Category Archives: Primary Sources

Jireh Platt UGRR Diary, 1848-1859

Jireh Platt Diary

Excerpted by Rev. H.D. Platt in “Some Facts About the Underground Railroad in Ill.” Typescript March 20, 1896, Wilbur H. Siebert Underground Railroad Collection, Ohio Memory https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/siebert/id/8659

 

platt headshot

Abolitionist Jireh Platt. (Photo has been lightened, original at Kansas Memory)

The following excerpt comes from the diary of an abolitionist living in Mendon, Illinois during the 1840s and 1850s.  Jireh Platt (1798-1870) was a farmer and Congregationalist deacon, born in Connecticut, and who spent many years in western Illinois helping enslaved families escape from Missouri.  Rev. Henry Dutton Platt (1823-1903) inherited many of his father’s papers, including a diary that described Underground Railroad operations around Mendon.  Rev. Platt shared excerpts from this diary along with some of his own recollection in a typescript he sent to pioneering UGRR scholar Wilbur H. Siebert in 1896.  Siebert then included a few of the passages in his groundbreaking work, The Underground Railroad From Slavery To Freedom (1898) on p. 9.  The full scope of the diary excerpts provided by Platt’s son in 1896 are reprinted below and include a passage we can now identify (“December 5 year not given”) as being related to the 1853 Palmyra Stampede.  The passages in italics come from Henry D. Platt (the son).  Those in regular font come from the original Jireh Platt diary.


I make now a few quotations from a sort of diary and farm record of my father’s, which came into my hands at his death.  There was a “blue book,” which had vastly more in it, and some very exciting records.

May 19, 1848.  Hannah Coger arrived on the U.G. Railroad, the last $100.00 for freedom she was to pay to Thomas Anderson Palmyra, Missouri –the track is kept bright it being the 3rd time occupied since the 1st of April.

November 17, ’48.  John Buckner arrived in a car –had been acquainted with Thornton and others that have traveled this way.  Had been sold to a trade, and was to start South Next Monday morning.  He had spent most of the time for a week in sawing off his chain with an old casa-knife. [Here follows a cut of the knife]

 [no date, but between September 5 and September 14, 1849]  It is rumored that John escaped, not long since from the [steamer] Kate Kearniey.

December 5 [year not given] within a month past, there has been a great stir, advertising, telegraphing, and hunting property from Missouri.  Oh, what a spectacle!  Eleven pieces of property, walking in Indian file, armed and equipped facing the North Star!  $3000.00 offered for their apprehension, after they were safe in Canada!  The hunters say they must have gone from Mendon to Jacksonville on a new track.

July 1, 1854 – Henry Edwards took passage on the U.G. Railroad, for fear of being sent South, report says.  From St. Louis, and within a few weeks past, William crossed the Mississippi river in a dugout padding with a shingle-board after having been shot at.  Also one other, who had been taken to Pike County Jail, and the sheriff commanded them to let him go.  He had a bullet hole through his left arm.

November 9, ’54.   Negro hoax stories have been very high in the market for a week past.

November 2, ’57.  Freedom progressing.  Within a few weeks 10 tickets have been disposed of at the U.R. Depot and among the passengers were Harrison, slave of the Free State Governor of Missouri, Caroline, Bonaparte and Stephen.  I was informed last fall by neighbor Metcalf, that one of his old Kentucky friends had lost 5.

October 1859.  U.G.R.R. Conductor reported the passage of 5 who were considered very valuable pieces of Ebony, all designated by names such as John Brooks, Daniel Brooks, Mason Bushrod, Silvester Lucket and Hanson Ganes.  Have understood also that three others were ticketed about mid-summer.

This is the last record of the sort in the book.  These are among the least thrilling of many which I know occurred.

These passages from Jireh Platt’s diary and from Rev. H.D. Platt’s 1896 recollection shared with Siebert also appear with additional context and photographs in Ruth Deters, The Underground Railroad Ran Through My House (2008), see especially pp. 205-7.

 

FURTHER READING

1917 ||   Speech by Ferry Luther Platt (grandson of Jireh, son of Luther Hart Platt) at family reunion, “The Platt-Cottrell Spirit,” Kirwin, KS Kansan, October 31, 1917 (Newspapers.com)

“…The old Mendon homestead was a station on the Underground Railroad and many are the incidents I have heard father [Luther Hart Platt] relate of experience with Missouri Slave Drivers. Once Grandfather had $1000 offered for his capture dead or alive, as a violator of the Fugitive Slave Law. A band of slave drivers had traced some refugees to his door and riding up before the house, they whetted their bowie knives on the rail fence demanding the surrender of the negroes, and swearing terrible vengeance if this demand was refused, but they did not try to enter, for it was common talk that Deacon Platt kept an ax hanging just inside each outside door to brain the man who attempted to force an entrance to this home, and no negro slave was thought valuable enough to risk the life of a white hunter.”

1917 ||    Neighbor Anna V. Baldwin writes to Ferry Luther Platt ca. 1916, excerpted in Kirwin, KS Kansan, November 07, 1917 (Newspapers.com)

“…I forgot to tell you that your Grandfather’s home was a station on the Underground Railroad. It had a place in the cellar where from 1 to 10 people could be hidden….”

1853 Palmyra Stampede –Newspaper Articles

The following newspaper articles provided key source material for the 1853 Palmyra Stampede narrative:

 

“Runaway Negroes,” Palmyra, MO Whig, November 3, 1853, reprinted in St. Louis, MO Democrat, November 7, 1853 (Newspapers.com)

MO Democrat 11-7-1853

 

“CLEAR THE TRACK!––THE TRAIN IS COMING!,” Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1859 (Newspapers.com)Chicago Tribune article

 

 

 Quincy, IL Whig, November 21, 1853 (Quincy Newspaper Archive)patrol article

 

 “Marion Association,” Hannibal, MO Courier, January 12, 1854 (19th Century US Newspapers)

Hannibal Marion minutes

 

 

 

Slave Stampedes and German-Language Newspapers

Sklaven Stampede German

St. Louis MO Mississippi Blätter (Westliche Post), August 26, 1860 (Newspapers.com)

“Ein Sklaven-Stampede” –– German for “A Slave Stampede” –– was the headline in the Westliche Post on August 26, 1860. Among the most influential German-language newspapers in Missouri, the St. Louis-based organ provided its readers with a detailed account of the latest “stampede” of enslaved people from the city. By and large, the Post’s rendering of the escape hewed closely to the timeline of events already circulated by one of the city’s leading English-language organs, the St. Louis News.  Five enslaved people––a 60-year-old woman, her two sons, a daughter, and another young woman––had “suddenly disappeared” from the farm of slaveholder Edward Bredell, who was absent visiting the east at the time. But while St. Louis’s English-speaking journalists readily leveled blame at “some Abolitionist,” who must have “induced” the five freedom seekers to escape, the Post struck a different tone. “Of course,” the German paper added with an air of derision, “the ‘abolitionists’ are accused of having seduced the escaped.” [1]

The Post’s remark betrayed some of the critical differences in thought between German-born Missourians and their native-born white counterparts, differences that flared into the open when it came to the subject of slavery. As it were, German emigrants tended to embrace more anti-slavery views, many of them having fled from failed liberal revolutions in Europe during the late 1840s. To be sure, not all Germans arriving in Missouri became abolitionists, and substantial cleavages of conservative emigrants would go on to advocate for more conservative approaches to emancipation and African American recruitment during the Civil War. On the whole, however, it was clear that German-born Missourians were less invested in slavery, with emigrants flocking in large numbers to support the Free Soil wing of the Democratic party, and later the anti-slavery Republican party. [2] Accordingly, the primary source materials they left behind offer important insights –– and different perspectives –– into the struggle over slavery in the Missouri borderland.

As Missouri’s German-speaking population soared during the late 1840s and 1850s, a number of German-language newspapers quickly cropped up. In St. Louis, where many emigrants settled, the two major German-language organs were the Anzeiger des Westens (Free Soil Democratic) and its rival the Deutsche Tribüne (Whig/Free Soil Democratic). By decades’ end, the Westliche Post (Republican) had supplanted the now-defunct Tribune, competing with a number of other religious-specific journals also published in German. [3] Outside of the city, smaller-run German-language papers were also established in Gasconade county and St. Charles. Many of these papers have been digitized and incorporated into databases already examined by this project, including GenealogyBank and Newspapers.com. However, scouring German-language sources invites an array of challenges, especially for researchers not fluent in German. Below readers will find some helpful search tips about how we approached the voluminous archive of German-language newspapers, ranging from search queries to translating sources, as well as a breakdown of relevant results for the group escapes on our project timeline.

 

SEARCH TIPS

  • USE SURNAMES. Often one of the few constants in reporting from English-language sources to their German-language counterparts were the surnames of enslavers. Searching for the surname of a particular slaveholder affected by an escape often generated results.
  • COMMON PHRASES. It quickly became apparent that German-language papers in Missouri used several terms when referring to the escapes of enslaved people These included “Entflohen” (German for “Escaped”) and “Sklaven” (German for “slaves”).

 

TRANSLATION TIPS

  • LOOK FOR OCR. Many databases, including both GenealogyBank and Newspapers.com, offer both clipping services (digital image captures) and OCR text (optical character recognition). OCR-produced transcriptions can be rough, but when used in combination with the original image and an online translator, can produce decent results.
  • GOOGLE TRANSLATE. While it is not without flaws, GoogleTranslate offers the best way to quickly get a sense of what an article in another language is about. Simply copy and paste the OCR text into GoogleTranslate. For best results, review the OCR text with the original image, and try to correct any obvious errors. Then, let GoogleTranslate do the work, and you should have a transcription which, though by no means perfect, is mostly readable.

 

COVERAGE OF STAMPEDES IN GERMAN-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPERS

1852 Ste. Genevieve Stampede

St. Louis Anzeiger des Westens, September 11, 1852

Anzeiger Sept 11 1852

St. Louis MO Anzeiger des Westens, September 11, 1852 (Newspapers.com)

ESCAPED SLAVES. The day before yesterday, Mr. Amadee Valle of this city received the news that 9 of his Negroes, who worked in his mines in St, Genevieve County, escaped and [illegible] across the Illinois river. At Sparta, the citizens made an attempt to arrest them, but the [illegible] escaped to the nearby forest. It is said that whites persuaded to escape and offered the means to do so. After the police were informed of the incident, Lieutenant Woodward and 6 other police officers left for Illinois to [illegible].

St. Louis Anzeiger des Westens, September 15, 1852

St. Louis Anzeiger newspaper

St. Louis MO Anzeiger des Westens, September 15, 1852 (Newspapers.com)

SLAVE HUNTING. We reported before one [illegible], [illegible] Lieutenant Woodward in escort from several police officers [illegible] Sparta would have left to collect some fleeing slaves from St. Genevieve County. Police officials leaned back from their unsuccessful expedition last Sunday. It appears that the policemen here had left under the erroneous promise that they had been given by the news, that the Negroes were protected by 2 to 300 people in a church in Sparta. On the way, however, he was already driving them, [illegible] a gentleman who was interested in capturing the slaves and who had traveled ahead, according to rumor that a large division of the St. Louis Police would arrive to arrest the Negroes. The same, of course, would have to be warned: [illegible] flee. Arriving in Sparta, the police officers found a number of people from this State who came there with the same intentions as the police officers. At the same time [illegible] was told that the slaves went to Eden, a [illegible] of Abolitionism, about two miles from Sparta, almost a week earlier. The police officers [illegible] then went to Eden, where they learned that the slaves had already left this place several days before. Regardlss of the [illegible] bay horses and gave themselves all to find the trail of the refugees. …. [illegible] no difficulty [illegible] in Sparta nor in Eden.

St. Louis Anzeiger des Westens, September 22, 1852

German paper image

St. Louis MO Anzeiger des Westens, September 22, 1852 (Newspapers.com)

Five Negroes, who escaped from this State, were [illegible] the steamer Altona  were [illegible] into prison. The [illegible] caught 15 miles behind Alton in the following way: Mr. A.A. Scott, the owner of the Delphi hause in that county happened to be in the house [illegible] when a Negro came to the house [illegible] four of his comrades who were close [illegible] ordered a dinner. Mr. Scott introduced Way to teh fact that a number of [illegible] had fled from St. Genevieve and both are planning a plan to catch them. They asked the Negro to fetch his companions for dinner. While he was gone, they removed all the chairs and what [illegible] could have been used as a weapon from the room. The Negroes came to the table, they had 3 shotguns, which they left in the anteroom. These were thrown up by Scott and Way and the [illegible], the former armed with his own rifle, the latter armed with a knife, into the room, and he asked the Negroes to cross over. This happened and the prisoners were bound here with the altona.  The names of the slaves are: Henry, property of Col. Bogy; Isaac, property of Mr. Valee; Edmund, slave of Mr. [Illegible], Joseph, slave of Mr. Jannis; William, slave of Smith. They are all young people with over Edmund who was about [illegible] years old––1 to catch the negroes, the last price of 1000 was immediately paid to the third party. The day before yesterday $200 was caught [illegible] …

 

1854 St. Louis Stampedes

St. Louis Anzeiger des Westens, December 1, 1854

German newspaper

St. Louis MO Anzeiger des Westens, December 1, 1854 (Newspapers.com)

Escaped. Over the past week, more than twenty slaves have escaped from various parts of St. Louis County and the city. The owners of the Negroes suspect that Abolitionists, [illegible] should now be here, have a hand in the process. Three of the last run away, Negroes belong to Mr. Richard Berry, one Mr. Martin Wash sen., A fifth, Mr. Martin Wash jr.

 

 

1858 Vernon County Stampede

St. Louis Westliche Post, January 25, 1859

German paper image

St. Louis MO Westliche Post, January 25, 1859 (Newspapers.com)

…From Kansas. Leavenworth, Jan. 19. From various notes in your journal, I see that you have been wrongly reported about the unrest that has taken place in the southern part of this territory. They seem to think that the people who have joined Montgomery are nothing more than a gang of muggers. This is by no means the case, on the contrary, those men only came together to protect each other against attacks by the Proslavery Party. Governor Medary, who was initially very antagonistic to Montgomery and Consorten, now admits himself that, insofar as he has carefully examined the matter, he is convinced that Montgomery is never different than when it is to defend a life or its neighbors was necessary, acted… John Brown freed Missouri 11 Negroes a few days ago with several of his friends….

 

 

John Doy’s Forgotten 1859 Capture and Rescue

St. Louis Westliche Post, March 3, 1859 (erroneous reporting that abolitionist John Doy and son had been lynched by a pro-slavery mob)

German paper image

St. Louis MO Westliche Post, March 3, 1859 (Newspapers.com)

Outrageous murder of two Free Statesmen from Kansas by the thugs. The villains on the western border seem to want to conjure up the scenes of the bloody civil war with all vigor. If the message below is confirmed, we can look forward to the repetition of bloody abominations within a short time. Our readers remember that some time ago a well-known Free State official, Dr. Doy gathers his son near Topeka, Kansas, captured by a group of Missouri intruders, and has been towed to [illegible]… his fearful break, which made him so dangerous in the eyes of the Missouri, was to help fleeing slaves to freedom. Doy and his son were kept in the Jail of Platte, thirty miles below St. Joseph, Missouri. St. Joseph is now reported on February 27th: An express courier arrived here from Platte today, with the news that Doy and his son, near Topeka, Kansas, had arrived a few weeks ago from. Proslavers were drafted new because they were charged with escaping Missouri negroes who had been lynched the night before. The mob is said to have been more than 300 men strong. The iail was stormed and the son was forced to drive the cart up to 2 miles outside the city, where both were hung from a tree. Old Doy pleaded for his life, but the dehumanized gang didn’t hear him. The son was hanged first. In Platte there is great excitement because of these events…. We still want to give up hope that the reports are over, when the worst seems to be the worst from the side of the Gran. But if the news is confirmed, the response from the Free State of Kansas will not be long in coming, and [illegible] who will be avenged.

St. Louis Westliche Post, August 3, 1859 

German paper image

St. Louis MO Westliche Post, August 3, 1859 (Newspapers.com)

Dr. Doy and the mood in St., Joseph. ‘The Kansas newspaper contains an editorial correspondence from St. Joseph from 2f. July, in which [illegible] St. Joseph, Mo., July 27. That Dr. Doy was freed from the high Jail in one of those nights, as described in the knights and robber stories of [illegible]… with hair-raising imagination, is the readers of [illegible]… But it could be there at that moment, which constitutes the outflows of an excitement caused by the liberation of Doy [illegible] the ranks of the slave keeper party….

 

 

1860 St. Louis Stampede

St. Louis Mississippi Blatter [Sunday edition of Westliche Post ], August 26, 1860

A Slave Stampede. Within a few days, five slaves suddenly disappeared [illegible] Edward Bredell [illegible] farm on the Clayton Road, 6 miles from town. The refugees consist of a woman, her two sons and a daughter, resp. 7, 12 and 21. [Illegible] girl who is closely related to the family. One of the sons was his driver and enjoyed his trust. Mr. Bredell is visiting the east and the slaves are under the overseer. The old woman designed the whole escape plan. She asked the overseer for permission to visit a female [child?] that was granted to her. When the slaves were gone, the overseer became suspicious and went to the neighbors’ house. The slaves are all gone and have escaped any [illegible]. Of course, the “abolitionists” are accused of having seduced the escaped. It is not in doubt that Mr. Bredell’s slaves are well treated;  years ago he emancipated 30 to 40 slaves in Baltimore, which he would have acquired by inheritance.

 

1862 Loutre Island Stampede

St. Louis Westliche Post, December 3, 1862

German newspaper image

St. Louis MO Westliche Post, December 3, 1862 (Newspapers.com)

(For the “Westl. Post”.) From Hermann. Freedom triumphs! Probably never [illegible], dear editorial staff, I was so proud of our Hermann [illegible]. As we spoke, wrote and voted, so did we now we have also acted and our bold word has been gloriously sealed by the male act. But to the point. Known to you, escaped from Loutre Island, opposite us, in Montgomery County,  many slaves after this side of the [illegible] and found a lodging [illegible] as freelance workers with farmers in our neighborhood, not unfamiliar to you, several of their previous owners tried to convince our good squire John B. Miche to issue a warrant last week, in order to snatch their black property from us M. duly trumped them according to the existing laws of war and his duty as a Republican, and let them go their own way with a fervent and vengeance. Yesterday the gentlemen succeeded [illegible] Negro warrants from a German peace judge, his name is Karl Sandberger, to receive warrants and the deputy sheriff immediately caught four young negroes and put them in the county jail. But now the people rose in fine majesty. The news of this disgrace passed through town and surroundings like wildfire. The brave Germans clustered together, even the [illegible], with a few exceptions, did not fall behind. Curses, threats and curses against the slave owner and her helper, the Sandberger, fulfilled the rust, and the end was assured unanimously that the poor Negroes should be free people by morning, whether by legal means or by storming the jail by bloodshed, no matter. Gasconade County is not supposed to be a slave hunting area and Hermann’s free Germans do not want to be the scold and mockery of the country. [illegible] other equally arrogant but calm-thinking citizens moved excited people to postpone any use of force until at least 9:00 p.m. and asked for their major gene during this. Curtis for employment Capt. C.C.Manwaring as Provost Marshall, since he happened to discover that the previous Marshal [illegible] set up guards at the courthouse (so stood among others the old Strehly brother-in-law of the Blessed Papa [illegible] for hours on end [illegible] in the bitter cold [illegible]… At 9:00 in the evening the men came back with guns and crushing tools and were about to leave for the jail. When the most anticipated dispatch arrived, and the [illegible] immediately found themselves among three thunders in the [illegible] Gen. Curtis issued after the new Provost Marshal Manwaring, which immediately issued an order to release the Negroes. You can imagine the jubilation with which the poor alder was brought out of the singing papa. [Illegible] gave them a good evening meal and some good farmers took them to night quarters. Old Michael Poeschel kept up from the beginning to the end and the best old citizens of the city participated in the fashion that trampled on the law, as local demo friends would like to say. But everything happened according to the military laws recognized by the Congress. So we emancipate -– Hermann is [illegible] ‘Hurray for Union and Freedom! Yours Wm. Wesselhöft. Nov. 26, 1862.

 

DIGITIZED GERMAN-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPERS BY STATE

Missouri

Anzeiger des Westens (St. Louis, MO) – Free Soil Democratic, Republican (late 1850s – early 1860s), Democratic (post-1863) // Editors Carl Daenzer // Dates available: 1842-1869 (Newspapers.com)

Die Gasconade Zeitung (Hermann, MO) – Dates available: 1860-1922 (GenealogyBank.com)

Hermanner Volksblatt (Hermann, MO) – Dates available: 1860-1922 (Newspaperarchive.com)

Hermanner Wochenblatt (Hermann, MO) – Dates available: 1845-1855, 1860-1871 (Newspapers.com)

Licht-Freund (Hermann, MO) – Dates available: 1843-1845 (Newspapers.com)

St. Charles Demokrat (St. Charles, MO) – Dates available: 1857-1886 (Newspapers.com)

Westliche Post  (St. Louis, MO) – Republican // Editors Carl Daenzer, F. Wengel, (Carl Schurz later co-owner) // Dates available: 1857-1958 (Newspapers.com) **Sunday edition called Mississippi Blätter

 

Illinois

Chicago Illinois Staats-Zeitung – Free Soil Democratic, Republican // Editor George Schneider // Dates available: 1858 (one issue only) (GenealogyBank)

 

Iowa

Die Wochentliche Demokrat (Davenport, IA) – Dates available: 1862-1865 (Newspapers.com)

 

Wisconsin

Atlas Tagliche Ausgabe (Milwaukee, WI) – Dates available: 1859-1860 (Newspapers.com)

Banner Und Volksfreund Vereinigt Tagliche Stadt-A (Milwaukee, WI) – Dates available: 1855-1857 (Newspapers.com)

Das Tagliche Banner (Milwaukee, Wi) – Dates available: 1851-1852 (Newspapers.com)

Der Volksfreund (Milwaukee, WI) – Dates available: 1847-1850 (Newspapers.com)

Taglicher Volksfreund (Milwaukee, WI) – Dates available: 1850-1852 (Newspapers.com)

 

Kansas

Der Deutsche Kreiger (Fort Scott, KS) – Dates available: 1862 (Newspapers.com)

Kansas Zeitung (Atchison, KS) – Dates available: 1857-1858 (Newspapers.com)

Leavenworth Zeitung (Leavenworth, KS) – Dates available: 1858-1859 (Newspapers.com)

 

[1] “A Slave Stampede,” St. Louis Mississippi Blätter (Sunday edition of Westliche Post), August 26, 1860 (translated using GoogleTranslate); “Another Slave Stampede,” St. Louis News, quoted in Louisville, KY Daily Journal, August 28, 1860.

[2] Kristen Layne Anderson, Abolitionizing Missouri: German Immigrants and Racial Ideology in Nineteenth-Century America (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2016), introduction and chapter 1. Also see, Kristen Layne Anderson, “German Americans, African Americans, and the Republican Party in St. Louis, 1865-1872,” Journal of American Ethnic History 28:1 (Fall 2008): 34-51.

[3] For a detailed overview of St. Louis’s German-language papers and their shifting political affiliations, see Anderson, Abolitionizing Missouri, esp. introduction.

Database Report –Civil War Era Newspapers

August 28, 1860

St. Louis News, quoted in Louisville, KY Daily Journal, August 28, 1860 (Civil War Era Newspapers)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Alex Ghaemmaghami and Cooper Wingert between July 8-31, 2019
  • Keywords: “slave stampede,” “stampede of slaves,” “negro stampede,” “stampede of negroes,” “stampeding slaves”
  • Totals: 46 hits

Top Results

  • In late August 1860, the St. Louis News reported that “five negroes belonging o Mr. Edward Bredell, disappeared very suddenly from their master’s farm, some six miles form the city, on the Clayton road. The runaway party consists of a woman, aged about sixty, her two sons and daughter, aged respectfully seven, twelve, and twenty-one years, and a young girl, closely related to the family.” The paper suspected that “the captivating stories of freedom and life in Canada” had been “breathed into their willing ears by some Abolitionist.” (“Another Slave Stampede,” St. Louis News, quoted in Louisville, KY Daily Journal, August 28, 1860)
  • In August 1850, a correspondent from Baltimore noted that the “excitement in this vicinity relative to the recent movements of abolitionists, in stampeding slaves, is very great, as large numbers have recently been spirited away.” (“Our Baltimore Correspondence,” New York, NY Herald, August 11, 1850)
  • In Kentucky, evidence was uncovered of “another stampede of slaves,” when a “valuable horse attached to a sleigh” was discovered at one man’s doorstep, with “the horse in a profuse sweat and dreadfully blown, showing clearly that he had been driven at terrible speed.” The stampede “consisted of two men, two women, and three children, belonging to Mr. Gaines who claims the slave Garner, now on trial before Commissioner [John L.] Pendery. We learn that the latter gentleman has suffered another loss, four more of his slaves having absconded.” The paper then added “since writing the above we learn that still another stampede has occurred,” involving “two men, three women, and two children…. It is probable that they are all in charge of some expert conductor on the Underground Railroad and are by this time far on their way toward Canada.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, quoted in “Another Stampede,” Louisville, KY Daily Journal, February 4, 1856)
  • The Richmond Daily Dispatch reported in September 1857 that “a stampede of slaves was prevented a few nights ago, by the police. A Philadelphia vessel was suspected of having bargained for the wrong sort of cargo, and sundry slaves were known to have been making preparations for embarking. Both parties finding the policemen alert, gave up the enterprise.” (“Funeral–Death of Jordan Branch–Stampede of Slaves, &c.,” Richmond, VA Daily Dispatch, September 11, 1857)
  • Writing to a Richmond paper in February 1862, a Confederate soldier noted that “a stampede of negroes from the vicinity of Chuckatuck,” in Suffolk County, Virginia, “has made the necessity of… drafts even more apparent than before.” (“Camp News,” Richmond, VA Daily Dispatch, February 5, 1862)
  • In early 1864, a Memphis, Tennessee paper reported a “stampede” of “One hundred and fifty negroes from about Huntsville and beyond passed through here yesterday for Nashville. Large numbers pass through almost daily. The contrabands about here are also being sent to Nashville.” (“Stampede of Negroes,” Memphis, TN Daily Appeal, March 10, 1864)

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General Notes

  • ProQuest Civil War Era Newspapers is a subscription database, available to Dickinson College students through the WaidnerSpahr Library. It is a separate database from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Most Relevant Coverage from ProQuest Civil War Era Newspapers

  • MISSOURI: St. Louis News (quoted in Louisville, KY Daily Journal)
  • MASSACHUSETTS: Boston, MA Herald, 1846-1865
  • NEW YORK: New York Herald, 1840-1865
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: Charleston Mercury, 1840-1865
  • VIRGINIA: Richmond Daily Dispatch, 1852-1865

Database Report –Historical Newspapers

March 31, 1863

Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1863 (Historical Newspapers)

Search Summary:

  • Search conducted by Alex Ghaemmaghami between July 8-15, 2019
  • Keywords: “stampede + slave,” “stampede + Missouri,” “negro stampede,” “exodus of negroes, stampeding, “freedom suits”
  • Total Relevant Articles: 26 (3 about Missouri)

Top Results:

  • “We learn from the Lagrange (Mo.) American, of the 12th That about a dozen ‘likely, intelligent and valuable slaves escaped from that city during last week, and are supposed to be now beyond reach of pursuit.” (“Negro Stampede,” Chicago Press and Tribune, November 11, 1859)
  • “The Canton, Lewis county, Mo., reporter, gives the following account of the recent great slave stampede there…” (“Another Chapter of Southern Atrocities and Horrors,” Boston Liberator, January 18, 1850)
  • “Some thirty or forty American citizens of African descent … quietly abolished themselves into Illinois.” (Hannibal, MO Courier, quoted in “Slave Stampede,” Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1861)
  • “It seems, from the information at Lexington, [KY] that Mr. Doyle has been the active agent in getting up the recent stampede among the negroes of Fayette county…. From this place, he made his escape, and next turns up at Lexington, engaged in the giant stampede of negroes from the interior of Kentucky.” (“Doyle, the Negro Abductor,” Pittsburgh, PA Daily Morning Post, August 21, 1848)

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General Notes
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers is a subscription database available to Dickinson College students through the Waidner-Spahr Library. It is separate from ProQuest Civil War Era Newspapers.
  • Using the date range tool helped narrow the number of results drastically, as well as using quotation marks for key phrases and commas between key terms.
  • Many results detailing stampedes from Kentucky to Ohio

Most Relevant Coverage from ProQuest Historical Newspapers

  • MISSOURI: LaGrange, MO American (quoted in Chicago Tribune) and Hannibal, MO Courier (quoted in Chicago Tribune)
  • ILLINOIS: Chicago Tribune, 1848-1863
  • NEW YORK: New York Times, 1857-1863
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Philadelphia Inquirer, 1860-1863

Database Report- Google Books and Google Ngram Viewer

definition of stampede

Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanism, (1859) (Courtesy of Google Books)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Dana Marecheau July 10-12, 2019.
  • Keywords: slave stampede, stampede of slaves, negro stampede, stampede of negroes, stampeding, stampede
  • Totals: 15 hits

Top Results

  • “He [John Brown] was particularly inquired of,” explained Andrew Hunter, a witness who testified before Congress on January 13, 1860, as part of the Harpers Ferry hearings, “… as to his intending to stampede slaves off, and he promptly and distinctly replies that that was not his purpose… He stated in substance, as I recollect, that his purpose in coming to Virginia was simply to stampede slaves, not to shed blood; that he has stampeded twelve slaves from Missouri without snapping a gun, and that he expected to do the same thing in Virginia, but only on a larger scale.” (The United States Senate, Senate Document, (1860) 130: 62) [WEB]
  • “From animals the term is transferred to men: … From information which has reached us, there would seem to have been a considerable stampede of slaves from the border valley counties of Virginia during the late Easter holidays.— (Balt.) Sun, Apr. 9, 1858.” (John Russel Bartlett, Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms, (1859), 445) [WEB]
  • “THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY INAUGURATED— STAMPEDE OF CONTRABANDS.” (Life and Public Service of Major-General Butler… the hero of New Orleans, etc, (1864), 49) [WEB]
  • “It was not anticipated that the first movement would have any other appearance to the masters than a slave stampede, or local insurrection at most.” (James Redpath, The Public Life of Capt. John Brown, with an Auto-biography of His Childhood and Youth, (1860), 144) [WEB]
  • “John Brown conceived the idea that these mountain ranges, so broken, so wild, afforded an excellent pathway for a grand stampeded from the Slave States— a grand exodus into the Free States, and, through the latter, into Canada.” (British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society, British and Foreign Anti-slavery Reporter, (1860) 126) [WEB]
  • “The same Wild Tom [a freedom seeker originally from Charleston] had been seen, within a short time past, lurking about the neighborhood; and it was suspected that the late stampede had not taken place without his aid and his assistance.” (Richard Hildreth, Archy Moore, the White Slave: Or, Memoirs of a Fugitive, (1856), 294) [WEB]
  •  “We learn from the Fact that “still another slave stampede came off a few miles before Maysville on Wednesday night last. Five negroes— three of them very fair and delicate mulatto girls – succeeded in crossing the river. — All trace was lost a few miles back of Ripley. Brown county.” (Freemen’s Manual, (1853), 1:153) [WEB]
  • “SLAVE STAMPEDE. – The Cincinnati Commercial says there was a serious negro stampede from plantations sixty miles back of the river, in Kentucky, on Saturday night. Of eleven slaves who decamped five succeeded in crossing the Ohio, a few miles below this city, yesterday. Their pursuers were in town last night, but learning that the fugitives had got twelve hours.” (Freemen’s Manual, (1853), 1: 154) [WEB]
  • “NEGRO STAMPEDE. — Twenty- five negroes ran away from their masters, in Boone county, Kentucky, on the night of the 2d inst. Among those who have lost their servants are two ministers of the gospel… A STAMPEDE. — The “Underground Railroad” would seem to be in excellent order. A company of 29 slaves from Kentucky reached here on Monday evening last,  and were safely convey to the Canada side the next morning. They were all hale young men and women, none of them over 35 years of age, for whose recapture, we hear, liberal offers are proclaimed.” (American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, The Annual Report . . . of the American and Foreign Anti-slavery . . . with the Addresses and Resolutions, (1853), 144-145) [WEB]
  • Slave Stampede. — The slaves in Mason county, Va., are becoming migratory in their habits. Within the last fortnight eight have made their escape to parts unknown. —Ledger.” (The Friend, (1854), 27: 63) [WEB]
  • “Many of them who had fought at his side through Kansas held that what they should aim at ought to be a grand stampede of negroes; that getting together as man as they could – some hundreds or thousands— they should carry them across the frontier into Canada, only fighting when it was necessary to cover their retreat.” (The Baptist Magazine, (1860), 352) [WEB]
  • “The driver who marks it out, has to remain on the ground until it is finished, and has no interest in over-measuring it; and if it should be systematically increase very much, there is danger of a general stampede to the “swamp”— a danger the salve can always hold before his master’s cupidity.” (Fred. Law Olmsted, Our slaves states:, (1856), 435-436) [WEB]
  • “This is ‘the infected district”— the part of the body spiritual upon which the gangrene of slavery still lingers; and in this chapter we propose to show, that notwithstanding the stampede of slaveholders in 1845, we are now, as a Church, more deeply and criminally involved in slaveholding that at any former period of our history”. (Hiram Mattison, The Impending Crisis of 1860: Or, The Present Connection of the Methodist Episcopal Church with Slavery, and Our Duty in Regard to it, edition 4., (1859), 41) [WEB]
  • “So some say; while others believe that the “stampede” has been a very large one. The great phenomenon in this case is, the intense terror which existed at Washington, eighty mile off, and through slave States, when twenty-two men took possession of Harper’s Ferry on behalf of the negroes.” (Eneas Sweetland Dallas, Once a Week, (1859), 1: 488) [WEB]
  • “A negro stampede for Mexico, has been discovered at Lagrange, Texas.”(Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-room Companion, (1851), 1: 239) [WEB]

Selected Images 

 

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General Notes

  • Google Books and Google Ngram Viewer are both free online databases available to the public.
  • Most of the hits in Google Books were reports from Kentucky.
  • In the Life and Public Service of Benjamin F. Butler, an autobiography of the Union Army general and politician Benjamin Butler, stampede of contraband appears to reference a slave stampede.
  • The 1853 Freemen’s Manual is an anti-slavery publication, affiliated with the Free Soil Democrats.
  • In Hiram Mattison’s The Impending Crisis of 1860, he uses stampede to describe a group of slaveholders.
  • The Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-room Companion (1861) was a magazine of illustrations founded by Frederick Gleason.

Database Report -Newspapers.com

November 18, 1859

Cleveland OH Daily Leader, November 18, 1859 (Newspapers.com)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert between June 28, 2019-July 16, 2019
  • Keywords: slave stampede
  • Totals: Approximately 600 hits, with concentrations of stampede attempts from Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland and Missouri.
  • NOTE: Due to extensive results, this search was stopped at December 1859.  We still need to complete the database report with the war years.

Top Results

  • “A regular stampede took place among the slaves of Mr. J. Mattingly, near St. Louis, on the night of the 13th inst. Seven of them made their escape.” (Marshall, TX Texas Republican, July 31, 1852)
  • Quoting the St. Louis Democrat, the Pittsburgh Gazette printed an article headlined “Stampede Among the Africans.” Noting that “some fifteen or twenty slaves departed this city [St. Louis] for the colder climates of the north,” the paper reported that the freedom seekers “probably decamped about midnight, having, under the permission of their owners to attend church, gathered themselves together and set out in a company. Heavy rewards have been offered by their owners, and officers are in close pursuit of them.” (St. Louis Democrat, quoted in “Stampede Among the Africans,” Pittsburgh, PA Gazette, October 30, 1854)
  • In late 1854, the Milwaukee Weekly Wisconsin reported that “the St. Louis papers are very much exercised over the frequent stampede of slaves, and their almost impossible recovery after they once get as far as Chicago….” (Milwaukee, Wi Weekly Wisconsin, December 20, 1854)
  • “In Missouri, surrounded as she is by free States, stampedes of slaves are of frequent occurrence. You cannot take up one of the city papers without seeing an advertisement with its accompanying reward for the recovery of runaway slaves.” (St. Louis Central Christian Advocate,  February 2, 1859, quoted in “Missouri and Slavery,” Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1859)
  • In November 1859, a Glasgow, Missouri paper reported a “negro stampede” of 11 enslaved people from La Grange, Missouri. “The fugitives stole a flat boat from this place, in which it is supposed they crossed the river.–The boat was caught at or near Quincy. If these slaves succeed in making a permanent escape, it will be the third or fourth successful stampede that has taken place from LaGrange in the past three of four months.” (“Negro Stampede,” Glasgow, MO Weekly Times, November 17, 1859)
  • Quoting from the Cincinnati Atlas, a Vermont serial published an article titled “Grand Stampede.” Noting that “between twenty and twenty-five negroes, belonging to different plantations in Kenton Co. Ky., across the river, left for parts unknown, via the state of Ohio.” (Cincinnati Atlas, quoted in “Grand Stampede,” Danville, VT North Star, May 17, 1847)
  • A Washington, D.C. paper reported that “a stampede of negro slaves took place at Maysville, Ky., a few days ago. They are gone to help to people the wilds of Ohio and Canada.” (Washington, D.C. Daily National Whig, May 26, 1847)
  • Reporting an escape of 20 enslaved people near Baltimore, the Charleston Courier related: “These stampedes are becoming every day occurrences.” (Charleston, SC Courier, quoted in New Orleans Weekly Delta, September 18, 1848)
  • An article titled “Stampede” in the Carlisle, Pennsylvania Herald reported “a great commotion among the slave owners of Maryland, in consequence of the large numbers of slaves who have seen proper to take ‘French leave’ of their masters, and emigrate into free states. The papers published in border counties come teeming full of advertisements offering rewards for runaways, and editorial notices of the absconding of whole gangs and families of slaves, who are seldom ever caught, and only heard of when safe far north of Mason & Dixon’s line…. Several instances have occurred lately, of gangs of slaves having run away in one night, and successfully got off, whose value would be from 5,000 to $8,000.” (“Stampede,” Carlisle, PA Weekly Herald, September 19, 1849)
  • While noting that the escape of a “troop of slaves from Kentucky into Ohio” would “be a source of great irritation in that part of the country,” a correspondent for the New York Times commented that “there have been more cases of such ‘stampedes,’ (to use a phrase imported from Mexico,) during the last two years, since the Fugitive act has been in existence, than ever before.” (“Washington,” New York Times, October 4, 1852)
  • Reporting that “several negro stampedes have recently taken place in different parts the State,” the Kentucky Yeoman noted “the negroes are running away in scores, assisted and urged on, doubtless, by northern abolitionists…. If they continue their negro-stealing and negro-harboring business at the present rate, and their orators are permitted to canvas Kentucky and preach their incendiary doctrines to our slaves, the result will ere long be terrible. The people of Kentucky will not quietly submit to such robberies.” (Kentucky Yeoman, “Negro Stampedes,” Huntsville, AL Democrat, October 21, 1852)
  • Grappling with the frequency of escapes, the Richmond Dispatch somewhat sarcastically proposed forming a “fugitive slave police” by commissioning “one or more small and fast-sailing vessels,” which would be stationed “near the Capes.” The paper groused that “one stampede of negroes, such as has lately occurred here in Richmond, costs more than the purchase, manning, and support of two such vessels for five years.” (Richmond Dispatch, quoted in Washington, D.C. National Era, “Fugitive Slave Police,” May 5, 1854)
  • “On Saturday night a serious stampede of slaves occurred in Richmond. Five likely and valuable slaves made off to parts unknown, one of them taking $1506 of his master’s money with him.” (Vicksburg, MS Vicksburg Daily Whig, February 13, 1855)
  • A parody “procession” or parade described by a Buffalo, New York newspaper included the “Editor of the Cincinnati Commercial, with a model of a cotton boat and a slave stampede.” (Buffalo, NY Daily Republic, July 3, 1855)
  • A New York Times column claimed that the “silent operations of the ‘Underground Railroad'” were exercising a “powerful effect in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Kentucky,” where “stampedes have become more frequent than ever, and the border counties of the Slave States are fast losing their laboring population.” (“The Underground Railroad,” New York Times, November 30, 1855)
  • The Buffalo, New York Morning Express used the term “Servile Stampede” when reporting the escape of 11 enslaved people from Loudon County, Virginia. (“Servile Stampede,” Buffalo, NY Morning Express, September 23, 1856)
  • In December 1856, the Baltimore Sun used the terms “stampede” and “insurrection” interchangeably. While noting “the arrest of two negro men suspected of plotting an insurrection among the blacks,” the paper suggested that “it would be well for the organized patrol parties to be vigilant, lest a ‘stampede’ in some quarter might take place.” (“An Excitement,” Baltimore Sun, December 6, 1856)
  • In June 1857, a Mississippi paper reported a “negro stampede” consisting of “no less than thirty-one negroes” who had “disappeared from the neighborhood of Fort Adams within the past month. They have either run away or been stolen.” (Natchez, MS Courier, quoted in “Negro Stampede,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 27, 1857)
  • The Carlisle Herald reported a “stampede” of “eleven runaway slaves, from Carroll county, Maryland” who “passed through the principal street of Carlisle. Their masters were here on Monday in hot pursuit.” (“Stampede of Slaves,” Carlisle, PA Weekly Herald, October 7, 1857)
  • The Washington, D.C. Evening Star noted “a stampede of slaves took place from this city on Saturday night. From the number that is missing, it is thought that they were taken away in some northern vessel.” (Washington, D.C. Evening Star, July 28, 1859)
  • In the immediate wake of John Brown’s October 1859 Harpers Ferry raid, many papers reported the incident as an attempted stampede. “The idea was to hold the town long enough to concentrate the negroes by hundreds and thousands from miles around,” reported a Connecticut paper, “and then, when retreat became necessary, make a grand stampede across the Maryland line into Pennsylvania.” (Hartford, CT Courant, October 19, 1859)

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General Notes

  • Newspapers.com is a subscription database.
  • Stampedes could also head for destinations to the south. “Texas negroes, of late, are in the habit of running off to Mexico in droves,” reported a Pennsylvania paper, “tempted thither by wandering tribes of women, wandering about like gypsies. So it is said. The slaveholders, however, are organizing, to prevent a continuance of the stampede.” (Towanda, PA Bradford Reporter, October 28, 1854)
  • Likewise, a Washington, D.C. serial reported “a stampede of fifteen slaves” from Key West, Florida. “A small sail boat, belonging to the Sand-Key Lighthouse, with a month’s supply of provisions for the keeper and assistants on board, was taken by the negroes, and in it they were able to elude their pursuers. It is thought they have gone to Nassau.” (Washington, D.C. Evening Star, February 18, 1858)
  • The term was also used to describe the “stampede” of slaves being sold farther south to preclude escape attempts. A Kansas newspaper detailed “a perfect stampede of slaves from Western Missouri, their masters selling them off South, or removing with them to that section.” (“Personal,” Lawrence, KS Western Home Journal, November 18, 1858)
  • Describing the sale and relocation of many enslaved Missourians to locations in the deep South, a Pennsylvania paper noted that “there are upwards of four hundred slaves leaving Missouri every week, nearly all of whom go south.” Styling it “The Missouri Stampede,” the serial noted that “this movement in the slave market is occasioned partly by the high prices obtained, and partly by causes having no reference to prices.” (“The Missouri Stampede,” Gettysburg, PA Adams Sentinel, October 10, 1859)

Most Relevant Coverage from Genealogy Bank Database

  • MISSOURI:  Glasgow Weekly Times – 1848-1859
  • ILLINOIS:  Chicago Tribune – 1849-1859
  • MARYLAND:  Baltimore Sun – 1847-1859
  • NEW YORK: Buffalo Morning Express – 1847-1859
  • VIRGINIA:  Richmond Dispatch – 1852-1859

Database Report- Quincy Whig

 

Canton Stampede

Quincy IL Whig, November 6, 1849 (Courtesy of Quincy Historical Newspaper Archive)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Dana Marecheau July 2-3, 2019.
  • Keywords: slave stampede, stampede, stampede of slaves
  • Totals: 8 hits

Top Results

    • “We find the following telegraphic despatch in the St. Louis Republican of Saturday last.– We had not before heard of this “stampede,” although Lewis county lies nearly opposite this: Quincy, Nov, 21. NEGRO STAMPEDE. – About fifty negroes, (men, women, and children,) with teams, owned by Miss Militer, McKim and McCutchin, of Sugar creek, and William Ellis of Monticello, Lew county Mo.’ started for parts unknown about one o’clock last night.” (Quincy IL Whig, November 6, 1849)
    • “We are getting a little tired of this disposition of our Missouri friends to lose their equilibrium, and charge that every slave stampede that takes places originates in this city.” (“Across the River,” Quincy IL Whig, July 7, 1854)
    • “We have been told that a few persons in Quincy, construe an editorial in our Daily of Friday last into something like an intimation that we would  justify lawless attacks upon abolitionists, by way of retribution for their supposed connexion with slave stampedes the other side of the river.” (“Editorial Misrepresentation,” Quincy IL Whig, February 12, 1853)
    • “The Muscatine Journal, speaking of a recent Slave Stampede in Northern Missouri and an unsuccessful effort to overtake the fugitive, says…” (“The Underground Railroad,” Quincy IL Whig, September 11, 1854)
    • “Another cause operating powerfully is the insecurity of this chattelized property. In Missouri, surrounded as she is by free States, stampedes of slaves are of frequent occurrence. You cannot take up one of the city paper without seeing an advertisement with its accompanying rewards for the recovery of runaway slaves.” (“Missouri and Slavery,” Quincy IL Whig, March 15, 1859)
    • “It appears by advice from Fortress Monroe that there is likely to be a stampede of slaves through Virginia.” (“Telegraph Notice,” Quincy IL Whig, June 1, 1861)
    • “We have been very anxious to know, upon what authority out Missouri neighbors charge that slave stampedes originate in Quincy.” (“Slave Stampede,” Quincy IL Whig, August 5, 1854)
    • “Stampede of Slaves from South Carolina.” (“Southern Conciliation,” Quincy IL Whig, March 30, 1861)

General Notes

  • The Quincy Historical Newspaper Archive is a free database comprised of newspapers published in Illinois from 1835 through May 1926.
  • When conducting the search, the word “stampede” by itself did not provide any relevant hits.
  • The term “slave stampede” provided the most relevant hits in the Quincy Historical Newspaper Archive. 

Database Report- St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican

Newspaper clipping from St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican

St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, February 22, 1862 (Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Amanda Donoghue and Cooper Wingert from April 8 to May 1, 2019
  • Keywords: slave stampede, stampede of slaves, negro stampede, negro exodus
  • Total: 26 (including five episodes from Missouri)

Top Results

  • “We noticed last week that a sort of stampede had taken place among the blacks, in the neighborhood of Dover, and that it was suspected that white men were concerned in inducing slaves, in that locality to leave their masters.” (“Runaways,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, September 28, 1854)
  • “We learn that between thirty and forty slaves, in the counties of Boone, Callaway, St. Charles and Montgomery, Missouri, have lately run away from their masters. The names and descriptions of the runaways are in the hands of the police in this city.” (“Stampede of Slaves,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, February 22, 1862)
  • “We saw five runaway slaves taken to the calaboose yesterday evening by persons who had taken them…The secessionists have charged that the purpose of this war was to free the negroes, and have talked so much about it, that it is no wonder their negroes leave them. They may blame themselves for the present stampede among slaves.” (“Runaway,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, September 20, 1861)
  • “But the successful arrest and extradition of no less than five fugitives on the third, opened their eyes to new danger…At one time they believed the Marshal had in his hands fifteen additional warrants for fugitives; at another, the story was that there were six hundred Missourians in the city looking for their lost negroes. Indeed, such has been the terror among fugitives during the last three or four days, that in every strange face they beheld a slave owner and in every lamp-post an officer. The stampede for Canada became general, with all who could get away.” (St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, April 9, 1861)

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General Notes

  • The St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican was published in St. Louis Missouri from 1854 to 1859. It is available in a searchable format in the State Historical Society of Missouri’s digital collections.
  • In addition the the article shown above about “Old Brown of Ossawatomie,” the paper published a number of other articles about John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.
  • “Thatcher’s letter” is the publication of a letter written by Lawrence Thatcher of Memphis to John Brown, but it was intercepted by the government on the way to Harper’s Ferry.
  • Not all papers digitized on the website are accurately searchable, so other articles about stampedes published by this paper may exist.

Black Authors and Fictional Stampedes

Delaney

Martin Delany. (House Divided Project)

Martin R. Delay’s Blake or the Huts of America (1859-1862) is often identified as the first black nationalist novel. It tells the story of Henry Blake as he escapes from slavery and tries to find his wife who had been sold away from him. However, Blake’s overarching goal was to unify the enslaved people and fight for freedom together. At first printed serially in a black owned newspaper, the chapters were later gathered and edited into a single work. Delany used the word stampede once in Chapter 30, “The Pursuit,” writing:

“The absence of Mammy Judy, Daddy Joe, Charles, and little Tony, on the return early Monday morning of Colonel Franks and lady from the country, unmistakably proved the escape of their slaves, and the further proof of the exit of ‘squire Potter’s Andy and Beckwith’s Clara, with the remembrance of the stampede a few months previously, required no further confirmation of the fact, when the neighborhood again was excited to ferment.” [1]

In this case, an incident that could be describe as a stampede reminds the community of a mass escape that had taken place a few months prior.  Delany’s usage, however, provides insight into how slave holders responded to stampedes. He wrote that the town’s “advisory committee was called into immediate council, and ways and means devised for the arrest of the recreant slaves recently left, and to prevent among them the recurrence of such things; a pursuit was at once commenced.” [2] Delany’s fictional account illustrates real white anxiety surrounding stampedes.

Harper

Frances E.W. Harper. (House Divided Project)

Iola Leroy or Shadows Uplifted by African American writer Francis E.W. Harper was published in 1892. The novel follows a mixed race family’s struggle with enslavement, freedom, and identity during the Civil War. The family “passed” as white. In the novel, Harper used the word ‘stampede’ three times. Each use was in relation to a single incident where a group of enslaved people plotted a mass escape to join the Union Army, camped nearby.

First, Harper wrote, “A few evenings before the stampede of Robert and his friends to the army, and as he sat alone in his room reading the latest news from the paper he had secreted.” [3] Here Harper did not use the term explicitly in connection with slaves, but Robert was an enslaved figure who was passing as white.  His friends were formerly enslaved people.

The next instance reads, “When [the Union Army] came, there was a stampede to its ranks of men ready to serve in any capacity, to labor in the tents, fight on the fields, or act as scouts” (Harper, 36). This was a reference to runaway slaves.  Harper added, “It was the strangest sight to see these black men rallying around the Stars and Stripes.” [4]

The final time that the term “stampede” appeared in the novel, it was when the character Iola announced that, “A number of colored men stampeded to the Union ranks, with a gentleman as a leader, whom I think is your brother.” [5]

 

[1] Martin R. Delany, Blake; or, The Huts of America (serial, 1859-1862; Boston: Beacon Press, 1970, reprint), Chapter 30, [WEB].

[2] Delany, Chapter 30.

[3] Frances E.W. Harper, Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted (Boston: James H. Earle, 1892), 32, [WEB].

[4] Harper, 36.

[5] Harper, 196.