Tag Archives: 1860s

The Harris Family and the Chicago Stampede

DATELINE: CHICAGO, APRIL 3, 1861

Shortly after 6:00 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, April 3, 1861, U.S. Deputy Marshal George L. Webb led an armed “posse” of six men up the stairs of a home at 251 South Clark Street in Chicago. Pounding on the door, Webb aroused a family of four freedom seekers, who had escaped from near St. Louis, Missouri about a month earlier––38-year-old “Onesimus” Harris, his 21-year-old wife Ann and two young children, George, aged four, and Charles, aged one. [1] As the frantic cries of “kidnapper” rang out in the early morning air, the marshal and his men quickly seized the three Harris children, who were rushed downstairs and forced into an omnibus waiting outside. Meanwhile, Harris and his wife fiercely resisted their would-be captors, giving Webb’s men “a lively time.” Yet they too were ultimately subdued. The “stout” Harris was “manacled, and his elbows tied behind his back,” before being “dragged down” the stairs into the same vehicle, while Ann Harris, “wrapped in a quilt for decency’s sake,” was hurriedly shuffled into the omnibus. [2]

Chicago

Views of Chicago, c. 1859

From Clark Street, the omnibus “whirled away” to the St. Louis, Alton and Chicago railroad depot. However, the freedom seekers’ cries had drawn attention to their plight, and a sizable group of African Americans quickly assembled and set out in pursuit, hoping to rescue the Harris family from the grasp of Federal authorities. Yet Webb’s superior, the new U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois, Joseph Russell Jones, was prepared. Appointed to the post just weeks earlier by President Abraham Lincoln, who was also a personal acquaintance, Jones shocked many Chicagoans by his apparent “zeal” to return the family of freedom seekers to bondage. Waiting at the depot, Jones watched as the family was hustled out of the omnibus and onto a special train he had chartered, which departed at 6:30 a.m. Occurring during the first month of Lincoln’s administration, the case had multiple connections to the 16th president. The train from Chicago carried the Harris family to Springfield, Illinois––Lincoln’s hometown––where another Lincoln acquaintance, U.S. Commissioner Stephen Corneau, promptly remanded the family back into slavery on April 4. While it marked a cruel end to the Harris family’s quest for freedom, for many Northerners the case also raised larger questions about Lincoln’s anti-slavery credentials. [3]

 

STAMPEDES CONTEXT

Although newspapers did not call the Harris family’s escape a “stampede,” numerous papers did employ the term when describing the effect the family’s capture had on Chicago’s African American residents. In its initial report on the case, the pro-Republican Chicago Tribune informed readers of a “general stampede” among “the fugitive slaves harbored and residing in this city,” predicting that “within a day or two hundreds of them will have left for Canada.” The Tribune and at least one other paper also referred to the mass departure as a “colored exodus.” [4] Several days later, on April 9, the pro-Democratic Chicago Times ran a column detailing the “colored stampede,” sparked by the seizure of the Harris family. Estimating that several hundred “negro stampeders” had already left the city, the Times‘s anti-black editors expressed hope for “another stampede” to “rid us of the debris of the colored population.” [5]

April 9, 1861

Madison WI State Journal, April 9, 1861 (Newspapers.com)

In the following days and weeks, the term “stampede” was used repeatedly by newspapers throughout the North. The Wisconsin State Journal ran the headline, “Great Stampede of Fugitive Slaves,” while a Vermont serial reported a “Large Stampede of Slaves,” and the Washington, D.C.-based National Republican referred to “the stampede of negroes from Chicago.” Crucially, newspapers routinely conflated escaped slaves with free African Americans. A widely reprinted report claimed that “three hundred fugitive slaves, principally from Illinois” had passed through Detroit on their way to Canada, while another dispatch described a group of 106 “fugitive slaves” who reportedly left Chicago on April 7. [6]

 

MAIN NARRATIVE

The Harris family had escaped sometime in March 1861 from St. Ferdinand Township, located on the northern outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Their bid for freedom may have been inspired by an impending sale, as the aging Missouri slaveholder who claimed Harris’s wife and young children, William Patterson, had died in May 1860 at the age of 77. In his will, Patterson bequeathed to his widow, 69-year-old Assenath Piggott Patterson––the daughter of an early settler in the St. Louis region––”all of my real estate and slaves.” That included three enslaved people, Onesimus Harris’s wife Ann, and their children George and Charles, [7]

Jacob Veale

St. Louis slaveholder Jacob Veale. (Find A Grave)

Assenath decided to move in with her daughter, Lydia “Liddie” Patterson, and her husband Jacob Veale, a 42-year-old English emigrant. Veale was also one the executors of his father-in-law’s estate, and held one enslaved person––38-year-old Onesimus Harris. While the move may have briefly brought all members of the Harris family under one roof, they knew all too well that estate sales often resulted in the separation of enslaved families. Assenath sought to do just that––at some point in the months following William Patterson’s death, she apparently attempted to sell Ann, George and Charles. [8]

The circumstances of the sale are unknown, but it was likely what prompted the four members of the Harris family to make a run for freedom in early March 1861. They reached Chicago, taking refuge with Ann’s mother, who lived on the third floor of a house at 251 South Clark Street. Yet unbeknownst to the Harris family, Jacob Veale and the Pattersons were in hot pursuit. [9]

Marshal Jones

U.S. Marshal Joseph Russell Jones (Patrick Montgomery Collection)

The Missourians headed to Springfield, Illinois, and obtained a warrant of arrest for the four freedom seekers from U.S. Commissioner Stephen A. Corneau, a Federal official tasked with enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. There was a US commissioner in Chicago at the time (Philip A. Hoyne) but neither he, nor any of the leading judicial or political officers of the city were then considered friendly to enforcement of the law.  Although Corneau was not necessarily pro-slavery, he was a conservative who abided by the rule of law.  He quickly issued his warrant to the new U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois, Joseph Russell Jones. The 38-year-old Jones was a well-to-do businessman from Galena, Illinois, who had briefly served in the Illinois General Assembly at Springfield, where he had apparently met Abraham Lincoln. When the sitting U.S. Marshal resigned abruptly in early 1861, Lincoln appointed Jones to replace him. [10]

Jones was a Republican appointee, and later claimed that “painful as the duty was,” he felt bound by his oath “to execute a warrant for the arrest of a fugitive slave” as he would “any other process.” Well aware that Chicago’s African American community would resist any attempts to recapture the Harris family, Jones decided to seize the family “early in the morning, before there were many persons on the street.” The new marshal was well aware of the city’s track record on fugitive cases, as black Chicagoans had vigorously resisted the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law ever since its passage. Opposition to the law ran so deep that sometime the tables quickly turned and slave catchers in Chicago could easily find themselves charged with kidnapping. With this in mind, a cautious Jones held the warrants for several days, carefully planning how he would apprehend the Harris family and rush them out of the city to Corneau’s Springfield office before a rescue effort could be launched. [11]

Custom House office

Marshal Jones’s office was located in the Custom House, at the northwest corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets. (Library of Congress)

While Jones set about chartering a private train and hiring an omnibus, he entrusted his 31-year-old deputy, George L. Webb, with organizing a posse to apprehend the freedom seekers. Jones had appointed Webb as his chief deputy just days earlier, and his first task on the job became ensnaring the Harris family. To do so, either Webb or Jones turned to a free African American named Hayes, an express wagon driver who lived nearby on Edina Place. Heading to 251 South Clark Street on April 2, Hayes “insisted [on] lodging at the house” even as residents expressed some unease about their new houseguest. Around 6:00 a.m. the next morning, April 3, Hayes descended the stairs, and unlocked the front door, allowing Deputy Marshal Webb and his posse of six armed men to storm up to the third floor and seize the four freedom seekers. [12]

Lincoln Pinkerton

Detective Allan Pinkerton poses alongside President Lincoln, 1862.

After the family had been captured and whisked away to Springfield, Hayes became the recipient of the local African American community’s ire. Hayes “got terribly pounded,” before darting into a second-hand clothing store and out the back door, beating a hasty retreat to his nearby home. By mid-morning, a large crowd had encircled his house, pounding on the front door and even “scaling the upper windows with a ladder.” An African American named John Johnson emphatically declared that Hayes “had informed, and he must be got out, dead or alive.” Hayes was ultimately rescued by a contingent of Chicago policemen, who arrived and formed a hollow square around the alleged informant, removing him to the safety of the armory. Seven African Americans (six men and one woman) were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. While the woman (whose name was not recorded) was subsequently released, six black Chicagoans were charged: John Johnson, Franklin Johnson, Charles Johnson, John Barriday, Abraham Thompson and William Lee. Their bail was paid by Allan Pinkerton, the Scottish-born anti-slavery activist and noted detective. In a trial held a week later, John Johnson was represented by abolitionist attorney Chancellor L. Jenks, though he lost the case and was fined $15. [13]

timeline

In the meantime, the Harris family was brought before Commissioner Corneau at Springfield. Not only was the hearing held in the new president’s hometown, but also Corneau and Lincoln were neighbors. Their Springfield homes were just three blocks apart, and the two had been friends and political allies since the mid-1850s. Yet in his role as commissioner, the 40-year-old Corneau had already heard two cases involving freedom seekers––one in 1857, and another in 1860––and both times had sided with the slaveholder. In a brief hearing on the morning of April 4, Corneau deemed the evidence provided by Veale and the Pattersons “indisputable,” and promptly remanded the family of four back into slavery. The captured freedom seekers left Springfield on the evening train, bound for St. Louis. [14]

 

AFTERMATH AND LEGACY

In the days following the rendition of the Harris family, many Northerners expressed shock and outrage that the four freedom seekers had been seized and returned to slavery under a new Republican administration. One of the city’s leading abolitionist lawyers, L.C.P. Freer, issued a call to “The Old Liberty Guard,” denouncing the new US marshal for “inaugurating a reign of terror among our colored population.”  The next day, the Chicago Tribune decried:  “We object to a Federal office holder under Abraham Lincoln surpassing in zealous man-hunting all his predecessors in office,” Local residents focused their ire on Marshal Jones, convening a mass meeting and demanding his removal from office. [15]

Chicago Post quoteYet other Northerners, desperate to avert a looming civil war, hailed Jones’s actions. “It is thus demonstrated that the law for the rendition of fugitive slaves can be executed, and that, too, by a Republican officer, in the city of Chicago,” touted the Chicago Post. “It will convince the people that President Lincoln intends to, and will, support the constitution and execute the laws.” [16]

Meanwhile, some sought to link the case and the “stampede” which followed more directly to Lincoln, accusing the new administration of harboring pro-slavery sentiments. A Buffalo, New York paper reminded readers that it was the arrest of the Harris family, by “the first U.S. Marshal appointed by Mr. Lincoln,” which sparked “a stampede among the negroes,” suggesting that “the Republican sympathy for the poor slave is all humbug when dollars and cents in good fat fees for catching runaways is in question.” Abolitionist George Bassett harangued the new president, holding him personally responsible for “capturing and returning the Harris family” and “the virtual expulsion of 500 fugitive slaves who had been unmolested under previous administrations.” It only served to prove, Bassett maintained, that the Republican party “was pre-eminently a slave-catching party.” [17]

The ultimate fate of the Harris family remains unknown. Ann, George and Charles were appraised at $1000, and apparently sold for $1,589.98. [18] The Federal officer responsible for their capture, Joseph Russell Jones, weathered the controversy over the case and and remained an influential figure, later serving as Minister to Belgium under President Ulysses S. Grant. [19]

The case’s most profound effect may have been the “stampede” of free African Americans and freedom seekers from Chicago. Following the Harris family’s recapture, rumors swirled that “several writs were in officer’s hands” for the apprehension of other freedom seekers, creating “a perfect stampede among the numerous fugitives resident here…. All through last week they left in parties of from four to twelve to fifteen,” detailed the Chicago Tribune. On the evening of Sunday, April 7 alone, over 100 free black residents (or perhaps former fugitive slaves) reportedly crowded into four chartered freight cars of the Michigan Southern Railroad, bound for Detroit and eventually Canada. Paying an average fare of $2 per person, each car was equipped with “a cask of water and substantial provisions, boiled beef, hams, beans, bread and apples.” Most of the participants in the “colored exodus” or “hegira” as the Tribune styled it (referring to Mohammed’s flight from Mecca to Medina), were “young men in their prime, as the class most obviously likely to run the risk of fleeing from slavery.” But there were others, too, whose plight evoked even more pathos, such as one elderly woman so ill that she had to be carried to the train “on a mattrass” [sic] and a “sick child … conveyed in the arms of its father.”  As a specially chartered train was preparing to depart the city, the Chicago Tribune reported that many women in the crowd were openly weeping. It was, the antislavery newspaper sadly concluded, “such an exodus as no city in the United States ever saw before.”[20]

Whether or not this stampede was a full-fledged reality, however, is not entirely clear.  The partisan newspapers may have exaggerated the rumors and reports of flight.  The moment of community-wide panic, even if utterly sincere, may also have subsided rather quickly.  We have not yet been able to determine who exactly among the city’s African Americans left Chicago in April 1861, and when, if ever, they may have returned.  The only certainty is that despite all of the fears and suspicions of the free black and anti-slavery community raised by the tragic Harris family rendition, the Lincoln Administration never again attempted to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law in Illinois.

1861 Harris Family Map

FURTHER READING

The original and most detailed accounts of the case were published by the Chicago Tribune (Newspapers.com). The first, on April 4, 1861, ran under the headline “Onesimus and his Family Sent Back.” The second column from the Tribune was published on April 6, under the provocative title “Man Hunting in Chicago.” Later, Marshal Jones defended his actions with a card published in the April 11, 1861 edition of the Tribune. The pro-Democratic Chicago Times also covered the case in detail, and its account was later reprinted in the New Lisbon, Ohio Anti-Slavery Bugle (Newspapers.com) on April 13, 1861.

Another description of the case in the Chicago Post––reprinted in the Baltimore Daily Exchange (Newspapers.com) on April 9––included one crucial new detail: the male freedom seeker was “called Harris, or Johnson.” While it was not uncommon for enslaved people to be identified by more than one name, three of the six black Chicagoans charged with disorderly conduct went by the surname Johnson. Given that the Harris family was known to be staying with maternal relatives, it is certainly possible that these three Johnson men were relatives of the freedom seekers.

Similarly, a story first reported in the Chicago Tribune on April 11, 1861, alleged that a professed abolitionist had duped Ann’s mother, identified as “Mrs. Johnson,” into mortgaging her “little home” to raise $150 in order to fund her daughter’s escape. She handed the money over to this “stranger,” who assured her it would be used to cover “services and expenses in running off” her daughter and enslaved family. When the Harris family arrived in Chicago, purportedly with help from this unidentified white man, he instructed them to stay indoors at the Johnson residence. Meanwhile, he returned to Missouri, alerted Federal officials to the whereabouts of the four freedom seekers, and pocketed a reward offered up by Veale and the Pattersons. The Tribune claimed that this man “is one of a regularly organised gang in St. Louis and Chicago who make a business of running off and then returning slaves, by the shuttle-like process making a very good thing of it. The principal operators are ex-policemen, and policemen high in favor at St. Louis.” The Buffalo, NY Morning Express (Newspapers.com) reprinted the story with a brief editorial comment on April 15, 1861.

 

ADDITIONAL IMAGES

 

 

[1] None of the newspaper articles covering the case identified any members of the Harris family by name, except for using “Onesimus” to denote the Harris male. Given that Onesimus is a runaway slave described in Paul 1:10, Onesimus was likely not the male Harris’s real name. (See “Onesimus and his Family Sent Back,” Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1861). Newspaper accounts were also conflicted over the number of children––some placed it at two, others at three. The names and ages of Ann, George and Charles come from the estate inventory of William Patterson, a Missouri slaveholder whose widow moved into the household of son-in-law Jacob Veale, who held “Onesimus” Harris, shortly before the escape occurred. Given the evidence, it appears likely that Ann, George and Charles were “Onesimus” Harris’s family members, and thus the freedom seekers involved in the case. (See William Patterson, Last Will and Testament, October 16, 1858, and Estate Inventory, August 12, 1861, Missouri, Wills and Probate Records, Ancestry).

[2] “Onesimus and his Family Sent Back,” Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1861; Chicago Post, quoted in “The Fugitive Slave Case in Chicago,” Milwaukee WI Sentinel, April 5, 1861; “Man Hunting in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1861; “The Arrest of the Harris Family, A Card from U.S. Marshal Jones,” Chicago Tribune, April 11, 1861; “Five Slaves Carried Off––Africa in a Ferment,” Chicago Times, quoted in New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, April 13, 1861; 1860 U.S. Census, Slave Schedules, St. Ferdinand, St. Louis County, MO, Ancestry.

[3] “U.S. Marshal,” Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1861; “Onesimus and his Family Sent Back,” Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1861; “Man Hunting in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1861; “The Arrest of the Harris Family, A Card from U.S. Marshal Jones,” Chicago Tribune, April 11, 1861; “Five Slaves Carried Off––Africa in a Ferment,” Chicago Times, quoted in New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, April 13, 1861; Jeffrey N. Lash, A Politician Turned General: The Civil War Career of Stephen Augustus Hurlburt, (Kent, OH and London: Kent State University Press, 2003), 63, [WEB]; Annual Report, For the Year Ending October 31, 1909, (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 1909), 215, [WEB]; “Insured in the Mutual for 60 Years,” Mutual Interests, 35:8 (March 1909): 29, [WEB]; Endorsement of Stephen A. Corneau, appearing in the Illinois Journal on April 26, 1855, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, [WEB].

[4] “Onesimus and his Family Sent Back,” Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1861; “The Colored Exodus!,” Chicago Tribune, April 9, 1861; “The Colored Exodus from Chicago,” Irasburgh, VT Orleans Standard, April 19, 1861.

[5] “The Colored Stampede,” Chicago Times, April 9, 1861, quoted in Detroit Free Press, April 10, 1861

[6] “Great Stampede of Fugitive Slaves,” Madison Wisconsin State Journal, April 9, 1861; Washington, D.C. National Republican, April 11, 1861; “Large Stampede of Slaves,” Hyde Park, VT Lamoille Newsdealer, April 12, 1861; “Negroes Leaving for Canada,” Buffalo, NY Daily Republic, April 9, 1861; “Fugitives from a Second Bondage,” Pittsfield MA Berkshire County Eagle, April 18, 1861.

[7] 1860 U.S. Census, Slave Schedules, St. Ferdinand, St. Louis, MO, Ancestry; William Patterson, Last Will and Testament, October 16, 1858, and Estate Inventory, August 12, 1861, Missouri, Wills and Probate Records, Ancestry; William Patterson, Find A Grave, [WEB]; Assenath Patterson, Find A Grave, [WEB].

[8] “Fugitives Remanded Back,” St. Louis, MO Democrat, April 5, 1861; 1850 U.S. Census, District 82, St. Louis County, MO, Family 1447, Ancestry; 1860 U.S. Census, St. Ferdinand Township, St. Louis County, MO, Family 218, Ancestry; 1860 U.S. Census, Slave Schedules, St. Ferdinand, St. Louis, MO, Ancestry; Carl William Veale, Patterson-Piggott Family of St. Louis County, Missouri, (Los Angeles: n.p., 1947), 1, [WEB]; William Patterson, Last Will and Testament, October 16, 1858, and Estate Inventory, August 12, 1861, Missouri, Wills and Probate Records, Ancestry; Jacob Veale, Find A Grave, [WEB]; Lydia Rogers Patterson, Find A Grave, [WEB].

[9] “Onesimus and his Family Sent Back,” Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1861; “Fugitive Slave Excitement in Chicago,” Chicago Post, April 5, 1861, quoted in Baltimore Daily Exchange, April 9, 1861.

[10] “Five Slaves Carried Off––Africa in a Ferment,” Chicago Times, quoted in New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, April 13, 1861; “Resigned,” Chicago Tribune, March 5, 1861; “U.S. Marshal,” Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1861; “U.S. Marshal,” Chicago Tribune, March 28, 1861; 1860 U.S. Census, 1st Ward Galena, Jo Daviess County, IL, Family 34, Ancestry; Haplin and Bailey’s Chicago City Directory, for the Year 1861-62, (Chicago: Haplin & Bailey, 1861), 191; Lash, A Politician Turned General, 63; Charter, Constitution By-Laws, Annual Report, for the Year Ending October 31, 1909, (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 1909), 215, [WEB].

[11] “The Arrest of the Harris Family, A Card from U.S. Marshal Jones,” Chicago Tribune, April 11, 1861; Richard J.M. Blackett, The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 165-167.

[12] “The Fugitive Slave Case in Chicago,” Milwaukee, WI Sentinel, April 5, 1861; “Fugitive Slave Excitement in Chicago,” Chicago Post, April 5, 1861, quoted in Baltimore Daily Exchange, April 9, 1861; “Man Hunting in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1861; “The Arrest of the Harris Family, A Card from U.S. Marshal Jones,” Chicago Tribune, April 11, 1861; “Five Slaves Carried Off––Africa in a Ferment,” Chicago Times, quoted in New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, April 13, 1861; Chicago Post, April 4, 1861, quoted in “Great Negro Excitement!,” Boston Liberator, April 26, 1861; “Appointment,” Chicago Tribune, April 1, 1861; House Executive Documents, Index to Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the First Session of the Forty-Fourth Congress, 1875-1876, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1876), 164-165, [WEB]; 1860 U.S. Census, Ward 1, Chicago, Cook County, IL, Family 214, Ancestry; “A Tribute to George L. Webb,” Woodstock, IL Sentinel, September 14, 1905.

[13] “The Sequel to the Harris Case,” Chicago Tribune, April 12, 1861; “Five Slaves Carried Off––Africa in a Ferment,” Chicago Times, quoted in New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, April 13, 1861; Chicago Post, April 4, 1861, quoted in “Great Negro Excitement!,” Boston Liberator, April 26, 1861; The Chicago Legal News 35(1902-1905):439, [WEB]; Pinkerton later claimed that he had actively aided freedom seekers, writing in the 1880s: “I have assisted in securing safety and freedom for the fugitive slave, no matter at what hour, under what circumstances, or at what cost, the act was to be performed.” Allan Pinkerton, The Spy of the Rebellion; Being a True History of the Spy System of the United States Army During the Late Rebellion, (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1883), xxvi, [WEB].

[14] “Fugitives Remanded Back,” St. Louis, MO Democrat, April 5, 1861; Endorsement of Stephen A. Corneau, appearing in the Illinois Journal on April 26, 1855, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, [WEB]; 1850 U.S. Census, Springfield, Sangamon County, IL, Family 774, Ancestry; 1860 U.S. Census, Springfield, Sangamon County, IL, Family 1897, Ancestry; Stephen Augustus Corneau, Find A Grave, [WEB]; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:206, 811; Blackett, The Captive’s Quest for Freedom, 159-160.

[15] L.C.P. Freer, “To the Old Liberty Guard,” Chicago Tribune, April 5, 1861.  “Man Hunting in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, April 6, 1861; Weston A. Goodspeed and Daniel D. Healy, History of Cook County, Illinois, (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1909), 1:419, [WEB].

[16] “The Fugitive Slave Case in Chicago,” Milwaukee, WI Sentinel, April 5, 1861.

[17] “Negroes Leaving for Canada,” Buffalo, NY Daily Republic, April 9, 1861; George W. Bassett, A Discourse on the Wickedness and Folly of the Present War, (n.p., 1861), 13, [WEB].

[18] William Patterson, Estate Inventory, August 12, 1861, Missouri, Wills and Probate Records, Ancestry.

[19] Joseph Russell Jones to Abraham Lincoln, January 7, 1863, Series 1, General Correspondence, Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress, [WEB]; Charter, Constitution By-Laws, Annual Report, for the Year Ending October 31, 1909, 215, [WEB].

[20] “Departure of Fugitive Slaves for Canada,” New York Times, April 9, 1861; “The Colored Exodus!” Chicago Tribune, April 9, 1861.

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)

Select Images

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 

 

  •  

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)

Select Images

 

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 -Making of America (Cornell and Michigan)

Stampede Report Missouri

OR Series 1, vol. 22, pt. 2, 746

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert between March 29-April 4, 2019.
  • Keywords: “slave stampede,” “stampede of slaves,” “stampede of negroes.”
  • Totals: 11 hits

Top Results

  • In December 1863, Col. James McFerran of the 1st Missouri State Militia Cavalry reported a “small stampede of negroes from the vicinity of Lexington, [Missouri] carrying away two horses, which have not been recovered at last accounts.” (The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1881-1901), Series 1, vol. 22, pt. 2, 746; hereinafter cited as OR)
  • Recounting the December 1858 escape of some 11 slaves from western Missouri, with the aid of abolitionist John Brown, an 1863 book described “the panic which followed this invasion.” Fearing “a general stampede of slaves,” it noted, “the two counties of Bates and Vernon were soon quite cleared of their ‘chattels,’ which were sent into the interior or shipped to the South for sale.” (Orville J. Victor, History of American Conspiracies; A Record of treason, rebellion, &.c. in the United States of America, from 1760 to 1860, (New York: J.D. Torrey, 1863), 516)
  • The term “slave stampede” was also used by New York Sen. William H. Seward in May 1860, during his testimony before a Senate committee investigating the Harpers Ferry insurrection. He reported that Hugh Forbes, a one-time associate of John Brown, had “suggested the getting up of a stampede of slaves secretly on the borders of Kansas, in Missouri, which Brown disapproved.” (Report of the Select Committee of the Senate Appointed to Inquire into the Late Invasion and Seizure of the Public Property at Harper’s Ferry, (Washington: n.p., 1860), 254)
  • In 1853, the American & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society reprinted two advertisements using the term “stampede” to illustrate the increasing number of escaping slaves. A “negro stampede” from Kentucky, reportedly inspired by Uncle Tom’s Cabin, had seen “twenty-five negroes” escape from Boone County, Kentucky. (The Thirtieth Annual Report of the American & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, Presented at New-York, May 11, 1853, (New York: Lewis J. Bates, 1853), 144)
  • Writing to Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in November 1861, Brig. Gen. Alexander McCook at Camp Nevin, Kentucky, reported that ten “contraband negroes” had made their way behind his lines, while also informing him that “there will be a general stampede of slaves from the other side of Green River.” (OR Series 1, vol. 4, 337).
  • In 1861, the periodical The Living Age reprinted a speech by Edward Everett, in which the noted orator predicted that should secession be allowed to stand undisputed, conflict would still arise. “A general stampede of slaves shall take place along the Border,” Everett asserted, “with no thought of rendition,” sparking a “Border-war” spanning “a frontier of fifteen hundred miles.” (The Living Age, vol. 70 (August 1861), 283)
  • An 1863 book castigating the South and secession reprinted an 1862 article from the Christian Banner, entitled “Stampede of Slaves.” The article described “thousands of negroes in Virginia” who were “taking leave of their owners.” The book also reprinted another article from the same newspaper, referring to “the stampede of negroes” from Virginia which “continues with increased numbers.” (James W. Hunnicutt, The Conspiracy Unveiled: the South Sacrificed, or The Horrors of Secession, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1863), 369, 445-446)
  • Confederates also used the term “stampede” in their dispatches. Writing from Alexandria, Louisiana in early February 1864, Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor discussed hiring (or renting) slaves from their owners to serve as laborers for Confederate forces in the region. However, Taylor was determined to “obtain the consent of owners,” otherwise he predicted, “there will be a general stampede, and we will be held to be the cause of it.” (OR Series 1, vol. 34, pt. 2, 939)
  • The novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe used the term “stampede of negroes” in her 1873 publication, Palmetto-Leaves. (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Palmetto-Leaves, (Boston: J.R. Osgood and Company, 1873), 271)
  • The term “slave stampede” also appeared in an 1894 book by abolitionist Richard Hinton. Recalling a conversation with John Henry Kagi prior to John Brown’s slave insurrection at Harpers Ferry, Hinton noted that the first stage of the plan was intended to appear as “a slave stampede, or local outbreak at most.” (Richard J. Hinton, John Brown and His Men: With Some Account of the Roads they traveled to reach Harper’s Ferry, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1894), 673)

Select Images

General Notes

  • The Cornell and Michigan Making of America databases are free and available to the public.

Database Report- Charleston Courier

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Amanda Donoghue from March 4 – March 8, 2019
  • Keywords: stampede, stampeded, stampeding, various combinations of synonyms of stampede + slave (slave + exodus, slave + escape, etc.)
  • Total: 1 hit (but outside time frame)

Top Results

  • “One thousand negro men stampeded from their employers in Georgia in spite of contracts, and crops are consequently precarious.” (“Gleanings,” Charleston MO Charleston Courier, May 18, 1866)

Selected Images

Clipping of article from Charleston Courier

Charleston MO Charleston Courier, May 18, 1866

General Notes

  • Charleston Courier was a newspaper run from 1859 to 1875 out of Charleston, MO in Mississippi County. The Missouri State Historical Society provides this paper online in searchable form through their Digital Collections Project.
  • While the May 1866 article is outside the project timeline, its usage of the word “stampede” in reference to free black sharecroppers, rather than escaping slaves, suggests staying power for the term.
  • In addition to the article search, I tested the accuracy of the database website’s text search function. Using the website’s advanced search, which allows users to search within specific newspapers, I searched for pre-selected terms found in a random selection of articles to check that each article was presented in the results of the search. Overall, it seemed that the function correctly found all the articles that contained the search terms.

Database Report –Genealogy Bank

Stampede Article

Plaquemine, LA Southern Sentinel, November 14, 1849 (Genealogy Bank Database)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert between December 12, 2018-January 9, 2019.
  • Keywords: slave and stampede, including variants: “negro stampede,” “black stampede,” “general stampede” and “regular stampede.”
  • Totals: Approximately 600 hits with concentrations of stampede attempts from Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland and Missouri
  • NOTE:  Because of extensive results, this search was limited to the above terms.  We still need to attempt a wider array of search terms in GenealogyBank

Top Results

  • In September 1852, the St. Louis Missouri Republican directed its readers’ attention to a “large reward for the apprehension of runaway negroes” involved in a “negro stampede” from St. Genevieve, Missouri. (“Negro Stampede-Large Reward,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, September 11, 1852)
  • In early November 1859, abolitionist papers cheered the “recent arrival at Detroit of a cargo of live freight consisting of twenty-six chattels all the way form Missouri.” (“The Detroit Underground Train,” New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, November 12, 1859)
  • A “negro stampede” in December 1859 included “thirty passengers, five from the vicinity of Richmond, Va., twelve from Kentucky and thirteen from Missouri.” The group arrived in Chicago, and later successfully journeyed to Canada. The Missouri fugitives “were sold to go down the river the very day they started,” and were prepared to fight off any pursuers. “A stalwart six-footer and a Sharpe’s rifle were the only guides.” (“Negro Stampede,” Raleigh North Carolina Standard, December 21, 1859)
  • Multiple columns quoted a St. Genevieve, Missouri paper, which described a “stampede of negroes” from St. Genevieve County during the fall of 1862. The account detailed the decline of slavery throughout Missouri, including St. Louis, where “there were only 1400 slaves… two years ago, and the best judges now estimate that there are less than 500, and these principally old and decrepit home servants.” Overall, “negro property in Missouri has depreciated, and it is said to be nearly impossible to sell a slave anywhere in the country for one-fifth the ordinary price.” (“Slavery in Missouri,” New Orleans Daily Delta, November 13, 1862)
  • In 1848, the Louisville Journal detailed an elaborate plan for a stampede of “about forty negroes” in Woodford County. Equipped with free passes, “each was to steal a horse and cross the Ohio river before day.” The stampede was “frustrated” when another slave revealed the plot. (“Stampede Frustrated,” Indianapolis Daily State Sentinel, October 21, 1848)
  • A May 1850 column reported on a rumored slave insurrection near White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, suggesting instead that it was “simply a projected ‘stampede’ of slaves in the elegant frontier style of the day. These flights are becoming so frequent that they seem to be expected as a matter of course by the owners, nor does the offering of rewards seem usually to be attended with success.” (“Washington Correspondence,” Boston Recorder, May 23, 1850)
  • Commenting on the frequency of stampedes, a Worcester, Massachusetts paper gleefully reported that “scarcely a day passes, on which we do not hear it stated, that there has been a stampede–a flight of slaves from the prison-house of Southern bondage…. These stampedes, from their inception to the issue of them, are the most heroic events in American history; and yet they are made the greatest of American political crimes.” (“Stampedes,” Worcester, MA Spy, November 17, 1852)
  • In the aftermath of John Brown’s failed Harpers Ferry uprising, one abolitionist paper defended Brown’s plan to “run slaves, rather than free them by the slow process of legal and social reform.” “The Stampede is only a practical use of the Bill of Rights which God incorporated in the charter of human existence,” the paper argued. (New Lisbon, OH Anti-Slavery Bugle, November 26, 1859)
  • A Charleston, South Carolina correspondent for the New York Tribune reported a stampede plot among the city’s slaves in the midst of the Secession Crisis in early 1861. “The idea which possessed the slaves seems to have been that the moment the first gun was fired in Charleston Harbor, they should make a stampede, taking with them all the property they could lay their hands upon.” He confidently predicted that this was “no singular case,” and that “the first gun fired against the United States Government will explode a powder magazine the vaults of which extend beneath the feet of the whole South.” (“From South Carolina,” New York Tribune, April 2, 1861)
  • By the fall of 1863, newspapers in western Missouri were sounding the alarm about slave stampedes. “During the last two months the darkies have been leaving Platte county at the rate of about thirty or forty per day,” a paper in St. Joseph reported. “By the census of 1860 Platte county had a slave population of three thousand three hundred and thirteen, and our informant thinks that there are but two or three hundred left now. From all portions of North Missouri we have like information. The slaves are leaving by day and by night. Very few owners pretend to stay the exodus. Many pack up their duds and walk boldly off in broad day, while others quietly retire in the night.” (St. Joseph, Missouri Herald, quoted in “Slavery Passing Away in Missouri and Kentucky,” Worcester, MA Spy, September 9, 1863)
  • The St. Louis Missouri Democrat reprinted columns from multiple papers to depict the mounting “negro exodus” from the state. Quoting the Kansas City Journal, the paper informed its readers of “some thirty or forty negroes” who left Clay County in western Missouri, bound for Kansas, “taking with them a quantity of stock…. The Emancipation Ordinance has made a perfect stampede among the negroes, who cannot draw nice distinctions…. The same process is going on all along the border, and Missouri will soon be rid of her slaves, in fact, if not in name. The barriers which fence in the slave system in this State are crumbling daily, and while our politicians are talking the negro is quietly acting, without any reference to statute books or ordinances.” (Kansas City Journal, quoted in “The Negro Exodus,” St. Louis Missouri Democrat, August 21, 1863)
  • In late 1863, the Columbia Statesman in Boone County, Missouri, reported on a “stampede of negroes” to enlist in the U.S. Colored Troops. “Thirty negroes enlisted in Ray county last week. Ninety negro recruits were sent form St. Louis to Lexington…. thirty negroes left Pike county to enlist.” (Columbia Statesman, quoted in “Missouri Items,” St. Louis Daily Missouri Democrat, December 22, 1863)

Select Images

General Notes

  • Genealogy Bank is a subscription database.
  • Although not part of the database’s coverage, the St. Joseph, Missouri Herald, the Columbia Statesman from Boone County and an unspecified St. Genevieve paper were quoted for their reporting on stampedes.
  • After the passage of the controversial Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, the term was used to describe the movement of fugitive slaves residing in the Northern free states, who were reportedly “stampeding” to Canada to evade recapture under the stringent new law. A widely-reprinted report from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, suggested that there was a “general stampede” of the city’s fugitive slave population, including “many… who were never suspected of being fugitives until the passage of this bill.” (“Excitement among the Colored Population,” Baltimore Sun, September 25, 1850) Many Southern papers remarked on the “regular stampede” of “fugitive negroes” from “Pennsylvania, New York and other free states.” (“Arrest of a Slave,” Montgomery Alabama Journal, October 7, 1850) An Easton, Maryland newspaper even ran the headline “Fred. Douglass in Danger,” while reporting on the “general stampede” of “runaway negroes” from Pittsburgh. (“Fred. Douglass in Danger,” Easton, MD Star, October 15, 1850)
  • Editors of the abolitionist Pennsylvania Freeman employed the term to mock pro-slavery arguments, satirically remarking that if slaves were so “enamored of the lash, the dungeon, the paddle, [and] the auction stand… one might imagine a general stampede of the fugitives in Canada and throughout the North, hurrying back to slavery.” (“Going Back to Slavery,” Pennsylvania Freeman, January 1, 1854)
  • A Georgia paper used the term to describe violence against suspected abolitionists. “One out of the four [abolitionists] was caught and ridden on a rail, the rest saved themselves by a stampede.” (Columbus, GA Times, quoted in Woodville, MS Republican, October 22, 1850)
  • The term was also used to describe the movement of free African-Americans. Reports circulated of a “compulsory stampede” of “free negroes” from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, compelled by white citizens who were concerned about “their pernicious influence among the slave population.” (Nashville Patriot, quoted in “Stampede of Free Negroes,” New York Herald, December 8, 1856)
  • In August 1857, “over a dozen” slaves stampeded from Washington, using a religious camp meeting as an opportunity for escape. Obtaining permission to travel to the gathering in Montgomery County, Maryland, they instead “embraced the opportunity to seek a more permanent camp in Canada.” (Newark, NJ Centinel of Freedom, September 9, 1857)
  • Stampedes could also include literal rail travel. An 1857 report noted a “stampede” of five slaves, who travelled using “horses and vehickles [sic]” from Hagerstown, Maryland across the border to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where they boarded the cars of the Cumberland Valley Railroad for Harrisburg. (“The Slave Stampede,” Easton, MD Star, June 2, 1857)
  • In the south-west slaveholding states, the prospect of slave stampedes into Mexico troubled slaveholders. An Austin, Texas newspaper expressed concern about patrolling its enslaved population, worrying about a possible “insurrection, or a general negro stampede for Mexico.” (“Patrol,” Austin Texas State Gazette, July 22, 1854) Stampedes also occurred among slaves owned by members of the Cherokee Nation, in present-day Oklahoma. “A large stampede of negroes was attempted from the nation to Mexico,” a Tennessee paper reported in 1860, “but the chiefs having been informed, by a faithful negro, of the movement, collected their warriors, under the pretense of going on a war trail against the Camanches [sic], and arrested the fugitives.” (Athens, TN Post, January 20, 1860)
  • The term was used to describe the escape of two Mississippi slaves owned by prominent Illinois senator Stephen Douglas. (“Stampede of two of Senator Douglas’ Slaves,” Wilmington Journal, September 17, 1858)

Most Relevant Coverage from Genealogy Bank Database

  • MISSOURI:  St. Louis Missouri Republican – 1849-1852 (Whig, pro-slavery)
  • MISSOURI:  St. Louis Weekly Pilot – 1855-1856
  • MISSOURI:  St. Louis Missouri Democrat – 1862-1863 (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • ILLINOIS:  Quincy Whig – 1854 (Whig)
  • MARYLAND:  Easton Star – 1849-1857 (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • MASSACHUSETTS:  Massachusetts Spy, Worcester, MA – 1847-1863 (Whig and Republican, anti-slavery)
  • OHIO:  Anti-Slavery Bugle, New Lisbon, OH – 1848-1860 (anti-slavery)

 

Database Report: Black Abolitionist Papers and Black Abolitionist Archive

Stampede article, Weekly Anglo-African, October 7, 1859

Weekly Anglo-African, October 7, 1859

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Amanda Donoghue on Dec. 20
  • Keywords:  stampede, exodus, group slave escape, Missouri escape
  • Total results: Black Abolitionist Papers (BAP) = 6, Black Abolitionist Archive (BAA) = 1

Results

  • “A Cincinnati paper of the 28th ult says: A stampede of slaves took place on the evening of the 27th-the whereabouts of several of the fugitives having been discovered here, officers at noon today proceeded to make arrests-upon approaching the house where the slaves were secreted, the latter fired, wounding two or three spectators, but not severely. One slave woman, finding escape impossible, cut the throats of her children, killing one instantly, and severely wounding two others: six of the fugitives were apprehended, and eight are said to have escaped.” (Editorial, Provincial Freedom, Toronto, February 2, 1856)
  • “A number of fugitives, I have been informed-fifteen in number-have just passed through from Detroit into Canada. Quite a stampede.” (Our Detroit Letter,” Weekly Anglo-African, New York, NY, October 7, 1859, Black Abolitionist Papers)
  • On Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry: “It seems to have been at the outset, an attempt to procure a large stampede of slaves, and to have grown, by force of circumstances, into an invasion of these United States and of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” (“The Emeute at Harper’s Ferry,” Weekly Anglo-African, New York, NY, October 22, 1859, Black Abolitionist Papers)
  • “A colored man named Harris, and his wife and two children were arrested here this morning, on a warrant issued by the United States Commissioner Conneau, and sent by special train to Springfield, where they will be examined tomorrow. The man is claimed by Mr. Patterson, of St. Louis County, MO” (“A Carbonari Wanted,” Weekly Anglo-African, New York, NY, April 13, 1861, Black Abolitionist Archive)
  • “[In 1843] Our next undertaking was a regular stampede from Maryland. We met at Banning’s Bridge, and mustered seventy strong at starting, but through some misunderstanding the wrong road was taken, and consequently they were tracked, and after a severe encounter, with the loss of three killed and many wounded, they were forced to surrender to superior numbers, who were well armed. When the return caravan passed through Washington a perfect panic prevailed among the slaves; and of the free colored people there were many who left for fear of the threats which were being made against them carried out.” (“Recollections from the Underground Railroad,” The Elevator, San Francisco, CA, September 22, 1865, Black Abolitionist Papers)
  • BAP includes excerpts from Martin Delany’s unfinished novel Blake (1859, 1861-62) that includes a reference at the beginning of chapter 30 to slave stampedes:  “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.” [NOTE:  Delany serialized Blake at first in the Afro-American Magazine in 1859 –that was the version contained within BAP]

Select Images:

General Notes

  • Black Abolitionist Papers (BAP) is a subscription Pro-Quest database that is available to Dickinson College students.  Black Abolitionist Archive (BAA) is available to the public for free through University of Detroit Mercy [WEB].
  • BAP is the larger, more comprehensive collection (over 15,000 items), but BAA director, Roy Finkenbine, was part of the editorial team at BAP, which includes a printed five-volume collection as well as a microfilm series (and now database).  BAP includes black abolitionist newspaper editorials, speeches, meeting and convention materials, and selective private correspondence. BAA offers about 800 published speeches and selected newspaper articles.  
  • Five articles were found using the term “stampede” to refer to the “colonization” movement of free blacks moving to Haiti or Africa to escape the risk of being enslaved or re-enslaved.

Database Report –19th Century US Newspapers

Slave Stampedes Article

The Liberator, June 10, 1853 (Courtesy of 19th-Century US Newspapers)

Search Summary

  • Search conducted by Cooper Wingert during week of Nov. 26-30, 2018
  • Keywords:  slaves and stampede(s) (both singular & plural) and stampeding, but found * (stamped*) didn’t work so well (too many false positives on the word, “stamped”), plus variants including negro, servile, fugitive, and exodus
  • Totals:  About 160 hits with concentrations reported from Kentucky, northern Virginia, Maryland and eastern Missouri.

Top Results

  • “Slaves are running away from Missouri, at the present time, in battalions,” reported the Alton (IL) Telegraph in the spring of 1853. Situated just miles from Missouri’s eastern border, the paper’s readers were already quite familiar with the term “Slave Stampedes,” which was the headline used for this and countless other articles. (Alton Telegraph, quoted in The Liberator, June 10, 1853)
  •  A correspondent for the London Times took special note of the term, writing that stampede was “a word which the Americans have borrowed from their prairies, and applied most expressively to a general rush of negroes from slavery.” (London Times, June 19, 1861, quoted in “English Speculation on the War and its Issue,” New York Herald, July 2, 1861)
  • Under the headline, “NEGRO STAMPEDE,” The Cleveland Daily Herald  reported (in its entirety) on November 19, 1859:  “The Chicago Journal says that on Thursday evening, the 17th inst., the underground railroad arrived there with thirty passengers, five from the vicinity of Richmond, Va., twelve from Kentucky, and thirteen from Missouri.  They are now all safe in Canada.  The thirteen from Missouri were sold to go down the river, the very day they started. A stalwart six-footer and a Sharp’s rifle were the only guides.” (Cleveland Daily Herald, November 19, 1859).
  • The Democratic New York Herald once wrote of “servile stampedes,” while a Cincinnati newspaper describing the movements of Kentucky slaves used the terms “stampede” and “negro exodus” interchangeably. (“The South and Southern Safety–A New Presidential Programme,” New York Herald, December 4, 1859; “Kentucky Negro Exodus,” Daily Cleveland Herald, June 6, 1864)
  • Many hits contained only brief mentions, such as an Ohio newspaper’s succinct remark that “stampedes of slaves, from Mason and Nicholas counties, Ky. seem of common occurrence.” (“Items,” The Daily Scioto Gazette, Chillicothe, OH, May 8, 1851)
  • Then there was a New Hampshire newspaper, which in August 1850 ran a short article entitled “Slave Stampedes.” For a New England audience that was perhaps unfamiliar with the term, the editor conveniently took the time to offer up a definition: “an uprising and fleeing from bondage of a large number of slaves.” (“Slave Stampedes,” New Hampshire Statesman, Concord, NH, August 30, 1850)
  • As early as 1849, newspapers began using the headline “Another Slave Stampede,” underscoring just how common stampedes were (see Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette, December 15, 1849).  A decade later, the editor of the Charleston Mercury underscored this point, writing that stampedes described slaves who escaped “in startling numbers” on a near “daily” basis. “They go off, one, two, three, or a dozen at a time.” (“Slavery in Kentucky,” Charleston Mercury, May 10, 1858). These types of headline and comments reappeared straight through into the Civil War “Almost every day we hear of a new stampede of slaves in our county,” groused an editor from Port Tobacco, Maryland in September 1863. “Indeed, so frequent have they become of late, that no surprise or comment is excited hereby.” (Port Tobacco Times, quoted in “”Emancipation in Maryland,” Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, September 17, 1863).

Select Images

 

 

General Notes

  • 19th-Century Newspapers is a subscription database from Gale available to students only through the Dickinson College Library Database Finder
  • The term took on a new life in the wake of John Brown‘s failed Harpers Ferry insurrection in October 1859. No less than 11 stampede-related articles dealt with Harpers Ferry. Barely a week after the botched uprising, the Democratic New York Herald published a batch of correspondence between Brown and fellow abolitionists, which was quickly picked up and reprinted by other papers. Among the correspondents was an English-born abolitionist named Hugh Forbes, a one-time ally of Brown who ultimately backed out of the plot. The search engine picked up on Forbes’s plan to instigate “a series of stampedes of slaves,” which he predicted would each “carry off in one night, and from the same place some 20 to 50 slaves.” (“News and Further Developments,” Newark Advocate, Newark, OH, November 4, 1859) In the wake of Harpers Ferry, slave stampedes were closely linked with other revolutionary acts, often appearing in conjunction with words such as insurrection, revolt and rebellion. A Jackson, Mississippi paper closely associated the term with armed revolt, complaining of “slave insurrections or slave stampedes.” (“Abolitionism of 1835 and of 1859,” Semi-weekly Mississippian, Jackson, MS, December 27, 1859) Similarly, citizens of Madison County, Kentucky, expressed suspicion that abolitionists were creeping into their community, “exciting insurrection and getting up stampedes among the slaves.” (“The Disturbances in Madison County, KY.,” Bangor Daily Whig & Courier, Bangor, ME, April 12, 1860)
  • The coming of the Civil War saw a similar spike in usage, as countless Northern papers speculated on the war’s impact on Southern slaves. Many articles used the term “general stampede,” predicting that such “a general stampede” of slaves would occur “as the war is carried into the enemy’s country, and slavery will abolish itself.” (Springfield Republican, quoted in “Let us Learn to Wait,” New Hampshire Statesman, November 30, 1861) Even in the Confederacy’s capital, a Richmond paper admitted that the presence of “a Yankee army creates as complete a stampede among negroes as the approach of a locomotive among cattle.” (Richmond Dispatch, September 22, 1862, quoted in Philadelphia North American and United States Gazette, October 3, 1862)

Most Relevant Coverage from 19th-Century US Newspapers

  • MISSOURI: Missouri Courier, Hannibal, MO – 1849-1853 (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • MISSOURI:  St. Louis Missouri Republican (but with major gaps) (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • ILLINOIS:  None from period 1840 – 1860
  • MASSACHUSETTS: The Liberator, Boston, MA – 1852-1862 (anti-slavery)
  • NEW YORK:  New York Herald  – 1861 (Democratic, pro-slavery)
  • OHIO:  Cleveland Herald – 1848-1863 (Whig and Republican, anti-slavery)

Andrew Delbanco’s The War Before the War

Daniel Drayton

Daniel Drayton, captain of The Pearl, arrested in 1848, received a pardon in 1852

The Pearl incident was one of the largest attempted mass slave escapes in American history. On April 15, 1848, more than 70 enslaved people, including many children, boarded a schooner named The Pearl on the Potomac River in Washington, DC, in a daring effort organized after weeks of “preconcerted planning,” as scholar Andrew Delbanco puts it in The War Before the War (Nov. 2018), managed by an impressive network of free African Americans, white abolitionists, and the enslaved themselves. The effort was shocking to many of their opponents. Delbanco writes memorably in his new book about the fugitive crisis, that slaveholders in Washington awoke to find “Breakfasts were not ready, babies were not dressed, horses and chickens were going hungry; nobody was performing the morning tasks expected of urban slaves.” [1]

The freedom seekers, however, did not get far. Poor sailing conditions forced the ship to dock 150 miles down the Potomac, where officials soon boarded the ship, recaptured the freedom seekers and arrested three white men who helped them escape. The failed escape’s size and proximity to the nation’s capitol exacerbated slaveholder fears about slave resistance, rebellion, and violence. While the Pearl escape was itself nonviolent, the jarring nature of the event made the threat of slave resistance seem ever more palpable in the slaveholder’s imagination.

1848 broadside

1848 poster made by the District of Columbia government shortly after the Pearl Escape, courtesy of wikepedia.org

Delbanco uses the Pearl incident as part of his wide-ranging effort to explain how the long crisis over fugitive slaves in the United States was a key dynamic behind the rising sectional tensions that ultimately led to the American Civil War. He describes the incident as the “capstone event of a decade during which the nation moved closer and closer towards a decisive confrontation with itself.” [2]

Delbanco does not use the term “stampede” to describe the 1848 event, nor does he apply that terminology to other types of group or mass escapes that he relates in his gripping narrative.  However, the noted scholar from Columbia University routinely employs phrases such as “group escape,” “maroons” and “mass exodus” when detailing larger bodies of freedom seekers escaping bondage together.  Nor does Delbanco focus explicitly on Missouri or the Mississippi Valley, but his work is still immensely helpful in contextualizing aspects of this project.  He does mention, for example,  that the “sheer volume of absconding slaves was immense” from the border state of Missouri. [3] He also explains how being a “slave in, say, St. Louis or Baltimore …meant better prospects for escape.” [4]  Although group escapes sometimes occurred in the deeper South or within interior regions, he details how they more often resulted in movement toward life as “maroons” hiding in “cleared ground and the swamp or forest beyond” for extended periods of time. [5] 

The term “stampede” does appear in Delbanco’s new book though in contexts different from antebellum mass escapes.  When describing the impact of the pivotal Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, for example, Delbanco writes that it “set off a stampede of enraged adversaries.”  The scholar also uses a memorable image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in June 1861, captioned originally as “Stampede Among the Negroes in Virginia,”  This vivid cartoon predated a more famous one that appeared in Harper’s Weekly in August 1861, captioned, “Stampede of Slaves from Hampton to Fortress Monroe.”  Both illustrations from the summer of 1861 depicted the emergence of wartime runaways or contrabands at the very outset of the war.  And ultimately, that is Delbanco’s point.  The resistance of runaway slaves, especially through stampedes or various types of group or mass escapes, had an outsized impact on the paranoia of slaveholders. “Black violence was always lurking- at least in the white mind. And no matter how much whites wanted to believe that blacks were passive under the putatively benign regime of slavery, fugitives and rebels were a continual rebuke to this belief,” argues Delbanco. [6]

Stampede from Leslie's

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, June 8, 1861 (Library of Congress)

Stampede by Harpers

Harpers Weekly, August 17, 1861 (Library of Congress)

 

 

 

[1] Andrew Delbanco, The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War (New York: Penguin Press, 2018), 214.

[2] Delbanco, 215.

[3] Delbanco, 25.

[4] Delbanco, 35.

[5] Delbanco, 109.

[6] Delbanco, 199.