RCC Honors History Project

Letter From an Eyewitness to the Turner Rebellion

Posted by elsiegonzalez on November 13, 2009

Post Office, Jerusalem, Va.,
31st Oct. 1831

“Messrs. Shields and Ashburn, Editors of the Beacon, Norfolk, Va.

Gentlemen — Last night the 30th inst. about 9 o’clock, news reached our little village that Gen. Nat was taken alive: today at a quarter after one o’clock, he reached this place, (well guarded) and was delivered into the hands of James W. Parker and James Trezevant, gentlemen, Justices, and after 1 1/2 or 2 hours close examination was committed to Prison. — During all the examination, he evinced great intelligence and such shrewdness of intellect, answering every questions clearly and distinctly, and without confusion or prevarication. He acknowledges himself a coward and says he was actuated to do what he did, from the influence of fanaticism, he says the attempt originated entirely with himself, and was not known by any other Negroes, but those to whom he revealed it a few days before, and then only 5 or 6 in number! — he acknowledges now that the revelation was misinterpreted by him, and says it was revealed to him not to follow the inclination of his spirit — he is now convinced that he has done wrong, and advises all other Negroes not to follow his example. He was taken about 12 o’clock on Sunday, in a Cave that he had just finished and gotten into; and while in the very act of fixing the bushes and bows to cover him, a gentleman by the name of Benjamin Phipps, walked up near the spot, and was only led to examine it by accidentally seeing the brush shake; after removing the covering he discovered Nat., and immediately pointed to kill him with his gun, but he exclaimed “don’t shoot and I will give up,” he then threw his sword from the Cave, that being his only weapon, and came out and went with Mr. Phipps, until they reached some other gentlemen, when after staying at the Keys all night they proceeded here today.”

Respectfully, T. Trezevant, P.M.

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2 Responses to “Letter From an Eyewitness to the Turner Rebellion”

  1. brttnyala said

    I find this document hillarious, there is absolutely no way that even a person with meager or no education could believe that ANYONE as passionate about their convictions would say such a thing. What I wonder is, whether the document was meant more to calm the slave owners or to try and fool the slaves into submission?

    • sethrd23 said

      I imagine that it could be a bit of both of those motives. I haven’t seen the exact confession of Turner, but I would guess that much of what the author of this document is claiming may be founded in something Nat Turner said. But of course it was likely to have been severely misrepresented.

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