Armed Resistance

Underground Railroad Tic-Tac-Toe




National Standards:

Historical Thinking:  Historical Comprehension;  Historical Analysis and Interpretation

Content Standards: NSS-USH.5-12.4 ERA 4: EXPANSION AND REFORM (1801-1861)







1.    Armed Resistance of the Underground Railroad Tic-Tac-Toe Board

2.    Primary Source Document #1:  Christiana Riot

3.    Primary Source Document #2:  Jerry

4.    Primary Source Document #3:  Shadrach

5.    Primary Source Document #4:  “The Christiana Tragedy” (Image)

6.    Handout #1:  Analyzing Images

7.    Handout #2:  Analyzing Primary Sources



















Grade level:  7-12



Using the primary sources provided, students will complete three activities the tic-tac-toe board.


Armed Resistance of the Underground Railroad


Complete three activities on the tic-tac-toe board.  You may go vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.


Act it Out


Find one or more other people to act out a scene of armed resistance.  Use a primary source you have not yet used.  Create a script, to turn in.  You will also perform your scene for the class.

Analyzing Primary Sources


Analyze one of the stories of armed resistance (one you have not yet used).


Use Handout #2.


Political Cartoon


After reading the newspaper article about Shadrach, create two political cartoons:  one from an antislavery point of view and one from a proslavery point of view.


Use Primary Source Document #3.


Outline Your Story


Outline one of the stories of armed resistance (one you have not yet used).




You are a witness to the rescue of of the fugitive slave, Jerry, in Syracuse, New York.  You explain what you saw in a letter to a close friend.


Use Primary Source Document #2.


Wax Museum


Using one of the stories of armed resistance (one you have not yet used), choose the identity of one person involved and tell the story.  Create a script, to turn in.  You will also perform for the class.

Analyzing Images


Analyze the engraving of “The Tragedy at Christiana”


Use handout #1 and Primary Source Document #4.


Song or Poem


Using one of the stories of armed resistance (one you have not yet used), write a song or poem from either a antislavery or proslavery viewpoint.

Draw the Scene


Using one of the stories of armed resistance (one you have not yet used), draw the scene.



Primary Source Document #1:  Christiana


ITEM #24086

September 25, 1851


Rochester, New York





LANCASTER, Pa., Sept. 6, 1851.


Mr. GRAY: Rumor has doubtless, ere this, reached you of the recent Slave Case which occurred in the lower part of this county. I hasten to give you an account of the matter in all its essential and important features.

On the morning of Thursday, the 11th inst., about 4 o'clock, a slaveholder from Maryland, named Gorsuch, together with his son and several understrappers, made their appearance before the tenant-house of Mr. Pownall, a Quaker, residing in this county, on the borders of Chester, and which was occupied by a colored man supposed to have harbored a slave of the aforesaid Marylander, whom they intended to capture. As a colored man, a guest of the tenant, issued from the door of the dwelling, this chivalrous party made an attack upon him, when he retreated into the house, into which they followed him. The man, however, proved not to be the slave of whom the party were in pursuit; and in the course of a colloquy which followed, he advised the slaveholder to leave the premises, assuring him that it would be impossible for him to capture any slave and carry him out of the neighborhood. The Marylander declared that he would not be baffled in his purpose of recovering his "property," adding that he would not leave the place alive without accomplishing his purpose. "Then," replied the man, "you will not leave the place alive. At this juncture, the son entreated his father not to suffer such insolence from "a nigger," when the latter immediately fired upon the man, with a revolver, three or four times, one bullet passing through his hair, and another grazing his body. The man, who is possessed of great personal courage, stood all the while in the doorway without flinching. The slaveholder, prepared to adopt means so singularly persuasive toward that portion of his fellow-men who he claimed as his individual property, and had so thoughtlessly absented themselves from his patriarchal care, was a pious and exemplary exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Almost immediately an onset commenced from an entirely different quarter. A number of colored men, who were aware of the intended attack, and had assembled in the vicinity, fired upon the party in pursuit, killing the slaveholder on the spot, and wounding the son in such a manner that it is scarcely possible he can recover. The latter has been, ever since, lying at the house of Mr. Pownall.

The county, for miles around, is in a state of the highest excitement. The notorious Ingraham, the Philadelphia Commissioner, is on the ground, together with the United States Marshal, Roberts, and a company of marines from the Navy Yard. They have taken up their head-quarters at Christiana a village on the State Railroad, about twenty miles below this city.

Gangs of armed riflemen from Maryland, assisted by the lowest ruffians this region can furnish, are prowling round the county, over a district of ten or twelve miles square, arresting indiscriminately all colored persons whom they meet, gallantly, including the women. A colored woman, who had been employed by Mr. Pownall to wash the clothing of the two Marylanders; was seized at the wash-tub; and dragged away by her brave captors, who were repeatedly assured that she had been expressly employed for the above-mentioned purpose. All this is done ostensibly upon suspicion that the persons arrested were engaged in the affray which ended in the death of the slaveholder. Not less than fifty persons, in all, have been arrested; among them two white men, who were seized on no other ground than that of a refusal to assist the government officers in the capture of their neighbors. The conduct of these patriotic officials is doubtless founded upon that clause of the Fugitive Slave Law, in which "all good citizens" are called upon to assist in the noble enterprise of our general government, viz., the catching of runaway slaves in general.

Two colored men, employed by our friend Lindley Coates, in whose neighborhood the affair occurred, were seized, on Saturday, and taken to Christiana. He followed them to those head-quarters of "law and order," or rather to within half a mile of the village, but was there dissuaded, by his friends, from going farther, by the earnest representation that his life would be in imminent danger. Cyrus Burleigh, while passing by, was seized and treated very rudely, but was protected from personal injury by the intercession of the Marshal, with whom, I believe he is personally acquainted.

Such is the insolence of these scoundrels from Maryland, backed by the officers of the government, that people passing along the public highway in their carriages have been rudely stopped and detained without any pretext whatever; and it is considered unsafe for any one not of their own kit and kin to approach their rendezvous. I have all these facts from perfectly reliable authority. It is highly to the credit of the neighbourhood that not a man could be found to obey the orders of the government officers in any of these infamous proceedings.

A prospectus is in circulation for the establishment of a new Whig newspaper, to be published in this city, but designed for the State in general, and which will be the organ of that portion of the Pennsylvania Whigs of whom Mr. Thaddeus Stevens is the representative. There is little doubt that the effort will meet with success, and that the journal will be speedily established and ably conducted. H.W.G.



Primary Source Document #2:  Jerry


ITEM #24197

October 9, 1851


Rochester, New York





          The examination of the Fugitive case was resumed on Wednesday at 5 P.M., at the police office with closed doors. A crowd of four or five thousand people, in a high state of excitement, surrounded the building. - Stones were thrown against the doors and windows, and a large number of pains were broken. Before any progress could be made, the excitement outside became so great as to prompt an adjournment until 8 o'clock Thursday morning.

          After the adjournment the alleged fugitive was taken into an apartment back of the police office, with the intention of waiting for the dispersion of the crowd, when he was to be removed to a place of safety; but the excitement in the crowd continued to increase, and at half past eight an attack was made on the police office by a crowd of persons disguised as negroes, with clubs, axes, and crowbars. The windows and doors were entirely demolished, and the office filled with men, but the negro was still beyond their reach.

          A plank was used as a battering ram, and an entrance forced with it through the partition separating the office and the apartment in the rear where the negro was. Resistance was made by the officers having him in charge, but they were overpowered, and he was borne away by his friends.

The negro was put into a carriage near Brintnall's Hotel, and hurried out of town to a place of security.

          Marshal Fitch, of Rochester, had his right arm broken twice, in attempting to escape from the apartment in which the negro was, when the assault upon it was made. We hear of no one else being injured. In half an hour after the rescue, the crowd had entirely dispersed and all was quiet.

          Last evening, (Wednesday,) Lear, the agent of Jerry's claimant, was arrested as a kidnapper, on a warrant issued on a complaint of Charles A. Wheaton. This morning he gave bail to appear at the trial.

          There was no effort made to re-capture Jerry after his rescue, and he is undoubtedly beyond reach.

          The case and rescue are the topics of conversation this morning, and all appear glad at the happy termination of the affair.

(It is rumored that Jerry has since been recaptured, but we have no particulars.)

(Mr. Fitch arrived here last evening. His injuries are pretty severe. He jumped from a window upon the tow-path, when the rush was made into the room, and fell 18 feet, breaking his arm twice and spraining his ancle. - Rochester Democrat.)


SYRACUSE, Oct. 2 - 9 P.M.


LATER - THE FUGITIVE NOT RECAPTURED. - The fugitive slave has not been recaptured, and no one has gone after him, that we know of.



Primary Source Document #3:  Shadrach


ITEM #29507

February 20, 1851


Washington, D.C., Vol. V. No. 216 p. 30


From the Boston Traveller, February 15.



          At about 12 o'clock this forenoon, an alleged fugitive slave, named Shadrach, was arrested by the United States Marshal, at Taft's Cornhill Coffee-house. The arrest was made without opposition. The prisoner was conveyed to the United States Circuit Court Room, where a crowd of spectators speedily gathered.

The warrant was issued by united States Commissioner G.T. Curtis, upon complaint of John Kupper, attorney of John De Bree, Purser U.S. Navy, residing at Norfolk. De Bree claims that Shadrach belongs to him, and that he escaped in 1849. Seth J. Thomas appeared for claimant, S. E. Sewall, Ellis Gray Loring, and others for the defendant.

          The counsel for the defendant desired a postponement, upon the ground that time would be wanted to get together evidence and prepare for a defence. The Commissioner said he was disposed to grant this. In the mean time, for the information of defendant's counsel, the documents upon which the warrant was issued were read by Seth J. Thomas, Esq. Counsel for claimant. They consisted of various depositions taken before the United States Judge at Norfolk, to the effect that Shadrach was the true and lawful slave of John De Bree, and that he escaped on the 3d of may, 1850.

          At the conclusion of the reading of the documents the Commissioner postponed the further consideration of the case to Tuesday next, at 10 A.M.

          The court-room was then gradually cleared of its occupants, the prisoner remaining in the custody of Deputy Marshal Riley and his assistants. The counsel of the defendant then had a long consultation with him as to the line of defence. Among the most prominent of them were Richard H. Dans, jr., S.E. Sewall, Esq., and Ellis Gray Loring. Besides these, there were a number of other lawyers who volunteered their assistance.

          At 1 o'clock, the stairway of the court-room and the avenues of the court-house were crowded with blacks and whites, males and females, but no acts of violence or threats were made.


P.S. RESCUE OF THE PRISONER BY A MOE. Since writing the above, we learn the following facts of the rescue of the alleged fugitive:

About two o'clock, after the consultation of lawyers had ceased, and as Mr. Davis, the last lawyer was leaving the court room, (which had been locked since the adjournment of the hearing, with several officers stationed at each door,) the door was forcibly thrown open by a band of colored men, who, with loud cries of "tear him away," filled the room, to the number of a hundred or more.

The officers at the door were kicked, cuffed, and knocked about in every direction; and, notwithstanding the resistance of a posse of about twenty strong, upon the inside, the prisoner was seized by the mob and carried off in triumph.

The negro seized the sword of the United States Marshal, and flourished it about the heads of all who opposed him. The sword was afterwards found in the street, and taken back.

          No adequate description can be given of the scene in the court-room. The attack was so sudden and unexpected that the officers had not time to make a defence or gather around the prisoner. We do not hear that any weapons were used, or that any one was seriously injured.

          We believe there were no white persons engaged in the rescue.

Primary Source Document #4:  “The Christiana Tragedy”



"The Christiana Tragedy"

Engraving published in William Still, The Underground Railroad (Philadelphia, 1872)

Handout 1: Analyzing Images




Image Title: “The Tragedy at Christiana”



1.     What is the subject of the engraving?


2.     What does the engraving reveal about its subject?



3.     Whose story is being told and whose is left untold?



4.     What is the setting for the engraving?



5.     What other details did you observe?





6.     When and where in the past do you think the engraving was made? How can you tell?           



7.    How would you describe the engraver’s point of view?




Handout Adapted from:

Handout 2: Analyzing Primary Sources




Title of Document:


1.     Who created the source and why? Was it created through a spur-of-the-moment act, a routine transaction, or a thoughtful, deliberate process?



2.     Did the recorder have firsthand knowledge of the event, or did the recorder report what others saw or heard?


3.     Was the information recorded during the event, immediately after the event, or after some lapse of time? How large a lapse of time?



4.     Was the recorder a neutral party, or did the recorder have opinions or interests that might have influenced what was recorded?



5.     Did the recorder wish to inform or persuade others? (Check the words in the source. The words may tell you whether the recorder was trying to be objective or persuasive.) Did the recorder have reasons to be honest or dishonest?



6.    Was the source meant to be public or private? Was it produced for personal use, for one or more individuals, or for a large audience?




Handout adapted from: