The Account of a Negro Rebellion by Newton Mereness

Title:  The Account of a Negro Rebellion
Author: Newton Mereness
Date: September 1730
Subject: The Stono Rebellion
Type:  Colonial Record/Memoir

Sources: “Account of the Negroe Insurrection,” p.234; Also in Newton D. Mereness, Travels in the American Colonies.  Edited under the auspices of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.  (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916) p.223.


In September 1739 a major slave revolt occurred in South Carolina.  A ground of Africans from Angola rose up and rebelled against their captivity with freedom and liberation as their main objective Before it was over more than sixty people were dead.  About twenty-five whites lost their lives, and a great deal of personal property was set ablaze.  This particular revolt shook South Carolina with fear and uncertainty.

These events unfold as follows: On September 9, 1739, during the early hours of the morning twenty Africans from Angola gathered at the Stono River in St. Paul’s Parish just twenty miles from Charles Town, The majority of these Africans were from Angola and used the African talking drums to communicate the plan and time.  These Africans were lead by a person named Jemmy.  From neighboring plantations the Africans met at the Stono Bridge, where they broke into a store owned by Hutchson.  The store contained small arms and power.  The Africans armed themselves and killed the shopkeepers, Robert Bathurst and Mr. Gibbs, they were decapitated and their heads place on the front steps of the store for all to see.

Fully armed they moved to the house of Mr. Godfrey, which was plundered and burned, but not before his son and daughter were killed.  The Angolans turned southward enroute to St. Augustine Fort in Florida.  Along the way, they reached the Wallace’s Tavern before evening.  Mr. Wallace life was spared, for he was a good man and kind to his slaves.  However, his neighbor, Mr. Lemy his wife and son were killed and the house was sacked.  They burnt Colonel Hext’s house and killed his Overseer and his Wife.  They then burnt Mr. Sprye’s house, then Mr. Sacheverell’s, and then Mr. Nash’s House all lying upon the Pons Pons Road, and killed all the white People they found in them.  Next they advanced on the home of Thomas Rose, and several of his slaves hid him.  While most slaves joined voluntarily, some were forced to join in order to keep the news of the revolts from spreading.  As their numbers grew so did there conidence.  To the beat of drums there was the shouts of “Liberty” as they marched toward Florida killing and pursuing all the whites they they encountered.

Lieutenant Governor Bull, who happened to be on the main road by chance that day, came directly in contact with the rebels who were numbering more than 50.  He was surprised and barely escaped as the rebels pursued him.  Realizing that a major slave revolt was in progress wheeled about, and with much difficulty escaped & raised the Country and only escaped because he was on horse back.  The rebels now being increased every minute by new Negroes coming to them, so that they were about Sixty, some say a hundred, on which they halted in a field and set to dancing and beating Drums to draw more Negroes to them.

Having been victorious with all their encounters with whites and marching about ten miles.  The rebels stopped at a field on the north side of the road, near the site of the Jacksonburough ferry.  All they needed to do was to cross the Edisto River before high tide.  Intoxicated on liquor dancing and celebrating crucial time and oversight was lost in the crossing, for it was now high tide and Neighboring whites alerted regarding the revolt.  By four in the afternoon a contingent of armed mounted planters numbering about 100 came upon the rebel’s location.  The rebels were caught off guard and some quickly fired their arms which was ineffective because of their heist.  As soon as rebels were reloading there and other escaping.  The whites dismounted and fired a volley   into the group killing at least fourteen.  Some rebels were surrounded questioned then executed.  Several slaves who convinced the planters that they were force to join were released.  Many tried to return to their plantation before discovery hoping not to have been missed were shot and killed.  The planters “Cutt off their heads heads and set them up at every Mile Post they came to.”