in which this population is to be found. Since his confinement. and of the negroes brought before the Court of Southampton. the leader of this ferocious band. under seal. an authentic account of the whole insurrection. from the record of the District Court for the District of Columbia. ———————— district of columbia. Nat’s only weapon was a small light sword which he immediately surrendered. The insurgent slaves had all been destroyed. was captured. not only upon the minds of the community where this fearful tragedy was wrought. as to the motives which governed them. Virginia. It is the first instance in our history of an open rebellion of the slaves. of the Court convened at Jerusalem. the leader of the late insurrection in Southampton. LEE. in the prison where he was confined. to wit: Be it remembered. the Clerk thereof. That on this tenth day of November. Anno Domini. and the motives which influences its diabolical actors. until Nat Turner. 1831. Gray of the said District.” EDMUND J. I. 1831. deposited in this office the title of a book. whose name has resounded throughout our widely extended empire. or the means by which they expected to accomplish their object. with the certificate. entitled “An act to amend the several acts respecting Copy Rights. Lee. C. and begged that his life might be spared.) without revealing any thing at all satisfactory. and finding that he was willing to make a full and free confession of the origin. I have had ready access to him. exaggerated and mischievous reports. I determined for the . (with the exception of the leader. and on the following day safely lodged in the jail of the County.) Edmund J. or apprehended. Clerk of the District. and acknowledged by him to be such when read before the Court of Southampton. Gray. armed with a shot gun well charged. His captor was Benjamin Phipps. Public curiosity has been on the stretch to understand the origin and progress of this dreadful conspiracy. the thirtieth of October. and attended with such atrocious circumstances of cruelty and destruction. (Seal. progress and consummation of the insurrectory movements of the slaves of which he was the contriver and head.D. In testimony that the above is a true copy. Edmund I. as could not fail to leave a deep impression. Thomas R. &c. and led to a thousand idle. as fully and voluntarily made to Thomas R. November 5. with lists of the whites who were murdered. in conformity with an Act of Congress. Lee.C. tried and executed. The late insurrection in Southampton has greatly excited the public mind.

on Saturday. PARKER. He makes no attempt ( as all the other insurgents who were examined did. SAMUEL B. bewildered. Gray. and all were shot down in the course of a few days. defended by two men and three boys. alias Nat Turner. each individual sought his own safety either in concealment.] . and publish them. women and children. a negro slave. do hereby certify. for the trial of Nat. and that furthermore. and that Nat acknowledged the same to be full. a gloomy fanatic was revolving in the recesses of his own dark. Schemes too fearfully executed as far as his fiendish band proceeded in their desolating march.] [Seal. [Seal. and many a mother as she presses her infant darling to her bosom. JEREMIAH COBB. to Thomas R. How it first became bewildered and confounded. and finally corrupted and led to the conception and perpetration of the most atrocious and heart-rending deeds. endeavoring to grapple with things beyond its reach. acting upon materials but too well prepared for such impressions. The offspring of gloomy fanaticism.] [Seal. That this is a faithful record of his confessions. They certainly bear one stamp of truth and sincerity.] [Seal. THOMAS PRETLOW. R. BROWNE. and his designs confided but to a few. GRAY. 1831.] [Seal. members of the Court convened at Jerusalem. Nov. or by returning home. and a settled purpose of mind. T. why sentence of death should not be passed upon him. CARR BOWERS. the 5th day of Nov. or captured and brought to trial and punishment. as to the operations of a mind like 5 his. and overwrought mind. it is respectfully submitted to the public by their ob’t serv’t. was read to him in our presence. and their future plans of mischief. 1831. were entirely disconcerted and broken up. More than twenty of them attacked Dr. replied he had nothing further than he had communicated to Mr. Va. JAMES W. It is calculated also to demonstrate the policy of our laws in restraint of this class of our population. We the undersigned. Escaping thence. whilst the general guardians of the laws. when called upon by the presiding Magistrate of the Court. It reads an awful. to state if he had any thing to say. ORRIS A. Nat has survived all his followers. might have led to greater efforts. by removing doubts and conjectures from the public mind which otherwise must have remained. that the confessions of Nat. No cry for mercy penetrated their flinty bosoms.] [Seal. should have resisted so feebly. a useful lesson. It will thus appear. and voluntary. Gray. Blunt’s house on Tuesday morning. from his own words. 5. and the gallows will speedily close his career. schemes of indiscriminate massacre to the whites. as well as our citizens generally. whilst not one note of preparation was heard to warn the devoted inhabitants of woe and death. but frankly acknowledges his full participation in all the guilt of the transaction. a little before day-break. that whilst every thing upon the surface of society wore a calm and peaceful aspect. If Nat’s statements can be relied on. with little or no variation. Believing the following narrative. It will be long remembered in the annals of our country. deceased. Each particular community should look to its own safety. would give general satisfaction. HINES. late the property of Putnam Moore. will attest. and these in his immediate vicinity. Desperation alone. keep a watchful eye over all. And it is not the least remarkable feature in this horrid transaction. Men. without comment.) to exculpate himself. will shudder at the recollection of Nat Turner. free. but gave the first blow towards its execution. one would think. He was not only the contriver of the conspiracy. that a band actuated by such hellish purposes. and to induce all those entrusted with their execution. the annexed certificate of the County Court of Southampton. No acts of remembered kindness made the least impression upon these remorseless murderers. but the results of long deliberation. and it is hoped. from hoary age to helpless infancy were involved in the same cruel fate. the insurrection in this county was entirely local. It was not instigated by motives of revenge or sudden anger. They fled precipitately at the first fire. when met by the whites in arms.4 gratification of public curiosity to commit his statements to writing. 1831. Never did a band of savages do their work of death more unsparingly. Given under our hands and seals at Jerusalem. with the hope that his participation might escape detection. Apprehension for their own personal safety seems to have been the only principle of restraint in the whole course of their bloody proceedings. His own account of the conspiracy is submitted to the public. this 5th day of November. Jerusalem. to see that they are strictly and rigidly enforced. Southampton. and his band of ferocious miscreants.

And my father and mother strengthened me in this my first impression. and to whom I was much attached—my master. do hereby certify. I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Court aforesaid. Carr Bowers. I cannot divest myself of. It is here necessary to relate this circumstance—trifling as it may seem. helpless and forsaken as I am. without being questioned at all. both white and black. I visited NAT on Tuesday the 1st November. and even before I was born. who was very religious. and related somethings which went. when three or four years old. in this dungeon. a negro slave. who was tried and convicted. In my childhood a circumstance occurred which made an indelible impression on my mind. knowing that these things had happened. which my mother overhearing. C.6 State of Virginia. particularly among negroes. said it had happened before I was born—I stuck to my story. which they had always thought from certain marks on my head and breast—[a parcel of excrescences which I believe are not at all uncommon. deceased. in her opinion. as the Lord had shewn me things that had happened before my birth. In testimony whereof. Parker. Being at play with other children. I was telling them something. Southampton County. to confirm it—others being called on were greatly astonished. and ought to be given to their acts as Justices of the peace aforesaid. esqr’s are acting Justices of the Peace. James Rochelle. and were members of the Court which convened at Jerusalem. however. as you call it—To do so I must go back to the days of my infancy. James Rochelle. on Saturday the 5th day of November. for the trial of Nat alias Nat Turner. he commenced his narrative in the following words:— Sir. Turner. I was thirty-one years of age the 2d of October last. CONFESSION. I surely would be a prophet. Samuel B. and caused them to say in my hearing. and other religious persons who visited the house. Browne. and for which I am about to atone at the gallows. saying in my presence. with permission of the jailer. as an insurgent in the late insurrection in the county of Southampton aforesaid. Hines. that Jeremiah Cobb. C. James W. and whom I often saw at . in and for the County aforesaid. In this case he has either cut them off or they have nearly disappeared]—My grand mother. of this county. which has terminated so fatally to many. who belonged to the church. to be affixed this 5th day of November. on the evening he was committed to prison. and that full faith and credit are due. as I have seen several with the same. and Orris A. 1831. 1831. and even now. it was the commencement of that belief which has grown with time. I was intended for some great purpose. when. and laid the ground work of that enthusiasm. and born the property of Benj.] Agreeable to his own appointment. late the property of Putnam Moore. C. sir. Thomas Pretlow. ———————— [Seal. Clerk of the County Court of Southampton in the State of Virginia. to wit: I. S.—You have asked me to give a history of the motives which induced me to undertake the late insurrection.

when a book was shewn me to keep me from crying. noticing the singularity of my manners. in attempting to make paper. both white and black. with this confidence in my superior judgment. and whenever an opportunity occurred of looking at a book. and if I was. devoting my time to fasting and prayer—By this time. even at this early period of my life. restless. who thought I had made my escape to some other part of the country. to the astonishment of the negroes on the plantation. particularly the blacks—and this learning was constantly improved at all opportunities—when I got large enough to go to work.” Question—what do you mean by the Spirit.” I reflected much on this passage. remarked I had too much sense to be raised. as I acquired it with the most perfect ease.8 prayers. was perfected by Divine inspiration. But the reason of my return was. and hearing the scriptures commented on at meetings. At this time I reverted in my mind to the remarks made of me in my childhood. by this time. and prayed daily for light on this subject—As I was praying one day at my plough. (not by the means of conjuring and such like tricks—for to them I always spoke of such things with contempt) but by the communion of the Spirit whose revelations I often communicated to them. one day. yet convinced me of its practicability if I had the means. I began to direct my attention to this great object. Knowing the influence I had obtained over the minds of my fellow servants. in which many events occurred to strengthen me in this my belief. which fully confirmed me in the impression that I was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty. I would find many things that the fertility of my own imagination had depicted to me before. whenever my duty would permit—and then again I had the same revelation. I began spelling the names of different objects—this was a source of wonder to all in the neighborhood. not only had great influence on my own mind. having arrived to man’s estate. I now began to prepare them for my purpose.* I was not addicted to stealing in my youth. and therefore studiously avoided mixing in society. as my father had done before. The Spirit that spoke to the prophets in former days—and I was greatly astonished. Ans. from whom I ran away—and after remaining in the woods thirty days. and they believed and said my wisdom came from God. and for two years prayed continually. and my uncommon intelligence for a child. was spent either in prayer. and the things that had been shewn me—and as it had been said of me in my childhood by those by whom I had been taught to pray. to plan for them. that they would often carry me with them when they were going on any roguery. from the circumstances already alluded to in my infancy. Growing up among them. I was reflecting on many things that would present themselves to my imagination. to fulfil the purpose for which. all my time. and wrapped myself in mystery. I suppose. when the school children were getting their lessons. I was struck with that particular passage which says: “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you. and many other experiments. I felt assured I was intended. which became the subject of remark by white and black. Several years rolled round.— * When questioned as to the manner of manufacturing those different articles. and which belief was ever afterwards zealously inculcated by the austerity of my life and manners. and was a slave. that I have no recollection whatever of learning the alphabet—but to the astonishment of the family. “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you. in my superior judgment. he was found well informed on the subject. and although this subject principally occupied my thoughts—there was nothing that I saw or heard of to which my attention was not directed—The manner in which I learned to read and write. that I had too much sense to be raised. so much so. I must appear so. and when this. I would never be of any service to any one as a slave—To a mind like mine. nor have ever been—Yet such was the confidence of the negroes in the neighborhood. not devoted to my master’s service. it is easy to suppose that religion was the subject to which it would be directed. gunpowder. by telling them something was about to happen that would terminate in fulfilling the great promise that had been made to me—About this time I was placed under an overseer. Now finding I had arrived to man’s estate. inquisitive and observant of every thing that was passing. 9 Having soon discovered to be great. while employed. that the Spirit appeared . and in whom I had the greatest confidence. and these revelations being made known to me. or in making experiments in casting different things in moulds made of earth. I would never be of any use to any one as a slave. and if I was. in their opinions. the spirit spoke to me. that although I could not perfect. saying. I returned.

And from the first steps of righteousness until the last. and were baptised by the Spirit—After this I rejoiced greatly. About this time I told these things to a white man. 1828. and the Holy Ghost was with me. Hark. and I communicated the great work laid out for me to do.10 to me and said I had my wishes directed to the things of this world. while laboring in the field. And immediately on the sign appearing in the heavens. from the intercourse of my fellow servants. it was plain to me that the Saviour was about to lay down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men. I had been living with Mr. and was attacked immediately with a cutaneous eruption. and placed the greatest confi- . and not to the kingdom of Heaven. and was now returning to earth again in the form of dew—and as the leaves on the trees bore the impression of the figures I had seen in the heavens. and changes of the seasons. portrayed in blood. you must surely bare it. “Behold me as I stand in the Heavens”—and I looked and saw the forms of men in different attitudes—and there were lights in the sky to which the children of darkness gave other names than what they really were—for they were the lights of the Saviour’s hands. Since the commencement of 1830. the operation of tides. and the Spirit appeared to me again. the revolution of the planets. Was not Christ crucified. and the sun was darkened—the thunder rolled in the Heavens. and blood flowed in streams—and I heard a voice saying. and then I began to receive the true knowledge of faith. he was healed. with the forms of men in different attitudes. even as they were extended on the cross on Calvary for the redemption of sinners. saying that if they had my sense they would not serve any master in the world. Do you not find yourself mistaken now? Ans. And on the 12th of May. and had ascended to heaven for the salvation of sinners. and after praying and fasting nine days. for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first. and made plain the miracles it had shown me—For as the blood of Christ had been shed on 11 this earth. in the neighborhood—and I then found on the leaves in the woods hieroglyphic characters. I discovered drops of blood on the corn as though it were dew from heaven—and I communicated it to many. and numbers. the seal was removed from my lips. and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent.” And the negroes found fault. And now the Holy Ghost had revealed itself to me. and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened. which determined me not to wait longer. And by signs in the heavens that it would make known to me when I should commence the great work—and until the first sign appeared. and that it would then reveal to me the knowledge of the elements. and representing the figures I had seen before in the heavens. as the Saviour had been baptised so should we be also—and when the white people would not let us be baptised by the church. to four in whom I had the greatest confidence.” I now withdrew myself as much as my situation would permit. and said. that I fell sick. in the sight of many who reviled us. (Henry. when the sign appeared again. and it affected my mind to such a degree. both white and black. and the time passed without our coming to any determination how to commence—Still forming new schemes and rejecting them. and doeth it not. Ques. and slay my enemies with their own weapons. Brantley) on whom it had a wonderful effect—and he ceased from his wickedness. and Sam)—It was intended by us to have begun the work of death on the 4th July last—Many were the plans formed and rejected by us. and said. and gave thanks to God. and thus have I chastened you. we went down into the water together. And about this time I had a vision—and I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle. I sought more than ever to obtain true holiness before the great day of judgment should appear. After this revelation in the year 1825. and reminded me of the things it had already shown me. and let it come rough or smooth. and that I should return to the service of my earthly master—“For he who knoweth his Master’s will. such you are called to see. stretched forth from east to west. shall be beaten with many stripes. for the avowed purpose of serving the Spirit more fully—and it appeared to me. and blood ozed from the pores of his skin. and murmurred against me. Joseph Travis. was I made perfect. (the eclipse of the sun last February) I should arise and prepare myself. And I wondered greatly at these miracles. and the great day of judgment was at hand. I heard a loud noise in the heavens. who was to me a kind master. and the knowledge of the elements being made known to me. and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men. (Etheldred T. “Such is your luck. I should conceal it from the knowledge of men— And on the appearance of the sign. Nelson. and prayed to be informed of a certainty of the meaning thereof— and shortly afterwards.

his life was worth no more than others. Mr. Salathul Francis’. I joined them. and being joined by Sam. armed with a hatchet. opened it. Bryant’s. I pursued them. Whitehead’s. and Mrs. always succeeded the murders. when Henry and Will returned and killed it. about six hundred yards distant. not one of them awoke. Hark got a ladder and set it against the chimney. as the sword was dull. but not being able to kill her. in fact. We started from there for Mrs. and we entered and found Mrs. we determined to enter the house secretly. on Monday morning. they prepared in the woods a dinner.12 dence in me. Travis’) on that night. he had only time to say who is that. Hark and myself. and then to concert a plan. was only a tool in the hands of Hark. Turner. as she lay in bed. and asked Will how came he there. it was agreed between Henry. except myself. and after carrying them through all the manœuvres I was master of. Will laid him dead. As we pushed on to the house. and he had a letter for him. with his fatal axe. Turner and Mrs. Vain hope! Will. Nelson. as we approached. We remained some time at the barn. (the other six were to go through a by way to Mr. and dragging him out a little from the door. On returning to the house. Austin shot him. that was forgotten. Richard Whitehead standing in the cotton patch. five in number. to prepare a dinner the next day for the men we expected.) We remained at the feast. while sleeping. entered and came down stairs. and murdered Mrs. as we knew we were strong enough to murder the family. we entered. The murder of this family. From Mrs. or loose his life. I had no cause to complain of his treatment to me. the executioner. and until we had armed and equipped ourselves. went to the still. Hark. and the rest of us went to the house. but reflecting that it might create an alarm in the neighborhood. we called him over into the lane. Will immediately killed Mrs. it was quickly agreed we should commence at home (Mr. almost frightened to death. was near at hand. Peebles. with a pound or two of powder. Sam replied it was him. maintaining the most perfect silence on our march. Q. A. (which was invariably adhered to.) as we approached the house we discovered Mr. By this time my company amounted to fifteen. I formed them in a line as soldiers. finding Mr. Will and Jack. I asked him if he thought to obtain it? He said he would. neither age nor sex was to be spared. and gathered sufficient force. and Henry brandy. and murder them whilst sleeping. Reese’s. Henry. and several old muskets. which we reached about sunrise. on which I ascended. and nine men mounted. it was his last word. I took Mrs. J. and removed the guns from their places. and shut the door. was the work of a moment. I struck her several blows over the head. I discovered some one run round the garden. despatched her also. they all went to the cider press and drank. but finding it was a servant girl belonging . where. On Saturday evening. the family discovered us. Newsome by the hand. as we had not yet determined on any. and Will. where finding the door unlocked. and Sam. they immediately seized him. near the lane fence. he answered. and with the sword I had when I was apprehended. Francis asked who was there. a mile distant. the 20th of August. it being dark. I could not give a death blow. A general destruction of property and search for money and ammunition. Hark went to the door with an axe. I knew. brought a pig. Travis shared the same fate. until we had left the house and gone some 13 distance. Whitehead’s. and thinking it was some of the white family. with one blow of his axe. Austin. and he was no more. Turner’s. who started for Mrs. if they were awaked by the noise. but it was only to sleep the sleep of death. and rejoin us at Mrs. On which. It was then observed that I must spill the first blood. the hatchet glanced from his head. The same reason that had caused me not to mix with them for years before. to send him to an untimely grave. when we went to the house and found Austin. I entered my master’s chamber. about three o’clock. marched them off to Mr. Will turning around and discovering it. until about two hours in the night. on the following morning. on which he got up and came to the door. four guns that would shoot. Reese’s we went to Mrs. with a blow of his axe. we got here. where. he sprang from the bed and called his wife. and accompanied by Will. and hoisting a window. there was no other white person in the family. where we paraded. Jack. there was a little infant sleeping in a cradle. with one stroke of his axe. he was dispatched by repeated blows on the head. unbarred the door. Why were you so backward in joining them. Reese in her bed. I saluted them on coming up. Sam and Will went to the door and knocked. Newsome in the middle of a room. her son awoke. This was enough to put him in full confidence. for the purpose of breaking it open. and his liberty as dear to him.

By this time. Barrow’s. which I new nothing of. but knowing they would complete the work of death and pillage. to 15 prevent their escape and strike terror to the inhabitants—on this account I never got to the houses. but she was pursued. Porter’s. robbing him of money and other valuables. with a fence rail. Peete. and Mr. As I came round to the door I saw Will pulling Mrs. Miss Margaret. immediately on the road leading to Jerusalem. and from thence to Nathaniel Francis’. Williams fled and got some distance from the house. and Mr. (this was against the positive orders of Captain Alexander P. and dispersed them. and my object was to reach there as soon as possible. I immediately pursued the course taken by the party gone on before. the others going across the field to the house. having told them I would join them in that neighborhood. They said Captain Harris and his family had escaped. Mrs. others drinking. rejoined us. Francis’. I killed her by a blow on the head. Monday morning. who brought her back. Doyles. Parkers’ gate. Parker’s it was agreed that they might call and get his people. and informed me they had done the work of death assigned them. James W. who commanded. had concealed herself in the corner. he had escaped with his family. but they whom I left. the men now amounting to about forty. and at the step he nearly severed her head from her body. who had come on business with Mr. until the murders were committed. not having been at that time rejoined by any of them—Immediately on discovering the whites. the others to Mr. the party I left going on to Mr. swords and clubs—On reaching Mr. having met Mr. it was proposed to me to call there. I ordered them to mount and march instantly. with his broad axe. Howell Harris’. and immediately started in quest of other victims—Having murdered Mrs. this was about nine or ten o’clock. overtaken.14 to the house. this was for two purposes. I remained at the gate on the road. while engaged in this. approached us in about one hundred yards. Newit Harris’. but was soon overtaken. Harris was from home. when I discovered her. Doyles’ and Mr. but some of the men having relations at Mr. about half a mile off. who had pursued our blood-stained track. but I objected. I met these sent to Mr. where I found the greater part mounted. Bryant’s. she was told to get down and lay by his side. but Mrs. Whitehead out of the house. overtaken and shot. and compelled to get up behind one of the company. I went to Mr. and after repeated blows with a sword. and learning from some who joined them. they had been here and murdered him. Harris’ returning. and as it . I understood there. I then went to Mr. Levi Waller’s. and after showing her the mangled body of her lifeless husband. Waller and ten children. I became impatient. formed by the projection of the cellar cap from the house. and on our return we were met by a party of white men. we started for Mr. where she was shot dead. eighteen in number. where the family were murdered—Here we found a young man named Drury. Mrs. two or three miles distant. Doyle on the road and killed him. We again divided. axes. and started to the house for them. as they appeared to be alarmed—The white men. the six who had gone by Mr. and who had directed the men to reserve their fire until within thirty paces) And I discovered about half of them retreating. some were in the yard. Peter Edwards’. after leaving Mrs. but they had been here also. shouted and hurraed as I rode up. and who had fired on those at the gate. who generally approached the houses as fast as their horses could run. except in one case. I took my station in the rear. that the alarm had already spread. Williams—he was pursued. and I immediately returned to bring up those sent to Mr. on my approach she fled. that Mr. I then started for Mr. in silent satisfaction. I pursued on their track to Capt. Jacob Williams. Richard Porter’s. had not been idle. I sometimes got in sight in time to see the work of death completed. when one of them fired. the property in the house they destroyed. expecting to find them there. Vaughan was the next place we visited—and after murdering the family here. all mounted and armed with guns. I then ordered my men to fire and rush on . and ready to start. at Mr. in front. as I knew he was gone to Jerusalem. William Williams’—having killed him and two little boys that were there. On my reaching Mr. Doyles. John T. Francis’ before I could get there. part going to Mr. Whitehead’s. Whitehead and her daughter Margaret. all the family were already murdered. I determined on starting for Jerusalem—Our number amounted now to fifty or sixty. and about three miles distant. I placed fifteen or twenty of the best armed and most to be relied on. I returned to commence the work of death. After waiting some time for them. viewed the mangled bodies as they lay.twas my object to carry terror and devastation wherever we went. I proceeded to Mr. Howell Harris’. I ordered my men to halt and form. loading their guns. with seven or eight. T.

and several other places. After placing out sentinels. five or six of my men were wounded. a dog in the neighborhood passing by my hiding place one night while I was out. fled in different ways. but knew nothing of the party that had gone in with Captain Peete. and more coming up than I saw at first. (this was a small party from Jerusalem who knew the negroes were in the field. not knowing who they were. Pursuing our course back and coming in sight of Captain Harris’. ( Jacob and Nat. and on their return the others being more alarmed. We pursued and overtook some of them who we thought we left dead. where I concealed myself for six weeks. two negroes having started to go hunting with the . as I never saw them afterwards. Hark had his horse shot under him. Ridley’s quarter for the night. when they fired and retreated.16 them. with this I determined to attempt to recruit. where we had been the day before. leaving several of my men. I overtook two or three who told me the others were dispersed in every direction. Spencer’s.) Thinking that those who retreated first. when I sent them in search of Henry. and attack that place in the rear. afraid of speaking to any human being. where they would find me. Hark fired a gun. as I expected they would look for me on the other road. and being joined by four of his men. and returning every morning to my cave before the dawn of day. A few nights after. never leaving my hiding place but for a few minutes in the dead of night to get water which was very near. and compelled to betray me. I laid down to sleep.) we concealed ourselves in the woods until near night. accompanied by about twenty men. I determined to return. as I was sure they would make back to their old neighborhood. and Hark. On this I gave up all hope for the present. I know not how long I might have led this life. the gun was fired to ascertain if any of the family were at home. but. and directed them to rally all they could. knowing that Mr. starting up. and I accordingly returned there as soon as it was dark and remained until Wednesday evening. three miles below Jerusalem. and crawled in and stole it. which we reached just before day. we discovered a party of white men at the house. finding myself defeated here I instantly determined to go through a private way. Thomas’s. I began to go about in the night and eaves drop the houses in the neighborhood. as I knew there was a company of men there. on hearing the firing they immediately rushed to the spot and arrived just in time to arrest the progress of these barbarous villians. On my way back. on riding up the yard. pursuing this course for about a fortnight and gathering little or no intelligence. I called at Mrs. had all only fallen back to meet others with amunition. make new recruits. I found some mounted. if accident had not betrayed me. on which all deserted me but two. but none left on the field. Blunt and his family were at Maj. After going a short distance in this private way. Ridley’s. and on Thursday night after having supplied myself with provisions from Mr. and proceed on to rally in the neighborhood. I discovered they were met by another party. and had haulted. We expected Dr. and none of my men joining me. where they would rejoin me. the white men pursued and fired on us several times. so that I was reduced to about twenty again. Mrs. After trying in vain to collect a sufficient force to proceed to Jerusalem. and was coming out just as I returned. As I saw them re-loading their guns. Travis’s. and come down again. the white families having fled. Sam. and had just tied their horses to await their return to the road. one of the sentinels having given the alarm that we were about to be attacked. at the place we had had our dinner the Sunday before. we found no more victims to gratify our thirst for blood. the few remaining stood their ground until we approached within fifty yards. when discovering white men riding around the place as though they were looking for some one. I scratched a hole under a pile of fence rails in a field. Blunt’s was the nearest house. and 17 others in great confusion. thinking by this time I could venture out. was attracted by some meat I had in my cave. and save the lives of their friends and fellow citizens. Parker and family were in Jerusalem. and several of my bravest men being wounded. and I had a great desire to get there to procure arms and amunition. we mustered now about forty strong. Nelson. with the recruits made since my defeat. Dr. and I caught another for him as it was running by me. I concluded Jacob and Nat had been taken. I had left. we were immediately fired upon and retreated. I do not know what became of them. was quickly roused by a great racket. and cross the Nottoway river at the Cypress Bridge. and rising a little hill. the others became panick struck and squandered over the field. I ordered some to ride round and reconnoitre. and were re-loading their guns. we stopped at Majr. (they were not killed) after pursuing them about two hundred yards. and the party who fired on us at fifty or sixty yards distant.

but during his statement. When I questioned him as to the insurrection in North Carolina happening about the same time. taken notes as to some particular circumstances. “I see sir. As their teacher had not arrived. and that his object was to murder and rob for the purpose of obtaining money to make his escape. I looked on him and my blood curdled in my veins. shews the decision of his character. as well as myself. of his own color. he said he knew it was impossible for him to escape as the woods were full of men. after assuring him of the certain death that awaited him. but warped and perverted by the influence of early impressions. I requested him not to shoot and I would give up. but he can read and write. with a spirit soaring above the attributes of man. for the purpose of concealment. with a mind capable of attaining any thing. having the true negro face. and having just gone out to walk about. As to his being a coward. though strong and active. unnoticed by him. I had. (such as are common to log houses. There were two whom they thought they left dead on the field at Mr. he therefore thought it was better to surrender. I delivered it to him. I am here loaded with chains. and seeing the negroes approach. or drink a drop of spirits.) and for natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension. you doubt my word. Knowing then they would betray me. he expressed himself fully satisfied as to the impracticability of his attempt. every feature of which is strongly marked. clothed with rags and covered with chains. he cocked his gun and aimed at me. I here proceeded to make some inquiries of him. As to his ignorance. in a little hole I had dug out with my sword. he denied any knowledge of it. and who escaped in the most providential manner. having forborne to do so previously. nor wound afresh the bosoms of the disconsolate sufferers in this unparalleled and inhuman massacre. and whom he had not seen nor had any knowledge since 22d of August last. and strange appearances about this time in the heavens might prompt others. the dog came again to the place. and having the advantage of his statement before me in writing. he replied. Phipps. I shall not attempt to describe the effect of his narrative. deliberate composure with which he spoke of his late deeds and intentions. if he knew of any extensive or concerted plan. his reason as given for not resisting Mr. but can you not think the same ideas. During the time I was pursued. 19 It is notorious. On making myself known they fled from me. and was pursued almost incessantly until I was taken a fortnight afterwards by Mr. she ran up on a dirt chimney. Waller’s. and passed that way. as told and commented on by himself. and found his statement corroborated by every circumstance coming within my own knowledge or the confessions of others whom had been either killed or executed. as they did not take time to re-load when they charged on them. I spoke to them to beg concealment.18 same dog. Parker’s.) and remained there unnoticed during the massacre of the eleven that were . which your time will not permit you to relate. I had many hair breadth escapes. The calm. Phipps present his gun. (it was taught him by his parents. Benjamin Phipps. His answer was. There were two or three who were in the power of these wretches. on which thinking myself discovered. on the evening of the third day that I had been with him. under the top of a fallen tree. in the condemned hole of the prison. When he saw Mr. still bearing the stains of the blood of helpless innocence about him. had they known it. by detailing the deeds of their fiend-like barbarity. that he was never known to have a dollar in his life. upon which he demanded my sword. and willing to suffer the fate that awaits me.” I now had much conversation with and asked him many questions. to swear an oath. but who were only stunned by the blows of their guns. It has been said he was ignorant and cowardly. and he brought me to prison. On other subjects he possesses an uncommon share of intelligence. I do not. they were at play in the yard. I began a cross examination. and where the children were collecting for that purpose. to this undertaking. The escape of a little girl who went to school at Mr. and trust to fortune for his escape. is surpassed by few men I have ever seen. and that concealment would only bring destruction on the innocent as well as guilty. I immediately left my hiding place. and when I looked him in the face as though I would search his inmost thoughts. excited general sympathy. the expression of his fiend-like face when excited by enthusiasm. Phipps’ discovering the place of my concealment. or plays his part most admirably. discovered me and barked. He is below the ordinary stature. yet daring to raise his manacled hands to heaven. On Mr. He is a complete fanatic. he certainly never had the advantages of education. I will not shock the feelings of humanity. except in the cases noted in parenthesis.

“The Lord helped her. deep and deadly. but another coming to her rescue. who being sworn. who having found him guilty. After firing his rifle. Nathaniel Francis. Trezvant* was then introduced. His bravery. The court composed of —— . as follows: (his Confession as given to Mr. and I have nothing more to say. his lovely and amiable wife. And while upon this part of the subject. and the shrieks of the victims of these ruthless savages. in your own language. But fortunate for society. I have not. while they murdered her sister in the same room. when seeing a party go up to the house. Gray. Chairman. and defenceless. Attend then to the sentence of the Court. and concealed for protection by a slave of the family. and returned to the arms of her weeping mother. Esq. On the part of the Commonwealth. but he was overpowered. and upon his arraignment pleaded Not guilty. I cannot but call your attention to the poor misguided wretches who have gone before you. vs. &c. Have you any thing to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced against you?” Ans. the hand of retributive justice has overtaken them. when she came down and fled to a swamp. She was afterwards carried off. 21 Charged with making insurrection. You have been arraigned and tried before this court. John T. as to deprive us of many of our most valuable citizens. saved from the hands of these monsters. and then broke it over the villain who first approached him. deposed as follows: (agreeably to Nat’s own Confession. you managed so far to put it into execution. Miss Whitehead concealed herself between the bed and the mat that supported it. under circumstances shocking to humanity. ———————— The Commonwealth. who will long lament a husband so deserving of her love. and scorning to fly. and concealed herself. But the original contriver of a plan. having met for the trial of Nat Turner. who being sworn. and convicted of one of the highest crimes in our criminal code. they then entered the closet where she was concealed. saying to his counsel. Gray. While in this hiding place. when she was caught and held by one of her servant girls.” Could I stop here. and of infant children. who were in pursuit of the murderers. and the case was submitted without argument to the court. and slain. a mere child as she was. were those who escaped their work of death. “too indulgent. the prisoner was brought in and arraigned. however. she fled to the woods. Jeremiah Cobb. narrated Nat’s Confession to him. while concealed in a closet heard their blows. she heard two of her women in a quarrel about the division of her clothes. the indiscriminate destruction of men. she attempted to escape through the garden. told his wife to make her escape. fell fighting on his own threshold. your crime would be sufficiently aggravated. one that never can be effected.) Col. and this was done when they were asleep. Few indeed. and plotting to take away the lives of divers free white persons. Nat Turner. and your own confession tells us that they were stained with the blood of a master. and went out without discovering her. without discovering her. discovering them approaching his house. who gave evidence against several of them on their trial.20 killed at this place. pronounced the sentence of the court. that he did not feel so. where. she came up. The evidence before us leaves not a shadow of doubt. They are not few in number—they were your } *The committing Magistrate. of helpless women. she lay concealed until the next day. replied with the utmost simplicity.” She was taken up behind a gentleman of the party. Mrs. but that your hands were often imbrued in the blood of the innocent. She remained on her hiding place till just before the arrival of a party. 1831. Baron. You have been convicted of plotting in cold blood. with the horrors of the late scene before her. Levi Waller was introduced.) The prisoner introduced no evidence. As directed by him. on the 22d of August. . I have made a full confession to Mr. and not one that was known to be concerned has escaped. he discharged his gun at them. and on being asked how she escaped. Mr. in the following words: “Nat Turner! Stand up.

. Hartwell Prebles. Nathaniel Francis. Trajan Doyle.. as the author of their misfortune.. Reese and son William... Williams and child. I am. Sam.. and transported. Do. and Davy. . (a boy.. Convicted.. Discharged. that you were led away by fanaticism. Charlton. .. Mrs.. and sentence.. Blunt’s estate. that you be taken hence to the jail from whence you came. Jacob. Everett Bryant. George Vaughan. P.Nelson.. (boys.) Davy. Convicted.) . and transported.. Tom. Geo. and the blood of all cries aloud.. . and son Arthur. Levi Waller. Do. thence to the place of execution. Discharged. Caty Whitehead.Stephen. Jacob Williams. Mrs. Nathaniel Francis’ overseer and two children. Discharged. with their owners’ names. 1831.. Mrs.Isaac... and transported Convicted. m. Disch’d without trial. (free.. Benj. between the hours of 10 a. Do... be hung by the neck until you are dead ! dead ! dead ! and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul.. Daniel. Joseph Travers and wife and three children. ———— A List of Negroes brought before the Court of Southampton..Tom.Nathan. and calls upon you. m. Yes! You forced them unprepared.Arnold. Nathaniel Francis. Thomas Ridley. Catharine Whitehead. The judgment of the court is.. Nathaniel Francis... Elizabeth Turner..Hardy and Isham. and Edwin Drury—amounting to fifty-five. Benjamin Edwards.. William Williams. son Richard and four daughters and grand-child. . will necessarily be very short.. Do. Do. 23 A list of persons murdered in the Insurrection. .Dred. Con. Convicted and transported. .Richard Porter.. Caswell Worrell and child. John K. The time between this and your execution. . . Convicted. Ditto. . and your only hope must be in another world. Mrs... Jacob Williams and three children.Jack and Andrew. your only justification is. wife and two boys.. T. Sarah Newsome.. Do. Henry Bryant and wife and child. Barrow. Convi. J.. Mrs. . H.22 bosom associates...Moses. Borne down by this load of guilt. Do.. Edm’d Turner’s estate. . Mrs. Do. John T. Wm.J. .Hark..Curtis.. Joseph Travis’ estate. and while you have my sympathies.. and on Friday next... Mrs. Convicted and transp’d. ....Nathan.Jack. on the 21st and 22d of August. .. Acquitted. Artist. Do. nevertheless called upon to pass the sentence of the court.Moses... W. Reese’s estate. Do. Parker. Ann Eliza Vaughan. from my soul I pity you. Salathiel Francis. If this be true. Elizabeth Turner... Convicted. Barrow. .Davy.. Caty Whitehead. Rebecca Vaughan. Mrs.) Sam.. . Do.. and 2 p. and wife’s mother.. from Time to Eternity. Levi Waller and ten children.. .. .Nat. .Jack.

Sent on for further trial. Hannah Williamson. Sent on for further trial. Nathaniel Simmons. The first edition was a pamplet of 23 pages (plus 1 blank).. Some typographical errors have been corrected and are listed below.) . Convicted. . punctuation. William Vaughan.Frank..11 1831 edition &c.. .. Sent on for further trial. W. . except as noted below. dec’d.... . . Turner.. In this electronic edition.. . .. Virginia.... .. Benj...unl... Disch’d without trial. . (free.. Acquitted..John C..J.. Acquitted..... Parker. Acquitted..Putnam Moore... italics.Joe... Convicted.16 22.Thomas Haithcock.. Convi’d and transp’d.... a Virginia lawyer who had interviewed Nat Turner in the Southampton County jail over three days. Parker..23 21.. ... in November 1967.Bob..Archer..Jim. .) Stephen.. Arthur Sent on for further trial.loc. . John T... and capitalization of the original have been preserved.unc.. . November 1–3.. 1831... . issued by Uniprint University Printing Company in a special edition of 500 copies... Gray. published at Baltimore. Briggs. Convicted.Richard P.” ran away heavens you?” dead! and on for . Peter Edwards. Temperance Parker..Exum Artes...33 18.Daniel.Matt.. in November of 1831 by Thomas R.. Disch’d without trial... This facsimile edition was photo-offset from the copy held in the William L. .. Solomon D.Bury Newsome..James Bell. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.library..... measuring approximately 4¼ × 8 inches..... Do.line 2. ... Joseph Parker.... An html version of the text of the first edition is online in the Documenting the American South collection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library at: http://0-docsouth.. (free. with an introduction by David Katzman. keyed to page and line of the present edition: Page.24 Ferry and Archer. (free.. About the Text This electronic edition of The Confessions of Nat Turner reproduces the text of the first edition. .. Do. Do. Maryland. the following year..12 9. ... Do.Sam. .11 24. Page images of the Library of Congress’s copy of this second edition (1832) are online at: http://memory.Nat Turner..Isham Turner... . Acquitted. .... ranaway heaven’s you? dead and on or 25 emended to &c. Solomon D. Parker.) Joe. Blunt’s estate.html Thomas Gray published a second edition of the Confessions at Richmond. The text presented here was transcribed from a facsimile reprint of the first edition.. its author. Acquitted. Disch’d without trial..Jim. Reese.. Barrow..Nelson... (free. Thomas Ridley.. Convicted and trans’d. the spelling.... Samuel Champion. Richard Porter.Lucy. Acquitted.) .Jack and . .Jim and Isaac..

D. edited by Henry Irving Tragle. captured. Gray had witnessed the aftermath of the killings. Nat Turner appears more a fanatic than a practical liberator. The Confessions of Nat Turner and Related Documents. “He is a complete fanatic. they were joined by as many as 60 other slaves and free blacks. he was hanged. when he was caught in the immediate vicinity. 1971. By noon of Tuesday. 1971. He tells of being spoken to by the Holy Spirit. August 23. Mitchell. interviewed other participants. NJ: Prentice Hall. Englewood Cliffs. Nat Turner. Nat Turner was tried and condemned to be executed.C. and it is estimated over 50. in Washington. from November 1 through November 3. 14 women. the insurgents had been killed. The Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831: A Compilation of Source Material. The next day he was delivered to the county sheriff and lodged in the county jail in Jerusalem (now Courtland). There. Duff andf Peter M. Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory. edited by Kenneth S. or plays his part most admirably. and had supplied written accounts to various newspapers.m. He was familiar with the outlines of Nat Turner’s life and the plot. on November 9th. see: The Nat Turner Rebellion: The Historical Event and the Modern Controversy. On November 10th. edited by John B.Bibliography For further materials relating to The Confessions of Nat Turner. Gray registered his copyright for the Confessions. Abstract Nat Turner (1800–1831) was known to his local “fellow servants” in Southampton County as “The Prophet. he met six associates in the woods at Cabin Pond. 2003. August 21. a 31-year-old lawyer who had previously represented several other defendants charged in the uprising. 1831. and survivors. 1971. Over the next 36 hours. or dispersed by local militia. they began to enter local houses and kill the white inhabitants.” On the evening of Sunday. Nat Turner alone escaped—until October 30. New York: Harper & Row. edited by Kenneth S. New York: Oxford University Press. of seeing visions and signs in the heavens—”that I was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty. and about 2:00 a. and 31 infants and children.” On November 5th. Greenberg. and they killed at least 10 men. and he was aware of the intense interest and the commercial possibilities of its originator’s narrative. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press. edited by Eric Foner. Greenberg. Virginia. 26 27 . he was interviewed by Thomas Ruffin Gray.000 copies were sold in the next few months. 1996. Within a week his pamphlet appeared. Martin’s. having used several hiding places over the previous 9½ weeks. Boston: Bedford/St. In the Confessions.” In Gray’s view.

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