Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania

The topic of slavery in Pennsylvania has been reviewed by many historians over the years focusing on specific periods. Pennsylvania, being the first state to push the abolition of slavery would make it an understandable target for research. Within the existing research there are some gaps that exist in regard to how a majority of Pennsylvanian’s changed socially to accept and anti-slavery or abolitionist mindset. A significant gap exists in the study of how Pennsylvania moved from a state where slave ownership was an accepted practice to a point where fugitive slave hunters were attacked and held in local jails in rural Pennsylvania. This would require a significant societal change in the people in the state .Using a social lens of investigation we will examine how the beliefs of the people of Pennsylvania have changed and what was the major contributor to that change. Pennsylvania’s actions against slavery shows a significant point of change in colonial America and likely ushered in a sea change throughout the northern states. To better understand that social change the research that exists currently must be reviewed and compared. Primary documents will also be reviewed to understand where and how the movement against slavery began. The purpose of this research is to fill the gap of research on Pennsylvania’s history of slavery and abolition from beginning to end and look at a notable societal change within the state when it comes to the issue of slavery. Viewing the Pennsylvania colony and state as a history of the people that lived within its borders and how their behavior towards slavery changed in a span of nearly 200 years.

The Pennsylvania colony was founded in 1681 when William Penn was granted land by King Charles II. Penn had a design for a “Peaceable Kingdom” in the new world where the Quaker people would live peacefully and respectfully with the native peoples in the new colony. Pennsylvania, like the rest of the colonies was also involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade and some of the Quakers, including William Penn himself were slave owners. Slavery would be an issue for Pennsylvania through the early 19th century. Pennsylvania would be the first state, during the American Revolution to outlaw slave importation and introduce a law called the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in 1780. Pennsylvania eventually became a haven for self-emancipated slaves traveling the Underground Railroad.

William Penn – National Park Service

In examining the history of slavery in Pennsylvania, it is important to understand that the Quaker faith and how it contributed to this change. The Quaker church is also known as the Religious Society of Friends. The social movement against slavery in Pennsylvania began in the Quaker church. Quakers believe that God is in everyone and that every person has unique worth to the world. Quakers also believe that all people have equal value and must oppose anything that may threaten another. These are the beliefs which William Penn wished to build his peaceable kingdom upon. Dr, Katharine Gerbner, Professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of Minnesota looks closely at the Quaker religion and slavery in her book Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World. Gerbner writes, When George Fox, widely regarded as the founder of Quakerism, arrived on Barbados at the beginning of October 1671, he was deeply troubled by the effect of slave owning on his followers.[1]  Fox’s concern at that time was more for the white Quakers who may have viewed some polygamy among the slaves as a temptation against the church. Fox and his followers began with a belief the slavery was acceptable as long as you were merciful with your slaves, and as friends embraced “Spiritual Equality.” This meant that if Quakers treated their slaves as equals and encouraged them to learn the word of God, the fact that they owned slaves was within the beliefs of the Quaker faith.[2]

This Quaker view of slavery would begin to change, not in Barbados, where Fox and many of his followers had moved but in William Penn’s colony on the mainland of North America. When William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania, slavery had already been established in the land he now owned. The Dutch and the Swedes who had occupied the Delaware River valley as early as 1639.[3] As the number of Quakers increased in the colony, there was an ambivalence from the Quakers towards slavery, “Many owned Africans to provide labor on their estates, including William Penn himself, who at one point owned at least twelve slaves.”[4] In The History of Slavery in ‘Free’ States, James Delle, Graduate Dean of Sociology and Anthropology at Millersville University who has published two books on slavery in the colonial period in Colonial America and on the Plantations of Jamaica looks at Pennsylvania and analyzes the slave history. Delle’s research shows that in 1710, twenty percent of the City of Philadelphia’s population was enslaved, “By 1765, about two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s 5,500 slaves lived and toiled outside the city of Philadelphia.”[5] Many of those enslaved were working alongside indentured servants from Europe, not only on farms, but in new industries in Pennsylvania including boatbuilding and the burgeoning iron industry.

Some of the Quakers were having moral concerns about the growth of slavery in Pennsylvania and those concerns were expressed as early as 1688 in Germantown, which is now part of the City of Philadelphia. Quaker teachings believed in the sanctity of all life and the rights of all humans under God. There were members of the Quaker community who were speaking out against slavery. Francis Daniel Pastorius among several other Germantown Quakers wrote a petition against slavery based on the biblical proverb “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” well known in the modern world as the Golden Rule and a standard teaching in the Quaker Church. Pastorius and the others presented this petition to their local Friends Meeting. The petition was asking the Quakers to make a stand against slavery. These Quakers wrote the following passage.

            “Here is a liberty of conscience which is right and reasonable; here ought to be a liberty of ye body, except of evildoers, which is another case. But to bring men hither, or to rob and sell them against their will, we stand against. In Europe there are many oppressed for conscience sake; and here there are those oppressed who are of black colour… Now consider will this thing, if it is good or bad, And in case you find it to be good to handle these blacks at that manner, we desire and require you hereby lovingly, that you may inform us here in, which at this time never was done… To the end we shall be satisfied in this point, and satisfie likewise our good friends and acquaintances in our natif country, to whose it is a terror, or fairful thing, that men should be handled so in Pennsylvania”[6]

The writers of the petition felt strongly that it was time for their meeting group to stand against slavery. The petitioners were pointing out that the Quakers themselves had moved away from Europe because of political persecution of their religion and the contradiction that existed when they persecuted others. When these men brought this forward to their meeting house, they knew that it would not be possible to make slavery illegal in the colony, their aim was to get the Quaker church to openly state that slavery was wrong. The Germantown Friends decided to forward the petition on to the Philadelphia quarterly meeting of Friends. The petition was discussed at the Philadelphia quarterly meeting and forwarded to the yearly meeting, which is the meeting that decides the plans for the Quaker church in the colonies. At the yearly meeting, the petition was discussed and felt that the abolition of slavery was a too much of a weighty matter for the colonial meeting to decide upon. The Philadelphia meeting forwarded the issue to the London annual meeting which makes decisions for the church as a whole. Sadly, there was no mention of the petition in the minutes of the London annual meeting. While the Quakers took no position officially on slavery, A Minute Against Slavery, Addressed to Germantown Monthly Meeting, 1688, began a movement within the Quakers that would continue through the Civil War. In 1693, the issue of slavery once again became a point of dispute in the Quaker church, a Quaker named George Keith helped write a printed protest against slavery called An Exhortation and Caution to Friends Concerning Buying or Keeping of Negroes. This document reiterated the issue raised in the Germantown petition, it condemned Christians for enslaving any person “for whom Christ has shed his precious blood.”[7] The Germantown protest, and Keith’s document pushed some Quakers to continue to push forth an anti-slavery movement at the Philadelphia annual meetings.

            Dr. Marcus Rediker is a distinguished professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also Senior Research Fellow at the Collège d’études mondiales / Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme in Paris. In 2017 his wrote, The Fearless Benjamin Lay: the Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist, a book that looks at a Quaker man who added  his voice and some theatrics to the quaker fight against slavery. At the Philadelphia Annual Meeting in September 1737, a man who stood just over four feet tall rose to speak. The man, known as Benjamin Lay, was wearing a great coat, which was seen as odd for early autumn, in one had he held a book. He spoke in a deep and booming voice to the assembled Quakers about the evils of slavery. He asked how any followers of God’s golden rule could abide keeping slaves. Lay then stated, “Thus shall God shed the blood of those persons who enslave their fellow creatures.”[8] What he did next surprised everyone in the room, Lay opened his coat suddenly, underneath he was wearing a military style uniform and had a sword at his side. Lay drew the sword and plunged the sword through the book he was carrying, inside the book was a sheep’s bladder filled with red pokeberry juice which splattered on several Quaker slave owner who were seated nearby. Lay was then forcibly removed from the meeting.[9] Lay’s actions that day and his writing that he published weeks later “All Slave-Keepers that Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates,” targeted wealthy slave owning Quakers for having abandoned their faith by owning other human beings. Lay wrote this passage for those attendees of this major Quaker gathering:

“Friends, by the tender Mercies of our God, to consider, can be greater Hypocrisy, and plainer contradiction, than for us as a People, to refuse to bear Arms, or to pay them that do, and yet purchase the Plunder, the Captives, for Slaves at a very great Price, there by justifying their selling of them, and the War, by which they were or are obtained; nor doth this satisfy, but their Children also are kept in Slavery, ad infinitum.”[10]

Benjamin Lay – Swarthmore College

Lay had worked on slave ships and had seen the brutality committed against slaves. When he left the sailing trade, he set his mind to push a resistance to slavery and he did so with his words and radical theatrical deeds, such as the Philadelphia meeting. Sadly, Lay’s fight against slavery would again fall on deaf ears, lay was considered extremely radical. Lay’s statements were recorded in the writings and minutes of Quaker meetings; however, affluent Quakers often wrote off his radical style of beliefs. Within the less affluent Quaker ranks, the words of the Germantown Quakers and radicals such as Benjamin Lay began to take hold and Quaker meeting houses began to gain better understanding of the horrors of slavery, both in Pennsylvania and in London. In 1750, there were over 6,000 slaves in the Pennsylvania colony, slaves made up nearly twenty percent of the population of the colony. In 1758, and upswell of Quakers came to the Philadelphia meeting to demand that the Quakers take and official stance against slavery, this time the majority of Quakers passed an Anti-Slavery statement. In 1775, the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society was chartered, with plans among Quakers that belonged to the society to develop the first “Negro School” in Philadelphia within two years. Members of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society would include many quakers, free blacks and founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin and other notable men like Anthony Benezet. Benezet had started teaching classes for free blacks in 1750. Benezet would be the first President of the Pennsylvanian Anti-Slavery Society. In 1775, the Anti-Slavery Society would begin to push for an Abolition of Slavery in the Pennsylvania colony. Among the other strife happening within the American colonies, immediate action within the colony was difficult. A social change was arising from within the Quaker community that was also spreading to Mennonite and Presbyterian communities on the eastern side of Pennsylvania who would continue to make pushes within the Pennsylvania assembly.

In 1780, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, the law largely blamed Great Britain for the cause of African slavery stating; “We esteem a peculiar Blessing granted to us, that we are enabled this Day to add one more Step to universal Civilization by removing as much as possible the Sorrows of those, who have lived in undeserved Bondage, and from which by the assumed Authority of the Kings of Britain, no effectual legal Relief could be obtained.”[11] By reviewing the words within this law we see that it was a conservative law that freed few slaves immediately but did give a road map for freedom from slavery. The law did immediately ban the importation of slaves into the colony, although slave owners were allowed to sell slaves that they had registered to others in the state. The following year there were attempts to lengthen the time that slave owners had to register those they enslaved and attempts to repeal the law altogether. Through the strength of the growing anti-slavery movement, any challenge to the law was blocked. In 1788, the law was strengthened further by blocking illegal importation from other states which had been happening along the southern borders of the state near Maryland and Virginia. The law also stated that slavery for life would be eliminated:

“Be it enacted and it is hereby enacted by the Representatives of the Freemen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in General Assembly met and by the Authority of the same, That all Persons, as well Negroes, and Mulattos, as others, who shall be born within this State, from and after the Passing of this Act, shall not be deemed and considered as Servants for Life or Slaves; and that all Servitude for Life or Slavery of Children in Consequence of the Slavery of their Mothers, in the Case of all Children born within this State from and after the passing of this Act as aforesaid, shall be, an hereby is, utterly taken away, extinguished and forever abolished.”[12]

Gradual Abolition of Slavery – Afrikaiswoke.com

Once registered, any adult slave would receive their freedom within four years and provide them all rights as free men. Any child slave would be freed upon their twenty-eighth birthday.[13] The child slave portion was a cause of some cheating among slave owners who would alter birth dates of children, since no record of slave births existed at that point in time. Some slave owners would write a later birthday in an effort to get a longer period of service from those children they enslaved. Under provisions in the law, slave owners had to register those they enslaved as well as their birth dates to the county prothonotary where they lived each year.

            The Gradual Abolition of Slavery was the first anti-slavery law in the United States, the initial law was passed before the war for independence had been won. It stopped all importation of slaves to the state and ended public sale of slaves in the state. The catalyst for the law was the large population of Quaker and Mennonite citizens of the state and the growth of anti-slavery teachings within those sects. The law faced a significant amount of resistance, the law remained in place and provided for the freedom from slavery within the state and a growing movement against slavery throughout the state. The Quaker church was by far the catalyst for abolition in Pennsylvania and notable Quakers were supporting the anti-slavery movement.

            The anti-slavery movement soon developed beyond the borders of Pennsylvania, which was largely due to the prominent members of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society which included Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and Anthony Benezet, all of whom were active in the passing of the Pennsylvania law. A national organization rose from the passing of the Pennsylvania law, the organization called, the American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and Improving the Condition of the African Race.[14] The organization was largely made up of Pennsylvanians and it met in Philadelphia yearly from 1781 through 1832. By 1832 there was representation in the organization from every northern state and territory. Pennsylvania had shown itself as a beacon of the anti-slavery movement, however, many of the newer states in the movement had passed laws that ended slavery in a much shorter timeline.

            In his book, On the Edge of Freedom: The Fugitive Slave Issue in South Central Pennsylvania, 1820-1870, Dr. David G. Smith who is a researcher on the Civil War and Social Historian specializing in societal conflict, writes about how fugitive slavery was being dealt with in the Northern Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania and how the abolition movement is fighting to protect fugitive slaves on free soil. The southcentral part of the state was nearest to Maryland and Northern Virginia (now West Virginia) and this area of the Appalachian Mountains offered plenty of places to travel and hide which were difficult for fugitive slave hunting parties to traverse. Smith writes that many of the abolitionist lawyers in the southcentral part of the state were unhappy with the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society’s less-aggressive stance in their response to helping fugitive slaves who had crossed into the state. The anti-slavery groups in southcentral Pennsylvania began to take a more aggressive approach towards those who chased slaves inside the state. Smith calls this more aggressive approach “Garrisonian” named for William Lloyd Garrison a well noted radical abolitionist and publisher of The Liberator which was the first anti-slavery newspaper in the country. Garrison and his friends and followers were pushing an immediate end to slavery in all forms throughout the United States, and believed that once a Fugitive Slaved reached “Free Soil,” they could no longer be pursued, despite a federal law that said otherwise. “The decision of the state’s antislavery minority, particularly in southern Pennsylvania, to adopt an aggressive legal strategy prosecuting kidnappers….”[15] This Pennsylvania Personal Freedom Law that hade been passed with the help of anti-slavery advocates would be challenged in 1842 in a case that would be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court after the arrest of a slave owner in York County, Pennsylvania for violating the 1826 law. Edward Prigg was a slave catcher from Maryland who was seeking a runaway slave named Margaret Morgan, who had run from a slave owner in Maryland. Prigg captured Morgan in York County, however the York County Sheriff arrested Prigg on the basis that he had kidnapped a free woman and attempted to take her to be enslaved outside of Pennsylvania. Prigg was tried and convicted of kidnapping in the York County Court, and after the Pennsylvania Supreme court upheld his conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case. The case dealt a blow to the anti-slavery movement once a judgement was released:

“The clause of the Constitution of the United States relating to fugitives from labor manifestly contemplates the existence of a positive unqualified right on the part of the owner of the slave which no state law or regulation can in any way qualify, regulate, control, or restrain. Any state law or regulation which interrupts, limits, delays, or postpones the rights of the owner to the immediate command of his service or labor operates pro tanto a discharge of the slave therefrom.”[16]

            Despite Pennsylvania’s law giving escaped slaves the same rights as citizens of the state, the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution stated otherwise. This did not, however sway the anti-slavery societies in Pennsylvania, the Personal Liberty Law of 1847 now made it necessary that to recover a fugitive slave inside the state, the slave catcher must bring the fugitive slave before a local magistrate. Local magistrates in Pennsylvania are an elected position, so the local community had a strong say on the magistrate and that community would have a sway on how that magistrate might rule. “If judges could be convinced to rule in favor of the fugitives rather than the owners in doubtful cases, the tide of remanded fugitives could be checked legally, without tumultuous antislavery lecturing, forcible resistance, or outright violation of the law.”[17] A ruling of this type from one local magistrate could create a precedent by which other judges within the state could use to free others. Another important part of Pennsylvania’s new Personal Liberty law was that it made it illegal for any law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania to take part in the capture of a fugitive slave. Pennsylvania legislators were doing everything that could be done to maintain the freedom of those who sought it while they remained in the state.

            An important aspect of the social change in southcentral and southwestern Pennsylvania was the growth of communities of free blacks. Those that had been emancipated started to create communities of their own in these growing areas of Pennsylvania. With towns like Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Indiana, and Blairsville, free black communities were supported and assisted by the growing abolitionist movement around these communities. “In south central Pennsylvania, free blacks could shelter escaping African Americans, guide them through the region, direct them to additional help, or even entice slaves to flee”[18] In Indiana County, Pennsylvania free black communities as well as the white community had a history of helping slaves escape to freedom. By the mid 1840’s, there were at least two African Methodist Episcopal Zion congregations whose mission was to “aid refugees.” Other denominations like the Wesleyan Methodists and the Baptists were now opposing slavery as well and assisting fugitive slaves in their escape.[19] In 1845, an escaped slave names James Hollingsworth was working on the farm of James Simpson as a paid farmhand. Two men working for Hollingsworth’s former Virginia owner found him working in the field along the road, they captured him an took him to Indiana, PA the county seat, where the men stayed in the boarding house of a pro-slavery Sheriff. The people of Indiana soon learned that the only reason Hollingsworth was being held is that he had been born a slave, they began to gather outside the boarding house, surrounding it. A well-known abolitionist attorney agreed to represent Hollingsworth the next day in front of Judge Thomas White. The Judge asked the slave catchers to produce a copy of the Virginia Constitution showing that the state allowed slavery. The slave catchers were unable to produce the document, so Hollingsworth was set free. The Sheriff and the two slave catchers were unaware that Judge White was a member of the local abolitionist society. A similar incident took place in Blairsville Indiana County, in 1858 when a Pennsylvania Constable and Pennsylvania Marshal arrived to capture an escaped slave who was working at a local store. When the two men attempted to capture the former slave, they were attacked by a crowd of townspeople, local abolitionist leaders intervened to save the two men, worried they would be killed. Armed citizens chased the two out of town, and the fugitive slave was placed on a train to Philadelphia.[20]

Pennsylvania Abolition Society – paabolition.org

            In Western Pennsylvania, there was also a large abolitionist movement that worked heavily in the Underground Railroad. There were still slaved in Washington and Allegheny counties in the Early 1800’s. After 1780 the numbers began to lower, Washington county still a largely rural county, in 1782 slave owners registered 443 slaves, by 1830 the number of slaves in the county was down to one person.[21] Allegheny County, which contained Pittsburgh went from Fifty-nine in 1790, up to seventy-nine in 1800, and none were listed in 1830.[22] The Gradual Abolition of Slavery had made no provision for those living outside the state who owned slaves other than to make slave-owners adhere to the registration and abolition of slaves in accordance with the timeline set forth in the law.

            Under the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, once slaves received their freedom, it was important for them to report to the county prothonotary and carry those papers with them always should their freedom be in question. Freedmen from outside of the state were unable to register within the state unless they had paperwork from another state to prove their freedom. This prevented runaway slaves from going to the office to get freedom papers. “Free Black people still faced danger. Many appeared in court to ask for a Certificate of Freedom. The claimant had to prove that he/she was born free or had been previously freed. If the court was satisfied, it would issue a certificate with a description of the person including skin shades, hair texture, and body scars. Freedom papers were essential for freedmen who wanted to travel, particularly those working on the rivers.”[23] To work any essential job in the Pittsburgh region, it was important to have these freedom papers. Many of the jobs in the region were on board boats, in delivery of goods or in the shipbuilding industry at that time which meant regular travel throughout the region including into Ohio and Virginia.

            The slave trade was still prominent across the Virginia border,  Washington county, which until the Civil War bordered Virginia (now West Virginia) on two sides which made it easy to move slaves across the ill-defined border from slave auction sites in Wheeling and Morgantown.[24] Washington County also had a rising abolitionist sentiment which began to assist runaway slaves crossing the border from Virginia. Abolitionists in Washington County along with Abolitionists and Free Blacks in Allegheny, Beaver and Butler Counties on the western side of the state began to learn the intricacies of the Underground Railroad.[25]

The increasing freedom of blacks led to free black communities in Western Pennsylvania, these communities developed in Pittsburgh with Little Hayti and Arthursville,[26] within the city of Washington and in Monongahela, Washington County, and in Uniontown, Fayette county.[27] These free communities became important to escaped slaves who were trying to find their way to freedom. Free blacks used these communities to harbor fugitive slaves until they could move them to another station, towards freedom. In some cases, free blacks took active roles in the freedom of slaves who were traveling through these areas with slave owners. On several occasions at the Monongahela Hotel in Pittsburgh, black staff members dressed slaves from out of state in extra uniforms and snuck them out of the hotel to freedom in Arthursville or in one of the Free black owned businesses in Market Square which at the time was the largest market district on the western side of the state.[28] From Pittsburgh, many of the fugitive slaves were transported to towns along the Ohio River like Sewickley and Hopewell and to the north through northwestern Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio to Canada and freedom. The growth of free black communities throughout Pennsylvania also helped direct escaped slaves to freedom in the Philadelphia area and in the central part of the state.

After nearly 200 years of effective social change, Pennsylvania had moved from a slave owning state, to a state where residents had actively interfered in attempts to apprehend fugitive slaves, even in defiance of federal laws that prohibited interfering in the apprehension of fugitive slaves. Although this evolution took time to develop, Pennsylvania became noted as a strong anti-slavery state and a significant travel point for the underground railroad. The growth of Pennsylvania from Penn’s Peaceable Kingdom of a planned Quaker settlement to a land of free black communities to the development of the first among many African Methodist Episcopal church in Philadelphia shows the evolution of freedom for blacks throughout the state. evolution of freedom for blacks throughout the state.

             The Quaker church was the catalyst for the development of the anti-slavery movement in Pennsylvania and those teachings grew to other faiths to help eliminate slavery in Pennsylvania and throughout the northern states and territories. The growth of the abolitionist movement eventually led to the freedom of all slaves in the United States, though it would take a war to accomplish that effort. Pennsylvania progressed from a state where slavery was allowed, to a state that fought hard against slavery when it was still legal in other states and in the numbers of Pennsylvania soldiers who fought against slavery in the American Civil War. The development of strong free black communities throughout the state shows how Pennsylvania evolved away from slavery and became a safe place for former slaves to settle.

Bibliography

Blairsville Area Underground Railroad. Blairsville Underground Railroad Museum, 2015. https://undergroundrailroadblairsvillepa.com/.

Burns, Edward M. “Slavery in Western Pennsylvania.” Pennsylvania History Magazine, 1964, 204–12.

Delle, James A. 2019. The Archaeology of Northern Slavery and Freedom. Sarasota: University Press of Florida.

Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries. University of Pittsburgh, 2009. http://exhibit.library.pitt.edu/freeatlast/index.html.

Gerbner, Katharine. 2018. “Quaker Slavery and Slave Rebellion.” In Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, by Katharine Gerbner, 49- 73. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Henderich, Garret, Derick up de Graeff, Francis Daniell Pastorious, and Gabriel up Den graef. “A Minute Against Slavery, Addressed to Germantown Monthly Meeting, 1688.” German Mennonite Historic Trust. German Mennonite Historic Trust. Accessed October 28, 2020. meetinghouse.info.

“Indiana County and the Underground Railroad.” Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Indiana University of Pennsylvania. https://www.iup.edu/archives/civilwar/historical-background/indiana-county-and-the-underground-railroad/.

Mainwaring, W. Thomas. 2018. “The Twilight of Slavery.” In Abandoned Tracks: The Underground Railroad in Washington County, Pennsylvania, 19 – 43. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

“PHMC Abolition of Slavery.” Abolition of Slavery | PHMC Our Documentary Heritage. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Accessed November 1, 2020. http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/documents/1776-1865/abolition-slavery.html.

“Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 41 U.S. 539 (1842).” Justia Law. Accessed November 14, 2020. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/41/539/.

Rediker, Marcus. The Fearless Benjamin Lay: the Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018.


[1] Katharine Gerbner, Christian Slavery. Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). Page 49.

[2] Gerber. Page 53.

[3] James A. Delle and Michael S. Nassaney, “The History of Slavery in ‘Free’ States,” in The Archaeology of Northern Slavery and Freedom (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2019), Page 41.

[4] Delle. Page 41.

[5] Delle. Page 42.

[6] Garret Henderich et al., “A Minute Against Slavery, Addressed to Germantown Monthly Meeting, 1688.,” German Mennonite Historic Trust

[7] Katharine Gerbner, “Quaker Slavery and Slave Rebellion,” in Christian Slavery. Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), pp. 49-73. Page 72

[8] Marcus Rediker, The Fearless Benjamin Lay: the Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018).

[9] Marcus Rediker, The Fearless Benjamin Lay: the Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018).

[10] Benjamin Lay, All Slave-Keepers that Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates. 1737. (Evans Early American Imprint Collection – University of Michigan)

[11] “PHMC Abolition of Slavery,” Abolition of Slavery | PHMC: Our Documentary Heritage, accessed October 11, 2020, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/documents/1776-1865/abolition-slavery.html.

[12] PHMC Abolition of Slavery,” Abolition of Slavery | PHMC: Our Documentary Heritage, accessed October 11, 2020, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/documents/1776-1865/abolition-slavery.html.

[13] PHMC Abolition of Slavery,” Abolition of Slavery | PHMC: Our Documentary Heritage, accessed October 11, 2020, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/documents/1776-1865/abolition-slavery.html.

[14] Myers, John L. “The Early Antislavery Agency System in Pennsylvania, 1833-1837.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 31, no. 1 (1964): 62-86.

[15] Smith, David G. “The Fugitive Slave Issue on Trial: The 1840s in South Central Pennsylvania.” In, On the Edge of Freedom: The Fugitive Slave Issue in South Central Pennsylvania, 1820-1870, 87-114. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. Page 87.

[16] “Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 41 U.S. 539 (1842),” Justia Law, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/41/539/.

[17] Smith. Page 89-90

[18] Smith, David G. “South Central Pennsylvania, Fugitive Slaves, and the Underground Railroad.” In On the Edge of Freedom: The Fugitive Slave Issue in South Central Pennsylvania, 1820-1870, 12-38. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. Page 18.

[19] “Indiana County and the Underground Railroad,” Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), accessed November 1, 2020, https://www.iup.edu/archives/civilwar/historical-background/indiana-county-and-the-underground-railroad/.

[20] “Blairsville Area Underground Railroad,” Blairsville Area Underground Railroad (Blairsville Underground Railroad Museum, 2015), https://undergroundrailroadblairsvillepa.com/.

[21] Edward M. Burns, “Slavery in Western Pennsylvania.” Pennsylvania History. Page 207

[22] Burns. Page 207

[23] Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries (University of Pittsburgh, 2009)

[24] W. Thomas Mainwaring, “The Twilight of Slavery,” in Abandoned Tracks: The Underground Railroad in Washington County, Pennsylvania (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018), pp. 19-43. Page 27

[25] Mainwaring. “The Twilight of Slavery,” Page 34

[26] Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries (University of Pittsburgh, 2009)

[27] W. Thomas Mainwaring, “The Twilight of Slavery.” Page 36-37

[28] Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries (University of Pittsburgh, 2009)

A Comparative Study of Nineteenth Century Slave Revolts and the Press Perception of Those Revolts

Slave revolts were a significant part of the late history of the slave trade in the Americas. This paper will compare and explore three different slave revolts in 19th century in the United States. The three revolts being investigated will be, Deslondes Slave Revolt in 1811, Nat Turner Slave Revolt in 1831 and the Creole Slave Revolt in 1841. The purpose behind the research is to explore; if slave revolts influenced other slave groups to revolt, if there was influence from abolitionist groups to encourage revolts, and how slave revolts were portrayed in the press. The goal is to compare the three revolts and how they changed how American society viewed slavery and how the revolts were understood and reported in the press.

            The 1811 slave revolt which is referred to as the Louisiana Slave Revolt, the German Coast Slave Revolt, or the Deslondes Slave Revolt began on French Plantations which became part of the United States after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, these plantation owners had escaped Saint-Domingue/ Haiti towards the end of the Haitian Revolution, the plantation owners had also brought many of their slaves with them to Louisiana, which still had a sizable French population, many of the slaves that had been brought over continue to hold the spirit of the Haitian Revolution which may have been a large reason for the revolt. The Nat Turner Revolt in 1831 was led by an enslaved preacher who described himself as a prophet. This revolt was likely the bloodiest of the slave revolts and left a significant legacy in U.S. history. The Creole Revolt took place on a slave trade ship called the Creole which was bound to Lousiana from Virginia in 1841, the slaves onboard the ship mutinied taking the ship to the Bahamas, which was a British colony where they were freed.

The Slave Revolts

Deslondes Revolt – NoirNola.com

            To understand these three revolts, a review of the facts of the revolts is necessary. The first revolt to be reviewed took place on the German Coast along Lake Pontchartrain in 1811 it is referred to as the Deslondes Slave Revolt, the Louisiana Revolt of 1811 or the German Coast Revolt. For the sake of this paper, it will be referred to as the Deslondes revolt to eliminate confusion. Charles Deslondes was a slave who had been transported from Santo Domingue during the Haitian Revolution when many French plantation owners were fleeing the slave uprising there. Many of these plantation owners settled in the Louisiana Territory a place with a known French and Spanish history and culture. The Deslondes Revolt took place at the same time that the United States Congress was considering statehood for Louisiana. In December 1810, Deslondes began planning the revolt, working with other slaves whom he swore to secrecy. Governor W.C.C. Claiborne had apparently been alerted that some sort of issue was about to begin, On January 7, 1811, he sent a letter to U.S. General Wade Hampton who was in charge of the army garrison at New Orleans. Governor Claiborne wrote in the letter that, “such part of our territory… may be infested with brigands.” It is uncertain to know whether Governor Claiborne felt a threat from the Spanish who were threatened by the potential for Louisiana statehood and the effect on other Spanish held territories nearby or he had been passed information about the potential for a slave revolt.[1]

            The revolt began in January with the uprising of as many as three hundred to five hundred slaves. An attack began on the plantation of Michael Andre who wrote to Governor Claiborne, “ Sir, I have only time to inform you, in the shortest way, of the unfortunate events which have lately happened, and of which I am one of the principal sufferers.”[2] Andre later wrote to a newspaper, and his letter was published in several other newspapers, “an atrocious gang of banditti” attempted to “assassinate” him “with the stroke of an axe” and that his “poor son” had been “ferociously murdered by a band of brigands.”[3] Andre was the owner of more than 80 slaves on his plantation one of which was Charles Deslondes.[4] “The rebels’ ranks swelled as they moved onto adjacent plantations, torching and looting several residences along the way. White families, in some cases alerted by loyal slaves, poured into New Orleans on Wednesday from their east-bank residences below Andry’s estate. François-Xavier Martin, a French- born judge on the territorial superior court, witnessed the panicked entrance “of carriages, wagons and carts, filled with women and children … bringing the most terrible accounts” of the uprising.”[5]

Deslondes Re-enactment – Associated Press

            Reports were received that the group of slaves were marching towards New Orleans, prompting the U.S. Army Garrisons at New Orleans and from Baton Rouge, as well as Louisiana Militia who were carried on a U.S. Navy ship up the Mississippi River to help subdue the uprising. The navy commander also considered dispatching a 16 gun Brig to assist the army and militia forces.[6] Two federal units descended upon those who had revolted, the military units surrounded them and exacted terrible retribution upon them including hanging some black prisoners on the spot and beheading others placing their heads on poles along the river. Deslondes who had escaped the massacre later turned himself in under a flag of truce, but he too was executed at the Andre plantation.[7] The revolt lasted just a few days, it however showed a significant impression in the media throughout the country which will be discussed later in this article.

            The Nat Turner revolt is likely the most well-known slave revolt in U.S. history. Nat Turner was born into enslavement ins Southampton County, Virginia. Turner learned to read at a young age which was unusual for slaves in the southern states. He also took an interest in religion, listening intently to white preachers who were brought to preach to the slaves on Sundays, the only day when slaves were allowed rest. In his late teens, Turner began to preach on his own to the gathered slaves, which was welcomed by local slave holders. Turner eventually began to believe that God was speaking directly to him and he was a prophet of messages to enslaved peoples. Over several years, Turner was sold to several owners separating him from his mother, his wife, and his children. In 1831, Turner would lead the largest slave revolt in Virginia history, a revolt that would cause significant terror across the country.[8]

Nat Turner – Time.com

            In 1831, there was a great amount of concern for slave revolts, news had spread through the press of a number of small slave revolts in the south, slave owners began to have grave concerns over their slaves rising up and possibly murdering them and their families. Press reports and rumors spread the story and began to cause a frenzy throughout the south. Turner stated that at the sign from God, which he saw as the solar eclipse in February 1831, “I should arise and prepare myself, and slay my enemies with their own weapons. And immediately on the sign appearing in the heavens, the seal was removed from my lips, and I communicated the great work laid out for me to do.”[9] Turner shared his prophecy with his friends and enlisted their help and with their help, Turner’s friends invited several others to join them. These men rode on horseback to several farms and plantations that had owned slaves. In total the men murdered sixty-six men, women, and children based on the prophecy of Turner. Upon Turner’s capture, over twenty days following the initial incident, Turner confessed to attorney Thomas Ruffin. In Turner’s final statement to Ruffin, he stated, “During the time I was pursued, I had many hairbreadth escapes, which your time will not permit you to relate. I am here loaded with chains, and willing to suffer the fate that awaits me.”[10] On November 11th, 1831, Nat Turner was hanged in Jerusalem, the county seat of Southampton County, Virginia. There was a great deal of press coverage of the events of Nat Turner’s revolt, including Ruffin’s conversation and confession from Turner himself.

            The Brig ‘Creole’ was a cargo transport ship based in Richmond, Virginia, at the end of October 1841, the ship set sail bound for New Orleans, Louisiana. The following passage is taken from the historical record read to the United State Senate regarding a mutiny on board the ship.

Creole Revolt – BlackFacts.org

“It appears that the brig “Creole,” of Richmond, Virginia, Insor, master, bound to New Orleans, sailed from Hampton Roads on the 27th of October last, with a cargo of merchandize, principally to bacco, and slaves, (about 135 in number); that on the evening of the 7th of November, some of the slaves rose upon the crew of the vessel, murdered a passenger named Hewell, who owned some of the negroes, wounded the captain dangerously, and the first mate and two of the crew severely ; that the slaves soon obtained complete possession of the brig, which under their direction was taken into the port of Nassau, in the island of New Providence, where she arrived on the morning of the 9th of the same month; that at the request of the American Consul in that place, the Governor ordered a guard on board, to prevent the escape of the mutineers, and with a view to an investigation of the circumstances of the case ; that such investigation was accordingly made by two British magistrates, and that an examination also took place by the Consul; that on the report of the magistrates, nineteen of the slaves were imprisoned by the local authorities as having been concerned in the mutiny and murder, and their surrender to the Consul, to be sent to the United States for trial for these crimes, was refused on the ground that the Governor wished first to communicate with the Government in England on the subject; that through the interference of the Colonial authorities, and even before the military guard was removed, the greater number of the remaining slaves were liberated, and encouraged to go beyond the power of the master of the vessel, or the American Consul, by proceedings which neither of them could control.”[11]

The ship had been captured by slaves who had mutinied, against their owner and the ship’s crew forcing it to the British colony of the Bahamas where slavery was unlawful under British law.

Upon hearing the statements of the ship’s captain and crew, most of the mutineers were freed and allowed to enter the island of New Providence. The story of the creole became one of legend and the leader of the mutiny Madison Washington became a symbol of pride amongst slaves and was seen as a hero by abolitionists for his planning and execution of this uprising.[12] The details of the Creole uprising spread quickly through the press because it had been brought directly to the attention of the President and the Senate. The uprising began to cause fear amongst those who traded and transported enslaved peoples along the Atlantic Coast and even caused changes to the sailing patterns of trade ships on the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico out of fear another ship would be taken to other places where slaves could seek freedom such as Haiti or Jamaica.

Slave revolts in the Press

            The press at the outset of the nineteenth century was largely hand printed stories of local news, advertisements and stories printed by other newspapers that had been mailed from other parts of the country. In many cases these stories were being printed weeks to months after they had happened. News was not being relayed by telegraph until the 1850s, so the news stories regarding slave uprisings were likely not known to the public outside of the local area for some time. This delay in the reporting would cause some panic in other regions an extended time after the incident had resolved. Another consideration regarding the newspapers of the nineteenth century is that many of the news stories relayed were based on letters written by the victims of incidents. In the case of slave uprisings, some of the “news stories” were the actual writings of the slave owners who may have been the target of the uprising. Some of these people wrote under pseudonyms to separate their name from the reporting. Some of the writings sensationalized the story which helped the printer sell more newspapers.

            In the case of the Deslondes Revolt, local press coverage was quite subdued regarding the revolt, this was likely out of fear that it would “adversely influence the slave market.”[13] The press appeared to have more concern over business than it did for the citizens of New Orleans and Louisiana regarding the revolt. Outside of Louisiana, the story of the revolt had spread. “A March 25th, Times of London item, for example, mentioned “a very serious insurrection which had taken place among the negroes, who had set fire to many plantations, and destroyed property to a vast amount.”[14] The story had reached across the ocean in three months, though it was different from the story that was initially printed locally.

            The Governor of Louisiana did work to inform the public about the incident, he wrote a letter to the Louisiana Gazette stating, “as a January 10 Louisiana Gazette item, credited to Claiborne, indicated. In it the governor told readers that the “brigands” numbered from “180 to 500.” Giving further details, he wrote, “The mischief done is not ascertained—there is, however, reason to apprehend that several of our fellow citizens have been massacred, some dwelling houses burnt and others pillaged.” He urged the citizens of New Orleans to “continue their vigilance.”[15] Later in January, further reports regarding the incident were reported in the Louisiana Gazette from a person writing under the pseudonym “Z” who is largely believed to be Michael Andre, based on the details he gave about the incident. “Z” wrote, “It is very difficult to obtain anything like a correct statement of the damages done by the banditti on the coast.” This telling estimated the insurrectionist camp as being possibly “500 strong, and that at least one half of them were armed with muskets and fusils, and the others with sabres and cane knives.” According to “Z,” the black slaves broke “open sideboards and liquor stores” on the André plantation, “getting half drunk” before their march toward New Orleans. His words recalled the stories from Haiti as he described the ensuing panic: “The road for two or three leagues was crowded with carriages and carts full of people, making their escape from the ravages of the banditti.”[16] Newspapers in New York and Pennsylvania printed a letter written to a man in Chester, Pennsylvania which stated. “You cannot easily form an idea of the alarm and confusion that prevailed on the first news of this event, many of the inhabitants of this place were sufferers in the insurrection at Cape Francois (Saint Domingue/Haiti).”[17] These newspaper stories spread wildly through the country and often facts were exaggerated causing further panic over the situation.

Richmond Free Press

            In the newspaper coverage of the Nat Turner Revolt, historians note “hysterical style of the press” which was, “constantly alarming and hyperbolic.”[18] Examples of this hyperbole can be found in newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina, “The Richmond Enquirer reported on August 30, 1831, of “some very unpleasant rumors of similar disturbances in our sister State of North Carolina.” The newspaper contained a letter from Halifax, east of Raleigh, which asked for “2 kegs of Gun Powder” because “the negroes [sic] here have risen against the White people….” The Halifax writer said that “the whole county is in an uproar. We have to keep guard night and day. We have had no battle yet, but it’s expected every hour.”[19]  Other newspapers did dispel the rumors of a great insurrection, The Richmond Enquirer, in Virginia printed, “the burning of property and massacre of several white 11 families” had been erroneously reported. It also said that two blacks had been executed, adding “while we rejoice to hear that no [white] lives are lost, there should be no relaxation of vigilance and precaution.”[20] The newspapers had themselves created a panic without reason or justification, this panic caused local governments to call up militias for the safety of their citizens from a threat that did not exist. The panic that ensued caused the murder of possibly more than 200 slaves and freedmen in North Carolina and Virginia.

There was also a great deal of coverage in Virginia regarding the Nat Turner Revolt, the Richmond Constitutional Whig printed in one story:

“Disagreeable rumors having reached this city of an insurrection of the slaves in Southampton County, with loss of life, in order to correct exaggerations, and at the same time to induce all salutary caution, we state the following particulars.

An express from the Hon. James Trezevant states that an insurrection had broken out, that several families had been murdered, and that the negroes were embodied, requiring a considerable military force to reduce them.

The names and precise numbers of the families is not mentioned. A letter from the Postmaster corroborates the intelligence. Prompt and efficient measures are being taken by the Governor, to call up a sufficient force to put down the insurrection, and place lower Virginia on its guard.

Serious danger, of course, there is none. The deluded wretches have rushed on assured destruction. The Fayette Artillery and the Light Dragoons leave here this evening for Southampton—the artillery to go in a Steamboat, and the Troop by land.

We understand that the insurrection in Southampton is little more than the irruption [sic] of 150 or 200 runaway slaves from the Dismal Swamp, incited by a spirit of plunder and rapine. It will be quickly suppressed.”[21]

            The Richland newspapers had reported information they received from happenstance and conjecture without knowing the full details of what had happened in Southampton County nearly seventy-five miles away. The Richmond Enquirer reported similar information as the Richmond Constitutional Whig had, but was reporting the uprising near Halifax, North Carolina, fifty miles further away than Southampton, Virginia.

Newspaper coverage of the Creole revolt was very similar to the coverage of other revolts. Newspapers in the coastal cities, especially in the south held concern for other ships that may carry slaves to other ports in the United States and the fear of revolts abord those ships. This panic was enhanced by the fact that the British Government had freed the mutineers citing that the mutiny had taken place outside the jurisdiction of the United States and Great Britain and as slavery was illegal under British law, British government officials could not interfere with the dealings of free men who had not violated British law. Abolitionist newspapers which had arisen with the growing Anti-slavery movement gave praise, the New York Evangelist called the slaves, “The Hero Mutineers.”

Conclusions

            These three revolts show a coming thread of slaves fighting for their liberty from the extreme oppression of slavery. While it is difficult to say what inspired each other groups of slaves to rise up, there is evidence to show that at least two of the groups had knowledge of slave revolts that had happened prior to these uprisings. Although there may be no direct connection between these incidents and prior incidents, there is evidence that at least some information had been gained from other uprisings. While many southern ‘Slave Codes’ forbid fraternization with slaves from other plantations or owners, it was difficult to enforce these rules especially in larger towns and cities. It is very likely that news of slave revolts spread among communities of enslaved people by word of mouth.

            There is no notable evidence among the documentation reviewed to show that any of these slave revolts were an action cause by outside influences. No noted evidence connects these slave uprisings with Abolition or Anti-slavery groups in the free states or otherwise. From the resources gathered it would appear that each of these uprisings were planned and carried out by the enslaved people themselves without outside influences other than the actions and treatment of the slave owners themselves.

The press reactions to these incidents were sensationalized to an extent that without significant study of primary sources from the incident. In reading the press accounts, it could be believed that all of these uprisings could have led to a nationwide slave revolt. The press items covered show a great deal of hyperbole and in some cases a complete misunderstanding of facts and locations. The truth of these revolts can luckily be found in the historic documentation of the incidents themselves.

Bibliography:

Gabrial, Brian “Alarming beyond Expression”: Moral Panics and the “Hysterical Style of the Press” after Nat Turner’s 1831 Revolt in Southampton County, Virginia. 2005

Jay, William. The Creole Case, and Mr. Webster’s Despatch; with the Comments of the N.Y. American. New-York, NY: Pub. at the Office of the “New-York American”, 1842.

The Creole Case and Mr. Webster’s Despatch. New York American. (New York American Publishing.). 1842

Paquette, Robert. “A Horde of Brigands?” The Great Louisiana Slave Revolt of 1811 Reconsidered. Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, SPRING 2009, Vol. 35, No. 1, Histories of Resistance (Spring 2009), pp. 72-96

Roth, Sarah. “Whig Aug 23: Nat-Turner.” Nat Turner Project. Meredith College, 2015. https://www.natturnerproject.org/whig-aug23.

Rupprecht, Anita. ‘‘All We Have Done, We Have Done for Freedom’’: The Creole Slave-Ship Revolt (1841) and the Revolutionary Atlantic. International Review of Social History, Vol. 58, Special Issue 21: Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution: A Global Survey (2013), Pages 254-255

Turner, Nat & Ruffin, Thomas. The Confessions of Nat Turner. African-American Protest Literature. November 1831.


Notes:

[1] Gabrial, Brian. “Haiti in 1791, Gabriel Prosser’s 1800 Conspiracy, and the 1811 German Coast Slave Revolt.” In The Press and Slavery in America, 1791-1859: The Melancholy Effect of Popular Excitement, 17-28.

[2] Gabrial. Page 26.

[3] Gabrial. Page 26.

[4] Robert Paquette, “A Horde of Brigands?” The Great Louisiana Slave Revolt of 1811 Reconsidered. Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques, SPRING 2009, Vol. 35, No. 1, Histories of Resistance (Spring 2009), pp. 72-96

[5] Paquette. Page 74.

[6] Paquette. Page 75

[7] Gabrial, Brian. “Haiti in 1791, Gabriel Prosser’s 1800 Conspiracy, and the 1811 German Coast Slave Revolt.” In the Press and Slavery in America, 1791-1859: The Melancholy Effect of Popular Excitement, 17-28.

[8] Nat Turner & Thomas Ruffin, The Confessions of Nat Turner. African-American Protest Literature. November 1831.Page 390.

[9] Turner. Page 392

[10] Turner. Page 393

[11] The Creole Case and Mr. Webster’s Despatch. New York American. 1842 (New York American Publishing. Page 5-6

[12] Anita Rupprecht. ‘‘All We Have Done, We Have Done for Freedom’’: The Creole Slave-Ship Revolt (1841) and the Revolutionary Atlantic. International Review of Social History, Vol. 58, Special Issue 21: Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution: A Global Survey (2013), Pages 254-255

[13] Gabrial, Brian. “Haiti in 1791, Gabriel Prosser’s 1800 Conspiracy, and the 1811 German Coast Slave Revolt.” In the Press and Slavery in America, 1791-1859: The Melancholy Effect of Popular Excitement, Page 26.

[14] Gabrial. Page 26

[15] Gabrial. Page 27

[16] Gabrial. Page 27

[17] Gabrial. Page 27

[18] Brian Gabrial, “Alarming beyond Expression”: Moral Panics and the “Hysterical Style of the Press” after Nat Turner’s 1831 Revolt in Southampton County, Virginia. 2005. Page 5

[19] Brian Gabrial, “Alarming beyond Expression”: Moral Panics and the “Hysterical Style of the Press” after Nat Turner’s 1831 Revolt in Southampton County, Virginia. 2005. Page 12

[20] Gabrial. page 12-13

[21] Sarah Roth, “Whig Aug 23: Nat-Turner,” Nat Turner Project (Meredith College, 2015), https://www.natturnerproject.org/whig-aug23.

Revisiting Pontiac’s Rebellion

Pontiac’s Rebellion which was an indigenous peoples’ rebellion in the Ohio country and Illinois country in 1763 has been written about by historians since shortly after the rebellion was over. The rebellion was started by a confederation of native groups in an effort to push British settlers and soldiers from the region and to maintain the sovereignty of native lands in the Ohio and Illinois country. Pontiac was an Ottawa (Odawa) leader who had stated that he had been guided by the spiritual visions of another that said that native peoples should form together to push the white man back to the ocean from where they came. 

Stories of the Pontiac’s Rebellion are part of American history teaching in schools throughout the United States and Canada. The teaching about the rebellion is largely a single paragraph in most U.S. History books without much explanation of the causes or results of the uprising itself. The topic and narrative of the rebellion is constantly updated and reviewed by historians; however, the subject lacks any growth in education and remains largely a byline in the buildup to the American Revolution.

The intent of this paper is to review the writings of previous historians’ narratives of Pontiac’s Rebellion. The reasoning for my review is that writings that currently exist depend largely on the British narrative of the rebellion and very rarely look at alternative viewpoints including the native and French viewpoints. Another part of this review is to research the military narrative of the rebellion. From many writings, historians have seen Pontiac’s Rebellion as a British victory, although treaty negotiations after the conflict were largely in the native’s favor. Through the review of the writings of multiple historians the narrative of Pontiac’s Rebellion will be reviewed and discussed.

Pontiac – First Peoples of Canada

We begin this review by looking at an article from the Journal of Ethnic History titled “Migration and the Unmaking of America.” In this article the author, Phil Bellfy, takes account of the British colonies and their expansion, specifically how it affected the existing nations that were being pushed from the lands where they had lived long before the Europeans arrival. Bellfy begins his article discussing the Anishnabeg made up by the Ottawa (Odawa), Chippewa (Ojibway) and Potawatomi peoples the group is also called the Three Fires Confederacy[1] Anishnabeg means Original Man or The People, and the Anishnabeg believed that there was no separation between the people and the land that they lived upon “in both a cultural and physical sense.”[2]

The Anishnabeg’s overall beliefs were that “They were a part of the land and the land is a part of them” was contrary to the beliefs that European Christians had from the book of Genesis that said “Be fruitful, and multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it,” [3] These differences in beliefs would put the Anisnabeg and the European settlers at odds almost immediately, how could natives give up or sell land that they were a part of?

At the time of European contact, the Anishnabeg occupied most of the Great Lakes’ region, including what is now Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Western Ontario,[4] their territory bordered the lands of the Iroquois Confederacy to the east and south of Lake Ontario. As European contact grew into the fur trade, the Anishnabeg expanded their territory to the south into what is now Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, and further to the east pushing the Iroquois further east.[5] Until 1760, the Anishnabeg had primarily traded with French fur traders and dealt with French military and governmental groups, after 1760, the British had forced the French from the region and now controlled the areas fur trade and other trade with the Anishnabeg. The change in terms were not agreeable to the Anishnabeg, but they reluctantly followed to continue their ability to trade for goods.

The Anishnabeg were facing the British policies on trade which were significantly less generous than the French. The British Commander, General Jeffrey Amherst refused to allow gun powder, lead for bullets and trade rifles to be traded with native groups, this refusal caused a great hardship to native groups in their ability to hunt for food and to trade furs. Pontiac an Ottawa (Odawa) leader began to organize warriors to fight against the British insurrection into their lands and the loss of resources that were available to the Anishnabeg in trade. Pontiac’s uprising began as an attack against Fort Detroit with 300 men. Pontiac’s actions inspired attacks on other British outpost and settlers, by other native groups as far east a Fort Bedford in the Pennsylvania colony including a siege of Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh PA) that lasted two months.

Fort Pitt – Griffing

Now, Bellfy suggests that we must recognize that Pontiac’s Uprising, was not really a war or a conspiracy. Bellfy writes, “Pontiac’s action should be more honestly referred to as ‘a vigorous defense of the homeland.’ While the history books refer to Pontiac’s “War” as a failure, from the perspective of the Anishnabeg, the campaign was a success.”[6] Bellfy also points out that “Pontiac and his allies essentially forced the British to recognize that the area’s Native people were very much in control of their homelands and had the power to dictate the terms of trade.”[7]

Bellfy’s arguments in Journal of Ethnic History suggest that Pontiac and the uprising that started with the Anishnabeg peoples was not a group of savages looking to attack white settlers, but an organized defense of native land and trade rights that spread to a pan-Indian coalition that pushed the British to recognize the sovereignty of native groups and led to the Treaty of Fort Stanwix and the Treaty of Hard Labor two years later. These treaties established boundaries for settlers to live within and protected that border with Provincial and British Military Forces. “’Pontiac’s Rebellion’ had eliminated the worst of the British threat and at the onset of the Revolutionary War, the area’s native people joined their former British enemies to counter what they perceived as a greater threat – the Americans and their lust for land.”[8] Bellfy paints a different image than what is normally reported on Pontiac’s Uprising, the section of this article on Pontiac and the Anishnabeg peoples shows Pontiac acting in defense of their land, opposing people who were unwilling to trade under previous agreements and pushing their border into other lands.

In the article, “Thinking and Believing: Nativism and Unity in the ages of Pontiac and Tecumseh,” George Dowd discusses the similarities between Pontiac and Tecumseh and how they unified native groups under common goals to establish large movements. The article shows the parallels between the two men and how they are viewed in history. The article discusses the guidance given to Pontiac by a Lenni Lenape (Delaware) profit named Neolin, Tecumseh also had a spiritual advisor named Tenskatawa, [9] which is one of many similarities between the two movements.

Much of what we know from Neolin’s visions come from the words of Pontiac. While for the most part Pontiac conveys the visions and messages from Neolin correctly, according to later records of the Shawnee and the Lenni Lenape there were some differences. [10] Pontiac used the spiritual visions that Neolin spoke about to guide his tactics to push the British away from the Indiana and Ohio countries. Neolin’s guidance painted the French in a much more positive light, than it did the British. Neolin’s message was “the Master of Life loves our French brothers” and the English “are my enemies and the enemies of your brothers (the French). [11] Pontiac was a believer in the spiritual guidance of Neolin and wen he met with French officers at Fort Chartres (Illinois) where he attempted to gain French aid, without success, he told the French officers, ”(The Master of Life) who put arms in our hands, and it is he who has ordered us to this bad meat that would come to infest our lands… Think then my Father that thou goest against the Master of Life and that all red men conform to his will.”[12] Dowd quotes historians Howard Peckham and Wilbur Jacobs who called Pontiac’s Uprising an “Indian War for Independence”[13]

Dowd’s article shows that Pontiac was a Pan-Indian leader, his leadership crossed not only the three tribes of the Anishnabeg, but also to other nations in the Ohio country and as far east as Fort Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Pontiac used the spiritual beliefs that he had to guide his tactics and to share those messages with other groups to join in pushing the British invaders back to the east. Pontiac’s approach pushed the uprising he started throughout many of the native nations in what is now Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. defeating British regulars and multiple militias. Pontiac used spirituality, charisma and tactics to gain the respect of the British colonial leadership.

Richard Middleton in the essay, “Pontiac: Local Warrior or Pan-Indian Leader” discusses how Pontiac is portrayed as a historical figure. His article debates whether Pontiac was a local leader who was lucky enough to have others follow him, or was he seen as a force for change among multiple native groups who saw him as a strong leader. General Sir Jeffrey Amherst called Pontiac “the Ringleader of the Mischief” when he spoke of the uprising’s capture of every British post west of the Alleghenies, with the exception of Forts Pitt, Detroit and Niagara.[14] Two years later General Thomas Gage that Pontiac had maintained his influence over multiple native groups that continued to fight against British outposts and British settlers moving onto their land. At the peace conference held at Fort Detroit in the Summer of 1765, Colonel John Campbell, one of the military representatives stated the Pontiac had ”vast influence“[15]  over the proceedings and the agreements that were made. Middleton also writes that historian in 1851, Francis Parkman wrote in his book The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War after the Conquest of Canada that Pontiac’s authority over the confederated Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi ”was almost despotic, and his power extended far beyond the limits of the three united tribes. His influence was great among all the nations of the Illinois country; while from the sources of the Ohio to those of the Mississippi and, indeed, to the farthest reaches of the wide-spread Algonquin race, his name was known and respected.” [16]

Middleton also notes that many historians discount the influence that Pontiac had on the overall uprising. Middleton writes that including a historian who referred to Pontiac as the “greatest local menace” and another historian, Howard Peckham, who stated that “There was no grand conspiracy or pre-concerted plan on his part embracing the western tribe…. In the beginning, there was only a local conspiracy at Detroit directed by Pontiac.”[17] Middleton suggests that the best way to define the leadership of Pontiac is to “look at the manner in which leadership is exercised, whether by force, or by holding a particular office, or through influence….” [18]

Middleton goes on to explain how the plans to force the British back across the Allegheny Mountains did not begin with Pontiac. He notes that in 1760, two warrior chiefs of Seneca descent named Tahaiadoris a Genesee leader and Kisshuta a Mingo leader had developed a plan of Pan-Indian forces capturing Fort Detroit, Fort Pitt and the now occupied former French forts along the Allegheny River to cut off communications among the Forts. Tahaiadoris and Kisshuta also had made plans to reach out to long standing enemies of the Iroquois, the Cherokee and other southern nations who were already fighting the British to join forces in pushing the British back. Their plan also included an expected return of French forces to retake Canada and support their native bothers.[19] After receiving word of this Iroquois led attack, the Anishnabeg and other Great Lakes native groups were distrustful of the Iroquois and also ill prepared to become involved in a war at that time. The Great lakes groups communicated and chose not only to not go to the war conference, but to allow the Wyandot leaders to warn the British commander at Fort Detroit of this action. [20] Tahaiadoris and Kisshuta’s plan never gained ground and was abandoned.

Over the next two years native groups saw that the British troops who had taken control of the French forts along the Allegheny River and at Presque Isle stay there, though they had promised to remove themselves. They saw Amherst and William Johnson stop the gifts that were normally traded with the native groups that included gun powder, trade muskets and lead for musket balls. This slowed the native groups ability to hunt in the ways they had become accustomed to. Native groups saw these gifts as rent for the occupation of their land. Amherst stated that the natives must earn what they needed by trading with white merchants.[21]

The natives saw these actions by the British as a way to weaken them, in the Spring of 1762, war belts again began circulating and requests for assistance went to the French Governor of Louisiana who had been waiting for a reason to attack the British, and the French Minister of War agreed that they could use gifts to secure support near the southern British Colonies. A French officer then traveled north on the Mississippi River to Fort Chartres to meet with the Anishnabeg and other groups. Even with French support the native groups in the region were again unwilling to commit to an attack on the British. At the conference, the native groups of the Great Lakes regions stated, “they would be on their guard and watch the motions of the British for the future.”[22] These groups encouraged the native groups in the Ohio Country to do the same.

Pontiac suddenly arose as a leader among the Ottawa and it was understood that his father was Ottawa and his mother was Ojibwa, a marriage of two of the more powerful nations in the Great Lakes region. Middleton states that Pontiac was present near the Forks of the Ohio in July 1755, with other natives from the Great Lakes, were present at the defeat of General Braddock. Two years later Pontiac was at Fort Duquesne where he made a speech urging the Indian defenders not to abandon their French Allies.[23]   While there is no evidence of Pontiac giving support of Tahaiadoris and Kishutta’a plan, it is clear that Pontiac was an up and coming leader. He also became more recognized when his travels introduced him to the Leni Lenape prophet Neolin, and Pontiac took Neolin’s visions that natives should give up the European ways and return to their beliefs.

The British obviously saw Pontiac as an important leader of native groups. The British belief in Pontiac’s importance was not misplaced. During 1763 he had activated a remarkable coalition of Indian nations, loosely coordinated but prepared to fight, for the restoration of a world free of English redcoats and settlers.[24] Pontiac may not have directly led each attack, but his charismatic leadership, fueled by the visions and words of Neolin made a great impression on many native nations and on the British. William Johnson, British Indian Affairs officer sent his deputy George Croghan to meet with Pontiac at Detroit after Pontiac had ended the hostilities to negotiate the peace. Croghan traveled with a large amount of gifts from Johnson for Pontiac and his people as a gesture of good will and assurances to continue to follow the Proclamation of 1763 and assure no settlers would move past the Allegheny Mountains, but the British would maintain their western posts[25]. Croghan also presented an invitation for Pontiac to meet with Johnson at Niagara later.

Middleton’s article shows the importance that Pontiac had; he discusses in detail the effect that Pontiac’s leadership had on other nations. He also shows the importance that was placed upon him by the French, British and the Anishnabeg. Pontiac was most certainly a Pan-Indian leader and the power he had is greatly underestimated in the writings of others.

The next article was written by historian James T. Clark in 1914 for the New York State Historical Association. The article uses some descriptive words that would be considered racial slurs in the current age, those words will be quoted only when it is germane to the point being discussed. The article, Sir William Johnson and Pontiac discusses the two men and very briefly touches on the actual meeting. Clark states, “The meeting of Sir William Johnson and the Ottawa chief Pontiac, at Oswego, was not merely a picturesque episode of the pre-revolutionary history of our beloved country, but it was the closing act, or at least the climax.in a drama that was set on a wide and romantic stage. This drama embraced the relations of the aboriginal race of Red Men to the White invaders and conquerors of Europe…”[26]

Clark states that upon the European arrival and establishment of colonies on the Atlantic coast, that there was already major division between the native groups that existed, and especially between the groups to the north and south of the Great Lakes.[27] The French settlers in the Great Lakes region were largely there for the fur trade,” the for trade was a lode-stone, for a few bauble and gems and knives from Paris, bales of peltry could be had worth much French Gold.” “As for the French traders, many went the way of commercial adventurers, compared to the sturdy tillers of the soil whom England had planted deep along the coasts. They sank into runners of the woods, and instead of civilizing the savages they debased them or themselves became half-savages, a mongrel caste, lower than the Indians of pure blood.”[28]

The article goes into depth about Sir William Johnson, from his upbringing and inheritance of land in the Western side of New York colony. Clark writes that after the death of his wife, Johnson married a native woman named Caroline who was niece to Henrik, a powerful chief of the Mohawks, calling her “One of the best types of civilized Indians.”[29] Caroline was younger and known for her beauty, the marriage gave Johnson more respect among the native groups. The two had three children, two daughters and a son, “the son is mentioned in Johnson’s will as ’the half-breed William of Cajahorie.’”[30] In 1748 Johnson was name the Superintendent for Indian Affairs for the New York Province, he resigned the position in 1749 after it was cutting into his commercial business of supplying provisions to the Oswego Garrison. His resignation dissatisfied the regional native groups and he was reinstated in 1755 and given the commission of Major General by General Braddock. Johnson persuaded the Indians to take up arms for the British at the critical time of the outbreak of the French and Indian War.[31] In 1756. Johnson was given an appointment directly from the Crown as “sole superintendent of the affairs of the Six Nations (Iroquois Confederacy) and other Northern Tribes.”[32] Johnson now answered to and negotiated on behalf of the King of England.

When referring to Pontiac, who Clark calls “A Chief of Chiefs”[33] he also states that it is hard to make a comparison of the two men calling Johnson as “The Irish Pioneer” and referring to Pontiac as,”the big man of his savage people.” [34] In describing Johnson’s physical characteristics, Clark writes; ”Five feet, eleven and a half inches tall, neck massive, broad chest and large limbs, the head large and shapely, countenance open and beaming with good nature, eyes grayish black, hair brown with a tinge of auburn.”[35]  Clark describe Pontiac as, “That he was a stalwart man of the forests and streams must be understood. Tradition has it that he was not above average height and he is characterized as long-headed, whether the term is used figuratively or as a physical description – one of the dolichocephalics, whom scientists’ class as the pioneer of human progress.”[36] Clark’s description of Johnson is based on a quotation from Lady Julia Grant’s Journal, Memoirs of an American Lady; The description of Pontiac is unquoted.

Clark goes on to discuss Pontiac and his known past including helping the French defend Detroit. Leading “several hundred Indians against Braddock at Fort Duquesne”[37] Clark writes ”that by his skill and daring in war he kept first place among the chiefs of the Western tribes. He (Pontiac) devised a currency of promissory notes among his people, which, be it said to his credit, were redeemed.” [38]  Clark goes on in the same paragraph to call the natives a ”peculiar race… those traits are the same qualities that our (white) men great,” and;  ”their stealth, treachery, cruelty, vindictiveness, may well be referred to as the habits from the chase and other animal like pursuits.”[39] 

Later, Clark writes of George Croghan having and amicable meeting with Pontiac at Detroit in the fall of 1765 in which Pontiac and Croghan “smoked the pipe of peace.”[40] Croghan then invited Pontiac to meet with Johnson at Oswego, the next summer. Pontiac arrived at Oswego of 1766, later than he and his party were expected. Clark writes, ”Pontiac came with chiefs and warriors of the Ottawa, Hurons, Chippewa, and Pottawatomies, gliding across the lake in their canoes to land at this ancient water gateway of the south and the west. The chiefs of the Six Nations were there, gazing with curious eyes upon the great warrior of the west, chief of chiefs, who came from far beyond the unsalted seas to bow to England’s power and smoke the calumet with their beloved white protector.”[41] For the next several days many speeches were given and a peace was negotiated, Sir William Johnson had a silver medal struck in silver which he in turn gave as gifts to the chiefs with the inscription, ”a pledge of peace and friendship with Great Britain.”[42]

Clark’s writings on this topic, viewed with the modern eye, are at the very least misguided on a cultural appreciation of the native nations in North America. His lens for the cultural understanding of the humans that occupied much of the nation is muted by descriptive language using words like savage, niggardly, and mongrel to describe them. While the article is described as an analysis of the meeting between Sir William Johnson and Pontiac at Oswego, the article is largely a way of pointing out British supremacy and ignoring the longstanding culture that existed on the continent.

In their opening sentence, to the article Franco- Indian Diplomacy in the Mississippi Valley 1754-1763: Prelude to Pontiac’s Uprising, Carl Brasseaux and Michael LeBlanc make a statement the largely supports the purpose of this article. “For over a century, the historiography of Pontiac’s Rebellion has borne a markedly Pro-British stamp, a manifestation of Anglo-American historians’ excessive reliance upon British archival resources.”[43] The authors point out that a Pro-British bias has ignored the factors that contributed to the uprising, including the recorded treatment of native peoples by the British military and colonial governments and the continued settling of land outside established treaty boundaries. The authors also suggest that many historians have ignored the French influence on native groups that continued after the French and Indian War had ended. The authors also state that the Pro-British narrative has caused American historians to mistakenly suppose that “Trans- Appalachian Indians spontaneously formed into intertribal alliance only after the Treaty of Paris (1763) and ensuing British attempt to occupy Illinois.”[44]

Brasseaux and Leblanc using the French archives including the records of the French Colony of Louisiana showing the towards the end of the French and Indian War, Louisiana Governor Louis Billouart de Kelerec continued to use a network of French/ Indian alliances to mobilize natives to stop the encroachment of the British into French territory. The authors write, “the intertribal ties forged by Kerelec persisted, thus laying the groundwork for Pontiac’s uprising.”[45] King Louis XV approved the use of French supplies and weapons for a guerilla campaign against the Anglo-Americans in early 1762, including sending French troops and trade good to extend the Franco-Indian alliance in the Louisiana Territory.[46] When the end of the war came, France would no long support the supply chain from the Louisiana Territory, Kerelec however did what he could to maintain the friendship and cooperation between the French and their Native allies, including using his own money to extend gifts, gun powder, and weapons. These items would prove useful for the native of the Great Lakes region as they began to see the British encroachment past the Appalachians and the maintenance of British soldiers at posts in the Ohio and Illinois territories. As supplies were cut off from France however, the ability to mount an assault with support from French soldiers and he possibility of allied soldiers from the Spanish colonies ended. Letters from Kerelec continued to circulate among the Native communities reporting that French troops had arrived in Louisiana showing that the British had falsely told natives that the French had been defeated.

Pontiac and other French allied leaders were ready to continue the fight. “Pontiac sent runners carrying war wampum (black beads summoning allies to war), among the tribes in the Illinois district and successfully solidified and expanded the Franco-Indian alliance in preparation for the anticipated offensive.”[47] The allies gathered near Detroit on April 27, 1763 and Pontiac addressed those assembled. Pontiac told the council that the King of France had not abandoned them, and that France had soldiers coming to assist them in pushing the British back to the sea. Pontiac’s speech inspired those gathered and the natives planned their strike against British outposts in the Illinois territory including Detroit. The allied groups captured and destroyed every outpost in Illinois territory except for Detroit. In October 1763 word came that the French King would not come to support the uprising and on October 31, 1763, Pontiac sent a letter to the English commander at Detroit stating: ”My Brother – my father has sent word that I must sue for peace. I have accepted his advice. All of our young men have buried their tommahawks. I trust that you will forget the outrages that have transpired for quite some time; and I will forget your offenses against myself.”[48] Shortly afterwards, the other uprisings that included Chippewa, Wyandot and Iroquois also ended.

Brasseaux and LeBlanc show in their article that Pontiac was not alone in planning the uprising, and that the influence for the Louisiana Governor may have caused Pontiac and his allies to attack, feeling that French support would soon come to assist them. For Pontiac and his allies when fighting the betrayal from the British, they found that the French would also betray them.

In the article Ponteach: The First American Problem Play, Historian Marilyn Anderson discusses a play that is written by Major Robert Rogers, famed leader of Roger’s Rangers in the French and Indian War. The play was entitled Ponteach and it was never performed on stage. There is some debate as to whether Rogers wrote the play himself or had extensive literary help.[49] Though the play was never performed it did receive some critical reviews on of which called that Ponteach and his fellow tribesman portrayed violence that the writer could only read with “abhorrence and disgust” and that he had hoped for a greater contrast between the noble Ponteach and the villainous whites.[50]

Rogers had a familiarity with Pontiac. Rogers and his rangers were at the siege Detroit during the French and Indian War by the French and Pontiac as a French ally. Rogers had interviewed Pontiac and took part in putting down Pontiac’s Rebellion.[51] Rogers had a respect for natives and their leaders such as Pontiac and he had some understanding of why the natives performed the atrocities that they did. Rogers had been involved in the fur trade and saw first-hand the advantages that Europeans had taken against their native counterparts. “As he demonstrates in his drama, he (Rogers) sympathized with the Indian’s natural resentment and frustration at the unfair trading practices.”[52]

Throughout the play, Rogers portrays Pontiac as a noble man, frustrated by the whites constant incursion into the lands where his people had lived for many years. Anderson shows that Rogers had a great respect for Pontiac in how the play was written. Rogers saw Pontiac as an important leader who deserved respect for his achievements and tactics. The play may not have been able to sway many of the colonists or the British public to better understand the horrible things that had been done to the natives in North America, but Rogers felt it was important enough to tell that story.

Charles Grant in his article Pontiac’s Rebellion and the British Troop Moves of 1763 delves into the reactions of the British Army and how the command staff moved British Troops in the year of the uprising. Grant writes, “Generally speaking, the errors in misinterpreting the influence of Pontiac’s Rebellion are of two magnitudes. “Most authors make the error of first magnitude by concluding that the rebellion was an important factor in causing the decision to station British regulars on American frontiers.”[53] He adds the errors of the second magnitude that Pontiac’s Rebellion “reinforced the decision” to place troops on the frontier.[54] Grant believed that it is natural for historians to believe that the movement of British troops to strengthen colonial defenses on the frontier was the result of Pontiac’s Rebellion.[55] Grant reviewed documents and journals regarding troop movements; he found that the movements were preplanned to guard against French influence from their colony of Louisiana and the encroaching Spanish influence.[56]

Grant, in his writings, shows that British troops movements were preplanned prior to the uprising and were fortunate for the British to regain control of the areas which were under siege. Grant asserts that it would have been impossible for General Amherst to gain approval from Britain to move the Crown’s units to the frontier. The troop movements in 1763 were a show of force and protection for the newly acquired lands of the Crown.

There are holes in the research on Pontiac that could not be filled within this examination of the historiography of Pontiac’s Rebellion. The holes exist due to a lack of written record from the native communities. Much of the tradition was transferred by oral history and may not have been recorded in writing before those storytellers passed on. The story of Pontiac’s Rebellion is riddled with biases in the same way many indigenous histories are portrayed, with racial bias. Included in this review here the writings of James T. Clark, who describes natives as savages, red men and uses other terms that would not be seen as appropriate today. The views of Pontiac have changed a great deal in the writing of historians over the years. While prior historians may not have understood cultural development and looked upon the world with a biased cultural lens, the narrative more recently shows Pontiac and other leaders in a better cultural importance.

The historical record shows the importance of Pontiac’s Rebellion to history. Pontiac may not have been a tactical military leader; he did however take advantage of opportunities that presented themselves. Pontiac led one military siege against the British at Fort Detroit, that siege inspired other native groups to resist British occupation of their lands. Pontiac was a Pan-Indian leader, meaning that he united various groups of natives in a common goal. Although that common goal was eventually lost, Pontiac helped give the natives a stronger situation from which to bargain from.

Bibliography:

Anderson, Marilyn J. “”Ponteach”: The First American Problem Play.” American Indian Quarterly 3, no. 3 (1977): 225-41.

Bellfy, Phil. “Migration and the Unmaking of America.Journal of American Ethnic History 20, no. 3 (2001): 9-22.

Billington, Ray A. “The Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768.” New York History 25, no. 2 (1944): 182-94.

Brasseaux, Carl A., and Michael J. LeBlanc. “Franco- Indian Diplomacy in the Mississippi Valley 1754-1763: Prelude to Pontiac’s Uprising?” Journal De La Société Des Américanistes 68 (1982): 59-70.

Champagne, Duane. “The Delaware Revitalization Movement of the Early 1760s: A Suggested Reinterpretation.” American Indian Quarterly 12, no. 2 (1988): 107-26.

Clark, James T. “Sir William Johnson and Pontiac.” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association 13 (1914): 85-107.

Dowd, Gregory E. “Thinking and Believing: Nativism and Unity in the Ages of Pontiac and Tecumseh.American Indian Quarterly 16, no. 3 (1992): 309-35.

Middleton, Richard. “Pontiac: Local Warrior or Pan-Indian Leader?” Michigan Historical Review 32, no. 2 (2006): 1-32.


[1] Bellfy, Phil. “Migration and the Unmaking of America.Journal of American Ethnic History 20, no. 3 (2001): 9-22. Accessed July 18, 2020.

[2] Bellfy, Page 9

[3] Bellfy, Page 9

[4] Bellfy, Page 10

[5] Bellfy, Page 10

[6] Bellfy, page 10

[7] Bellfy, Page 11

[8] Bellfy, Page 11

[9]Thinking and Believing: Nativism and Unity in the Ages of Pontiac and Tecumseh.American Indian Quarterly 16, no. 3 (1992): 309-35. Accessed June 27, 2020. doi:10.2307/1185795.

[10] Dowd, Page 310

[11] Dowd, Page 310

[12] Dowd, Page 310

[13] Dowd. Page 311

[14] Middleton, Richard. “Pontiac: Local Warrior or Pan-Indian Leader?” Michigan Historical Review 32, no. 2 (2006): 1-32. Accessed July 19, 2020. Pages 1-2

[15] Middleton. Page 2

[16] Middleton. Page 2

[17] Middleton. Page 2 – 4

[18] Middleton. Page 5

[19] Middleton. Page 5

[20] Middleton. Page 7

[21] Middleton. Page 8

[22] Middleton. Page 10

[23] Middleton. Page 11

[24]  Middleton. Page 31

[25] Middleton. Page 31

[26] Clark, James T. “Sir William Johnson and Pontiac.” Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association 13 (1914): 85-107. Accessed July 19, 2020. Page 85

[27] Clark. Page 86

[28] Clark. Page 88

[29] Clark. Page 88

[30] Clark. Page 92-93

[31] Clark, Page 95

[32] Clark. Page 95

[33] Clark. Page 96

[34] Clark. Page 96

[35] Clark. Page 96

[36] Clark. Page 96

[37] Clark. Page 97

[38] Clark. Page 96

[39] Clark, Page 96

[40] Clark. Page 102

[41] Clark. Page 103

[42] Clark. 104

[43] Brasseaux, Carl A., and Michael J. LeBlanc. “Franco-Indian Diplomacy in the Mississippi Valley 1754-1763: Prelude to Pontiac’s Uprising?” Journal De La Société Des Américanistes 68 (1982) Page 59

[44] Brasseaux/LeBlanc. Page 59

[45] Brasseaux/LeBlanc. Page 59

[46] Brasseaux/ LeBlanc. Page 60

[47] Brasseaux/LeBlanc. Page 63

[48] Brasseaux/LeBlanc. Page 64

[49] Marilyn Anderson, “Ponteach: The First American Problem Play,” American Indian Quarterly 3, no. 3 (1977): pp. 225-240.

[50] Anderson. Page 228

[51] Anderson. Page 229

[52] Anderson. Page 229

[53] Charles S. Grant, “Pontiac’s Rebellion and the British Troop Moves of 1763,” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 40, no. 1 (June 1953): pp. 75-88.

[54] Grant. Page 77

[55] Grant. Page 82 – 83

[56] Grant. Page 84

The Haitian Revolution

In October of 1492, Christopher Columbus and a fleet of ships chartered from Spain landed on a small island in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus claimed the island for Spain, eventually eliminating the existing inhabitants of the island and colonizing the island repopulating it with plantation owners and slaves brought from Africa. One third of the island was ceded to France by Spain who continued to operate plantations for indigo, sugar, coffee, tobacco and cotton. The French rename the colony Saint-Domingue and continue to import slaves to do the work on the island.[1]

            Trouble was brewing in the colony for many years, four armed conspiracies against European inhabitants happened between 1679 and 1704.[2] The conspiracies were organized by slaves and focused on the plantation owners. In the 1760’s Europeans see the free mulatto population known as the Affranchis starting to gain wealth and land, European colonist become concerned with this rise in power and seek to gain control over it. This power struggle would be an early trigger point for the Haitian Revolution.

            Legislation was developed to block mulattoes from gaining power in the colony. The whites would forbid the Affranchis from holding any public office, gaining any position of station such as lawyers or doctors, Affranchis were no longer allowed to dress like whites, and they were not allowed to gather in groups after 9pm. These offenses are ruled punishable with fines, imprisonment, chain gang duty, loss of freedom, and amputation.[3] The Europeans were doing all that the could to maintain control of the colony. King Louis XV would make it worse in 1771 by stripping away many of the rights of the free mulattoes and blacks.

            “From its founding as an illegal settlement in the 1600s until the abolition of slavery in 1793, hundreds of thousands of slaves were led off slave-trading vessels onto the shores of French Saint-Domingue. According to the most exhaustive inventory of slave-trading journeys, 685,000 slaves were brought into Saint-Domingue during the eighteenth century alone. Over 100,000 slaves were reported to have died during the middle passage, and many more deaths probably went unrecorded.”[4] Considering the amount of slaves being brought to Saint-Domingue, the French landowners might have considered a less brutal relationship with the slaves, free blacks and free mulattoes that were far outnumbering the white population.

            In the fall of 1788, a petition for the “political rights of free persons of color” was submitted to the Provincial Assembly of Saint-Domingue. 1789 brought continuing instability to the colony, increasing after word of slave uprisings in the French colony of Martinique. Conditions in Saint-Domingue would become worse as a drought caused a loss crop on the island and an increase in slave runaways.[5] Revolutionary actions in France continue to have direct effects on Saint-Domingue, the French National Assembly’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens” states that rights are “granted to all men by natural justice.”[6] Later in October of 1789, the National Assembly accepts a petition form Saint-Domingue that extends those rights to “Free Citizens of Color.”

In early 1790, a decree from France gives the Provincial Assembly in Saint-Domingue full legislative powers over the colony. The Provincial Assembly begins to issue decrees against mulattoes and blacks in the colony. The Provincial Assembly calls mulattoes a “Bastard and Degenerate Race,”[7] further stating that it would never grant them political power. A new Colonial Assembly is established without voting or political power for mulattoes or free blacks. The Colonial Assembly would then separate itself from the National Assembly, though still allying itself with France, the Colonial assembly also suspended its delegates to the National Assembly.[8] In October of 1790, the National Assembly order the Colonial Governor to dissolve the Colonial Assembly. The colony was become divided between patriots loyal to the National Assembly and royalists who remained loyal to the king.

In late October 1790, a leader amongst the mulattoes arose, Jacques Vincent Oge’ was representing the colony in France, attempts to prevent Oge’ from leaving France failed. Oge’ sailed to England where he gained support from the British abolitionists and then sailed to the United States where he buys weapons. Oge’ arrived in Saint-Domingue on October 21 and went to the countryside to find friends and family. Oge’ amasses an army of 300 men made up of mulattoes and free blacks, colonists manage to disarm and capture most of those involved in the uprising. Oge’ escapes capture initially but he and supporters are captured later and put to death.[9]

By the middle of 1791, Saint-Domingue had dissolved into Chaos. Planters are preoccupied with the squabbles in the colonial government and ignoring the slaves who are organizing against them. Organized slave groups began attacking plantations throughout the colony. Plantation owners plead with Governor Blanchelande to build an army and fight the slaves to regain control of the island. The Governor in his ignorance plans his attacks publicly while building an army, the slave groups know the governors plans of attack and defeat the governor’s forces at many points. Blanchelande leaves Saint-Domingue after multiple defeats, telling the planters that they should have negotiated with the slaves in the first place.[10]

The National Assembly in France revokes rules that gave rights to free blacks and mulattoes and sends three commissioners to restore order in Saint-Domingue. Rebels seize the capital, Port-au-Prince as well as Le Cap, which they burn. The rebels begin to trade with the Spanish for weaponry. In January 1792, Blanchelande returns to the colony leading troops and marches against the rebels at Platons, the rebels are overwhelmed and escape into the mountains leaving women and children behind. French troops slaughter 3,000 women and children that were left behind. In June of 1792, slave groups begin to ally with the British. French Colonists begin to understand that hey need the slaves to maintain control of Saint- Domingue and begin to negotiate, Civil Commissioners issue a proclamation guaranteeing full rights and French citizenship to all slaves that join the French side.[11]

While France, Spain and Great Britain continue to try to gain the support of the rebels, new rebel leaders arise to lead the rebel movement eventually dropping alliances with Britain and Spain and returning to the French side. The French were the only group that would agree to the abolition of slavery in the colony. In July of 1795, the French and Spanish sign a peace treaty, giving Saint-Domingue back to France. French forces led by Loverture and Rigaud effectively end the British claims to Saint-Domingue.[12]

Loverture would remain loyal to France and work to eliminate slavery in the Spanish Territory of Santo Domingo as well. Loverture attempted to negotiate with the governor of Santo Domingo, talks broke down and Loverture returned to Saint- Domingue, however while Loverture was in the Spanish Territory, support arose among slaves in the Spanish territory. In January 1801, the Spanish give control of the entire island to Loverture.[13] In July of 1801, Loverature appoints himself Governor-General for Life and introduces a new constitution which usurps French power and established mandatory work regulations for citizens. In late 1801, rebellions break out against Loverture.

From 1802 to 1804, fighting and revolts continue as France tries to regain control of the colony. Loverture is continues to fight against an overwhelming French Army led by General LeClerc. LeClerc makes an offer to Loverture that he may retire with his staff and army to the place of his choosing. After Loverture’s surrender LeClerc withdraws the deal and imprisons Loverture. Upon hearing that the French leadership plan to return to slavery in the colony, black and mulatto soldiers defect to the rebel armies and begin to fight the French occupation.  1n May of 1803, French soldiers launch their final effort to end the rebellion, the French troops have not received supplies including food and many are suffering from Yellow Fever. The final French push fails. Dessalines will arise as the new leader of Haiti, he removes the white section of the French tri-color and declares the red and blue the flag of Haiti, the color representing the blacks and mulattoes coming together to defeat the whites. [14] Desalines declares that Saint-Domingue is gone, and establishes the new republic under the Taino name Haiti.

Bibliography:

“The History of Haiti: 1492-1805.” The Haitian Revolution, October 27, 2015. https://library.brown.edu/haitihistory/index.html.

Laurent DUBOIS. 2004. Avengers of the New World. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.


[1] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[2] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[3] “Spanish Rule 1492 – 1697,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[4] Laurent Dubois. 2004. Avengers of the New World. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. Page 39

[5] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[6] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[7] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[8] “The French Revolution Begins,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[9] “Slave Resistance Gains Momentum,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[10] “Slave Resistance Gains Momentum,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[11] “The Revolution Builds,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[12] “Toissant Loverture in Power,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[13] “Toissant Loverture in Power,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

[14] “The Final Years of the Revolution,” The History of Haiti 1492-1805 (Brown University).

The French Revolution and Louis XVI

King Louis XVI was crowned king at Reims on the 20th of June 1775. Gazette de France stated, “the King entered Reims escorted by the troops of the royal household and made his way through a People intoxicated with joy—which did not decrease but rather intensified as the procession moved along.”[1] At his coronation, King Louis was loved and admired by the populace of France. Over the next fourteen years, France would change dramatically and for several years following the leadership of the country would change several times and a great number of the former leaders would be dead.

Louis XVI (Chateau de Versailles)

Dissent among the People

When Louis XVI was made king, France was having significant financial and trade issues. Decades of seemingly endless war with Great Britain had overstretched their finances. France had lost their colony in Canada and the valuable fur trade. British colonization and naval power had effectively locked the French out of India, China, and strangled the French colonies from transporting items back to France and elsewhere. [2] With the outbreak of the American Revolution, Louis XVI saw an opportunity to reduce the British stronghold in the Caribbean and produce a new trade partner in the former British colonies. Supporting a war across the ocean may cost men and ships, and it would cost more money. When the American Revolution ended in 1783, the fledgling United States showed no intent to start a trade relationship with France. The only thing that France had truly gained from the American Revolution was more debt and a new friendly nation who would be paying back some of that debt to France slowly.

The French Royalty had isolated themselves from the people, very rarely visiting Paris. The isolation policy began under Louis XIV after an uprising of the Fronde which occurred 1648-53, this caused the royals to avoid the capital and stay at their estates in Versailles, Fontainebleau, or Compiègne.[3] The king tended to trust only the nobility and his executive agents who worked as a cabinet and governors for the king himself, these intendents were divided amongst thirty-six generalities that the King had divided France into.[4]  Many of these appointees were authoritarians who instead of getting approval from the Estates- General would borrow money in the name of the king, bypassing the taxation rules. These appointees had the confidence of the King and were using that power to bypass legal means [5][6] “Since the sixteenth century kings had systematically sold public offices, along with hereditary tenure or free disposal, as a way of borrowing for little outlay.”[7] Government offices were for sale to those who had the money, the nobility protected each other in these offices, and the Catholic Church and its clergy were often related to these families and tended to side with the nobility in matters.

The Estates General

The social inequality of French society began to be viewed more publicly. French law benefited the Clergy and Nobility, most of the French people could not hold positions of power. Under the Estates General, the populace of France was divided into three Estates. The First Estate, the Catholic Church, paid no taxes owned land and were well respected by the Crown. The Second Estate, the nobility, held the offices in the French government, paid no tax, owned larger amounts of land, and collected feudal fees from common landowners. The Third Estate, owned much of the land in France, paid all the taxes plus feudal fees, tithes to the church, and held no power within the government. Within the Estates-General, The First Estate which was 0.5% of the population of France had one vote, The Second Estate, 1.5% of the population had one vote, and the Third Estate which had 98% of the population had one vote.[8]

The Estates General (Chateau de Versailles)

At the beginning of 1789, Louis XVI summoned the Estates General for a meeting, this is the first time the Estates General had been called forth since 1614. On May 5th of 1789, the meeting began. “from the start the third-estate deputies made clear that they would transact no business as a separate order. Their calls to the nobility and clergy to unite with them, however, fell on deaf ears. Even the small number of noble deputies who favoured deliberation and voting in common refused to break ranks. The stalemate continued for six weeks, during which bread prices continued to rise, public order began to break down in many districts, and the widespread hopes of the spring began to turn sour.[9]

The National Assembly

On June 10th, 1789, the Third Estate decided that they would negotiate separately from the others, their break away was followed by several members of the clergy mainly local parish priests began to join the Third Estate. On June 17th the group declared themselves the National assembly. Immediately afterwards it decreed the cancellation and then re-authorization of all taxes. The implication was clear. This assembly had seized sovereign power in the name of the French Nation.[10] On June 20th, The National Assembly met in the tennis courts at the Palace of Versailles after being locked out of other assembly areas, the assembly took an oath to separate until the assembly had established a constitution. The National Assembly had declared themselves a sovereign power and no longer recognized the power of Louis XVI.

Unrest began to grow in Paris, after some attempts to control the crowd by German Mercenaries in Paris failed, Paris based French Army soldiers began to desert. Parisians began searching the city for weapons, powder and flour. With the help of some of the army deserters, the people stormed the Bastille, the state prison in Paris, taking control of the city. The Rebel Parisians were now in control of Paris.[11] French Commanders could not guarantee that soldiers would fire upon the French people, the army withdrew. The National Assembly began to work on the Constitution for the People of France. In August, the clergy and nobles were stripped of their feudal powers, they could no longer collect tithes of feudal land fees. On August 26th the Declaration of the Rights of Man were published by the National Assembly.  In October, many of the people in Paris were still unable to get the bread and other food that was needed for meals, the women of Paris marched on Versailles where the King and Queen were in residence, after some of the crowd had invaded the Queen’s residence, Louis XVI spoke to them from the balcony, agreed to distribute all the bread that was at Versailles and stated that the king and his family would return to Paris with them.

Storming of the Bastille

The revolution progressed slowly over the next two years. The National Assembly abolished the nobility in 1790. The clergy developed a Civil Constitution and were directed to swear allegiance to France, a position that was denounced by Pope Pius VI in 1791.  In June 1791, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette attempt to escape France but are captured at Varennes. In September, the National Assembly ratify the constitution with the support of King Louis XVI. In 1792, dramatic changes begin to happen. After Austria and Prussia extend support for King Louis in late 1791, France declares war against Austria in April of 1792, later that year Prussia would declare war on France.  During 1792, it is found that many of the people of France felt that their grievances with the royal family were not addressed and they were unhappy with the Constitutional Monarchy that had been established. In August of 1792, a group of Jacobins, called Sans-Culottes arrested Louis XVI for treason. [12]

The French Republic

In September of 1792, France declares themselves a Republic now free of the King. In January 1793 Louis Capet (Louis XVI) is executed. In April of 1793, the Committee of Public Safety is founded with Robespierre being the leader. Robespierre quickly used his power against political enemies’, the Committee of Public Safety began executing political rivals. Members of the committee then saw Robespierre as an enemy, he was removed and put to death. It the Thermodian Period, the republic worked to reorganize into a group called the Directory, establishing a collective executive power. The Directory would push the governing to return to the Declaration of the Rights of Man. [13]

The Rise of Napoleon

Napoleon Bonaparte graduated from the French Military Academy in 1785. He was a skilled leader and developed a keen sense for the use of artillery in warfare. He rose quickly through the ranks of the French Army during the conflicts with Austria and Prussia during the French Revolution. Napoleon eventually gained the rank of Brigadier General. Napoleon gained confidence from the Directory who had asked him to invade Great Britain, Napoleon advised against this invasion due to the naval power of Great Britain. In 1799, Napoleon saw the weakness an instability in the French Government, he planned and executed a military coup, overthrowing the Directory. Napoleon then established a three-person Consulate to manage France. In 1802. Napoleon was named Consul for Life, and in 1804, Napoleon named himself Emperor of France.

The French Revolution went through a great many changes, from the elimination of a king and royal family, to a constitutional monarchy, to a republic and eventually back to what was essentially a dictatorship. The writings of the Age of Enlightenment and the American Revolution had a great deal to do with the initial changes that happened in France. The thoughts of Enlightenment philosophies helped the people gain insight into ideals beyond royalty and feudal life, however without the organization that existed in the United States, the revolution broke into separate groups that detracted from the goals of the many.

Bibliography:

“The Coronation of Louis XVI from the Gazette of France (1775),” in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/coronation-louis-xvi-gazette-france-1775

Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

Spievogel, Jackson J. World History. Glencoe/McGraw Hill 2003.


[1] “The Coronation of Louis XVI from the Gazette of France (1775),” in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/coronation-louis-xvi-gazette-france-1775

[2] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 19

[3] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 21

[4] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 22

[5] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 22

[6] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 22-23

[7] Doyle, William. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2001. Page 23

[8] Spievogel, Jackson J. World History. Glencoe/McGraw Hill 2003.

[9] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 40

[10] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

[11] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Page 42

[12] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

[13] Doyle, William. 2001. The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction. Very Short Introductions. Oxford: OUP Oxford.

Living Historically

Many people are seeking new ways to live a more historical life. Whether this is a hobby for you, or a direction to live in a more sustainable way, there are so many options for learning new things about old ways. If you want to build a historic hunting camp to use in the woods, there are places to learn these skills. If you would like to learn to cook meals over the fire, or food that our ancestors ate, there are cooks from around the world to teach you. If there is something that you want to learn that people did in the past, there are people in the modern world that do it. In this article, Living History and Re-enactment will be explained and directions to find others who create and recreate pieces of history, that test and use those pieces of history will be shown. Links to social media sites and videos will also be shared so that you can seek out the people who are doing the things you are interested in doing.

Experimental Archeology

Experimental archaeology is one of the very practical methods of archaeological interpretation. It is a living analytical process used to re-create aspects in part or in whole, of ancient societies in order to test hypotheses or proposed interpretations and assumptions about that society. (1) So you are building a tool or implement that you believe through study was used in a certain way based on research and then you use it in the way that you studied.

Experimental archaeology has two distinct variants. The first is called historical re-enactment and it is an artificial re-creation of a past culture (or part of it) and the testing of all of the many theories about building construction, transport systems, weapons, metals, ceramics, use of fire and so on.

The second variant is known as living history, and it requires archaeologists, usually coupled with anthropologists, to find a similar modern group of people living in and under the same types of conditions of the ancient target group, and to live with, or at the very least, to observe and study that group in order to determine the hows, whats and whys that are unstated in the archaeological record.

Historical re-enactment is the most common form of experimental archaeology and by far the most profitable for researchers as tests can be repeated and small adjustments made in a suitably controlled manner to yield scientifically valid results.(2)

1570’s Monongahela Cultural Village (Meadowcroft Historic Village, Avella, PA)

The topics that are covered on the internet range from the prehistoric through the 19th century, from stone tools to steam engines. If you do some digging and rabbit hole searches you are likely to find your interest out there.

Here are some great links where you can find ways to start your rabbit hole searches, they are broken into categories to make searching a little easier and descriptions have been added.

Tools

Vasile Diaconu is an archaeologist who specializes in prehistoric tools and metallurgy. His channel is relatively new, and some of the videos are not in English. Vasile Diaconu – Archaeologist

Hunt Primitive is a channel that looks into primitive hunting and discusses the making of prehistoric hunting tools. As a warning some of the videos show the actual hunting of animals with primitive methods. Hunt Primitive

Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH) is a program that brings Archaeology to schools and libraries throughout the Scottish Highlands. Included are their direct website and YouTube channel. ARCH Website ARCH YouTube

Food

There are any number of websites out there that will give you information about food history from nearly every culture on the planet. A few of them are included below.

ALHFAM Historic Foodways focuses on historic foods and cooking. ALHFAM is the Association for Living History, Farms and Agricultural Museums. ALHFAM Historic Foodways

Tasting History is a YouTube channel that focuses on a variety of cultural food history. The channel releases a new video every Tuesday. Tasting History

Building

Building Primitive structures, and other historic construction has become somewhat of a trend recently. Below are just a few of the sites that can be found.

TA Outdoors is essentially an outdoors page, based in Britain, the men who put the page together also have some associated pages that focus on different types of Bushcraft. These guys have built a number of buildings from the medieval period. TA Outdoors

Primitive Life is another page that uses primitive tools to create a variety of different structures. Primitive Life

Historic Life

The links below include channels and groups that give a wide variety of options for living historically.

Townsends is a manufacturer of historic clothing, the company owner and staff are incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to historic living. Townsends makes a number of historic life videos from cooking to building. Townsends

UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture is dedicated to experimental archaeology and shows a wide variety of videos and training. UCD

Northmen primarily focuses on Norse Culture, but also shows a variety of historic living in other cultures. Northmen

Fandabi Dozi is a channel that is focused on Bushcraft and the Scottish Highlands, the channel will show you everything from wrapping a great kilt, to making shoes from deerskin. Fandabi Dozi

The George Washington Foundation runs Historic Kenmore, and George Washington’s Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, VA. They post videos on farm life, living history and archaeology. GW Foundation

George Washington’s Mount Vernon was George Washington’s home. The museum and staff offer a great number of videos and live video forums about life at Mount Vernon and cover everything from food to farming, to the plight of enslaved people at Mount Vernon. GW Mount Vernon

The Society for Creative Anachronism is a living history organization based in the world from the rise of Rome until 1600. The organization is broken into kingdoms that exist in much of the world. The members research and teach classes and demonstrations on subjects including; Fencing, Armored Combat, Archery, Thrown Weapons, Calligraphy, Illumination, Cooking, Heraldry and just about any medieval subject. SCA

Enjoy these links and find your way to new historical living adventures.

Ch… ch… ch… Changes

Greetings!

Over the next few weeks, you will see some changes in the blog and the Facebook page. In June, I started graduate school and maintaining the Blog and Facebook page has been difficult. Moving forward, I will be inviting some new writers and content producers to help me continue to bring articles and content about history to you. I am hoping these changes will give you all more reading material and allow you to make new discoveries about history. As I continue a great deal of writing for my Master’s Degree in American History, I will be sharing some of my school writing on the blog as well.

Thank you all for subscribing and I look forward to starting this new stage of the blog!

King Philip’s War

Over 100 years before the American Revolution and nearly 80 years before the French and Indian War (Seven Years War) English Settlers and Native forces clashed over the English expansion of the colonies in what is now Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The war itself was the local native groups last-ditch effort to avoid recognizing English authority and stop English settlement on their native lands. The war is named after the Wampanoag chief Metacom, later known as Philip or King Philip, who led the fourteen-month bloody rebellion. Metacom was a Wampanoag Sachem who had been educated by English Settlers at Harvard, with his education came a better understanding of the English and their plans for expansion throughout the region. King Philip (Metacom) led his tribe and a coalition of the Nipmuck, Pocumtuck and Narraganset tribes in an uprising against the colonists and their allies, the Mohegans and the Mohawks, that lasted 14 months. The following videos offer a succinct explanation of the war in which the English settlers lost nearly every single battle but came to victory due to disease and starvation of the native groups. The videos are by Atun-Shei Films whose owner is dedicated to researching the history of King Philip’s War and other historical events.

King Philip, illustration published in the Pictorial History of King Philip’s War, circa 1851

Slavery in Living History

As I have noted in many prior articles on my blog, living history bring a nuance to understanding parts of history. Living historians play a role of someone living in the time period in which the persona would have lived. Many of these living historians take on personas that are difficult, imagine if you will being an African-American and willingly working or portraying a slave persona. You are knowingly researching the living hell that your ancestors went through so that you can portray what life was like as a slave in the colonial period and early United States. I have attached several videos below of African-American living historians. These living historian work at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and other historic sites to help people better understand slavery in America.

This first segment is from George Washington’s Mount Vernon, it is a panel discussion with Living Historians from several sites.

Hear My Story: The Enslaved Community at Mount Vernon

The next segment is from Townsends & Sons who do regular work with portraying living history on their YouTube channel, this segment is an interview with Brenda Parker who portrays a slave at Mount Vernon, Washington’s Estate. Brenda gets rather emotional during this segment.

Portraying the Enslaved Woman – Townsends

This is also Brenda Parker, interviewed by the staff at Mount Vernon and school students.

An Update

Greetings Friends,

The world has been interesting over the last several weeks, and while I love to bring you regular stories about history, my current full-time job is in the emergency medical services. While the EMS service that I work for in Western Pennsylvania has not been particularly busy during the pandemic it is a difficult time and frankly the limited social interaction myself and my coworkers get right now is at work. Often our days include conference calls with updates from the state, local hospital systems and our local government.

I am currently doing some research on the Battle of Bushy Run, during Pontiac’s Rebellion and as soon as I get finished with it, I will get it posted. I have been a little more active on the Magical History Tour Facebook page sharing fun and informative videos and recent history related articles. When life returns to normal I look forward to sharing more adventures and history with you!

Finally, I ask you to support your local EMS and healthcare workers, while they are dealing with the stress of work, they are also dealing with the stress that the rest of you are dealing with. Add into that the fear of bring the virus home to their families. It is and will be a very stressful time for healthcare workers for a while.

Thank you all again, Stay Safe!

Shawn