Murell Gang Plot of 1835

Title: Horrible Conspiracy
Author: Newspaper article
Event: The Murrell Gang planned uprising of 1835 in Madison County 1835
Date: 1835
Type: Newspaper
Source: Vicksburg Register, dated July 16, 1835


Since the commencement of our editorial labors, we have not been thrust upon the performance of a duty as melancholy as that as which we are called at the present time.

A few days anterior to the 4th of July, various circumstances excited some suspicion in the minds of a few respectable citizens of Madison County, in the neighborhood of Beaties Bluff, of an insurrection among the slaves of that settlement being about to occur.  Several slaves at different times were overhead, whilst engaged in secret conversation relative to the proposed plot.  A scrutiny, such as the crisis seemed to demand, was forthwith instituted, which lead to the development of fact of a most startling and extraordinary character.

It was very soon ascertained in the progress of the examination which ensued, that two individuals, by name Cotton and Saunders, both of them steam doctors by profession, were prominently concerned in this notorious scheme.  Both of these individuals were immediately apprehended.  A large meeting of the citizens of Madison County was held, to deliberate upon the momentous crisis which had arrived at which it was unanimously resolved that a committee of investigation should be immediately organized, in the name and upon the responsibility of the whole body of the citizens, to use all acothary means for ferreting out this notorious plot and bringing the offenders to speedy justice.  This committee, thus organized, composed of 13 of the most respectable citizens of the county, men of elevated standing in the community, for moral worth, integrity and discretion, proceeded as soon as possible, to the task assigned them: and discovering that the evidence of a conspiracy having been formed, were perfectly conclusive, and that the guilt of Cotton and Saunders was placed beyond doubt, with but little delay, ordered them to a public execution, by hanging, which took place in the town of Livingston, on Saturday the 4th of July.  Before Cotton was hung, he made repeated confessions of his guilt, both privately and publicly, in presence of immense multitude, and furnished a detail of the plan of operations agreed on and a list of prominent conspirators.  It seems from Cotton’s confession, which was, as to most essential particulars, reduced to writing, previous to his death, and subscribed by him in the presence of numerous witnesses, he was an accomplice of the Celebrated Murrell; and he in fact acknowledge that he had been a member of two grand councils in association with Murrell himself.  The project embraced the whole slave region, from Maryland to Louisiana, and contemplated total destruction of the white population of all the slave states, and the absolute conquest and domination of the country.  A large number of bold, enterprising and unprincipled white men are concerned in the scheme, scattered over the country along the whole line of contemplated operations, who have succeeded in engaging the aid of such among the negro population as, from their peculiar characteristics, were regarded as best suited to such an enterprise—the bold, sagacious, the desperate.  Arms and amm8unition have been procured and deposited in various secret places, and all other arrangements effected which were deemed essential to the adoption of incipient operations.  The publication of Murrel pamphlet is understood to have precipitated the attempted execution of the plot, and to have induced earlier hostile movements, by several months, than was originally contemplated.  So far we have been informed, the scheme of operations was agreed on as follows: on the night of the 4th of July, an attack was to be made upon the town of Vernon, in Madison County, at a time when most of its white population would be asleep.  The whites, thus taken by surprise, have to be indeterminately butchered.  All the ammunition and arms of the town were to be seized, and the whole force of the insurgents, as rapidly as possible, was to be directed against the town of Livingston, where similar proceedings were to be had.  By the time this could be accomplished, it was expected the whole body of white population would be overcome with panic, and be constrained to fly from the scene of terror: and every black in the county able to wield the weapons of warfare, would be found arrayed around the insurgent standard. This army of incendiaries was then to march upon the town of Clinton, burring, sacking, and laying desolate the whole country as they advanced.  By the time the destruction of Clinton could have been accomplished, it was expected that the insurgent Army would be greatly strengthened, and amount perhaps to several thousand.  A precipitous March was then to be made to the county of Claiborne, along the skirts of Warren, and the whole country upon the river bank was to be ravaged and then dotted with the blood of men, women and children.

Such are the outlines of this plan of conspiracy, related by those who have witnessed much of the investigation which has taken place upon the subject in Madison County.  We are sorry that we are unable at present to furnish an account of all the facts disclosed in the progress of that investigation but we have been promised a statement of all the evidence furnished to the committee in Madison, as soon as it can be conveniently prepared, when we shall deem it our duty , as a sentinel of public safety, to make then as widely known as possible, that a due degree of viligence and activity may be exited among the white population to ensure our present safety, and the utter eradication of this accursed conspiracy.

We are assured by a gentleman who was in Livingston on Monday last, that the utmost order seems to pervade the community there.  An intense excitement certainly exist among the whole white population, but the excitement is of that awful and profound character which discloses not itself in noise and uproar.  The committee of investigation occupy a room withdrawn from the multitude, and the utmost calmness and dignity have marked their whole proceeding.  The investigation which takes place, as the various cases are brought before then for consideration, are conducted in a manner that would not do discredit to the most dignified judicial tribunal of the country.  Every opportunity is furnished to the persons inculpated at cross-examining witnesses, introducing testimony in their defense, and explaining all doubtful points by their own voluntary statements, which the most humane could desire; and, what is truly credible, not a word of unkindness is permitted to be addressed the culprit on that, and no question propounded to any of the witnesses calculated to produce a statement of the case not entirely in accordance with truth and justice.  We are told that five white men, altogether, have bee hung in Livingston.  Ruel Blake, one of the prime movers of the conspiracy, and who, it is said, was the individual designated to lead on the army of incendiaries against this country a had fled in dismay, but was apprehended in Vicksburg, carried back to Livingston and tried, and executed yesterday between 3 and 4 o’clock.  The number of Negroes executed we have not heard precisely enumerated, but supposes it to amount to some 10 or 15.

We were just informed that Hunter, one of the chiefs of the conspiracy, has been apprehended near Benton, in Yazoo, and that he has made some material disclosures, in addition to those already made.

A committee similar to the one in Madison have been in session for several days in Clinton.  Various suspected white men, from different parts of the county, have been arrested, brought before them and discharged.  Several Negroes have also been hauled up; but northing having been elicited, which authorized punishment, they were set at liberty.

We sincerely trust that our country men will be on the alert throughout the State for indeed we feel that there is danger abroad.  Timely prosecution will ensure our perfect safety, and utterly defeat this abominable project; but inaction and apathy ma be productive of consequences which we do not dare to name.