Eyewitness Reports in History Nat Turner's Rebellion Part 2

An eyewitness account of Nat Turner's Rebellion an important event in American history and the figt against slavery.

Nat Turner's Rebellion

The mass murder of whites by blacks thus ended less than 48 hours after it had begun. Then came the white reign of terror. In their pursuit of the fugitives, local authorities left a trail of indiscriminate slaughter every bit as grisly as the rebellion itself. At least 200 blacks were shot, decapitated, lynched, or imprisoned. Freshly severed black heads appeared on signposts as a warning to any other slaves who might want to murder their way to freedom.

Nat Turner remained at large for two months. After spending six weeks hiding under a pile of fence rails and 10 days nestled beneath a wheat stack, he finally was discovered on Oct. 30 by a farmer eager for the $1,100 reward. Once in custody, Turner confessed fully to his crimes, although he insisted on entering a plea of not guilty. ("Because I don't feel guilty," Turner explained.)

At the end of the one-day trial, Judge Jeremiah Cobb conferred sentence: "The judgment of this court is that you...be hung by the neck until you are dead! dead!" And so he was, at noon on Nov. 11.

Of the other 54 arrested for trial, 16 were convicted and hanged, 12 were "transported," probably out of the country, and 20 gained acquittal. Most of the remaining rebels died during capture; a handful escaped altogether.

Eyewitness Report: From a jail cell in Jerusalem, Va., Nat Turner dictated his confession to his attorney, Thomas Gray, a few days before his trial:

"...As I came round to the door I saw Will pulling Mrs. Whitehead out of the house, and at the step he nearly severed her head from her body with his broad axe... We proceeded to Mr. Levi Waller's, two or three miles distant. I took my station in the rear, and as it was my object to carry terror and devastation wherever we went, I placed 15 or 20 of the best mounted and most to be relied on in front, who generally approached the houses as fast as their horses could run; this was for two purposes, to prevent the escape of and strike terror into the inhabitants-on this account, I never got to the houses, after leaving Mrs. Whitehead's, until the murders were committed, except in one case. I sometimes got in sight in time to see the work of death completed, viewed the mangled bodies as they lay in silent satisfaction, and immediately started in quest of other victims. Having murdered Mrs. Waller and 10 children, we started for Mr. William Williams'-while engaged in killing him and two little boys that were there, Mrs. Williams fled and got some distance from the house, but she was pursued, overtaken, and compelled to get up behind one of the company, who brought her back and after showing her the mangled body of her lifeless husband, she was told to get down and lie by his side, where she was shot dead...."

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