Negroes Hanged

 

There was great excitement during the last presidential campaign.  The slave passed through terrible experiences during 1860-61.  It seemed to be accepted as a settled fact, that if Lincoln was elected it would result in war; and in many places regular drills were instituted.  In Natchez the half-ground slave boys got together on Sunday afternoons, and drilled with sticks for guns.  At first it attracted no particular attention, and the boys became as expert in handling their stick guns as were their masters.  Two slave men were overheard repeating what their master said, that if Lincoln was elected he would free all the slaves, for he was a Black Republican; and they declared that if this was true they would go to the Yankees and help to free their nation.  This talk was sufficient to raise the report of an insurrection throughout all that part of the State, and a large vigilance committee was organized to meet once a week and report what they might hear by listening outside the Negro cabins.  All slave men or boys who were overheard to pray for freedom, or to say anything indicating a desire to be free, were marked; and in the discussions of this large committee of a hundred men, every thing that had occurred during a few years past, in efforts among the slaves to learn to read and write, was magnified and construed as pointing toward a long and settled purpose among the slaves to rise in insurrection.  A majority of this committee decided by whipping and other torture to compel confessions from all these marked slaves, and then to hand them.  A number of the committee resigned because they would not consent to these severe measures.  Many Negroes were dragged out of their cabins or yards without knowing the cause, stripped, tied to the whipping-post or taken to the calaboose, and given as many lashes as could be endured.  At the close of each whipping the sufferer was called upon to make a full revelation of every sentence that he or she had heard in favor of liberty, or of the Yankees, among their people, either in conversation or prayer, and by whom, with a promise to be released from further punishment.  Never was one released, but on Saturday generally ten or twelve of these sufferers were thrown into a wagon and conveyed to the gallows, where they were placed in a row, and all were hanged at the same instance.

          Some hundreds were thus hanged in the edge of the city, and on an adjoining plantation.  I carefully investigated the facts, and gathered the following statement from both white and colored citizens.  I have good reasons for placing entire confidence in its correctness.  A large number of slaves were hanged, owned by the following persons:

          Frank Susetts, 26, James Susetts, 7; Dr. Stanton, 8; Dr. Moseby, 26; widow Albert Dunbar, 48; Mrs. Brady, 12; widow E. Baker, 28; Mrs. Alexander, 16; Dr. George Baldwin, 8; Stephen Odell, 5; G. Grafton, 5; James Brown, 3; Mr. Marshall, 1; Mr. Robinson, 2; Melon Davis, 1; widow Absalom Sharp, 3; Miss Mary Dunbar, 3; Joseph Reynolds, 3; Baker Robinson, 3; Lee Marshall, whipped to death 1; Mrs. Chase, whipped to death 1; and total of 209.

          I was told by a number of persons, both white and colored, that there were over four hundred tortured to death in this reign of terror, before Natchez fell into Union hands, but I put in my diary only such as I found were proven to be facts.

          Miss Mary Dunbar was very much distressed over the loss of one of her three slaves who were hanged, and offered the vigilance committee ten thousand dollars for his release, but to no purpose.  Joseph Reynolds also offered the committee $100,000 for the release of his two, but was denied.  One little boy. of twelve years of age was taken to the calaboose and whipped, then taken with the wagon-load of other victims of their unrelenting cruelty to the scaffold, followed by his mother in wild despair, praying as she went through the streets, tossing her hands upward:  “O, God, save my poor boy! O, Jesus Master, pity my poor child! O, Savior, look down upon my poor baby!”  The woman who went with her to the scaffold said she cried these words over and over; “and when we got there,” The woman who went with her to the scaffold said she cried these words over and over; “and when we go there,” she said, “she fell on her knees before the head man, and begged for the life of her baby.  But he kicked her on her head, and cursed her, and told her the boy had got to die.  The boy exhorted his mother not to grieve so for him, ‘for I’m going to Jesus; meet me in heaven;’ and he, with eleven others, were swung off.  The mother cried out, ‘Oh, my God! My poor son!’ and fainted.”  So perfect was this reign of terror that not even slave-owners, in many cases, dared to protest against this wholesale butchery.  The repeated whippings mangled the bodies of many so badly that they were taken to the gallows in a dying state.  One man died while being taken upon the scaffold; his sides were cut through to the entrails, and even a part of them protruded.  I visited the calaboose, which had two apartments.  The first entrance was large enough for two persons to be fastened to the strong iron staples.  There was room for two men to each victim, one on each side, who seated on a stool, could alternate the strokes upon the writhing sufferer.  The floor of this calaboose was of hard wood, but it was so thoroughly stained with human gore that the grain of the wood could not be distinguished.  Into the second room not a ray of light entered except on opening the middle door.

           . . . .”Ah,” said one, “ a little while ago it was massa Susetts’s time, when he had so many of our people hung; now it is God’s time.  Praise de Lo’d, he’s here to-day for sure.  Glory to Jesus, massa Susetts’ day is over; he can never have any more of our people hung.”

 

Woman’s Life-Work: Labors and Experiences of Laura S. Haviland.   Chicago: C. V. Waite & Company, 1887.  pp.295-298.