Friday, September 09, 2005

Happy Stono Rebellion Day

NW0222On 9 September, 1739, the largest slave revolt in colonial North American history took place when Jemmy, an Angolan from St. Paul's Parish, South Carolina, led twenty fellow bondsmen in a raid on an ammunition store. After killing the shopkeepers and leaving their severed heads on the front porch, the rebel militia -- raising a flag and crying "Liberty" -- marched southward across the Stono River, killing nearly two dozen white Carolinians in six households, gathering recruits along the way as they cut a path toward Spanish Florida. Spain, which by October would resume hostilities with England in the War of Jenkins' Ear, had recently offered refuge to escaped slaves who reached the fort at St. Augustine. Coupled with South Carolina's recent announcement of the Security Act -- a pre-emptive act requiring all white men to carry firearms to church on Sundays, in anticipation of a slave revolt -- Spain's overtures were sufficient to persuade the enslaved Africans of St. Paul's Parish to fulfill the law's prophecy.

The Stono Rebellion was interrupted abruptly on the afternoon of the 9th, when an irate posse of whites overtook the rebels near the Edisto River. Following a series of gun battles that killed nearly half the slave militia, the rest of the rebels scattered into the woods; over the next six months, aided by Chicakasaw and Catawba Indians, South Carolina planters captured and executed the remaining fugitives, dismembering the corpses and posting their limbs, torsos and heads on spikes near public roads as a warning to others.