Nat Turner May Have Wanted To Establish a Maroon Colony a Independent New Afrikan Republic in The Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia with The Maroons , Some Maroons were Captured Do to The Nat Turner Insurrection!
The white residents of Norfolk and other communities near the swamp were terrified of being attacked by the swamp’s maroons. Instead, they got Nat Turner’s insurrection of 1831—a rebellion of slaves and free blacks in which more than 50 whites were killed and then at least 200 blacks killed in reprisal. Turner was planning to hide in the Dismal Swamp with his followers, recruit the maroons and more slaves, and then emerge to overthrow white rule. But his rebellion was suppressed after two days, and Turner, after two months in hiding, was captured and hanged.
What became of the Dismal Swamp maroons? Olmsted thought that very few were left by the 1850s, but he stayed near the canals and didn’t venture into the interior. Sayers has evidence of a thriving community at the nameless site all the way up to the Civil War. “That’s when they came out,” he says. “We’ve found almost nothing after the Civil War. They probably worked themselves back into society as free people.”
Richmond and Petersburg VA
Newspapers of the time seem to concur that the Dismal Swamp was considered a safe haven for the fugitive slaves. After Nat Turner’s Revolt in August 21, 1831, in Southampton County, Virginia, there was this excerpt in The Constitutional Whig, Richmond, VA 23 August 1831: We understand that the insurrection in Southampton is little more than the irruption of 150 or 200 runaway slaves from the Dismal Swamp, incited by a spirit of plunder and rapine. It will be quickly suppressed. The Petersburg Intelligencer, Petersburg, VA 26 August 1831, recounted: Belfield, (Greenville County) August 24, 1831- Excerpt, In the greatest haste I write you a few lines, I can merely say that we are all in arms and in great excitement on account of the insurrection, which broke out on Sunday night last- between eighty and a hundred of the whites have already been butchered- their heads severed from their bodies. The intention of the negroes was to reach the Dismal Swamp. I think, however, that we have them so hemmed in as to render it impossible for them to do so. Problems with runaways in the Great Dismal Swamp apparently reached such proportions that, in 1847, the North Carolina State Assembly passed the Act to provide for the apprehension of runaway slaves in the Great Dismal Swamp and for other purposes. The Preamble of the Act is below. Whereas, many slaves belonging to persons residing or having plantations in the neighborhood of the great dismal swamp, have left the service of their masters and taken refuge in the said swamp, and by the aid of free persons of color and of white men, have been and are enabled to elude all attempts to secure their persons and induce them again under the just authority of their masters, and their consorting with such white men and free persons of color, they remain setting at defiance the power of their masters, corrupting and seducing other slaves, and by their evil example and evil practices, lessening the due subordination, and greatly impairing the value of slaves in the district of country bordering on the said great dismal swamp…Passing Through The ports of Virginia, particularly Portsmouth and Norfolk, were major access points for runaway slaves to find passage onboard ship. Runaway ads (such as those listed above) illustrate that the Dismal Swamp was a refuge for those aiming toward Norfolk. Historian Cecelski states in The Waterman’s Song, that “Men and women who escaped from the Albemarle Sound vicinity usually headed north through the Great Dismal Swamp to rendezvous with seagoing vessels in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia. ”During a recent interview, Dr. Bogger theorized that those slaves who could pass as free may have used the swamp as a temporary stopping point before continuing to Norfolk or Portsmouth. William Still documents the availability of transport from Elizabeth City in the 1850s; a ship’s captain allowed freedom seeker Miles White to hide in a Philadelphia-bound vessel carrying shingles Daniel Carr escaped from Norfolk with Captain Fountain; Cecelski thinks that the “swamp” Daniel Carr hid in “for three months surrounded with wild animals and reptiles” was Dismal Swamp .