Primary Resource

Excerpt from the Lynchburg Virginian (September 8, 1831)

In the September 8, 1831, issue of the Lynchburg Virginian, the editors publish the order issued on August 28, 1831, by General Richard Eppes, the leader of the state militia force in Southampton County following the slave revolt launched by Nat Turner.

Transcription from Original

To Captain James S. Garrison, of the mounted Volunteers from this place and Portsmouth who served in the late memorable expedition against the insurgent Negroes, in Southampton, we are indebted for the following Order of General Epps [sic], announcing the restoration of tranquility, in that section of country, late the scene of the most daring atrocities ever witnessed in our State.—While we rejoice that peace and security is restored to that portion of our fellow citizens, whose homes have so lately been invaded by the footsteps of the murderous Insurgents, we must be permitted to mingle in the deep and general sorrow for their calamitous suffering.

Headquarters

Jerusalem, Aug. 28th 1831

The commanding officer of the detachment in service in the 9th Brigade has the pleasure to announce to the troops under his command, and to the citizens of Southampton, and particularly to that portion of the citizens residing in the neighborhood where the violence has been done, that there no longer exists any cause of apprehension for the public safety or the security of individuals. He desires, therefore, that the citizens and their families, who have assembled at the Cross Keys, seeking the protection he has been called to afford, will return to their respective places of abode and that all slaves, free negroes and mulattoes at that place, who are not charged with the offence of rebellion, or conspiracy to rebel, may be permitted to go with written authority if desired, to their homes or masters; if any are charged with crimes of a different character they will be sent to the most convenient magistrate for examination and commitment, or such other necessary disposition made of them as the law directs.

The commanding officer deeply sympathizes with the friends and relations who have survived the massacre, and begs leave to mingle his sorrows with theirs for the melancholy end of the unfortunate victims of this misled, fiend-like band of deperadoes, which must long be remembered with sorrow. The principal actors of the tragedy are in custody, and ready to await the judgment of the law, or have already expiated their crime by suffering of the highest punishment known to human laws. They will have in turn felt the fury of outraged humanity, and will be, it is hoped, long regard as faithful warnings against any similar act of violence. One ample sacrifice has been made to personal feeling and outraged humanity. Some of these leaders have been shot, the rest are in custody, and there is some reason to hope, if report be true, that Nat, the fanatical desperado who led the band, is arrested.—Under such circumstances the commanding officer feels the most entire confidence in recommending to all descriptions of persons to abstain in the future from any acts of violence to any personal property whatever for any cause whatever unless the person by whom the violence is done, being in arms or otherwise refuses submission to the competent legally authorized and responsible individuals, under the authority of the commanding officer, of the Justice of the Peace, or other persons appointed by law for such duty. It is with the most painful sensations that the Commanding Officer has to _____ upon the conduct of any citizen: acts of cruelty and barbarity are never looked upon but with horror by any but savages. It is equally revolting to the honorable and magnanimous, the brave & humane, that the opposing party, when overpowered, should be long regarded as an enemy. He 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 the 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 the citizens, that no excuse will be allowed to any other acts of violence after the promulgation of this order, and further to declare in the most explicit terms that any who may attempt the sumption of such acts shall be punished, if necessary, by the rigors of the articles of war.—The course that has been pursued, he learns will in some instances be the means of redering doubtful the guilt of those who may have participated in the carnage, and in every instance must be attended with total loss to their neighbors, and friends, of the value of the property; whereas, if preserved and delivered to the civil authority, a public execution in presence of thousands will demonstrate the power of the law, and preserve the right of property. The opposite course, while it is inhuman and therefore not to be justified, tends to the sacrifice of the innocent and the security of the guilty! This course of proceeding dignifies the rebel and the assassin with the sanctity of martyrdom, and confounds the difference that morality and religion make between the ruffian and the brave and honorable. A sufficient force is now assembled for the security of the prisoners, and to sustain and enforce the sentence of the Courts, as well as to cause to be respected its judgments of dismissal. This force will be steadily maintained as long as there is the least appearance of necessity for it, and will not be withdrawn as long as any portion of it can contribute to the restoration of peace and tranquility.

By command: F. M. Boykins