Title:  Intended insurrection

Date:  July 15, 1775

Source: Colonial Records [From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State]


Letter from Colonel John Simpson, Chairman of Safety Committee in Pitt County, to Colonel Richard Cogdell , Chairman of Safety Committee in Craven County, Reporting an Intended Negro Insurrection


CHATHAM, July 15th 1775.



Having leisure I sit down to inform you of the occurrences since my last.  Our committee met the ---- Inst, when the Express arrived from Mr Edward Salter giving us account of a discovery that was made in Beaufort County by one of Mr Bayner and one of Capt. Respess negro men unto Capt. Thomas Respess of an intended insurrection of the negroes against the whole people which was to be put into execution that night.  We immediately sent off an Express to Tarborough to alarm the inhabitants there.  We then proceeded to business and appointed upwards of one hundred men as patrollers and passed a resolved that any negroes that should be destroyed by them or any person in company with them in apprehending should be paid for by a tax on the negroes in this county.  We then separated to sound the alarm thro’ this county and to apprehend the suspected heads.  By night we had in custody and the goal near forty under proper guard.  Sunday the Committee sett and proceeded to examine into the affair and find it a deep laid Horrid Tragick [sic] Plan laid for destroying the inhabitants of this province without respect of persons age or sex.  By negro evidence it appears that Capt ____Johnson of White Haven, who hath just loaded his Brigg with Naval Stores for that port, in consort with Merrick, a negro man slave who formerly Belonged to Major Clark a Pilot at Okacock but now to Catt Nath Blinn of Bath Town propagated the contagion. *  *  The contagion has spread beyond the waters There are five negroes * * * were whipt this day by order.

Monday. ----The Committee sat.  Ordered several to be severely whipt and sentenced several to receive 80 lashes each to have both Ears crap [ed] which was executed in presence of the Committee and a great number of spectators.  In the afternoon we rec [ieved] by express from Coll. Blount *  * of  *  * negroes being in arms on the line of Craven and Pitt and prayed assistance of men and ammunition which we readily granted.  We posted guards upon the roads for several miles that night.  Just as I got home came one of Mr Nelson’s sons from Pometo (near Mr Harlan’s mill) and informed me of 250 negroes that had been pursued for several days but none taken nor seen tho’ they were several times fired at.  Had he been at Martinborough he would have received pay for his negroes.  On Tuesday we sent off two companies of Light Horse, one to Lower and one to Upper Swift Creek Bridge in order to find from whence the report arose and found the author to be a negro wench of William Taylor’s on Clayroot, with design to kill her master and mistress and Lay it upon those negroes.  She has received severe correction.  Since that we have remained as quiet as we could expect from the nature of things.  We keep taking up, examining and scourging more or less every day; from whichever part of the County they come they all confess nearly the same thing, viz that they were one and all on the night of the 8th inst to fall on and destroy the family where they lived, then to proceed from House to House (Burning as they went)  until they arrived in the Back Country where they were to be received with open arms by a number of Persons there appointed and armed by Government for their Protection, and as a further reward they were to be settled in a free government of their own.

Cap[t] Johnson its said was heard to say that he’d return in the fall and take choice of the Plantations upon this River.  But as it hath pleased God to discover the plot, It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed;  Let us therefore Beseech Him to continue our very present help in every time of need.  I promised myself the pleasure of seeing some of my friends in Newvbern this week notwithstanding the Prorogation, but cannot get my family so composed as I could wish, to leave them.

This week I expect will compleat [sic] our private musters for making choice of their Captains, &c.  On Monday next our committee meets to proceed on red Business.

We must found plan to circumvent the operation of the aforementioned accursed plan or we shall become an easy prey.  My compliments to Coll. Caswell  and all enquiring friends.


I am with great regard,

Your Hum. Serv.,



P. S.  In disarming the negroes we found considerable ammunition.