Screenshot_2015-08-22-12-45-34-1Within a day of the suppression of the rebellion, the local militia and three companies of artillery were joined by detachments of men from the USS Natchez and USS Warren, which were anchored in Norfolk, and militias from counties in Virginia and North Carolina surrounding Southampton. [17] The state executed 56 blacks and militias killed at least 100 blacks. [19] An estimated 200 blacks were killed, most of whom were not involved with the rebellion. [20]

Rumors quickly spread among whites that the slave revolt was not limited to Southampton, and that it had spread as far south as Alabama. Fears led to reports in North Carolina that “armies” of slaves were seen on highways, had burned and massacred the white inhabitants of Wilmington, a black-majority city; and were marching on the state capital. [14] Such fear and alarm led to whites’ attacking blacks across the South with flimsy cause–the editor of the Richmond Whig, writing “with pain,” described the scene as “the slaughter of many blacks without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity.” [21] Two weeks after the rebellion had been suppressed, the white violence against the blacks continued. General Eppes ordered troops and white citizens to stop the killing:

He [the General] will not specify all the instances that he is bound to believe have occurred, but pass in silence what has happened, with the expression of his deepest sorrow, that any necessity should be supposed to have existed, to justify a single act of atrocity. But he feels himself bound to declare, and hereby announces to the troops and citizens, that no excuse will be allowed for any similar acts of violence, after the promulgation of this order. [22]

In a letter to the New York Evening Post, Reverend G. W. Powell wrote that “many negroes are killed every day. The exact number will never be known.” [23]

A company of militia from Hertford County, North Carolina reportedly killed 40 blacks in one day and took $23 and a gold watch from the dead. [24] Captain Solon Borland, who led a contingent from Murfreesboro, North Carolina, condemned the acts “because it was tantamount to theft from the white owners of the slaves.” [24]

Blacks suspected of participating in the rebellion were beheaded by the militia. “Their severed heads were mounted on poles at crossroads as a grisly form of intimidation.” [24] A section of Virginia State Route 658 remains labeled as “Blackhead Signpost Road” in reference to these events

The rebellion was quashed within two days. In the aftermath of the revolt, officials tried forty-eight black men and women on charges of conspiracy, insurrection, and treason. “In total, the state executed 56 people, banished many more, and acquitted 15. The state reimbursed the slaveholders for their slaves. But in the hysterical climate that followed the rebellion, close to 200 black people were killed by white militias and mobs. [20]

Turner eluded capture for two months but remained in Southampton County. On October 30, a white farmer named Benjamin Phipps discovered him in a hole covered with fence rails. A trial was quickly arranged; On November 5, 1831, Nat Turner was tried for “conspiring to rebel and making insurrection”, convicted, and sentenced to death. [26] He was hanged on November 11 in Jerusalem, Virginia. Turner’s corpse was flayed, beheaded and quartered. [27]

After Turner’s capture, a local lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, wrote and published The Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia. The book was the result both of Gray’s research while Turner was in hiding and of his conversations with Turner before the trial. This document remains the primary window into Turner’s mind. Because of the author’s obvious conflict of interest, historians disagree on whether to assess it as insight into Gray rather than Turner. In 1967, William Styron drew from Gray’s work in writing his novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

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