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Full text of "Disclosures and confessions of Frank. A. Wilmot, the slave thief and negro runner. With an accurate account of the Under-ground railroad! What it is and where located!"


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DISCLOSURES AND CONFESSIONS 



OP 



'the slave thief anb neoro hunneb, 

WITH AN ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF THE 

VlER-GRODl RAILROAD! 

WHAT IT IS, AND WHERE LOCATED! 

BV A UTE CQliOUCTOR 0« THE SAME* 

ALSO— FULL PARTICULARS OF THE 

PLANS ADOPTED FOB RUNNING OFF SLAVES 



FROM THE 



ADDED TO WHICH IS A HISTORY OF THE 

Abduction of Mm Lucille Hamet, 

THE PLANTER'S ©AUOHTER, 

AND A TRUE DESCRIPTION OF 



PHILADELPHIA : 

PUBLISHED BY BARCLAY & CO., No. 1 SOUTH SIXTH STREET. 



1: 



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PUBLISHER'S NOTICE. 



Some time in the early part of November last, with the following 
Book of Disclosures, we received a letter from Kingston, Canada 
West. The letter purported to be written by one Lawrence Crocker, 
in which he stated that the manuscript confession sent had been left 
in his hands by a person named "Wilmot, who claimed Philadelphia 
as his native place. The writer further remarked that we should 
make inquiry in regard to certain private matters relative to Wil- 
mot's mother. We were at first disposed to disbelieve the whole 
affair ; but on making the inquiry we found that Wilmot was not a 
myth^ but a reality ; and further that it was well known in this 
city that he was engaged in running ofi" slaves. A little further 
inspection satisfied us of the truth of the whole confession, and we 
therefore give it to the public without comment. 



THE PUBLISHERS. 



/^4/^^ 






Entered, accordin? to Act of«Con^ress, in the year 1860, bj 

B A RC h A.U\k CO. , 
In tbe Cleik's Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 



DISCLOSURES AND CONFESSIONS 

01 

FRANKLIN A. WILMOT, 

Late Conductor on tlie "Underground Eailroad.' 



About ten years ago, while stopping at one of the principal 
hotels in Boston, I made the acquaintance of a man named John 
[i. Ratlin, who, by his liberal expenditure of money, I was led to 
believe was extremely wealthy. He claimed to be a Southerner, 
diid hailed from the vicinity of Nashville, Tennessee, where, as 
he said, he owned a large tract of land, stocked with slaves. 
He was about forty years old, large in stature, with a broad, wide 
chest, and light hair; and although apparently possessing many 
good qualities, among which was an unfeigned generosity, there 
seemed to be a slyness and cunning about his physiognomy which 
he but illy concealed. 

My intimacy with this personage ripened into a sincere friend- 
ship, and several loans of money which he forced upon me, (my 
finances being low,) added to my admiration of the man. 

We had been boarding at the same house for a month, during 
which time I tried in vain to get employment, when one evening 
he proposed a walk to the Charlestown navy-yard. Arrived at 
the yard, we seated ourselves on a piece of timber lying at some 
distance from where any of the workmen were engaged, when he 
thus frankly opened his mind, and gave me an idea of his true 
character. 

"Wilmot," said he, "you are too good a young man to be 
» hard-up,' aa the saying is, and if you would but turn your atten- 
tion to the proper channel, you could not fail to rise rapidly in the 

(IS) 



14 . DlSCLOSURKS AND CONFESSIONS OF 

estimation of a class called good men, and at the same time put 
money in your pocket. Now, a few years ago, I was about as 
bad ofiF, in a moneyed point of view, as you seem to be ; but I have 
discovered the 'philosopher's stone,' if it may be so called, and 
have at present as much wealth as I desire, besides being courted 
and caressed by what are thought to be our best and most influen- 
tial citizens. In order to do this, I had to ' turn my coat,' as the 
politicians say, and do some acts rather desperate in their charac- 
ter, and predatory in their nature. But, my dear man, if we 
are too honest in this country, we'll starve, or have to dig and 
delve worse than any Louisiana ' coast' nigger on a sugar planta- 
tion. Now, my good fellow, let me say something to you in con- 
fidence. There is in this land a goodly number of what I call 
blinded moralists, Avho imagine that they are doing God's service, 
and benefiting their enslaved countrymen, (as they choose to 
style the negroes of the South,) by liberally supplying funds to 
those who run the risk of carrying them ofi" from the sunny 
climes of the Southern tropic to the frigid regions of Canada. A 
society, of which I am a member, was formed some years ago, with 
the object in view of relieving these sycophantic and blind sympa- 
thists of their surplus funds ; and the only way we can do it is to 
actually run the slaves off to Canada, and then leave them there, 
to manage as best they can. Sometimes, it is true, we run the 
risk of getting ourselves in trouble, but in nine cases out of ten 
our plans are so perfect, that we escape without even suspicion. 
If you are willing to join us, and enter into our solemn compact, 
I will introduce you to-night at the meeting which comes off at 

the Rev. Mr. B 's house. What say you ?" 

While Ratlin was speaking, I was revolving in my mind the 
question, "Am I always to labor hard and be poor?" and when 
he concluded, I answered him that I was quite willing to join in 
any enterprise which promised me wealth, provided I could obtain 
it without violating my own sense of right. He then began tell- 
'm<f me of the wretchedness of the slave population, the cruelty of 
their masters, and the tyrannical atrocities practised by the intel- 
lectual whites over the backs of the ignorant negroes; and he 
argued with so much sophistry and eloquence, and painted the 
deeds of the Southerners in such dark, bloody colors, that my 
nature, ever free and compassionate, warmed into an ecstacy of 
delight at the prospect of being able to alleviate the sufferings of 



FKAirKLIN A. WiLMOT. IS 

a race of people whom he induced me to belieye were naturally 
far more intellectual and grateful for favors done, than those 
who held them in bondage. The subject was one about which I 
had read little, and seen less ; and I was easily led away with his 
glowing account of how grateful the black ever was to him wh» 
aided him in obtaining his freedom. Then, too, the prospect of 
gaining wealth so easily, and in such a noble manner, was fuel to 
the flame of sympathy which he had kindled in my breast. I 
therefore agreed to accompany him to the meeting, and whea 
evening arrived, I was introduced and accepted. The next day 
Ratlin left Boston, and I remained to receive my instructions. 

Before recording the scenes through which I have passed, I will 
mention the fact that the meeting which I attended was that of 
the Aiding and Abetting Society — secret in its organization, and 
having for its real object the collecting of money from the Northern 
sympathists, to be used in running off" slaves from the South to 
the Canadas. In this first meeting, the audience was composed 
of a large number of itinerant, backsliding ministers, worn out tract 
colporteurs, elderly females, and a few cunning-looking negroes. 
There was not a single member of it who seemed to care a jot or 
tittle what became of the slaves after they reached Canada. Many 
speeches were made, and plans proposed, for the successful carry- 
ing out of the enterprise. One of these plans, and that which 
was finally adopted, was this : agents were appointed to make col- 
lections of money throughout the northern country, to be used in 
purchasing a series of farms or plantations, lying on a line, known 
as the " Underground Railroad," which ran in a zig-zag course, 
extending from the northern limits of Alabama, through Tennes- 
see and Kentucky to Ohio. These farms were to be occupied by 
northern slaveJiolders, and were to be the depdts whereat the trains 
of the Underground Railroad were to lay-by during the day, all 
the travelling on the road being done at night. The meeting then 
adjourned, after appointing a financial and business committee, to 
receive the moneys collected by the travelling solicitors, and ap- 
plying it to the purchase of plantations, with their negroes, on 
the crooked line laid down on the Railroad Map. I, with others, 
was appointed to the very pleasant position of travelling through 
the South as an invalid gentleman seeking health, my haggard 
appearance and unwholesome complexion thus serving me a good 
turn. I was to make myself "generally usefal." 



Id DlSCLOSUBBS AND CoJCFESilONS. 

During the year following, I made the tour of the Southern and 
Southwestern States, seeking whatever information I could obtain, 
from the various blacks whom I encountered at the hotels whereat 
I lodo'ed. I also obtained the autographs of all the conspicuous 
men, judges and lawyers, I could possibly get. 

At the selected time I was again in Boston, and learned that 
sufficient money had been collected, and the sum applied to the 
purchase of a series of excellent plantations, located at distances 
of from twenty to thirty-five miles apart, and extending from 
Alabama to the banks of the Ohio. The slaves on these tracts of 
land were also purchased and held in bondage ; and the parties 
located on them were in all cases instructed to be as severe on the 
blacks as possible, in order to induce the belief among the sur- 
rounding landholders, that at least, on these farms, there was no 
sympathy whatever with the negro-worshippers. The cruelties I 
afterwards saw practised on some of the negroes engaged on these 
depot plantations, would shock the reader. At times, the indig- 
nation of the warm-hearted Southerner himself would be aroused 
in favor of the bonded slave, and murmurings at the barbarities 
practised were freely indulged in. But our " Aiding and Abet- 
ting Society" soothed itself by the reflection that we were making 
money, and that it was right and proper that the few should suffer 
for the sake of the benefits which would eventually be reaped by 
the many. 

The proprietors of these depot stations were also the most rabid 
advocates of slavery ; and in case one of our agents was found out 
in tampering with the slaves of a neighboring planter, our station- 
house farmers were the first to propose a coat of tar and feathers, 
and an order to leave. By this means, the real Southerners were 
blinded as to the true state of feeling held by the occupants of the 
depot farms ; and when negroes were missing from the neighbor- 
hood, none of the parties losing ever thought of going to one of 
our stations to find them. Hundreds of slaves have^ thus, at 
various times, lain hidden in the upper rooms of a depot planta- 
tion-house, while the apparently revengeful proprietor of it was in 
company with the losers, scouring the country in search of the 

thieves. 

The farms being bought and paid for, and thus occupied, all our 
arrangements were complete. Ten of the members of the Society, of 
which I was one, then received our instructions how to proceed. 



Franklin A. Wilmot. 19 

First, one thousand dollars in Southern bank bills, was given to each 
man for his expenses, and the route which he was to traverse laid 
out on a map. The whole of us were furnished with freedom 
papers, printed in blank, with the forged signatures of the judges 
of the various judicial districts lying along the line of our " Under- 
ground Railway." Our plan of operation was almost similar, and 
by giving my own experience as an agent and conductor, the reader 
will have a very fair idea of what my colleagues did. 

Leaving Boston in September, 1851, I embarked on board a 
packet bound for Mobile, where I arrived in due time, without any 
incident occurring worthy of note. I had been furnished with 
letters of introduction by Boston merchants, (who knew not of my 
plans,) and these recommendatory epistles gave me a welcome 
truly Southern and genial in its character. I was shortly after my 
arrival, surrounded by a circle of the best of Mobile's citizens, and 
when they exhibited in so many ways the generous hospitality of 
their feelings, my conscience almost smote me with the reflection 
that I was a villain indeed, to try to injure a people who did all 
in their power to render me exquisitely happy and contented. 
And here let me take a retrospective view of things, as I saw them 
in the South — a truthful view, unbiassed and unprejudiced. 

While in Mobile, I was introduced to a fine looking planter 
named Moreland, who owned a large tract of sugar land on the 
"coast," or lower banks of the Mississippi; and at his especial 
invitation, I accompanied him to his home, where he intended to 
ghow me "Life in the South," as he termed it, "and how sugar 
was made." His object was, doubtless, to remove any sentiment 
of abolitionism that I might be the possessor of, for he had 
understood I was a Northern man with Southern principles. 
Gladly accepting his invitation, we proceeded to New Orleans and 
from thence took steamboat to the residence of my friend. Arrived 
at the homestead, I was ushered into the family residence, receiving 
a cordial greeting. from the planter's wife and daughters. The 
house was built in the old French style. It was supported by brick 
pillars, and a large and spacious portico ran around it. The roof 
ran up high, and was crowned with a cupola, surrounded with a 
heavy balustrade. The yard was ornamented with live-oak trees, 
aflFording a grateful shade in summer. To the rear and left of the 
house, was a grove of orange trees, which ran along by the garden 
fence. The garden itself was tastefully laid out in plats, and boasted 



20 DiSCLOSORES AND CONFESSIONS Of 

a fine collection of horticultural treasures. Outside of the yard and 
beyond the garden, were the negro quarters ; the houses ran in four 
equal rows, at angles from the river. In the midst of them was 
the overseer's house, which, like the rest, was brilliant with a new 
coat of whitewash ; and the whole were buried in a little forest of 
shrubby trees. At one end of the quarter was the hospital, where 
the sick daily received the attention of a skilful physician named 
Morris, a graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Medicine. Near 
the overseer's house hung a massive bell, at the summons of which 
the labors of the day were commenced and ended. Beyond the 
quarters were the negroes' gardens and chicken houses. The 
stables and corn-houses could be seen through the trees further 
back ; while the tall chimneys of the sugar house overlooked the 
whole. It was indeed a scene of beauty and good order. 

When we were first landed at this delightful Southern home, 
crowds of negroes, of all ages, sexes and colors, came thronging 
to meet us, smiling and glad faces were all around, eager and 
iWilling to bid a welcome to their kind and indulgent master, whose 
arrival was expected. I had been taught by Ratlin to look 
upon the slave-holder as a kind of half-human monster, with no 
feeling nor sentiment of refinement in his composition ; and the 
life of the slave a dull and continued round of suffering, an eternal 
groan of agony, with no ray of comfort, and no kind word to cheer 
thankless labor from one year's end to another. But I now saw 
before me a sample of the South — a native picture — not flattered 
or got up for effect. I saw the slaves during their every-day life, 
a happy, contented and careless race ; well fed, as their looks 
testified ; well lodged, and not overtasked. I mentally drew the 
comparison between the negroes in their happy condition, and the 
half-starved and poorly-paid laborer at the North. I saw the 
slave well taken care of, and comprehended that it would be so, 
if not from philanthrophy, at least for the sake of available labor. 
I then turned my mind to the North, and thought of the thousands 
of families in Philadelphia, New York and Boston, who pale and 
attenuated by want and sickness, are shut up in their narrow and 
filthy dens, where vice and depravity stalk abroad, and the wretched 
inmates live and die in a state lower almost than the brutes of the 
earth; where murder rears its bloody front, and incest and crimes too 
horrible for even the gaze of unfeeling police officers, are as frequent 
as the revolutions of our planet ; and I mentally cursed the bigoted 



Franklin A. Wilmot. 21 

fanatics who delight in creating feuds between people who should 
be on terms of amity. 

On the evening of the second day after my arrival, Mr. More- 
land invited me to take a stroll through the quarters. We passed 
to the front, and entered the yard. Groups of negroes were scat- 
tered around in different attitudes. There were seated on a bench 
under the trees, some two or three older ones, whose patriarchal 
appearance and gray locks attracted my immediate notice. Around 
them was a group of younger ones, who listened to the conversation 
of their seniors. There were another set stretched at full length 
on the green grass,— happy and contented. There was a troop of 
noisy children, who stopped their gambols on the velvety sward to 
crowd around their master, who spoke kindly to all. Bursts of 
laughter, as pleasant as the tinkling of a silver bell, went forth 
from them when they replied to his questions. They seemed de- 
lighted at his notice ; but exhibited none of that fright which 
would be shown by those with whom kindness was not usual. They 
came around us— a merry, grinning troop; they examined my dress, 
and handled my watch chain without fear or hesitation. At the 
doors of some of the houses were seen sitting the inmates, quietly 
smoking their pipes, while ever and anon a snatch of a hymn 
would issue from the tenements of the pious. All were free from 
care, and happy in the possession of enough. As I turned and 
gazed over the scene, I thought I had never seen a more interest- 
ing spectacle. The deep respect paid to myself and their master 
when we returned to the house ; the combined sounds at this lovely 
hour ; the pale blue smoke from the chimneys, as the negroes pre- 
pared their evening meal— all formed a picturesque impression 
which I shall never forget. 

It may be asked, " did not your conscience smite you, when you 
reflected on the nefarious business in which you were engaged?" 
I reply, it did, and terribly. But the solemn compact I had en- 
tered into — the love of money, and a desire to live easy, banished 
the thoughts of goodness propagated in my heart, by what I wit- 
nessed. After tarrying a few days with Mr. Moreland, I was 
about to depart ; having during my stay made an experimental 
proposition to an old black fellow named Sam, (who seemed to be 
a great favorite among the negroes,) that he should run away. 
He gruflly refused to accede to it, and I laughed it off. 

The day previous to the one I had selected for my journey, Mr. 



22 Disclosures and Confessions. 

Moreland asked me to accompany him in a walk to the hospital, 
siyin^, "I want you to see the way our negroes are treated, with 
regaril to comfort, food, and sickness." I acquiesced. Stoppino- 
in front of the hospital, "hero," said he, "let us enter." It was 
a square building of two rooms, with a gallery in front. One room 
was destined for the males, and the other for the opposite sex. 
Everything was scrupulously neat and clean. In the male depart- 
ment there were three patients. They were on cots, a number of 
whicli were placed around the room. Mr. Moreland went up to 
each one. lie inquired kindly after their ailments, and after 
making some gentle remarks, we turned and entered the other 
room. Here were also several patients. The dispensary was in 
tliis room, and fully supplied with medicines. Mr. Moreland rang 
a small bsll, and an old, thin, spare negress, with an intelligent 
countenance, answered its call. " She is the nurse of the hospital," 
said he to me, " and can undertake the care of a common case Jis 
well as some physicians. She understands all the simple medi- 
cines, and their doses, and is always within hearing of the bell." 

We now entered several of the houses. These were furnished 
very plainly, but were clean. A bed in the corner, and perhaps 
two ; clothes hanging on pegs around the room ; a pine table, and 
a few chairs or stools, together with a rude chest, and a plentiful 
supply of cooking utensils, completed the list. 

" How do you feed them ?" I asked. " On Sunday morning," 
replied Mr. Moreland, " the overseer goes to the meat house, and 
there assemble the negroes ; four pounds of pork are weighed out 
to each one, and they get a peck of meal, and a half gallon of 
molasses ; beans, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables, they raise 
themselves in great plenty. They are allowed to raise chickens, 
and always have a supply of eggs." 

" What time do they go to work ?" inquired 1. 

" At daylight, and stop at sundown ; rest two or three hours 
during the middle or heat of the day ; but have every Saturday 
afternoon to wash and mend, and cultivate their patches. They 
always have, too, in this sugar neighborhood, a week's holiday 
after the cane is gathered," answered Mr. Moreland. 

" The negroes look clean," said I, anxious to get what infor- 
mation I could ; " is it true they have only one pair of pantaloons 
1. year V 

*' Oh ! that," laughed Mr. Moreland, is another foolish Northern 




"The negro began descending, carrying the girl with him, liaving 
tied her hands together around his neclc, and placed her on his back. 
She struggled violently and kept muttering that she was white." 



Franklin A. Wilmot. 25 

belief. I give my negroes three and sometimes four comfortable 
suits a year from head to foot ; but, generally, the planters around 
here give but two suits a year." 

" Have they any amusements ?" continued I. 

*' Often they have a dance by moonlight," said he, " for there 
are several fiddlers, and then we give them a big dinner occasion- 
ally." 

" Do you often punish them ?" was my next query. 

" Seldom," said he ; " sensible planters scarcely ever have a 
negro struck. They hardly ever require it. A good overseer is 
all that is wanted. They work cheerfully, and are kindly ruled. 
Now and then an example has to be made, and a servant punished. 
But these punishments are few and far between." 

Although I after this aided and abetted in running off hundreds 
of valuable slaves, I felt gratified beyond measure at the time I 
was on Mr. Moreland's plantation. I had been led to believe, 
«.nd honestly imagined, that the life of the slave was horrible ; that 
the chain of slavery galled their bodies ; that the lash of the over- 
seer was never idle ; that not one ray of hope broke through the 
dark horizon of their life. I found that I, with thousands of 
others, had been deluded, and that the imaginary chain sits as 
lightly as the golden one on the bosom of beauty. And I now 
say that the life of the negro at the South, is in many respects, 
better than is that of many a white man at the North. I for one, 
\vd\'efelt the oppression of the rich over the poor, the grinding 
exaction, the unfeeling disregard of anything but money. 

Leaving the hospitable mansion of Mr. Moreland, I turned my 
attention, with an upbraiding and sickened heart, to.the pursuit of 
my nefarious business. I went up the Mississippi, and crossed 
over into Alabama, where I commenced operations. This I did, 
by obtaining board at a small hotel in one of the river towns, and 
gradually instilling into the minds of the servants the words of 
treason against their masters, holding out glorious prospects at 
the North. Quite a number agreed to decamp on evenings I ap- 
pointed, receiving from me full instructions how to proceed from 
one station to another. I furnished all with freedom or emanci- 
pation papers, and they started singly, travelling from dark until 
near dav's dawn. When they could not reach a station or depot, 
(where they were always secreted away, provisioned, and a change 
of clothing furnished, ) befoie daylight, they laid in the forests and 



26 DiSCLOSURBS AND CONFEEBIONS OF 

woods until the shades of night approached. Each one was pro- 
vided with a pocket compass, and a small whistle, and instructed 
in their uses. During the night, negro spies in gangs were sent 
out, extending east and west for three or four miles, by the depot 
keepers ; and when the runaways heard the peculiar whistle agreed 
upon, they answered it in turn ; by this means they were always 
found, and snugly stowed away before daylight. 

Almost every town and county in Mississippi, Alabama, Ten- 
nessee, and Kentucky, was visited by the agents of our Aiding 
and Abetting Society, and thousands of negroes were run off and 
passed over the route. But a few were taken at a time from the 
same neighborhood, and no more than one was allowed to depart 
on the same night. Alarm and undue excitement was thus kept 
down. Three or four negroes out of a hundred or so on a planta- 
tion, was nothing very serious, and so but little effort was made 
by the losers to search for them. A reward of a hundred dollars 
could have frequently been had ; but none of our agents would 
have thought of accepting so trifling a sum, for the reason that 
when a conductor carried his train through safe, and had th« 
written testimonials from the depdt-keepers that he did so, it was 
an easy matter for our collectors to raise three or four hundred 
dollars from the blinded sympathisers of the North, for every 
negro who was safely landed in Canada. In this way passed the 
last nine years of my life. 

Constantly at work in my capacity as a conductor, I necessarily 
met with some terrible adventures, and made some narrow escapes. 
On one or two occasions I came near shedding human blood, in 
order to save myself, but Heaven willed it otherwise. In one of 
my expeditions, in the year 1856, I was saved from a terrible 
death, in a manner that seemed almost miraculous ; and in order 
that the reader may know the particulars of it, I herewith give it. 

I had made the acquaintance of a quadroon negro, named Bill 
Lake, a cunning and intelligent boy-waiter at a hotel in one of 
the upper towns of Alabama, and through him quite a number of 
the slaves had been induced to leave their masters. It was no 
easy matter for a white man to convince a slave that he would be 
better off in the North. One of their own color was always used 
to urge them on. They all know, whether by instinct or not, I 
cannot tell, that it is cold in the north and the winters long, and 
if there is anything a negro dreads it is cold weather. This being 



Franklin A. Wilmot. 27 

the ca&e, one may paint freedom in all its heavenly beauty, and 
the only answer he is likely to get is, " Massa, ain't it debilish 
cold out dar?" Often indeed has this simple query made me feel 
for my neck, while the pulsations of my heart would cease for an 
instant with dread. But to my story. Bill informed me, that 
the negroes who had agreed to decamp, were prepared to start as 
I should direct, and through him at various times, I run them off. 
He wished, as did I, to go in the last train ; and when the night 
approached on which we were to start, he apprised me he had 
a half-sister, a very beautiful girl, whom he intended to carry off 
with him. This I opposed, for the reason, that he said she would 
have to he forced to go. Nevertheless, as a word from the scoun- 
drel would have hung me, I was fain to give way to his plan. 
Noticing that I appeared to fear him, he actually told me I should 
do as he said. 'I was on the point of pistolling him on the spot, 
for his audacity, but recollecting that he had some of my papers 
in his possession, which I did not wish to come to light, I desisted, 
advising him to use milder words in future. Night came on, and 
the place where we were to meet — a wood about three miles from 
the town — was selected. Bill was to have two horses, one of 
which would carry him and his sister. I arrived at the place and 
I found them, and we were soon on the march. I spoke several 
times to the girl who sat behind him, but received no reply from 
her, he always speaking in her stead. In answer to my question, 
why she did not speak, he said he had blindfolded and gagged 
her, the latter, to prevent her hallooing and alarming the people 
who resided along the road over which we were passing. We rode 
thus for several hours, when day began to dawn. We were near 
our first rendezvous or stopping place, which Bill said he formerly 
had visited. It was a cave, on the side of a perpendicular pre- 
cipice, and could only be reached by descending by a rope ladder, 
which he had procured for the purpose. We soon came to the 
spot. It was a frightful place indeed. The cave was about twenty- 
five feet below the verge of the precipice, and the mouth or 
entrance opened on a projecting shelf of rock, not more than two 
feet in width. Below the cave, at a distance of at least two hun- 
dred feet, was a deep ravine, the bed of which was covered with 
sharp, loose stones, which had at various times fallen from the 
top of the immense ridges which enclosed the rugged valley. We 
dismounted and turned the horses loose. While I steadied the 



28 DlSCi^uSURKS AND CONFBBSiON* OF 

ladder, Bill began to descend, carrying the female with him, 
having tied her hands together around his neck, and placed her 
on his back. She struggled violently, but this did not disconcert 
the black, who resolutely undertook his perilous descent. 

Three or four steps had been taken downward by Bill, while I 
stood gazing in affright at the danger to him and his burden, when 
suddenly I felt a jerk ! Looking downward I perceived that half the 
strands of one side of the rope composing the ladder had broken I 
I remained for a moment immovable, and my eyes then closed 
with terror. A cold shudder passed through my veins, and I 
thought they must both be dashed to pieces. When Bill reached 
the shelf of rock on which the mouth of the cave opened, my 
heart beat violently with joy. I eagerly hallooed to him, inquiring 
if he was safe. He replied that he was, but that I should not 
come down immediately, as he had heard the sound of men's voices 
coming up through the valley as he was descending. He asked 
me to keep a strict look-out until I ascertained from whence the 
sounds proceeded. 

. I sat down by the edge of the precipice, not liking to venture 
down if I could avoid it, on account of the insecure state of the 
ladder, when of a sudden I heard a long, desperate scream of 
agony from the cave. My suspicions had been aroused at the 
singular conduct of Bill towards the woman he represented as his 
sister, and I determined to go down to the cavern at once, not 
doubting but that he was cruelly beating her. I hastily descended, 
my progress being hurried by the appearance of a body of armed 
men, who just then emerged into view at one end of the ravine, a 
few hundred rods distant. I was satisfied they had not seen me, 
as they came to a stand, and appeared to be holding a consulta- 
tion. 

The screaming from the cave now became heart-rending, and I 
descended with alacrity. Arrived at the entrance and looking in, 
what was my horror to observe, crouching in one corner of it, a 
beautiful girl, whose eyes were flashing fire, whilst in her upraised 
hand she held a gleaming dagger ! Bill, who was gazing on her 
like a tiger, and foaming at the mouth with rage, stood with his 
back toward me, and did not notice my approach. 

" What do you mean, you black-hearted villain ?" I cried, seizing 
hira by the throat. He at once turned upon me without speaking, 



FrAJJKLIN a. VflLMOT. 29 

and our struggle was a desperate one. He caught hold of my arms 
and with the strength of a lion tried to disengage my hands from 
his throat. But I held on, well knowing that unless I could choke 
him senseless, he would overpower me. We struggled from one 
end of the cave to the other, until we got at the very mouth of it ! 
It was now for life or death, and I cried to the young lady to get 
me a pistol out of my pocket. She rushed to my assistance and 
got hold of the weapon, but the black was then so near falling 
over the ledge, that I feared to let go of him, lest he should grasp 
me tighter, and in his death-struggle drag me with him to the bot- 
tom of the abyss. I was almost exhausted and had given up all 
hope. Death, in its most horrid form, was staring me in the 
face. I began to mutter a prayer, still grasping the negro tightly 
by the throat. The report of the pistol, at that opportune moment 
fired by the lady, caused him to utter a fearful cry of despair, and 
make a frightful spring upwards. I let go my hold and he fell 
with a terrific crash to the bottom, carrying with him a piece of 
cord with which he became entangled. I tottered into the cave 
and fainted. 

When consciousness again returned, I found the lady bathing 
my temples with liquor, a bottle of which Bill had previously 
placed in the cavern. I soon revived, and in a few words she told 
me her tale of woe. Her name was Lucille Hamet. She was an 
only child, and the daughter of the planter to whom Bill belonged, 
he having hired him to the keeper of the hotel at which I was stop- 
ping. On many occasions Bill had attempted to gain her favor, 
by performing deeds of daring, to show his devotion to her. He 
had dared on one occasion to say that he loved her, but as she had 
often heard such language from both the female and male servants 
about the house, she paid no attention to it, it being a common 
expression among the slaves to say that they dearly loved their 
young mistress or young master. 

On the night of our departure, Bill rode out to the mansion of 
his owner, (who was absent in New Orleans on business,) and 
hastily informed the daughter that his master had just arrived at 
the hotel, and was very sick, and that he sent him out for her to 
come to him. She little suspected the villainy of the slave, and 
hurriedly departed in his company. As soon as a copse of wood 
was reached, which intervened between the plantation and the 
town, the treacherous scoundrel dragged her to the ground, bound 



so Disclosures and Confessions. 

and gagged her. Then tying her fast to the saddle's bow, he 
hastily placed her on the horse, and brought her to the spot where 
we were to meet. After he descended with her into the cave, he 
unloosed the cords and gag, and told her with much audacity, that 
Jie was now master, and that she should be his mistress, or wife, 
just as she chose to term it. Springing forward, she snatched 
the dagger from his leathern belt, and with it kept him at bay, 
until my opportune arrival. 

I was much shocked at the recital of this young girl's wrongs, 
who assured me that she, as well as her father, had ever used 
him and all their other servants, most kindly. I promised her 
my protection, and asked of her to keep quiet until I reconnoitred 
the party whom I had seen on horseback. This she promised to 
do ; but I had not to leave the cave to observe our pursuers, (for 
such they were,) they being now in the ravine directly below us. 
They halted around the dead and mangled body of the negro, and 
after a few curses against him, departed, one of them, on picking 
up the piece of rope he had carried with him in his dreadful fall, 
observing, that he had doubtless tried to lower himself from the 
brink of the precipice to the valley, and the rope breaking, caused 
him to fall. 

We continued in the cave until evening, fasting the while, for 
we found no provisions, as Bill had informed me we would. Just 
before dark, I persuaded the lady to ascend. She went up with 
great agility, and I followed. Making for the highway, we soon 
espied the mail stage, and in it she took passage for the town 
from which I had taken my departure the night previous. 

I had so stated the case to the young lady as to gain her favor, 
and she assured me she would keep a profound, secret the part I 
had taken in the matter, only mentioning the fact that I, hearing 
her screams, had rescued her. I afterwards heard she reached 
home in safety. 

After this narrow escape, I did not again visit Alabama, but 
continued my operations in the western parts of North and South 
Carolina, and the eastern counties of Tennessee and Kentucky. 

Our depot-farm system worked to a charm ; and we extended 
branches of the Underground Railroad both east and west. If I 
am right in my memory, we ran off some thirty-two hundred slaves, 
during the years 1856, '57, and '58. In no case was there any 
detection. As soon as a slave reached our crossing-place, a littU 



FRAlfKLIN A. WlLMOT. 83 

above Maysville, Kentucky, he was taken in hand by the agents 
of the road in Ohio, who pushed bodies of them rapidly to Cleve- 
land and Toledo, where they were delivered to the agents of the 
British Colonial Abolition Society. Our duty was then done, and 
we troubled ourselves no more about them. 

Prior to my removing to Canada, in August last, I became the 
head of a company of four conductors, who desired me to aid them 
in carrying oiF three Creole girls, owned by a man in one of the 
southern counties of Kentucky. For the part I was to perform, 
I was to receive ^3000. These girls had just been purchased 
from a slave dealer in New Orleans, and were considered by my 
comrades to be very handsome. Their object in obtaining the 
girls was a dishonorable one. Although I had seen them, I was 
not smitten with their beauty, and only looked upon the enterprise 
as one of profit, money being, during these ten horrid years of my 
life, an idol which I worshipped. On the night we selected for 
our foray on the house of the planter, we repaired to the spot. 
One of our party, rapping at the door, the planter opened it, and 
remarked, that if we were benighted, he took pleasure in affording 
us a shelter. We entered, with seeming gratitude, and partook of 
a pleasant supper, which was already on the table. Conversation 
being opened, he alluded to the recent purchase he had made of 
the three girls, stating that they were sisters. They were in- 
tended, he remarked, as house servants, to wait upon his daughters 
and wife, the latter being in delicate health. At a given signal, 
we seized and bound him hand and foot. The females screamed, 
and several of the negroes from the slave quarters rushed in. See- 
ing their master bound, and learning from what we said, that we 
wished to take them north, a scene followed, the recollection of 
which thrills me with horror. Every one seized upon the first 
thing at hand, and making at us, a terrible combat commenced. 
Knives were freely used, pistols fired, and it was with the greatest 
difficulty we made our escape out of the windows and doors. I 
really thought my time had come, for we were hotly pursued by 
the excited negroes, only keeping them at bay by occasionally 
firing a shot from our pistols. They lighted pine torches and fol- 
lowed in our wake, shouting after us with demoniac yells. Our 
ammunition began to run short, and we were determining whether 
to separate or remain together, when we struck upon a cow path. 
This we rapidly followed, but it ehortly led us into a rugged defile; 



I 



\H DiSOLOSn&SS LSD 00NVlSfiI0N3 OF 

a number of trees had here fallen across it, and stopped our fur- 
ther progress. The blacks, with their blazing brands, rushed 
upon us, whooping like so many devils, the crackling and blazing 
of the torches rendering the scene the most awful and terrific I 
had ever witnessed. Horrid thoughts of approaching death 
crowded on my excited and fevered brain ; and when I saw my 
three companions slaughtered in the most dreadful manner by my 
side, I sank into a state of utter unconsciousness. 

When I awoke it was dark, and no one was visible. The cold 
and stiff arm of one of my dead comrades was lying across my 
breast. The blood from his wounds had run down my bosom, and 
was now thick and clotty. My feelings were awful. My heart 
almost ceased to beat, but with a great effort I arose to my feet. 
The moon was just rising, and shed her soft, ambient rays on tho 
scene of carnage. I seemed to have escaped any serious wound, 
except what appeared to be the cut of a knife on my right arm. 
It was painful and stiffened. I gazed upon the bodies of my dead 
comrades, and then turned away with a sickening sensation. I 
slowly made my way through the brushwood, and over the trunks 
of the fallen trees, and after walking a few miles, came to the 
Mississippi river. Here I bathed myself, and by the moon's light 
washed my bloody garments as well as I could. Discarding my 
shirt and vest, I buttoned my coat close to my neck, listening 
patiently for the puff of a steamboat. One of thesQj the " Signet," 
in a short time made its appearance, and as soon as she was near 
enough to hear me, I hailed her. A boat was sent ashore, and I 
took passage for St. Louis, whither I informed the captain I was 
bound. In answer to the questions asked me, as to how I camd 
in so deplorable a condition, I replied, that I had been waylaid, 
and almost murdered, and that the robbers who attacked me, were 
frightened away before they obtained my money, by one of them 
thinking there were horsemen approaching. My replies to the 
queries seemed satisfactory, and a suit of the captain's clothing 
was loaned me. I threw my bloody garments overboard, at a mo- 
ment when no one was observing. 

The boat sped along very swiftly. It was just the dawn of day, 
when one of the firemen darted past me like an arrow, shouting 
"fire! fire! fire!" In a moment all was bustle and confusion. 
The pilot seemed seized with a panic, ana instead of running the 
boat on shore, he kept her in the middle of the river. Ultimately, 



Franklin A. Wilmot. 85 

wrapped in flames, she was run on the foot of an island. But few 
reached the shore at that time, as she swung round and floated off. 
At this instant the boilers exploded, tearing away all the forward 
part of the cabin. The yawl was soon filled with terrified people, 
leaving myself almost alone on the deck. The flames were wrap- 
ping everything in their destructive embrace ; and there seemed 
nothing but certain death for me. The explosion of the boilers 
had scattered around a thousand fragments, and many torn and 
mangled human beings lay about. The scene was appalling, and 
even now as I write, it makes me shudder. There I stood on the 
deck, almost alone. I could not swim, and I felt my fate fast 
closing around me. In a moment I was seized in the arms by a 
sturdy negro, who leaping into the boiling, muddy water, gallantly 
battled among the floating fragments and reached the shore in 
safety. I was as helpless as an infant, and when I turned my 
eyes to my preserver, what was my surprise and astonishment, to 
see old black Sam, and his master, Mr. Moreland, standing over 
me. I arose to my feet, and undertook to thank them. Words 
failed me, and I burst into tears. 

*' I will give you, Mr. Moreland, any price you may demand 
for Sam," said I, after I had somewhat composed myself, " so that 
I can set him free." 

"Ah!" replied he, "Mr. Wilmot, Sam wouldn't leave me for 
the world. If he had wanted his freedom he would have long 
since had it. I have offered repeatedly to set him free, but he 
would never accept the boon." 

Another packet approaching our now burnt boat, the saved 
passengers were taken aboard; and without anything occurring 
worthy of record, we reached Cairo in the course of the following 
day. Here I parted company with Mr. Moreland and the noble 
slave, Sam, on whom I lavished several hundred dollars as a pre- 
sent. From Cairo I journeyed to Cincinnati, and from that city 
to Boston, where I tendered my resignation as a conductor on the 
Underground Railroad, which was received graciously, after my 
taking a solemn oath that I would not, on pain of death, disclose 
the names of the parties who are the keepers of the dep6t or 
station plantations in the Southern States. I would like to vio- 
late that oath which has been wrung from me ; but were the facts 
known in these exciting times, I fear much blood would be spilled; 
and, heaven knows, I wish to be no more a party to such scenes. 



ZH Disclosures and Confessions o? 

Before concluding this work, I cannot help saying, that from 
my experience in the South I have ever found the negroes to be 
better treated than they deserve ; they are a degraded race and 
are not susceptible of the finer feelings of love and gratitude. 
You may take your most intelligent negro slave, whose master is 
kind, feeds, clothes, and indulges him, and you will find that if 
you talk with him about his owner, and be a little credulous, he will 
tell you that that very master ought to have been in the penitentiary 
ten years since. There are honorable exceptions to the rule, but 
they are very few. The negro seems to be coarse in his feelings, 
and totally incapable of having a real afiection for his superior, 
the white. He may have a preference, but it is all a habit. 
Whip a dog, and he will love you, is an old saying, and in nine 
cases out of ten it will apply to the negro. Many persons suppose 
this gross feeling in the negro is the result of slavery, but it is a 
mistake. I have aided to make free some thousands of negroes, 
and in all cases I have found that as soon as the restraints imposed 
upon them by their masters are removed, they iticlined to bar- 
barism. This I have seen exemplified in sora<i parts of Upper 
Canada, where I am now residing. Large fields, once made to 
teem with golden crops by the energy of the white man, are now 
yielding to the inroads of a rank and unwholesome vegetation, 
grown up in bushes, and the dwelling place of the viper and the 
scorpion. Costly dwellings and barns, with comfortable out- 
houses, are going to decay, doors off their hinges, the grass grow- 
ing rank and luxuriant around them. Expensive and elegant 
farming utensils, which have been furnished them, are being eaten 
up with rust. The condition of a Southern slave in Canada is 
indeed deplorable. Poor, degraded, pilfering wretches, they drag 
out a miserable existence. Every inducement is offered to them to 
improve their condition — work and plenty — good wages and re- 
wards. At work you do not find them, but go to the crowded 
hospitals, the grog-shops and other scenes of debauchery, there 
they flourish in all their glory. These things are the effects of a 
mistaken system, and all any one has to do to satisfy himself of 
the fact, is to pay a visit first to the South, the land of the slave, 
and then to Canada, the land wherein he is free. 

Before concluding, I will mention a real fact, not a fancy sketch, 
in proof of my assertion that the negroes, as a class, are ungrate- 
ful to those who benefit them. In 1852, a gentleman from Cambria 



Franklin A. Wilmot. 87 

County, Pennsylvania, a lawyer of ability, settled in one of the 
lower parishes of Louisiana, a few miles south of the plantation 
of Mr. Moreland, of whom I have previously spoken. He very 
soon commanded a share of business, and finally married the 
daughter of a respectable old planter in an adjoining parish. The 
planter owned negroes, and, of course, at his death, (which took 
place a few weeks after the marriage of the daughter,) the son-in- 
law inherited through his wife. He was strongly imbued with 
the notion of emancipation. Conversations with his wife tinctured 
her mind with the doctrine, and he then formed a plan for the 
ultimate emancipation of their slaves. 

About this time he acquired, by the successful defence of a suit, 
a large tract of land in the state of Illinois, and he then determined 
to carry into practice his idea of establishing a colony of free 
negroes on the land, and for himself to play the patriarch to his flock. 

In accordance with these feelings he visited Illinois, had the 
land surveyed ; and after making his final arrangements, returned 
and removed all his negroes and family thither. He built a dwel- 
ling, and houses for the negroes, and furnished them comfortably. 
He emancipated all his slaves, and put his theory to the test of 
practice. Upon the principle of community farms, he laid out 
his fields, and gave the negroes an interest in the crop. The first 
year they did tolerably well, but grumbled a good deal on the 
division. During the spring of the second year several left him, 
and by the time the crop was ready for harvest he had scarcely 
half of his original force. Those who remained were given to in- 
toxication, insubordination and idleness, and he then began to see 
into the eflects of his system. At the end of the second year all 
of them had gone except a few of the superannuated. That year 
1856, was remarkable unhealthy, and his family were exceedingly 
sickly. Ultimately he himself was taken ill. His wife sent to 
the negro house to request some one to attend on them. Latterly 
the negroes' services had been grudgingly and reluctantly given ; 
and now he and his family received nothing but impertinence and 
insult, and an absolute refusal to assist them. What a commentary 
on the pretended gratitude of the black is this ; servants who had 
been raised and kindly treated by her father, and put upon terms 
of equality by her own act, and upon whose breasts she had often, 
probably when a child, been lulled to sleep, thus showed their 
gratitude I 



88 Disclosures and Confessions, 

There is a characteristic in the negro -which I have ever noticed, 
and if the reader of these pages will examine some of them himself, 
he will find the truth of my assertion, — they never confess they 
are perfectly well. Ask one if he is well, and he will commence 
complaining. Tell him he is a splendid fellow and looks strong, 
and he will say he is not much now, but that he has seen the time 
he was strong. 

And with the hope that these rudely penned disclosures and 
facts may prove alike beneficial to the honest sympathiser with 
the slave, as well as to the latter himself, I now draw them to a 
close. Bad as I have been, I can see no better way to make a 
reparation, than by making known facts gathered from my own 
observation, during my ten years' engagement in a dishonorable, 
rascally business, as a Conductor on the Underground Railroad. • 

The wealth I gained in this nefarious business did me no good. 
It came easy and went quickly ; and could I repay those South- 
erners whom I aided in robbing, I would feel happy. I was* 
drawn into the business by my poverty, as are hundreds of others. 
All, I may say, or nearly all, who are actually engaged in the 
practical operation of running off the slaves, care no more for 
their future benefit and welfare, than did I. And those who, in 
the charitableness of their hearts, advance or subscribe money for 
such purposes, are simply filling the pockets of a mischievous set 
of men, too lazy to work, and who wish to live easy, having but 
few scruples as to the manner whereby they obtain that living. 

Many persons residing in the South are disposed to look upon 
pedlars and other dealers in trifling articles, as dangerous per- 
sons ; and many of these poor men have been subject to insult and 
injury on mere suspicion. This is wrong, because this class of 
travellers in the South never tamper with the slaves, their sole 
object being to earn a livelihood. The agents of the Society ot 
which I was a member, invariably travelled with full pockets, and 
stopped at the best hotels, to elude suspicion. As invalids, we 
travelled during the winter, and as capitalists looking for invest- 
ments in Southern lands, during the summer. Often, when in 
Southern towns, has my heart upbraided me, when I have had to con- 
demn a poor pedlar to screen myself. I merely mention this, that 
Southerners may know the class they so often unjustly punish. 

The public's obedient servant, 

Franklin A. Wilmot. 




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