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pirate" and his GANG, IN CONNEXION 







ON THE 6tH JULY, 1835. 

*' I am not willing to admit to the world that I believe him."— ^ bitter enemy 
" I care nothing for his jealous animosity. . He may vent his poisonous spleen. I am susulned 
before the world by evidence that shall chaia his enrenomed tongue."— Srew'art. 



18 3 9. 

[Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1836, by 

Harper «5c Brothers, 
in the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New-York.^ 



The public have long been expecting the final 
history of Virgil A. Stewart's perilous and ronian- 
tfte adventure in capturing " John A. Murrell," the 
great " Western Land Pirate." We now propose 
giving a full and perfect account of that strange 
performance, in connexion with the evidence sus- 
taining each important fact as it is related. We 
make no pretensions to author-craft, or skill in 
working up materials so as to heighten interest ; 
nor is it necessary. The deep interest that every 
Southerner and every honest man must feel in the 
subject matter of this history, is sufficient to invest 
a plain and simple statement of facts with attrac- 
tion. Our only care has been to adhere strictly 
to the truth, and to exhibit the details in a clear 
and intelligible narrative. 

We have commenced with a brief account of 
Mr. Stewart's early life to the time when he under- 
took the capture of Murrell and his party. We 
then continue with his adventure on that expedi- 
tion, and conclude with a full history of the insur- 
rectionary movements among the negroes in the 
southern country during the summer of 1835. In 


the perusal of this narrative the reader will be 
made acquainted with many scenes of horror and 

When the " Western Land Pirate" was in course 
of publication, Mr. Stewart's health was such that 
he could pay but little attention to the task of su- 
pervision, which rendered it very imperfect in many 
respects, and especially in the omission of some 
important portions of his conversation with Mur- 
rell, and of his reasons for many proceedings that 
should have been explained to the reader : — but as 
the only object of that narrative was to arouse the 
people of that region to a sense of their danger, past 
and present, he deemed it unnecessary to delay the 

As an apology for the detention of this work, we 
would remind the public that Mr. Stewart has been 
compelled to travel over a vast country in collect- 
ing his evidence for the compilation. In conclu- 
sion, we would congratulate those of Mr. Stewart's 
friends who have nobly stood by him in the hour of 
danger and persecution, amid a legion of exasper- 
ated enemies. He has ably sustained himself and 
his cause, and proved himself worthy of the con- 
fidence reposed in him by his fellow-citizens. 

In the compilation of this work the most of 
Murrell's profanity has been suppressed ; but re- 
taining his manner of expression in every other 
particular, and in all cases the substance of his 
conversation has been preserved. 



A BRIEF history of the early life of Mr. Virgil A. 
Stewart, whose adventures will form the subject of the 
following pages, may not here be out of place, not only 
as a gratification of public curiosity, but as an impor- 
tant commentary upon the facts to be disclosed in the 
succeeding narrative ; since, in substantiating the char- 
acter of Mr. Stewart as a worthy and reputable cit- 
izen, the reader will be the better enabled to reject the 
unfounded and malicious imputations attempted to be 
cast upon him by some of the more daring emissaries 
of the Murrell gang. 

Mr. Stewart was born in Jackson county, in the State 
of Georgia, of highly respectable parentage. His fa- 
ther, Mr. Samuel Stewart, migrated to Amite county, 
in Mississippi, while Virgil was yet an infant, and 
died there a few months after his arrival. His widow, 
becoming dissatisfied with that part of the country, re- 
turned to the State of Georgia, where her son Virgil 
grew up to manhood. He was sent to school until he 
was fourteen years of age ; but little attention was 
paid to his pecuniary interests, and a large portion of 
his slender patrimony was squandered. 

His early desire was to receive a liberal education ; 
but the income of his father's estate would not allow 
of the expenses attendant upon a classical course. 


Soon after he left school he engaged in the printing 
business, as an employment best suited to improve his 
mind. Relinquishing "this, he afterward entered into 
a copartnership with a manufacturer of cotton-gins, in 
his native place, with whom he employed his time 
and a small capital to great advantage. 

By the time he had reached his twentieth year, he 
had established a character for industry, decision of 
character, and much moral worth, among his fellow- 
citizens. About this time his term of partnership ex- 
pired by its own limitation, and he determined to 
travel, and seek a place to settle upon amid the newer 
regions- of the western country. 

He concluded upon migrating to Madison county, in 
Tennessee, whither he removed with his property in the 
fall of 1830, and settled upon a farm, with his negroes, 
six miles west of Jackson. Here he remained until 
the latter part of the year 1832, closely attending to 
his farm and business, when he concluded to sell off 
his property, remove to the Choctaw Purchase, and in- 
vest his whole property in land in that country. 

Mr. Stewart had now, by industry and economy, in- 
creased the little estate left him by his father to a re- 
spectable competency for a young man just starting in 
life ; with this he made his arrangements for visiting 
the Choctaw Purchase, and furnished himself with 
such articles of merchandise as he expected to sell 
with profit to the Indians and early settlers of that 

On the first day of June, 1833, Mr. Stewart left 
Jackson in high spirits, on board a boat bound for Tus- 
cahoma, in the Choctaw Purchase, and arrived at 


Odom's landing, on the Yallabusha river, twelve miles 
below Tuscahoma, on the third day of July, where the 
boat was forced to land for want of water. 

He had a house prepared for the reception of his 
goods about one mile above the town of Tuscahoma ; 
but, soon after his arrival, sold off his stock on credit, 
and began examining the country so as to be prepared 
to enter land as soon as opportunity should offer, in 
which labours he was engaged until the Chocchuma 
land-sales in the same fall. 

The period of Mr. Stewart's life at which we have 
now arrived is a point where it becomes necessary to 
examine with the strictest scrutiny every act, no mat- 
ter how trivial — and not only is it necessary to notice 
his acts, but to scan with severity his motives for act- 
ing. No matter how trifling the circumstances here 
recorded, they will be found important in the progress 
of the narrative. 

While he was attending the land-sales at Chocchu- 
ma, and awaiting the settlement of his late affairs, a 
Mr. Clanton, who had established a little country store 
in the neighbourhood, and with whom he had formerly 
been slightly acquainted in Tennessee, requested him 
to take the agency of his business until he could go to 
Tennessee for his family and return, alleging, as a 
reason for his request, " that he had been selling 
goods on credit, and that many of his customers 
would take advantage of his absence, and leave the 
country without paying their arrearages, as the greater 
part of them were strangers of doubtful character." 

At this time Mr. Stewart was very much occupied 
with his own affairs ; but, ever ready to accommodate a 

10 Stewart's life 

friend, even at his individual inconvenience, he con- 
sented to take charge of Mr. Clanton's books and busi- 
ness during his absence. 

Mr. Clanton then urged him to sleep at his store- 
house at night, which vrould not interfere with his 
business, as he could ride to the land-office at Choc- 
chuma and back very easily in the day ; to this Mr. 
Stewart consented, provided it would not hinder too 
much his own affairs. 

The small quantity of goods and liquors left by Mr. 
Clanton in possession of Mr. Stewart, amounted to 
about two hundred and fifty or three hundred dollars. 
These articles he requested Mr. Stewart to dispose of 
in any way that might offer, as he expected to be much 
in want of money on his return. During the six 
weeks that Mr. Stewart had charge of Mr. Clanton's 
affairs, he disposed of more than one hundred dollars 
worth of this property — and as he received the pay for 
a pint of whiskey or a handkerchief, he deposited the 
money in the drawer of Mr. Clanton's store. 

In this small way he took in about ninety dollars, 
while at the store mornings and evenings, which was 
never entered upon any book, as there was no cash- 
book used in the establishment. What few goods he 
sold for credit were charged upon a day-book as de- 
livered, and upon this book he opened but one new ac- 
count, which was against himself for goods delivered 
to Mr. Elijah Smith, a gentleman who lived near the 
storehouse, and from whom Mr. Stewart had purchased 
corn for his horse while at the store, which was gen- 
erally every night. The two accounts stood open ; as 
Stewart required corn, he got it from Smith; and as 


Smith wanted any thing that he could find among Clan- 
ton's remnants, he procured it from Stewart, the latter 
accounting for it by a charge against himself on Mr. 
Clanton's books. He also took some things for his 
own use, amounting to five or six dollars, which he 
paid for and deposited the money in the drawer, with 
the proceeds of the other cash sales. 

In the month of January, 1834, Mr. Clanton return- 
ed from Tennessee with his family. Upon again re- 
ceiving his affairs from the hands of Mr. Stewart, he 
expressed the highest satisfaction at the manner in 
which the latter had taken charge of his business, and 
as a token of his gratitude presented him with a lot 
of land in a little town-site that he had laid off for a 
village where his storehouse stood. 

He was extremely anxious to form a copartnership 
with Mr. Stewart ; but the latter, wishing to invest all 
his capital in land, declined the proposition, but ac- 
cepted the lot, and promised to build upon it as soon 
as he should return from a visit to Tennessee, so as to 
induce others to settle upon the same site ; and he in 
turn, while absent, left his property in charge of Mr. 

Previous to his departure, Clanton requested that he 
would have his goods removed to the house of Mr. 
William Vess, as he had not the room to spare in his 
own, observing, at the same time, that Vess was a very 
clever fellow, but that he (Clanton) would see to his 
property liimself. Accordingly, Mr. Stewart had his 
property removed ; and leaving all his affairs in the 
charge of Mr. Clanton, he set out upon his journey 
on the 18th of January 1834. On the 21st of th. 


same month lie reached Madison coimty, in Tennes- 
see, where lived his old friend and neighbour the Rev- 
erend John Henning. Soon after his arrival he called 
on Mr. H., who informed him that he and his son 
Richard had lost, on the night of the 18th of January, 
two negro men ; and remarked, that recent develop- 
ments had attached suspicion upon one John A. Mur- 
rell, a man of doubtful and suspicious character, who 
resided in the neighbourhood. He stated, also, that he 
had learned from one of Murrell's near neighbours 
(whom he had desired to watch his movements), that 
he would leave Madison county on the 25th for Ran- 
dolph, a town on the Mississippi river ; and suggested 
that, if he had stolen the negroes, his object probably 
was to proceed to the place of their concealment. 

Mr. H. solicited Mr. Stewart, who, as the reader 
has already been told, was on terms of friendship and 
intimacy with him and his family, to accompany his 
son Richard in pursuit of Murrell, hoping thereby to 
obtain some intelligence of the negroes, as it was prob- 
able that so soon as the excitement occasioned by their 
abduction, and the suspicion resting upon Murrell, had 
in a measure subsided, he would take some measures 
to remove them from the country. Mr. Stewart con- 
sented, and promised to make every exertion in his 
power to ferret out the thief and reclaim their prop- 

Although Mr. Stewart had lived within five miles 
of Murrell's house a part of the time while he was 
resident in Tennessee, he had never made his ac- 
quaintance, nor had he seen him but once : he was 
then pointed out to him, but at a distance too remote 


to enable him to obtain any definite knowledge of his 
features. Besides, considerable time had since elap- 
sed, so as to leave him no hope of being able to recog- 
► nise him should he be so fortunate as to overtake him. 
He was therefore obliged to rely on the description 
given of him by Mr. Henning. 

Mr. Henning proposed to remunerate him for his 
services and loss of time ; but, fired with indignation 
against the perpetrator of such villany, Stewart re- 
fused any recompense, and professed to desire nothing 
beyond the gratification of being instrumental in over- 
taking and bringing the offender to justice. With 
feelings such as these, and a desire to serve an old 
and valued friend, he took leave of Mr. H., and pro- 
ceeded to the house of a Dr. Evans, with the promise 
to meet Mr. H.'s son at Denmark (a small country^il- 
lage about four miles distant) at as early an hour on 
the following morning as their convenience might 

As much that is set forth in the " Western Land 
Pirate" has been questioned, we deem it due, both to 
Mr. S. and the public, to accompany each material 
statement with a certificate of undoubted authority. 
As such, we offer the following certificate : — 

" State of Tennessee, Madison County. 

" I do hereby certify, to all whom it may concern, 
that all Virgil A. Stewart has said in the ' Western Land 
Pirate,' so far as it relates to me and my request, is 
strictly correct. 

" Mr. Stewart pursued John A. Murrell by my request ; 
and I further certify that said Stewart lived in ray im- 
mediate neighbourhood two years ; and that there was 


no young man who conducted himself more honour- 
ably, or who deserves the confidence of the public more 
than Mr. Stewart. 

" Given under my hand and seal, this 10th day of Oc 
tober, 1835. 

[Sealed.] "JOHN HENNING." 

On the morning of January 26th, 1834, Mr. S. was 
at Denmark, according to appointment ; but young 
Henning failed to make his appearance. He remain- 
ed several hours awaiting the young man's arrival, till 
at length, becoming impatient, he concluded to prose- 
cute his journey alone, supposing that his intended 
companion had been taken ill, as he had left him some- 
what indisposed when they parted on the preceding 

He accordingly left Denmark about ten o'clock, 
A. M., and proceeded on his w^ay to the turnpike at 
Estanaula, over the Hatchee river, about seven miles 
distant (this being the only crossing-place in the win- 
ter season), where he expected to obtain intelligence 
of Murrell. 

The weather was unusually cold, and the hard-fro- 
zen road, much cut up by recent travelling and cover- 
ed with sleet, considerably retarded his progress. 
When he reached the toll-house at Estanaula, he 
inquired of the keeper if Murrell had gone by, and 
whether his gates might be passed during the night 
without his knowledge 1 While he was yet conver- 
sing with him, the keeper turned himself about, and ob- 
served, " Yonder comes Murrell, now !" Upon look- 
ing in the direction indicated, Mr. Stewart saw him ; 
but he was too near to admit of farther conversation 


with the keeper. Murrell rode quickly up, paid his 
toll, and proceeded on his way ; when Stewart renew- 
ed his conversation with the keeper, and asked if he 
was satisfied that the individual who had passed was 
Murrell. The keeper assured him that he was, and 
added that he knew him well. Upon this Mr. Stew- 
art paid his toll and proceeded after him. He followed 
close upon him for a short time, with a vi«w to learn, 
if possible, to what place he was travelling, without 
giving Murrell any occasion to suspect his intentions. 
At length it occurred to him, that, by falling into his 
company, he might obtain a better idea of his plans and 
business. He accordingly rode up, and accosted him 
very respectfully, which was returned with equal ci- 
vility and address, but with a look of inquiry and scru- 
tiny that savoured somewhat of embarrassment. 

The following dialogue ensued : — 

Stewart. " We have disagreeable travelling, sir." 

Murrell. " Extremely so, sir." 

S. " The travelling and my business correspond 
very well." 

M. " Pray, sir, what can be your business that 
you should compare it to travelling on such a road as 
this ?" 

<S. " Horse-hunting, sir." 

M. " Yes, yes, disagreeable indeed : your compar- 
ison is not a bad one. Where did your horse stray 

S. " From Yallabusha river, in the Choctaw Pur- 

M. •' Where is he aiming for ?" 

S. " I do not know ; I am told that he was owned by 


a man in this country somewhere ; but it is an uncer- 
tain business — a cross-and-pile chance." 

(Mr. S. had been requested by a friend in the Pur- 
chase, when he \v^s leaving that country for Tennes- 
see, to inquire for a horse that had strayed, and made 
the description then given hira serve his present pur- 

M. " How far down will you go ?" 

S. "I do not know. The roads are so very bad, 
and the weather so extremely cold, I am becoming 
very tired of so uncertain a business ; and I am quite 
lonesome travelling by myself. How far down will 
you go on this road ?" 

]\L " About eighteen miles, to the house of a friend. 
I am anxious to get there to-night, but it will be very 
late travelling in such cold weather. Perhaps your 
horse is stolen." 

iS. " No, I guess not ; though I had much rather 
some clever fellow had stolen him than that he should 
be straying." (Mr. Stewart here observed a very per- 
ceptible change in the countenance of his companion, 
which showed him evidently pleased with the last 

M. " Are you acquainted in this part of the coun- 
try ?" 

S. " I am a stranger, sir." 

M. " Where are you from ?" 

S. " I was born in the State of Georgia, and brought 
up there, but have moved to the Choctaw Purchase, and 
have been there about nine or ten months," 

M. " How do you like that country ?" 

S. " Very well indeed, sir." 


M. "Is there much stealing going on in that coun- 
try ?" 

S. " No, not much, considering we are pretty much 
savages and forerunners. You know how all new 
countries are generally first settled." 

M. "Certainly; I am well acquainted with these 

Murreli's conversation and manner now became 
gradually more free and open, and he appeared to 
scrutinize less closely the countenance and demean- 
our of his companion. He had feared that he was in 
company with one who knew his character, which oc- 
casioned the cautious reserve that appears in the pre- 
ceding dialogue. But, upon learning that Mr. S. 
was from Georgia, and had resided in the Choctaw 
nation but nine or ten months, he felt assured that he 
could know but little, if any thing, respecting his past 
doings. Hence the change in his manner. Nothing 
was now wanting with Mr. Stewart to ensure his suc- 
cess but the art of dissembling well — to demean him- 
self so as to elude suspicion ; in this (as will after- 
ward appear) he succeeded, even beyond his own ex- 
pectations. Remembering that Murrell had express- 
ed an intention of visiting a friend, he at once deter- 
mined to accompany him, though at the expense of 
travelling late at night, and in very cold weather : for, 
on many accounts, he was inclined to suspect that 
Mr. Henning's negroes were there awaiting the arri- 
val of Murrell. 

They continued their journey, indulging an almost 
unreserved interchange of sentiment and opinion on va- 
rious subj<5cts — Mr. Stewart all the while engaged in 

18 Stewart's life 

studying the disposition and character of his compan- 
ion. The conversation once more turned on the sub- 
ject of stealing, which appeared to be Murrell's fa- 
voiuite theme, on which he dwelt with peculiar 
interest and satisfaction, as will be seen in the fol- 
lowing dialogue : — 

Murrell. " This country is about to be completely 
overrun by a company of rogues ; they are so strong 
that nothing can be done with them. They steal from 
whom they please ; and, if the person they take from 
accuses them, they jump on more of his property ; 
and it is found that the best plan is to be friendly with 
them. There are two young men who moved down 
from middle Tennessee to Madison county, keen, 
shrewd fellows. The eldest brother is one of the 
best judges of law in the United States. He directs 
the operations of the banditti ; and he so paves the 
way to all his offences that the law cannot reach 

Stewart. " Well, sir, if they have sense enough to 
evade the laws of their country, which are made by the 
wisest men of the nation, let them do it. It is just as 
honourable for them to gain property by their superior 
powers, as it is for a long-faced hypocrite to take the 
advantage of the necessities of his fellow-beings. We 
are placed here, and we must act for ourselves, or we 
feel the chilling blast of charity's cold region. What is 
it that constitutes character, popularity, and power, in 
the United States ? Sir, it is property ; strip a man of 
his property in this country, and he is a ruined man in- 
deed — you see his friends forsake him ; and he may 
have been raised in the highest circles of society, yet 


he is neglected and treated with contempt. Sir, my 
doctrine is, let the hardest fend off." 

M, " You have expressed my sentiments and feel- 
ings better than I could myself ; and I am happy to 
fall in with company possessed of principles so con- 
genial with my own. I have no doubt these two 
brothers are as honourable among their associates and 
clan as any men on earth, but perfect devils to their 
enemies : they are undaunted spirits, and can never 
be found when they are not armed like men of war. 
The citizens of Madison once attempted to arrest 
the elder brother for having three of a certain Mr. 
Long's negroes in his possession ; and they carried 
nearly a whole captain's company for a guard ; and if 
they had not taken a cowardly advantage of him, he 
would have backed them all — though he cared noth- 
ing for the charge. He knew they could not hurt 
him ; but they took him prisoner, and carried him be- 
fore an old fool of a squire, who neither knew nor 
cared for the law or his duty, and would have com- 
mitted him against positive proof; and there is no 
doubt Long perjured himself in endeavouring to con- 
vict him. The people thought he was good for the 
penitentiary, but he laughed at them, and told them 
they were all fools ; that it was only a finable offence, 
to make the worst of it. He had plenty of friends to 
bail him. On the day of the trial, the house was 
thronged to hear it. He had employed the most em- 
inent lawyer at the bar, Andrew L. Martin ; and, during 
the trial, he took his lawyer aside and cursed him, 
and told him he paid him his money to work for him, 
and that he could not get him to work the way ho 

20 Stewart's life 

wanted him. He showed Martin the law, and got 
him in the way ; and he gave them trouble. He is 
a flowery fellow, but he has not dived into the quirks 
of the law, like his client. They mulcted him with 
a fine and the costs of suit ; and, in case his prop- 
erty would not make the amount, he was to become 
Long's slave for five years. When the verdict was 
read, he winked at Long and called him Master Billy. 
He took an appeal to the Supreme Court, and there is 
no doubt of his getting rid of the whole scrape at the 
May term, in spite of all the prejudice that is against 
him. But the matter has been attended with bad 
consequences : one of his strongest friends has suf- 
fered in consequence of suspicion of being his friend. 
He was the deputy sheriff, and as fine a fellow as 
ever lived. After they found that they could do noth- 
ing with him at law, they formed a company, which 
they called Captain Slick's company, and advertised 
for all honest men to meet at a certain school-house 
in the neighbourhood on a certain day. They met 
and bound themselves in certain matters ; made rules 
and laws for the government of the company ; and in 
this company he had some strong friends, who would 
inform him of their movements in the shortest time. 
He got several guns, and made an immense quantity 
of cartrid'ges, and prepared his house and buildings 
with port-holes, ready for an engagement. On the day 
they published that they would be there to slick him, 
he had eighteen friends who came to his assistance. 
He disposed of them in difi'erent buildings, so as to 
command a fair fire to rake the door of his dwelling ; 
but they got a hint that it would be a dangerous under» 


taking, and gave it up as a bad job : and a fine thing 
for them ; for if they had gone, he would have been 
apt to cut them all off, situated as he was — and thje 
law would have protected him in the course he in- 
tended to pursue. 

" But all who have had any thing to do with it have 
got sick of it, and are trying to make fair weather with 
him. Not that they love him, but because they dread 
him as they do the very devil himself — and well they 
may, for he has sworn vengeance against them, and 
he will execute it. He is a fellow of such smooth and 
genteel manners, that he is very imposing : and many 
of the more credulous part of the community are in- 
duced to believe that he is persecuted by Long, when 
he only intended friendship and kindness in catching 
his negroes for him. He well knows how to excite 
the sympathy of the human heart, and turn things to 
his advantage. He rarely fails to captivate the feel- 
ings of those whom he undertakes ; and, what is more 
astonishing, he has succeeded in many instances 
where the strongest prejudice has existed ; and, where 
his revenge has been excited, he never fails to effect 
either the destruction of their property or character, 
and frequently both. He has often been compelled 
to remove prejudices of the strongest kind, for the 
purpose of getting a man into his power whom he 
wished to destroy. In a matter of this kind he has 
never-tiring perseverance ; and many have become 
w^ise when it was too late, and sunk under the in- 
fluence of his great managing powers. 

" There is an old Methodist preacher and his son, 
who had two very fine negro men stolen a short 

22 Stewart's life 

time back ; and this old Parson Henning and his son 
vrere officious in procuring counsel, and expressing 
their sentiments about him and his brother, and saying 
what the country ought to do with them, and all such 
stuff as this : and I have no doubt but those two young 
men have got them. They live within about two miles 
of the old preacher, and he and his son are as much 
afraid of those two young men as if they were two 
ravenous beasts that were turned loose in the forest : 
if they were sure of finding their negroes by following 
them off, they would sooner lose their property than fall 
into the hands of those dreaded men. 

" In fact, they have managed with such skill that they 
have become a complete terror to the country ; and, 
when property is missing in that country, and there is 
any suspicion that those two young men are concerned 
with it, all is given up as lost, and it is considered time 
and money spent in vain to follow them." 

S. " These two young men must possess talents 
and acquirements of the first order, or they could never 
sustain themselves in a community where there are 
such strong prejudices against them. And that elder 
brother of whom you speak must be endowed with 
some sirpernatural power, or an extraordinary capa- 
city and practical experience ; for to overcome the 
prejudices of a stubborn nature is considered the 
hardest change to efl'ect in the human mind. I would 
warrant them to be devoted friends and noble spirits 
in the sphere in which they move, and this old preacher 
you speak of is no more, even if he is what he pre- 
tends to be, — and that, you know, we can doubt as we 
please, or rather as it best suits our convenience. He 


was their enemy, and treated them as such, when they 
had not been hostile to him, and they are his enemies 
now, for cause ; — and if they are what my imagination 
has made them, he will have cause to repent in sack- 
cloth and ashes for his sins. But, sir, to my doctrine ; 
let the hardest fend off. They are enemies, and let 
them lock horns. Of what age is that wondrous man 
you speak of?" 

M. " He is about thirty, I suppose, and his brother 
just grown up, and as smart a fellow as the elder 
brother, but not half the experience. I will tell you 
of one of his routs on a speculation a few months 
past, and you can judge for yourself whether he is 
possessed of talents or not. There was a negro man 
by the name of Sam, that had been sold out of the 
neighbourhood of those two young men to a man by 
the name of Eason, near Florence, Alabama. The 
elder brother was passing that way on one of his 
scouts, and happening to see Sam, inquired of him 
how he liked his new home and master ? ' Bad 
enough,' said Sam. * Well,' said he, ' Sam, you know 
me ; and you know how to leave the rascal ; run away 
and get back to your old range, and all things are safe.' 
It was not long before Sam was at his house. He har- 
boured him until Eason advertised him as a runaway, 
and offered a reward for him ; that was what he want- 
ed to see. He procured a copy of the advertisement, and 
put it and the negro into the hands of his brother and a 
fellow by the name of Forsyth, and told them to push 
and make hay while the sun shone : they were gone 
about seven weeks, and his brother returned with about 
fourteen hundred dollars in cash, seven hundred dollars 

24 Stewart's life 

worth of ready-made clothing, and a draught on Thomas 
Hudnold, of Madison county, State of Mississippi, for 
seven hundred dollars, which is as good as gold-dust, 
though he has to sue for the draught ; but the recovery 
is sure — for they can never get the negro, and without 
him they can never prove that he was Eason's negro, and 
he will recover the amount of the draught in spite of 
them. Hudnold became suspicious that they got the 
negro again, and wrote to the house on which the 
draught was drawn to protest it. They did not act in 
that matter as the elder brother, the old fox, would have 
done : though, for young hands, they made a fine drag. 
They did not go immediately on and draw the cash, as 
one of them should have done ; but delayed, trying to 
make more sales, and delayed too long before the 
draught was presented. That is twenty-eight hundred 
dollars he sold Eason's negro for, and now has the ne- 
gro in Texas in the hands of a friend : they did not 
make the disposition of Sam which they generally do 
with negroes on such occasions ; he is too fine a fel- 
low : and I think they will make more money on him 
when things get a little still. Sam is keen and artful, 
and is up to any thing that was ever wrapped in that 
much negro hide. If Eason had got on his track and 
caught him, he could not have done any thing with 

S. " I cannot see how he would have evaded the 
law in that instance." 

M. " It is a plain case, sir, when the law is exam- 
ined by a man who understands it. In the first place, 
the negro had rim away, and had escaped from Ea- 
eon's possession ; and, in the second place, Eason had 


offered a reward for his negro to any man who would 
catch him. This advertisement amounts to the same, 
in virtue, as a power of attorney, to take his property, 
and act for him to a certain extent ; so you see the ad- 
vertisement is a commission to take the property into 
possession ; now, if the holder of the property chooses 
to make a breach of the trust which the advertisement 
confides in him, arid, instead of carrying the negro to 
the owner, converts him to his own use — this is not 
stealing, and the owner can only have redress in a 
civil action for the amount of his 'property : and as for 
a civil action, they care nothing for that, for they will 
not keep property. Their funds are deposited in a 
bank that belongs to their clan. This is the way his 
ingenuity perplexes them. He has sifted the criminal 
laws until they are no more in his hands than an old 
almanack, and he dreads them no more. But what is it 
that he cannot do with as many friends as he has, who 
are willing to be subject to him and his views in all 
things 1 there lies his power : his great talent in gov- 
erning his clan. He is universally beloved by his fol- 

S. " Such a man as that, placed in a situation to 
make a display of his talents, would soon render the 
name and remembrance of an Alexander or a Jackson 
little and inconsiderable when compared with his own ; 
he is great from the force of his own mental powers, 
and they are great from their station in the world, in 
which fortune more than abilities has placed them." 

Here, for the first time, Mr. Stewart observed his 
encomiums on the character of this marvellous elder 
brother reach the modesty of Murrell. Hitherto ihey 
B 3 


had produced no other perceptible eflect than to stim- 
ulate his vanity — a quality with which nature seems 
liberally to have endowed him. But when he heard 
himself held in flattering comparison with characters 
so distinguished, he could not suppress an involuntary 
blush that momentarily mantled his countenance. 

Mr. Stewart had now both discovered MurrelFs ac- 
cessible point, and how far it might be taken advantage 
of — a very important step, indeed, towards the accom- 
plishment of his purpose. 

We copy below Thomas Hudnold's certificate regard- 
ing the deception practised upon him in the purchase 
of Mr. Eason's negro alluded to above : — 

^^State of Mississippi^ Madison County. 

" I do hereby certify to all whom it may concern, that 
that part of the narrative entitled ' The Western Land-Pi- 
rate,' which gives an account of a negro man who was 
stolen from William Eason, of Alabama, and sold to me 
in this county, and restolen from me within a few nights 
thereafter, and whom I have never heard of since, is 
strictly correct. 

" Given under my hand and seal this 3d day of Au- 
gust, 1835. 

[Sealed.] "THOMAS HUDNOLD." 

Mr. Stewart and his companion had now reached the 
valley of Poplar Creek. It was growing late in the 
afternoon — the sun was just sinking behind the hills 
of the west — unseen by them, except as its ruddy light 
was reflected from the icy tops of the beautiful growth 
of poplars that imbowered their pathway. " This 
is a beautiful scene," said Murrell, " and continues 
through the valley, which, when we have passed, a 


good road will conduct us on to the house of my 
old friend." While they were yet in the valley, and 
admiring the growth of young poplars that seemed 
to wave in triumphant pride and power over a re- 
gion that had been once desolated by some hurricane 
of past years, the twilight of evening closed over 

To Mr. Stewart, all that he had heard and seen seem- 
ed now to take the air of mystery — he could scarce re- 
alize that he had been travelling with, and listening to, 
the conversation of a human being like himself ; and 
that what had passed was not all a dream. Imagination 
had wellnigh led him to fancy himself directed by a 
superhuman power, and that some dread fatality hung 
over his destiny. All the goblin-tales of his childhood 
crowded upon his recollection, and filled him with emo- 
tions of doubt, uncertainty, apprehension. A thousand 
images of terror flitted before his bewildered imagina- 
tion. The house of MurreU's friend might be the 
place where would be acted the tragic scene of his 
immolation and robbery — and that friend might be a 
co-actor. These, and many other ideas equally fear- 
ful (which can better be imagined than described), 
crossed the mind of Mr. Stewart as he and his myste- 
rious companion still pursued their journey under the 
thickening shadows of approaching night. Meanwhile 
they had left the valley some hundred yards behind 
them, and, seeing an old log burning by the roadside, 
Murrell proposed to Mr. Stewart to make a halt and 
warm themselves ; he consented, and they dismounted 
from their horses. Mr. Stewart began now to be 
awakened to the reality of his situation by the numb- 

ness which enchained his limbs — he found some diffi- 
culfy in walking from his horse to the fire. In a short 
time he was considerably relieved. Mr. Stewart be- 
gan now to revolve more fully in his mind the chances 
of meeting Mr. Henning's negroes at the house of Mur- 
rell's friend — their recognition of him, and the conse- 
quent hazard of his life : reflections by no means en- 
couraging. Still he determined to risk the adventure, 
stimulated as he was by the almost desperate hope of 
being able in such an event to reclaim the negroes and 
capture the rogue. 

" You appear very cold, my young friend," said 
Murrell to his companion, as they were seated by 
the fire ; " I fear you are frosted ; you can't stand it 
like me — I have undergone enough to kill a horse. 
We will remain where we are till the fair queen of 
night favours us with her silver beams, which will 
light us to a more hospitable lodging. Did you ever 
travel much by moonlight ?" 

Stewart. " Not much, sir." 

Murrell. " Then you have not the same love for her 
silver beams as an old veteran in mysteries. I would 
suppose that you are too young to be of much experi- 
ence in the practical part, though you are well skilled 
in the theory ; but you will find many difficulties to 
surmount in the execution of plans which you have 
never thought of; you will learn to suffer privations 
of all kinds to the greatest extent. These privations 
and difficulties, when surmounted, are what constitute 
the glory of an old veteran and prominent actor." 

Murrell and his companion spent some half hour at 
the old log, indulging the most free and unrestricted 


interchange of sentiment and opinion. Tlieir conver- 
sation turned chiefly on the same gloomy topics of rob- 
bery and murder. Upon these Murrell appeared to 
dwell with peculiar and fiendish delight ; and would 
exhibit an air of triumphant pride whenever an oppor- 
tunity Was offered to introduce and enlarge upon some 
exploit of successful villany. 

At length the rising moon, as her placid light was beau- 
tifully reflected from the sleety tops of the neighbouring 
trees, broke in upon their conversation by reminding 
them that it was time to travel. They mounted their 
horses and set forward on their unfinished journey. 
Mr. Stewart now remembered that he had but one pis- 
tol, which occasioned him momentary uneasiness. He 
saw himself (single-armed) unequal to a contest he 
knew awaited him should Murrell prove faithless in 
the midst of his friends. Still, nerved by the consid- 
eration of the justness of his cause, and assured by 
the almost hopeless pledge of a villain's honour, he 
found means once more to suppress his rising fears. 
Besides, he reflected, that to retreat at a stage in his 
adventure when danger appeared for the first time se- 
riously to threaten, would savour too much of coward- 
ice ; more particularly as his past good management had 
giveii him so much the advantage over his antagonist. 

They rode briskly on, with every appearance of 
good-humour and renovated spirits. Mr. Stewart man- 
aging all the while to keep somewhat in rear of his 
companion, determined to give him no possible ad- 
vantage : for he believed 

" A man may smile and murder while he smiles." 

30 Stewart's life 

" Come, sir," said Murrell, " ride up ; the night is 
cold, and we have far to go ; — let us pass the time as 
pleasantly as possible : — come up, and I will tell you 
of another feat of this elder brother of whom I have 
been speaking." 

Stewart. " Yes, sir, with all my heart, if it is as good 
as the last." 

Murrell. " He is a likely fellow, tall, and well pro- 
portioned, and dresses rather in the Methodist order; 
and when he is off on his scouts, directing his men 
how to proceed (for he never carries off property him- 
self, he always has men for that purpose), he fre- 
quently makes appointments, and preaches. He is 
well versed in the Scriptures, and preaches some 
splendid sermons. He has frequently preached at a 
place, and before he commenced pointed out some fine 
horse for his friend to steal ; and while he was preach- 
ing and praying for them, his friend would save the 
horse for him. He always gives his residence some 
other course than the correct direction. In one of 
those jaunts he called at the house of one Nobs, a 
Methodist, on Elk river, in Middle Tennessee. Nobs 
had heard him preach a year before that in the neigh- 
bourhood, and was much taken with him as a preacher. 
He had given his residence in South Alabama, and had 
spoken a great deal of his negroes and farm ; and of 
the perplexity he had in getting an overseer that would 
do his duty, and not abuse his slaves, and all such 
stuff as this, and Brother Nobs drank it all down. Sup- 
per came on, and he got them all around the table on 
their feet ; he raised his hands in the most solemn 
manner, as though he was just going to open the win- 


dows of heaven, and select its richest blessings for 
Brother Nobs, his wife, and latest posterity. He was 
lengthy in his supplications at the table ; but when 
he came to use the books, and go to duty, he was 
eloquent. The same service was rendered the next 

" When about to start, he wanted to pay Brother 
Nobs ; but Brother Nobs was almost hurt to think 
that he would suppose he would charge him. ' Well, 
Brother Nobs, will you be so good as to give me 
change for a twenty-dollar bill ? I am out of change, 
and I dislike to offer a bill of that size to be changed 
where I stay all night, for the w^orld will say he is a 
preacher, and does not like to pay for staying all night 
at a tavern — see, he has presented a twenty-dollar bill 
to be changed. This is the way of the world — and I 
hope God, in his mercies, will enable me to live iu 
such a manner as never to dishonour the cause of the 
Gospel, or degrade the ministry.' 

" Brother Nobs, anxious to render the preacher, and, 
as he thought, a very rich man, a favour, answered 
him — * Yes, brother, with pleasure.' He ran to his 
wife and got the keys, took out the purse, and counted 
out seventeen dollars and fifty cents, when his change 
gave out. Brother Nobs was in a peck of misery. 
' Stay a little ; I will run over to Brother Parker's and 
borrow the balance.' — ' Do, if you please, and I will 
stay with Sister Nobs until you return.' Brother Nobs 
was not long gone, when he returned with as much 
pride of being able to accommodate his preacher as 
an East India merchant would show^ at the arrival of a 
rich cargo of goods. The preacher's bill is changed, 
and all is right. 


" Preacher. " Well, Brother Nobs, you have a fine 
young jack — did you raise him ?' 

" Brother Nobs. ' He was foaled mine, and I have 
raised him.' 

" Preacher. ' Will you trade him. Brother Nobs V 

" Brother Nobs. ' I have raised him for that pur- 
pose ; but I cannot get the worth of him in this coun- 
try ; I have never been offered more than one hundred 
and fifty dollars for him, and he is worth two hundred 
and fifty.' 

" Preacher. ' Yes, Brother Nobs, he is cheap at that 
price ; and, if I had the money with me, I would rid 
you of any farther trouble with him.' 

'' Brother Nobs. ' Well, brother, you can take him. 
You say that you will be at our camp-meeting. Bring 
me the money then — that is as soon as I will need it.' 

" Preacher. ' Well, Brother Nobs, I will take him — 
I need him very much ; I want him for my own mares ; 
I am a domestic fellow ; I raise my ov/n mules for my 

" The trade being completed, the preacher got ready 
to start ; all the family gathered around him to receive 
his parting blessing. 

" Preacher. ' Brother Nobs, may the Lord bless you, 
and save you in heaven ; farewell. Sister Nobs, may 
the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ rest 
and remain upon you ; farewell. May the Lord bless 
your little children : farewell, my dear babies.' 

" The preacher was soon gone from Brother Nobs ; 
but ^ot to South Alabama, but to the western district 
of Tennessee. That day and night put the preacher 
a long way oflT, as slow as his jack travelled ; though 


he was an uncommon fine travelling jack. The 
preacher sold his jack for four hundred dollars, and 
passed a twenty-dollar counterfeit bill on Brother 
Nobs. Poor Brother Nobs can never hear of his rich 
young preacher since ; but I have no doubt he is on a 
voyage of soul-saving, and will visit Brother Nobs 
when he returns." 

S. " It would be a source of the highest pleasure to 
me to see and become acquainted with this wondrous 
man ; my fancy has made him a princely fellow. 
Perhaps I have been too extravagant in my concep- 
tions ; but I know he must be a great man, and pos- 
sessed of unrivalled mental powers." 

M. " That is his character, sir." 

8. " I do not wonder at his being a terror to his en- 
emies, neither am I astonished that he should be be- 
loved by his clan. Such a leader should be beloved 
and adored by his party ; for talents and capability 
should be honoured wherever found ; I must confess 
that what I have heard of this man, alone, of itself, 
has excited my admiration ; but perhaps it is because 
we are congenial spirits." 

M. " Well, sir, we are within three miles of my old 
friend's ; ride up, and we will soon be there. Will you 
go as far down as Randolph ? your horse may have got 
down in that region." 

S. "It is likely that I will, sir ; and, if I were not 
rather scarce of change, I would continue my journey 
over into Arkansas, as cold as it is, as long as I am 
so near to it. I have heard much of that country, 
and I think the land and people would suit my designs 

34 Stewart's life 

and inclinations very much. The land east of the 
Mississippi is nearly all entered, and is very dear." 

The reader will perceive that Mr. Stewart's main 
object in shaping his conversation as he did, was to 
acquaint himself, if possible, with the disposition and 
character of Murrell ; and to learn his destination and 
plans. He pretended a scarcity of funds, to anticipate 
an attempt at robbing him, as he had a considerable 
amount of money with him, and had no sufficient as- 
surance that Murrell was not setting a trap for him. 
He calculated also to obtain, indirectly, some clew to 
Mr. Henning's negroes ; for he foresaw, if the negroes 
were at Murrell's old friend's, his journey would prob- 
ably end at that place, and he might prepare himself 
for the event. If not, he expected to be apprized of it, 
by Murrell's intention to continue his journey. Hence 
the great caution that marked his inquiries — his 
seeming as though he cared not to observe. The oc- 
casion was a critical one, and required skilful man- 
agement ; in this Mr. S. appears not to have been 

Murrell. " I would be very glad if you would go over 
into Arkansas with me. 1 am going over, and I will let 
you have money if you get out ; and I will show you 
the country as long as you wish to stay. I have thou- 
sands of friends over there — it will not cost us a 
cent, if we stay six months ; and I will carry you 
where you can bring away a better horse than the one 
you are hunting. I will learn you a few tricks if you 
will go with me. A man with as keen an eye as yours 
should never spend his time hunting for a horse." 

Stewart. " Sir, I am much obliged to you for your 


complimentj and much more obliged to you for tlie kind 
proposition you have made — I will determine to-mor- 
row whether I will go or not ; but I think I will go. 
I have no doubt I should learn many things under so 
able a teacher as I expect you are ; and I should be 
happy to accompany you." 

M. " Here is my old friend's — I am glad to see his 
cabin once more. Come, alight, every thing is still — 
we will go into the house." 

The midnight visiters knocked for admittance ; the 
old man of the house had not retired, but, like the hour, 
was silent as death. A moment, and the door was 
opened ; they walked in, and were received with much 
attention and respect. Mr. Stewart's eyes glanced 
hastily round the apartment. He might, perchance, 
catch a glimpse of the old parson's negroes. They 
were not there. He felt much jaded, and in want of 
rest ; and, after sitting a short time before the fire, he 
called for lodgings, and left Murrell and his friend 
engaged in conversation. Mr. Stewart went to bed, 
but not to sleep — reflections on what had passed — his 
present unenviable situation — and the possible detec- 
tion of his hitherto successful simulation by meeting 
the negroes in the morning, hung like an incubus over 
his wakeful and bewildered imagination. It was near 
morning before his wearied nature, overcome with ex- 
haustion, sank to repose. 

Thus ends the story of Mr. Stewart's first day's pil 
grimage with the great " Western land Pirate." 



Mr. Stewart rose at a very early hour the morning 
of the 27th, and took advantage of the first dawn of 
light to stroll over the premises in search of Mr. Hen- 
ning's negroes ; intending, in the event of finding them, 
to apprize them of his purpose, and instruct them not 
to recognise him in presence of Murrell. Upon satis- 
fying himself that they were not there, he returned to 
the house, where he found Murrell prepared to ride, 
and giving directions for their horses ; and by the time 
Aurora had emerged from her " chamber of light" in 
the east — while lingering twilight yet mantled the 
prospect, they were on their horses and away. Mr. 
Stewart had been careful to make particular inquiry, 
meanwhile, for his stray horse in Murrell's presence — 
deeming such a course important to preserve consist- 
ency. They proceeded on their journey in the direc- 
tion of Wesley, a small village in the county of Hay- 
wood, and State of Tennessee, distant about six miles 
from their late landlord's. Conversation was renewed 
with their journey. They had not ridden far when 
Murrell inquired, for the first time, the name of his 
companion, in the following language : — 

Murrell. " Well, my young friend, I believe I have 
not yet been so inquisitive as to ask your name, we 
have been so engaged in other conversation." 

Stewart. "No, sir, we have been quite engaged 
since our short acquaintance ; I seldom ever have a 
name, though you can call me Adam Hues at present." 


Mr. Stewart's reason for concealing his real name 
will appear obvious to the reader, when it is remem- 
bered he and Murrell both resided in the same county 
while Mr. Stewart lived in Tennessee, and, though 
never personally acquainted with him, Murrell had, 
probably, often heard of him. 

Murrell. " Well, Mr. Hues, what say you of the trip 
to Arkansas this morning?" 

Hues. " 1 have not yet fairly determined on that 
matter ; though I think I will go." 

M. " Go, yes, you must go, and I will make a man 
of you." 

H. " That is what I want, sir." 

M. " There are some of the handsomest girls over 
there you ever saw. I am in town when I am there." 

//. " Nothing to object to, sir ; I am quite partial to 
handsome ladies." 

31. " Oh ! well, go with me to Arkansas, and I will 
put you right in town ; and they are as plump as ever 
came over, sir." 

H. " I think I will go, sir ; I will determine down 
about Wesley, which your old friend says is five or six 
miles from this." 

M. " We can strike a breeze worth telling over 

H. " I do not doubt it, sir." 

M. " I will tell you a story about another feat of this 
elder brother. His young brother was living in Tipton 
county, below here, and he was down to see him — and 
while he was in the neighbourhood he decoyed off a 
negro boy from his master, and appointed a place 
where to meet him ; but, instead of going himself, he 


sent a friend. His friend conveyed him to the Mis- 
sissippi river, where there was a skiff to receive them ; 
his friend conducted the boy to Natchez in the skiff, 
and lodged him in the care of a second friend. 

" The elder brother took a passage on a steamboat for 
Natchez, after he had lurked behind until he could learn 
all their movements ; after he reached Natchez, he 
took his negro and went on another steamboat, dress- 
ed like a lord, and had as much the appearance of a 
gentleman as any man aboard the boat. He had taken 
a passage to New-Orleans ; but misfortunes will hap- 
pen every now and then. There was a fellow aboard 
the boat who knew him well ; and this rascal went to 
the captain, and told him that the negro which this fel- 
low had was stolen ; and that the fellow was a noto- 
rious negro thief — and that he had better take the 
black boy into custody, and carry him back, and that 
he would be very apt to find his owner's advertise- 
ments as he went back up the country. The captain, 
an old villain, in hopes of getting a reward, and the 
services of the negro for some time, concluded to do 
so. The negro was not suffered to see his master, but 
he had been drilled to his business before. So the 
fellow waited until the boat reached New-Orleans ; 
and, while the boat was landing, he made his escape 
on to the guards of another boat. He went in search 
of his friends in that part of the country, who were 
plenty, and made all his arrangements ; and sent a 
friend to learn when the captain would leave the port ; 
so he goes to the mayor of the city, and gets a process 
against the body of the captain, for unlawfully detain- 
ing his property from his possession. The guard took 


him just as he was preparing to start his boat, and he 
and the negro were both taken before the mayor. He 
charged the captain with having detained his property 
from his possession by violence and force of arms ; 
and produced a bill of sale for the negro, purporting to 
have been given in Tipton county, State of Tennessee, 
and brought in a witness {one of his friends), who 
swore that he was present when the negro was pur- 
chased, and saw him delivered to the plaintiff. The 
mayor asked the captain the cause of his detaining 
the negro from his master. 

" Captain. ' Why, why, — I, I was told that this man 
was a negro thief, sir.' 

" Mayor. ' Have you any evidence V 

'' C. ' Why, — I don't know where the man is who 
told me. He is gone, sir.' 

" M. ' What were you going to do with his negro V 

" C. * Why — I, I was going to keep him, sir.' 

" M. ' Keep him !' 

*' C. ' Yes, sir, I'd keep him safe.' 

" M. ' Yes, sir, I will keep you safe a while. 

" The negro was delivered to the plaintiff, and the 
captain nicked with a heavy fine, and imprisoned : and 
his pretty friend, who knew so much, soon had a nurse 
that attended him day and night, until he found his 
way to the bottom of the Mississippi river. This was 
the way he fixed these two villains for their smartness 
in matters that did not concern them. He waited until 
the captain was just ready to start ; and, by his never 
coming about, the captain thought he had made his 
escape, and that he was proud to get a chance to run ; 
so he had no chance to make any defence, and New- 
Orleans is a minute place. 

40 Stewart's life 

" He sold his negro in New-Orleans for eight htm- 
dred dollars ; and in a few nights he stole him again,, and 
got a friend to conduct hira up the country to a friend's 
house in one of the upper parishes. Here he became a 
Methodist preacher, and preached for a neighbourhood 
of Methodists. He had got two fine geldings near 
New-Orleans, and his friend rode one and his negro 
the other ; and while he was preaching and praying for 
the Methodists, he told them that he had been down to 
the lower country to sell his slaves ; that he had be- 
come rather conscientious on the subject of slavery, 
but that the boy he had with him appeared to be so 
much opposed to being sold, that he had concluded to 
carry him back home again. The negro was up to this, 
and he began to pretend to love one of Higginbotham's 
negro women, and he began to beg his Mossa Higgin- 
botham to buy him. Brother Higginbotham purchased 
his preacher's negro, and the preacher started home to 
Kentucky, an assumed residence. Brother Higginbo- 
tham gave him seven hundred dollars for his boy. He 
had a friend to convey the boy across the Mississippi 
river, near the Arkansas river, where he was to meet 
him at the house of another friend. Brother Higgin- 
botham is greatly distressed ; his boy is gone, who was 
sold for loving his negro woman ; and his preacher was 
gone with his money. He stove about in every direc- 
tion like a mad bull ; but all was in vain, his negro 
was gone. The preacher was prompt to attend at the 
house of his appointed friend, where he met his com- 
panion Avith the negro. He sold him the third time on 
the Arkansas river, for five hundred dollars ; and then 
stole him and delivered him into the hands of his 


friend, who conducted liim to a swamp, and veiled the 
tragic scene, and got the last gleanings and sacred 
pledge of secrecy, as a game of that kind will not do 
unless it ends in a mystery to all but the fraternity. 
He sold that negro for two thousand dollars, and then 
put him for ever out of the reach of all pursuers, and 
they can never graze him unless they can find the ne- 
gro, and that they cannot do, for his carcass has fed 
many a tortoise and catfish before this time ; and the 
frogs have sung this many a long day to the silent re- 
pose of his skeleton ; and his remembrance is recorded 
in the book of mysteries. Thus ended the history of 
the Tipton boy, and Brother Higginbotham's parson, 
who vanished like a spirit to the land of mystics." 

H. " Wonderful and strange man ! who can tell 
the worth of such a noble leader ? he is great and wise 
in all things !" 

M. " That is his character, sir." 

The following is Mr. Higginbotham's certificate on 
that subject : — 

" Clinton, Louisiana, Sept. I2th, 1835. 
" Mr. Virgil A. Stewart : — 

" Dear Sir — Your letter of the 25th of August has 
just come to hand, requesting a statement of the fact of 
Murrell's selling a negro to Mr. Higginbotham of this 
parish. I have to answer, in reply, that the statement 
set forth in ' The Western Land-Pirate' is true with 
but one exception. Murrell did not call himself a 
preacher, but left an impression with the people where 
he stayed that he was a professor of religion. The ne- 
gro was purchased by Mr. Willis Higginbotham for 
Mrs. Powers. He stayed with her from Thursday uu- 

42 Stewart's life 

til Saturday, and then left her rumed, and was heard of 
no more. 

" Yours respectfully, 


■State of Louisiana, East Feliciana Parish. 

" Personally appeared before the undersigned, justice 
of the peace in and for said parish, the Rev. John B. 
Higginbotham, who upon oath says that the above 
statement is true, and has subscribed to the same this 
12th day of September, 1835. 

" L. P. M'CAULEY, J. P." 

The conversation between Murrell and Hues contin 
ued as follows : — 

Murrell. " Well, sir, we are within a half a mile 
of Wesley, and we will have a warm when we get 

Hues. " Yes, sir, we need it very much ; and we 
will have some good brandy and something to eat at 
the tavern." 

31. " We will get the brandy, but I have lots of pro^ 
visions in my portmanteau." 

Mr. Stewart (whom the reader must hereafter know 
by the name of Hues) began to feel, as they approach- 
ed Wesley, considerable embarrassment lest his ac- 
quaintances in that place should recognise him in the 
presence of Murrell, and thus subvert all the plans he 
had been forming for his detection, and which, till 
then, had succeeded much to his wishes ; for his con- 
versation with Murrell, from their first meeting, had 
been all of a character to impress him that he (Hues) 
was an entire stranger in the country through which 


they were travelling. He was much puzzled to know 
in what manner he should meet the exigency of the 
occasion — (and they were already in sight of Wes- 
ley). It at length oecurred to him that his character 
of horse-hunter might be of use in furnishing an ex- 
cuse to separate a short time from his companion, by 
which he could make an opportunity to confer with his 
acquaintances, and apprize them of his business. Ac- 
cordingly, as they entered the village, he drew forth a 
flask, and desired Murrell, he being acquainted, to ride 
on and have it filled, remarking that he would, mean- 
while, stop at the first store, and write some advertise- 
ments for his stray horse (having concluded to accom- 
pany him to Arkansas), as such a step might be the 
means of obtaining some account of him by their re- 
turn. Murrell assented to his proposition — took charge 
of the flask, and, after desiring him to arrange his 
business with all possible despatch, rode on to the 
house which he had pointed out to Hues as the Wes- 
ley Inn ; for Hues had thought it necessary to make 
some inquiry respecting the place, in order to appear 
the consistent stranger. 

This arrangement suited Hues very well ; for two 
of his acquaintances were at the tavern. He stopped 
at the first store he came to till he saw Murrell enter 
the tavern, when he made the best of his way to a 
grocery kept by a third friend, with a view of putting 
him on his guard. Upon being told that he was ab- 
sent from the village, he foresaw but one important 
difiicalty in the way of success (that of being recog- 
nised by his friend at the tavern), which, in a very 
short time, was most happily removed — for he saw 

44 Stewart's life 

Murrell leave the tavern with his flask in search of li- 
quor. He lost no time in making his way thither, and 
made known his situation to his friends, and g-ave 
them the requisite instructions as to the manner in 
which they should treat him when in company with 
Murrell. Colonel Bayliss, one of these friends, put a 
pistol into his hands for defence, in the event of an at- 
tack by Murrell or his clan, should he be fortunate 
enough to overtake Henning's negroes. In a short 
time Murrell returned with the flask of liquor, and in- 
vited his friend Hues to join him in a glass before re- 
suming their journey ; and in a very few moments they 
were once more on the road. 

Colonel Bayliss'' Certificale. 
" I have been called upon, by Mr. Virgil A. Stewart, 
for a statement Of the circumstances which took place 
in the town of Wesley at the time he passed through 
that place in company with Murrell. Previous to that 
time I had formed some acquaintance with Stewart, 
having seen him once or twice. In passing from my 
dwelling-house to my store, I saw Mr. Stewart standing 
in the passage of the tavern ; he signed to me to come 
to him, and, following him back in the passage, inform- 
ed me that he had sought that private mode of speaking 
to me to prevent Murrell from knowing that he had any 
acquaintances in that place, for that he passed himself 
upon him as an entire stranger in the country, and he 
wished me not to recognise liim as an acquaintance in 
his (MurrelFs) presence — that Murrell was an infamous 
character, and was suspected of having stolen three ne- 
groes from Madison county. And that he (Stewart) had 
followed him for the purpose of ascertaining the fact, 
and discovering where the negroes were ; that he had 


overtaken Murrell on the road from Estanaula to Wes- 
ley, and had passed himself on him under a fictitious 
character, but he was afraid that Murrell might be 
playing a deeper game than he was, and taking him over 
to some place where he could more easily dispose of 
him. He then inquired of me if I had a pistol, and if I 
would lend it to him ; he said he had one with him, but 
he wanted to be prepared to defend himself well if he 
was discovered and attacked ; that he knew that he was 
risking his life, but that he w^as determined to discover 
the negroes, if possible. I lent him my pistol, and we 
parted immediately after. Stewart and Murrell left 
Wesley together, since which time I had not seen Stew- 
art until he called upon me for this statement. I was 
abroad from home when they returned, but was inform- 
ed by the gentleman with whom he left my pistol, and 
others of the citizens, that they returned together and 
separated there. 

" These are all the circumstances with w^hich I am 
personally acquainted relative to the matter ; and, if 
they afford any satisfaction to the public, or benefit the 
cause of right, they are freely made. 

" Given under my hand and seal at Memphis, in the 
State of Tennessee, this 20th day of October, 1835. 

[Sealed.] " WILLIAM H. BAYLISS." 

The next place to which they directed their course 
was Randolph. W^hen they had proceeded about a 
mile from Wesley, Murrell observed, — " Come, Hues, 
we will ride a little from the road, eat some cold vic- 
tuals, and talk a little more of the God bless us." 
Upon which Murrell turned his horse from the road, 
and Hues followed. When they had gone about fifty 
yards into the woods. Hues inquired of Murrell his 
object in leaving the road so far (for he had no idea 


of giving him any advantage over him). To which he 
replied — " That old Methodist Henning, knowing me 
to be a particular friend of these two young men I 
have been speaking of, I should not be surprised if 
young Henning was in pursuit of me — and if so, I 
much prefer his being before to behind me — if he 
has been fool enough to undertake the adventure. I 
should know better how to manage him." They had 
proceeded some hundred yards from the road, when 
Murrell reined his horse up to a log, dismounted, and 
made arrangements for their intended repast. He 
drew also from his pocket the favourite flask, and bade 
Hues partake with him his coarse preparation — pre- 
facing hospitalities, however, with a pledge from the 
flask, which now stood full in the midst of their bread 
and bacon. They had been seated but a short time 
when was commenced the following dialogue : — 

Murrell. " Well, Hues, I think I can put you in 
better business than trading with the Indians." 

Hues. " I have no doubt of that, sir." 

M. " Did you ever hear of those devils, Murrells, up 
in Madison county in this state ?" 

H. "I am an entire stranger to them, sir." 

3f . " I am that elder brother whom I have been tel- 
ling you of." 

H. " Is it possible ! I have the pleasure of standing 
before the illustrious personage of whom I have heard 
so many noble feats, and whose dexterity and skill in 
performance are unrivalled by any the world has ever 
produced before him. Is it a dream, or is it reality? I 
scarce can believe that it is a man in real life who 
stands before me. My imagination would fancy and 


make you the genius of some master spirit of ancient 
days, who is sent as a guide to protect and defend 
me before all which may oppose. Sir, under the pro- 
tection of so able a guide and preceptor, I have noth- 
ing to fear ; but look back to the hour of our meeting 
as the fortunate era when my importance and victories 
were to commence." 

M. " Sir, I pledge you my head that I will give you 
all the instruction which my long experience will en- 
able me to ; and I flatter myself that I shall never be 
ashamed of the progress of so very intelligent a pupil. 
Sir, I am the leader of a noble band of valiant and 
lordly bandits ; I will give you our plans and strength 
hereafter, and will introduce you among my fellows, 
and give you their names and residence before we 
part ; but we must not be parted longer than you can 
arrange your business ; and I will make you a splen- 
did fellow, and put you on the high road to fortune. 

" You shall be admitted into the grand councils of 
our clan ; for I consider you a young man of splendid 
abilities. Sir, these are my feelings and sentiments 
towards you." 

When Hues and his companion had finished their 
repast at the log, they mounted their horses, and set 
forward once more on their journey. They had not 
ridden far when Murrell renewed conversation in the 
following language : — 

Murrell, " I am now going to the place whither I 
sent that old Methodist's negroes, in charge of a friend. 
The time has already passed at which I promised to 
meet him ; and I fear, being ignorant of the cause of 
my delay, he will become alarmed, and decline wait- 

48 Stewart's life 

ing for me. I shall have to insist on your consenting 
to travel all night. My delay was occasioned by the 
following circumstances : About the time I had made 
arrangements for leaving Madison county, I was in- 
formed by a friend (by-the-way, a most estimable man 
— and one, too, who stands before the public entirely 
above suspicion), that old Henning and his son sus- 
pected me of being a participant in the abduction of 
their negroes — that they had their spies to watch my 
movements — and were intending to follow me. A 
keen conception of the old fellow's ; and if he had 
known how to hold his tongue, and not been too anx- 
ious to let others know his thoughts, he might have 
given me some trouble ; but I always have men to 
manage the case of such gentry as he and his son. 
Upon being thus informed of their intention to pursue 
me in the event of my then leaving the country, I de- 
termined at once to write Dick Henning a letter — 
which I did, from the village of Denmark ; and which 
ran, in substance, as follows : — ' Sir, I have been told 
you accuse me of being concerned in stealing your 
and your father's negroes. If it be true — I can whip 
you from the point of a dagger to the anchor of a ship. 
But, sir, if I have been misinformed by malicious indi- 
viduals, I wish you to receive this as a letter of friend- 
ship. I am about leaving for Randolph, and shall be 
pleased to have your company — that you may be satis- 
fied that my business is honest.' This letter I de- 
spatched immediately, by such a conveyance as that I 
am satisfied he has received it. And I know, too, that 
he will not undertake to follow me ; for he will nat- 
urally enough conclude that I will hardly go immedi- 


ately to the negroes, knowing, as I do, that suspicion 
is upon me : much less after penning him such a let- 
ter. But, sir, I can take Dick Henning by my side, 
and steal and make sale of every negro he and his fa- 
ther own, and receive the money for them, and he 
shall know nothing of the transaction." 

Hues. " That would be a strange manosuvre, sure ! 
I should be pleased to learn how you would man- 
age it." 

M. " I would have an understanding with the negroes 
beforehand, to meet me at a certain time and place. 
I would also employ a friend to meet them in my place, 
and conduct them off to the morass whither we are 
now travelling. This arrangement made, I might 
be at home, or, if you please, at Henning's house, at 
the very time this friend was carrying off his negroes. 
I could then dispose of my interest in his negroes to 
a friend, and have my money counted out to me before 
his face, and he could know nothing of the nature of the 
transaction. True, I would not deliver the property, 
but my friend would know very well where to find it. 
It was never my intention. Hues, to disturb my imme- 
diate neighbours, until since they have commenced 
their sharp-shooting at me. They may now look out 
for breakers. Their long prayers and Methodist coats 
shall be no protection against my sworn vengeance ; 
neither will they ever again see their negroes if once 
they fall into my hands." 

H. " Your revenge is just ! I shall glory in affording 
you any assistance that my feeble powers may war- 
rant. You have but to command, and I am with you. 
C 5 

50 Stewart's life 

But, sir, above all things, I should glory in contributing 
to the downfall of such mistaken beings !" 

M. " Well, Hues, I am delighted with your senti- 
ments, and hope you will find me worthy the confi- 
dence you repose in me. But we will leave the main 
road before we. travel far, and follow a private way 
through the settlements. I am well acquainted with 
it, and will underwrite your safe conduct. Besides, 
if (as I very much doubt) the old parson has any per- 
son to follow me, he will lose my track." 

H. " In travelling, sir, as in every thing else, I will 
endeavour to follow my leader, and profit by his ex- 

The following is the certificate of Mr. Richard G. 
Henning : — 

" State of Tennessee, Madison County. 

" I do hereby certify, to all whom it may concern, 
that all Virgil A. Stewart has said in the ' Western Land 
Pirate,' so far as my name is concerned with the same, 
is strictly correct in every particular; and I further 
certify that jNIurrell did send me a letter, as described 
in the ' Western Land Pirate,' which Mr. Stewart de- 
scribed after his return with Murrell from Arkansas, be- 
fore I mentioned the fact to him. 

" Given under my hand and seal, this 1 1th day of Oc- 
tober, 1835. 

[Sealed.] "RICHARD G. HENNING." 

The conversation of Murrell now turned on his 
future prospects of plunder, in which he dwelt much 
upon his own superior powers of management and the 
wisdom of his plans — painted his future fortunes and 
success in glowing perspective to his young compan- 


ion, who listened with speechless attention, not un- 
mixed with admiration and horror. To s-atisfy his 
young pupil that he had not been guilty of misrepre- 
sentation in detailing his feats of villany, he proposed 
to decoy the first negro they should meet on the road ; 
who, curious to witness a specimen of his tact and 
skill, readily assented. They had travelled but little 
more than six miles from the log at which they had 
stopped to eat, when they saw an old negro man, 
somewhat bending under the weight and decrepitude 
of years, at the door of a crib which stood by the road- 
side, preparing to take a sack of corn to the mill ; it 
was the only building left upon the spot, from which it 
seems his master had but a short time before removed 
his dwelling-house and other buildings, to the distance 
of some half mile. Murrell approached and accosted 
the negro as follows : — 

Murrell. " Well, old man, you must have a hard 
master, or he would not send you to mill this cold 

Negro. " Yes, mossa, all ub um hard in dis coun- 

M. " Why do you stay with the villain, then, when 
he treats you like a dog V 
- N. " I can't help ura, mossa." 

M. " Would you help it if you could ?" 

N. " Oh ! yes, mossa, dat I would." 

M. " What is your name, old man ?" 

N. " My name Clitto, mossa." 

M. " Well, Clitto, would you like to be free, and 
Lave plenty of money to buy lands, and horses, and 
eyery thing you want ?" 


52 Stewart's life 

Clitto. " Oh ! yes, mossa, dat Clitto do so want em." 

M. " If I will steal you, carry you off, and sell you 
four or five times, give you half the money, and then 
leave you in a free state, will you go ?" 

C. " Oh ! yes, mossa, Clitto go quick." 

M. " Well, Clitto, don't you want a dram this cold 
day ?" (taking his flask of liquor from his pocket and 
offering it to Clitto.) 

C " Thank you, mossa, arter you." 

M. *' Oh, no, Clitto, after you." (Clitto drinks and 
returns the flask to Murrell, who also takes a drink.) 

M. " Well, Clitto, have you no boys you would like 
to see free ?" 

C " Oh, yes, mossa." 

M. "■ Now, Clitto, if you hear the report of a pistol 
at the head of a lane some night, do you think you 
will be sure to come to me, and bring three or four 
boys with you ?" 

C. " Oh, yes, mossa, Clitto come dis very night." 

M. " I am in a hurry now, Clitto, and can't carry you 
off at this time : but you must have the boys in readiness, 
and you shall not be with your old task-master much 
longer, to be cufl'ed and abused like a dog. I am a 
great friend to black people. I have carried off a great 
many, and they are doing well; have homes of their 
own, and are making money. You must keep a bright 
look-out now, and when you hear the pistol fire come 
with the boys. I will have horses ready to take you 
away. Farewell ! Clitto, till I see you again." 

Thus ended the dialogue between Murrell and Clit- 
to. Hues was highly amused at the exhibition he had 
just witnessed, and could not forbear expressing him- 


self much pleased with his companion's manner and 
style of address ; taking occasion to compliment his 
success in achieving so speedy a conquest — for he 
well knew the nearest way to his heart. It had the 
desired effect ; for Murrell turned to him with an air 
of self-complacency and triumph, and said that what 
he had just done was but a trifling job; and continued, 
"fifteen minutes are all that I require to decoy the best 
of negroes from the best of masters." 

Hitherto Murrell had communicated to Hues but a 
few of the less startling of the schemes and adventures 
of his dark and diabolical confederacy. He had not 
yet unfolded to him the splendour of those more ex- 
tensive plans of operations which stood recorded in 
the journals of their mysterious grand council. He 
began now, in the warmth of growing confidence, and 
the promise, at some future day, of a powerful coadju- 
tor and zealous compatriot in the person of his hope- 
ful pupil, to feel an inclination to afford him a more 
comprehensive view of the scenes in the land of mys- 
tics. Accordingly, just as the sun had rolled far down 
the declivity of the heavens, and while yet his part- 
ing rays bathed in a sea of ruddy light the hills and 
horizon of the west, Murrell began the disclosure as 
follows : — 

Murrell. "■ Hues, I will tell you a secret that belongs 
to my clan, which is of more importance than stealing 
negroes — a shorter way to an overgrown fortune, and 
it is not far ahead. The movements of my clan have 
been as brisk as I could expect in that matter ; things 
are moving on smooth and easy. But this is a matter 
that is known only by a few of our leading characters 


The clan are not all of the same grit ; there are two 
classes. The first class keep all their designs and the 
extent of their plans to themselves. For this reason, 
all who would be willing to join us are not capable of 
managing our designs ; and there would be danger of 
their making disclosures which would lead to the de- 
struction of our designs before they were perfected. 
I'his class is what we call the grand council. 

" The second class are those whom we trust with 
nothing except that which they are immediately con- 
cerned with. We have them to do what we are not 
willing to do ourselves. They always stand between 
us and danger. For a few dollars we can get one of 
them to run a negro, or a fine horse, to some place 
where we can go and take possession of it without 
any danger : and there is no danger in this fellow 
then : for he has become the offender, and of course 
he is bound to secrecy. This class are what we term 
the strikers. We have about four hundred of the grand 
council, and near six hundred and fifty strikers. This 
is our strength, as near as I can guess. I will give 
you a list of their names, as I promised you, before we 

" The grand object that we have in contemplation is 
to excite a rebellion among the negroes throughout the 
slave-holding states. Our plan is to manage so as to 
have it commence everywhere at the same hour. We 
have set on the 25th of December, 1835, for the time 
to commence our operations. We design having our 
companies so stationed over the country, in the vicini- 
ty of the banks and large cities, that when the negroes 
commence their carnage and slaughter, we will have 


detachments to fire the towns and rob the banks while 
all is confusion and dismay. The rebellion taking 
place everywhere at the same time, every part of the 
country will be engaged in its own defence ; and one 
part of the country can afford no relief to another, 
until many places will be entirely overrun by the ne- 
groes, and our pockets replenished from the banks 
and the desks of rich merchants' houses. It is true, 
that in many places in the slave states the negro pop- 
ulation is not strong, and would be easily overpower- 
ed ; but, back them with a few resolute leaders from 
our clan, they will murder thousands, and huddle the 
remainder into large bodies of stationary defence for 
their own preservation ; and then, in many other 
places, the black population is much the strongest, and 
under a leader, would overrun the country before any 
steps could be taken to suppress them." 

Hues. '■' I cannot see how the matter is made known 
to the negroes without endangering the scheme by a 
disclosure, as all the negroes are not disposed to see 
their owners murdered." 

M. " That is very easily done ; we work on the 
proper materials ; we do not go to every negro we see, 
and tell him that the negroes intend to rebel on the 
night of the 25th of December, 1835. We find the 
most vicious and wickedly disposed on large farms, 
and poison their minds, by telling them how they are 
mistreated ; that they are entitled to their freedom as 
much as their masters, and that all the wealth of the 
country is the proceeds of the black people's labour : 
we remind them of the pomp and splendour of their 
masters, and then refer them to their own degraded 

56 Stewart's life 

situation, and tell them that it is power and tyranny 
which rivet their chains of bondage, and not their 
own inferiority to their masters. We tell them that 
all Europe has abandoned slavery, and that the West 
Indies are all free, and that they got their free- 
dom by rebelling a few times, and slaughtering the 
whites ; and convince them that, if they will follow the 
example of the West India negroes, they will obtain 
their liberty, and become as much respected as if 
they were white ; and that they can marry white 
women when they are all put on a level. In addition 
to this, we get them to believe that the majority of the 
people are in favour of their being free, and that the 
free states in the United States would not interfere 
with the negroes if they were to butcher every white 
man in the slave-holding states. 

" When we are convinced that we have found a 
blood-thirsty devil, we swear him to secrecy and dis- 
close to him the secret, and convince him that every 
other state and section of country where there are any 
negroes, intend to rebel and slay all the whites they 
can on the night of the 25th December, 1835, and 
assure him there are thousands of white men en- 
gaged in trying to free them, who will die by their 
sides in battle. We have a long ceremony for the 
oath, which is administered in the presence of a ter- 
rific picture painted for that purpose, representing the 
monster who is to deal with him should he prove un- 
faithful in the engagements he has entered into. This 
. picture is highly calculated to make a negro true to 
his trust, for he is disposed to be superstitious at 
best. After we have sworn him, we instruct him how 


to proceed, which is as follows: he is to convince 
his fellow-slaves of the great injustice of their being 
held in bondage, and learn the feelings of all he can on 
the subject of a rebellion, by telling them how success- 
ful the West India negroes have been in gaining their 
freedom by frequent rebellions. 

" The plan is, to have the feelings of the negroes 
harrowed up against the whites, and their minds alive 
to the idea of being free ; and let none but such as 
we can trust know the intention and time of rebellion 
until the night it is to commence ; when our black 
emissaries are to have gatherings of their fellow- 
slaves, and invite all in their reach to attend, with the 
promise of plenty to drink, which will always call ne- 
groes together. Our emissaries will be furnished with 
money to procure spirits to give them a few drams, 
when they will open their secret as follows : ' Fellow- 
slaves, this is the night that we are to obtain our lib- 
erty. All the negroes in America rebel this night and 
murder the whites. We have been long subject to 
the whips of our tyrants, and many of our backs wear 
the scars : but the time has arrived when we can be 

" ' There are many good white men who are helping 
us to gain our liberty. All of you who refuse to fight 
will be put to death ; so come on, my brave fellows, 
we will be free or die.' We will have our men whom 
we intend for leaders ready to head those companies 
and encourage the negroes should they appear back- 
ward. Thus you see they will all be forced to en- 
gage, under the belief that the negroes have rebelled 
everywhere else as in their own neighbourhood, and 
C 3 

58 Stewart's life 

by those means every gathering or assemblage of ne- 
groes will be pushed forward, even contrary to their 
inclination. Those strikers will be of great use at the 
pinch of the game, as many of them will do to head 
companies, and there will be no danger in them when 
they are to go immediately to work, and have the 
prospect of wealth before them : there are many of 
them who will fight like Turks. 

" Our black emissaries have the promise of a share 
in the spoils we may gain, and we promise to conduct 
them to Texas should we be defeated, where they will 
be free ; but we never talk of being defeated. We 
always talk of victory and wealth to them. There is 
no danger in any man, if you can ever get him once 
implicated or engaged in a matter. That is the way 
we employ our strikers in all things ; we have them 
implicated before we trust them from our sight.* 

* Murrell spoke of the advantage he expected to derive from an 
English lecturer on slavery; and gave his opinion as to what would 
be the efifect of an insurrection among the slaves of the south, as 
follows :— " Could the blacks effect a general concert of action 
against their tyrants, and let loose the arm of destruction among them 
and their property, so that the judgments of God might be visibly 
seen and felt, it would reach the flmty heart of the tyrant. We can 
do much at the east by working on the sympathy of the people ; but 
when we remonstrate with a southern tyrant, he counts the cost of 
his slaves and his annual income, and haughtily hurls it in our teeth, 
and tells us the Old and New Testaments both teach him that 
slavery is right. We must reach the tyrant m another way. His 
interest must be affected before he will repent. We can prepare the 
feelings of most of the northern and eastern people, for the final 
consummation of the great work, by lecturing. Interest is the great 
cement that binds the few northerners who are friendly to south- 
ern tyrants ; and if their cities, with all the merchandise that is in 
the country, were destroyed, and their banks plundered of all the 
specie, thousands of eastern capitalists would suffer great loss, and 


" This may seem too bold to you, Hues ; but that is 
what I glory in. All the crimes I have ever commit- 
ted have been of the most daring ; and I have been 
successful in all my attempts as yet ; and I am confi- 
dent that I will be victorious in this matter, as to the 
robberies which I have in contemplation ; and I will 
have the pleasure and honour of seeing and knowing 
that by my management I have glutted the earth with 
more human gore, and destroyed more property, than 

would henceforth consider a slave country an unsafe place to make 
investments ; and thousands would leave the country. This state 
of aflfairs would naturally diminish the value of slave property, and 
disgust even the tyrant with the policy of slavery ; while the coun- 
try would be thus in a state of anarchy and poverty. Their banking 
institutions and credit sunk into disrepute with the commercial 
world, it would be an easy matter to effect the total aboUtion of 

" Desperate cases require desperate remedies. 

" And suppose the blacks should refuse to serve their tyrants any 
longer : what right would the general government have to interfere 
with the internal disputes of the citizens of a state respecting her 
state laws 1 The blacks would not be rebelling against the general 
government, neither would they be invaders : but Americans, and 
citizens of a state refusing obedience to a state law and power that 
are, before God, utterly null and void : being an audacious usurpation 
of his divine prerogative, a daring infringement on the law of nature, 
and a presumptuous transgression of the holy commandments, which 
should be abrogated by the Christian world. Would not the general 
government have more right to interfere in behalf of the injured 
and oppressed than in that of the tyrants and oppressors ? The Uni- 
ted States' troops would be finely employed in the southern planta- 
tions forcing obedience to the unjust laws of a few tyrants and man- 

♦' The southerners are great men for state rights, and in a case like 
the above, we would give them an opportunity to exercise their 
sovereign functions. Make slavery unpopular with a majority of the 
people of the United States, and southerifi tyrants will find a poor 
comforter in the general government." 

60 Stewart's life 

any other robber who has ever lived in America, oi the 
known world. I look on the American people as my 
common enemy. 'J'hey have disgraced me, and they 
can do no more. My life is nothing to me, and it shall 
be spent as their devoted enemy. My clan is strong, 
brave, and experienced, and rapidly increasing in 
strength every day. I should not be surprised if we 
were to be two thousand strong by the 25th of Decem- 
ber, 1835 : and, in addition to this, I have the advan- 
tage of any other leader of banditti that has ever pre- 
ceded me, for at least one half of my grand council 
are men of high standing, and many of them in hon- 
ourable and lucrative offices. Should any thing leak 
out by chance, these men would crush it at once, by 
ridiculing the idea, and the fears of the people. They 
would soon make it a humbug, a cock-and-bull story ; 
and all things would be accounted for to the satisfac- 
tion of the community in short order. These fellows 
make strong pillars in our mystic mansion. Hues, 
how do you suppose I understood your disposition so 
quick, and drew you out on the subject of speculation, 
so that 1 could get your sentiments in so short a time 
after we got in company ?" 

H. " That is what I do not understand, and I can 
only account for it as I would many other of your un- 
rivalled performances, by attributing it to your great 
knowledge and experience of the world and of man- 

M. *' I had not been in company with you more than 
two hours before I knew you as well as if I had made 
you, and could have, trusted my life in your hands. 
A little practice is all you want, and you can look into 
the very heart and thoughts of a man. 


" The art of learning men is nothing when you once 
see how it is managed. You must commence in this 
way : Begin to tell of some act of villany, and notice 
the answers and countenance of the man as you go on 
with your story ; and if you discover him. to lean a lit- 
tle, you advance a little ; but if he recedes, you with- 
draw, and commence some other subject ; and, if you 
have carried the matter a little too far before you have 
sounded him, by being too anxious, make a jest of it, 
and pass it off in that way." 

H. " I cannot see how you will provide the negroes 

th arms to fight with." 

M. " We have a considerable amount of money in 
the hands of our treasurers, for the purpose of purcha- 
sing arms and ammunition to fit out the companies that 
are to attack the cities and banks ; and we will manage 
to get possession of different arsenals, and supply our- 
selves from every source that may offer. We can get 
from every house we enter more or less supplies of 
this kind, until we shall be well supplied. The ne- 
groes that scour the country settlements will not want 
many arms until they can get them from the houses 
they destroy, as an axe, a club, or knife will do to 
murder a family at a late hour in the night, when all 
are sleeping. There will be but little defence made 
the first night by the country people, as all will be con- 
fusion and alarm for the first day or two, until the 
whites can imbody." 

It was now a late hour in the night, and Hues, find- 
ing himself suffering very much from the cold (for the 
weather was unusually bitter), and considerably jaded 
by fatigue, insisted on seeking lodgings. Murrell con- 


seiUed, though he had never once complained, or 
seemed to feel the effects of the keen cutting wind 
that had been preying so uncomfortably upon the frame 
of his less hardened companion. They accordingly 
sought the first house on their road that exhibited any 
thing like an air of comfort, and solicited quarters ; 
and, so soon as they had restored the circulation be- 
fore a blazing fire, they were lighted to their cham- 
bers ; but a few moments convinced them that by far 
the most comfortable quarters were in the neighbour- 
hood of the fire they had left; all else presenting 
a cold, dreary, and comfortless aspect. They how- 
ever retired with a determination to live, though there 
was but little prospect of sleeping, through the night. 


Scarce had rising day scattered the shadows of 
twilight from the face of nature on the following morn- 
ing, ere Murrell and his companion were up and away 
on their journey — glad to catch the first opportunity of 
making their escape from the inhospitable accommo- 
dations of their otherwise agreeable landlord. Mur- 
rell expressed great anxiety to reach Arkansas that 
night ; urging, that his business was of much impor- 
tance, and would sufler by his absence. 

Having now disclosed his plans to his young friend, 
and, as he thought, completely captivated his feelings 
and delighted his imagination with bright visions of 


future and inexhaustible wealth, Murrell began now to 
look upon him as an undoubted proselyte to his cause, 
and the willing associate of his bloody and diabolical 
machinations. His new but hopeful pupil had, as if 
by enchantment, in the space of two short days, ripened 
into his bosom and confidential friend, the pride of his 
fiendish heart, and the object of his highest admiration. 
He proposed a brief narrative of his life from the age 
of ten years, and upon Hues expressing a willingness 
to become a hearer, proceeded after the following 
manner : — 

Murrell. " I was born in middle Tennessee. My 
parents had not much property, but they were intelli- 
gent people ; and my father was an honest man I ex- 
pect, and tried to raise me honest, but I think none the 
better of him for that. My mother was of the pure 
grit ; she learned me and all her children to steal as 
soon as we could walk, and would hide for us when- 
ever she could. At ten years old I was not a bad 
hand. The first good haul I made Avas from a ped- 
ler, who lodged at my father's house one night. 1 
had several trunk-keys, and in the night I unlocked 
one of his trunks, and took a bolt of linen and several 
other things, and then locked the trunk. The pedler 
went off before he discovered the trick : I thought that 
was not a bad figure I had made. About this time 
some pains were taken with my education. At the age 
of sixteen I played a trick on a merchant in that coun- 
try. I walked into his store one day, and he spoke to 
me very politely, calling me by the name of a young 
man who had a rich father, and invited me to trade 
with him. I thanked him, and requested him to put 


down a bolt of superfine cloth ; I took a suit, and had 
it charged to the rich man's son. 

" I began to look after larger spoils, and ran several 
fine horses. By the time I was twenty I began to ac- 
quire considerable character, and concluded to go off 
and do my speculation where I was not known, and 
go on a larger scale ; so I began to see the value of 
having friends in this business. I made several asso 
ciates ; I had been acquainted with some old hands for 
a long time, who had given me the names of some 
royal fellows between Nashville and Tuscaloosa, and 
between Nashville and Savannah, in the State of 
Georgia, and many other places. Myself and a fel- 
low by the name of Crenshaw gathered four good 
hordes, and started for Georgia. We got in company 
with a young South Carolinian just before we reached 
Cumberland Mountain, and Crenshaw soon knew all 
about his business. He had been to Tennessee to buy 
a drove of hogs, but when he got there pork was 
dearer than he had calculated, and he declined purcha- 
sing. We concluded he was a prize. Crenshaw 
winked at me ; I understood his idea. Crenshaw had 
travelled the road before, but I never had ; we had 
travelled several miles on the mountain, when we pass- 
ed near a great precipice ; just before we passed it, 
Crenshaw asked me for my whip, which had a pound 
of lead in the butt ; I handed it to him, and he rode up 
by the side of the South Carolinian, and gave him a 
blow on the side of the head, and tumbled him from 
his horse ; we lit from our horses and fmgered his 
pockets ; we got twelve hundred and sixty-two dol- 
lars. Crenshaw said he knew of a place to hide him, 


and gathered him under the arms, and I by his feet, 
and conveyed him to a deep crevice iu the brow of ihe 
precipice, and tumbled him into it : he went out of 
sight. We then tumbled in his saddle, and took his 
horse with us, which was worth two hundred dollars. 
We turned our course for South Alabama, and sold our 
horses for a good price. We frolicked for a week or 
more, and were the highest larks you ever saw. We 
commenced sporting and gambling, and lost every cent 
of our money. 

" We were forced to resort to our profession for a 
second raise. We stole a negro man, and pushed for 
Mississippi. We had promised him that we would 
conduct him to a free state if he would let us sell him 
once as we went on the way ; Ave also agreed to give 
him part of the money. We sold him for six hundred 
dollars ; but, when we went to start, the negro seemed 
to be very uneasy, and appeared to doubt our coming 
back for him as we had promised. We lay in a creek 
bottom, not far from the place where we had sold the 
negro, all the next day, and after dark we went to the 
china-tree in the lane where we were to meet Tom ; 
he had been waiting for some time. He mounted his 
horse, and we pushed with him a second time. We 
rode twenty miles that night to the house of a friendly 
speculator. I had seen him in Tennessee, and had 
given him several lifts. He gave me his place of res- 
idence, that I might find him when I was passing. He 
is quite rich, and one of the best kind of fellows. 
Our horses were fed as much as they would eat, and 
two of them were foundered the next morning. We 
were detained a few days, and during that time our 

66 Stewart's life 

friend went to a little village in the neighbourhood, and 
saw the negro advertised, with a description of the 
two men of whom he had been purchased, and with 
mention of them as suspicious personages. It was 
rather squally times, but any port in a storm; we took 
the negro that night on the bank of a creek which 
runs by the farm of our friend, and Crenshaw shot him 
through the head. We took out his entrails, and sunk 
him in the creek ; our friend furnished us with one 
fine horse, and we left him our foundered horses. We 
made our way through the Choctaw and Chickasaw 
nations, and then to Williamson county, in this state. 
We should have made a fine trip if we had taken care 
of all we got. 

'' I had become a considerable libertine, and when I 
returned home I spent a few months rioting in all the 
luxuries of forbidden pleasures with the girls of my 

" My stock of cash was soon gone, and I put to my 
shift for more. I commenced with horses, and ran 
several from the adjoining counties. I had got asso- 
ciated with a young man who had professed to be a 
preacher among the Methodists, and a sharper he was ; 
he was as slick on the tongue as goose-grease. I took 
my first lessons in divinity from this young preacher. 
He was highly respected by all who knew him, and 
well calculated to please ; he first put me in the notion 
of preaching, to aid me in my speculations. 

" I got into difficulties about a mare that I had taken, 
and was imprisoned for near three years. I shifted it 
from court to court, but was at last found guilty, and 
whipped. During my confinement I read the scrip- 


tures, and became a good judge of theolog)'. I had 
not neglected the criminal laws for many years before 
that time. AVhen they turned me loose I was pre- 
pared for any thing ; I wanted to kill all but my own 
grit, and one of them I will die by his side before I 
will desert. 

" My next speculation was in the Choctaw nation. 
Myself and brother stole two fine horses, and made 
our way into the Choctaw nation. We got in with an 
old negro man, and his wife, and three sons, to go off 
with us to Texas, and promised them that, if they 
would work for us one year after we got there, we 
would let them go free, and told them many fine sto- 
ries. We got into the Mississippi swamp, and were 
badly bothered to reach the bank of the river. We had 
turned our horses loose at the edge of the swamp, and 
let them go. After we reached the bank of the river 
we were in a bad condition, as we had no craft to con- 
vey us down the river, and our provisions gave out, and 
our only means for support were killing game and eat- 
ing it. Eventually we found an Indian trail through 
the bottom, and we followed it to a bayou that made 
into the river, where we had the pleasure of finding a 
large canoe locked to the bank ; we broke it loose and 
rowed it into the main river, and were soon descend- 
ing for New-Orleans. 

" The old negro became suspicious that we were 
going to sell him, and grew quite contrary. We saw 
it would not do to have him with us ; so we landed 
one day by the side of an island, and I requested 
him to go with me round the point of the island to 
hunt a good place to catch some fish. After we were 

68 Stewart's life 

hidden from our company I shot liim through the head, 
and then ripped open his belly and tumbled him into 
the river. I returned to my company, and told them 
that the negro had fallen into the river, and that he 
never came up after he went under. We landed fifty 
miles above New-Orleans, and went into the country 
and sold our negroes to a Frenchman for nineteen 
hundred dollars. 

" We went from where we sold the negroes to New- 
Orleans, and dressed ourselves like young lords. I 
mixed with the loose characters at the swamp every 
night. One night, as I was returning to the tavern 
where 1 boarded, I was stopped by two armed men, 
who demanded my mone5^ I handed them my pocket- 
book, and observed that I was very happy to meet with 
them, as we were all of the same profession. One of 
them observed, ' D — d if I ever rob a brother chip. 
AVe have had our eyes on you and the man that has 
generally come with you for several nights ; we saw 
so much rigging and glittering jewellery, that we con- 
cluded you must be some wealthy dandy, with a sur- 
plus of cash ; and had determined to rid you of the 
trouble of some of it ; but, if you are a robber, here is 
your pocketbook, and you must go with us to-night, 
and we will give you an introduction to several fine 
fellows of the block ; but stop, do you understand this 
motion V I answered it, and thanked them for their 
kindness, and turned with them. We went to old 
Mother Surgick's, and had a real frolic with her girls. 
That night was the commencement of my greatness in 
what the world calls villany. The two fellows who 
robbed me were named Haines and Phelps ; they 


made me known to all the speculators tliat visited 
New-Orleans, and gave me the name of every fellow 
who Avould speculate that lived on the Mississippi 
river, and many of its tributary streams, from New- 
Orleans up to all the large western cities. 

" I had become acquainted with a Kentuckian, who 
boarded at the same tavern I did, and I suspected he 
had a large sum of money ; I felt an inclination to 
count it for him before I left the city ; so I made my 
notions known to Phelps and my other new comrades, 
and concerted our plan. I was to get him off to the 
swamp with me on a spree, and when we Avere return- 
ing to our lodgings, my friends were to meet us and 
rob us both. I had got very intimate with the Ken- 
tuckian, and he thought me one of the best fellows in 
the world. He was very fond of wdne ; and I had him 
well fumed with good wine before I made the proposi- 
tion for a frolic. When I invited him to walk with 
me he readily accepted the invitation. We cut a few 
shines with the girls, and started to the tavern. We 
were met by a band of robbers, and robbed of all our 
money. The Kentuckian was so mad that he cursed 
the whole city, and wished that it would all be del- 
uged in a flood of water so soon as he left the place. 
I went to my friends the next morning, and got my 
share of the spoil money, and my pocketbook that I 
had been robbed of. We got seven hundred and five 
dollars of the bold Kentuckian, which was divided 
among thirteen of us. 

" I commenced travelling and making all the ac- 
quaintances among the speculators that I could. I went 
from New-Orleans to Cincinnati, and from there I vis- 

70 Stewart's life 

ited Lexington, in Kentucky. I found a speculator 
iibout four miles from Newport, who furnished me 
with a fine horse the second night after I arrived at 
his house. I went from Lexington to Richmond, in 
Virginia, and from there I visited Charleston, in the 
State of South Carolina : and from thence to Milledge- 
ville, by the way of Savannah and Augusta, in the 
State of Georgia. I made my way from Milledgeville 
to AVilliamson county, the old stamping-ground. In 
all the route I only robbed eleven men ; but I preached 
some fine sermons, and scattered some counterfeit 
United States paper among my brethren." 

The day was now far spent, the shadows of gather- 
ing twilight had already begun to mantle the face of 
nature, and Murrell had not concluded the history of 
his life. He proposed to discontinue it for the pres- 
ent, promising to resume it at such time during their 
journey when a better opportunity and greater leisure 
would enable him to enter more into particulars. Their 
progress- had been considerably delayed by the high 
waters of the Mississippi, which had rendered Mur- 
rell's trace through the valley impassable ; who at 
length suggested to Hues that it would be better to 
leave the trace, and by directing their course higher 
up they. would strike the river at the foot of the Chick- 
asaw Bluff, above the plantation of a Mr. Shelby, and 
continue down the bank of the river till they should 
reach the private crossing-place of the clan. They did 
so ; and as they were passing Mr. S.'s plantation, and 
while yet in sight of his dwelling, Murrell attempted 
a display of his tact in producing disafTection with a 
number of Mr. S.'s negroes, who were at work on the 


bank of the river. The spirit of disloyaUy and rebell- 
ion was soon perceptible, and in a shore time became 
almost violent ; finding vent, first in murmurs of dis- 
content, and afterward in audible execrations and ex- 
pressions of hatred against their master. He soon ob- 
tained from them the promise to accomp?ny him to a 
free state at any time when he should call for them. 

When they had progressed about four miles below 
Mr. Shelby's, they found their way very much embar- 
rassed by the recent overflow ; and, after many un- 
successful attempts to proceed, they determined to 
take lodgings for the night of the 28th at the house of 
a Mr. John Champion, who resided on the river, and 
await the return of day to encounter farther the diffi- 
culties of their journey. They had not been long in 
company with Mr. Champion before Murrell, or Mer- 
rill, as he now called himself, began to sound him on the 
subject of speculation, as he chooses to term the pur- 
suits of his fiendish brotherhood ; nor, had he omitted 
an initial, would it have been a misnomer — except, in- 
deed, it might have fallen short of conveying an ade- 
quate idea of their deep-toned horror and infamy. 
Hues found himself now obliged to listen to a recapit- 
ulation of the same feats of villany and crime that had 
constituted so important a part of Murrell's conversa- 
tion with him since the morning of their first acquaint- 
ance on the Estanaula turnpike. Mr. Champion, how- 
ever, discovered but' little of the fondness for such 
topics which Hues had pretended ; nor did he become 
60 suddenly enamoured of the character, or dazzled 
by the brilliant achievements, of the distinguished 
elder brother of Madison county, as Murrell's ima- 


gination had led him to believe was his young fellow- 
traveller. During this conversation, Hues had by no 
means been idle or inattentive ; he had marked well 
the countenance of Mr. Champion, noted with scru- 
tinizing gaze every variation of feature that might in- 
dicate the operations of his mind, and caught with de- 
vouring avidity every word that fell from his lips. 
For he saw before him a task to be performed of the 
highest importance to his future movements, and upon 
which, as he thought, the fate of his undertaking in no 
small degree depended. He foresaw the great neces- 
sity of learning the character of Mr. Champion, whom 
he now beheld for the first time, and of making him a 
friend and confidant : for the time was now near at 
hand when, according to a prior arrangement, he was 
to accompany Murrell alone beyond the Mississippi, 
among the gloomy haunts of a lawless banditti, whose 
characters he had already heard painted in the black- 
est colours ; and where, as yet, he had no sufficient 
assurance that he would not be immolated upon the 
same altar that had already been ensanguined by the 
blood of many others. His object in making the friend- 
ship of Mr. Champion was to leave behind him some 
data, which, in the event of his murder, might lead to 
the detection of the assassin, and furnish to the world 
some idea of the circumstances of his death. It was 
not long before Hues saw, or thought he saw, in Mr. 
Champion, the very individual he so much desired, 
and whose services and confidence he deemed of 
so great importance in the hazardous and almost 
hopeless adventure upon which he was about to en- 
ter. Notwithstanding this fortunate discovery, how- 


ever, and although he had expressed to Murrell his 
willingness to accompany him to Arkansas, Hues 
had not yet obtained the entire consent of his own 
mind thus to jeopard his life and risk the failure of 
liis plans upon so uncertain a tenure as the assurance 
of an individual who had already confessed him- 
self capable of the blackest and most unprincipled 
falsehoods ; and whose whole history, so far as rela- 
ted, appeared but a continued series of the basest de- 
ceptions, and the darkest deeds of villany and crime. 
He knew not but all Murreil's fair, and apparently dis- 
interested promises, were so many toils to insnare the 
more easily his unwary steps ; and painted in the al- 
luring and seductive colours of friendship and confi- 
dence, the more readily to practise upon his credulity. 
He found great difficulty, therefore, in bringing him- 
self at length to the belief of what he had heard- 
Without some such conviction, it had never been his 
intention to enter the morass. The merely contingent 
hope of finding there Mr. Henning's negroes, still lesa 
the more doubtful prospect, in such an event, of being 
able, by his own unaided efforts, to capture and reclaim 
them, had comparatively little weight in shaping his 
determinations ; his object was " purer, higher, no- 
bler." Filled with just and patriotic indignation against 
these common and insidious (the more fearful because 
insidious) enemies of his country and his race ; and 
viewing, as he did, the thickening clouds that hung in 
unseen but threatening terror over the defenceless 
heads of the fairer part of creation, charged with death, 
ravishment, and prostitution, in all their hideous, tor- 
turing, and humiliating forms; and the ten thousand 
' D 7 


helpless innocents, destined to open their eyes in life 
only to sink, welter, and agonize in unnatural death, to 
appease the unholy vengeance and brutal ferocity of the 
unsympathizing and heartless assassin — mad€ his bo- 
som swell with emotions " too big for utterance," and 
■which have but imperfectly found vent in the details 
of his subsequent adventures. At this important crisis 
Hues occupied a position perhaps of all others least 
to be envied. The period was fast approaching when 
he would be called upon to meet his engagement with 
Murrell : to retreat might excite a most unfortunate 
suspicion, and possibly defeat his purposes ; to comply 
might induce the fearful reality of the very apprehen- 
sions that had occasioned him so much indecision. 
Could he have been perfectly satisfied of the truth of 
all he had heard, he might here have ended his jour- 
ney, and consummated his plan ; captured the rogue, 
and exposed his villany. But another difficulty pre- 
sented itself — the world might be incredulous, and he 
had, as yet, no evidence sufficiently positive to remove 
their doubts ; he could speak to them of nothing that 
he had seen ; nothing, to the truth of which he could 
pledge his own oath ; all so far was hearsay, which he 
knew at best was allowed but little weight. Besides, 
an account of transactions so unusual — so much above 
the common order of human crime, would meet with 
skeptics, though supported by the strongest testimony. 
The struggle at length over which had been warring 
in the mind of Hues, he resolved to accompany Mur- 
rell to Arkansas, where he might behold with his own 
eyes if true, and be convinced of their falsehood it 
Bot, all the representations that had been made to him 


respecting the dark and sanguinary operations of the 
morass, the ruffian band engaged in them, and learn 
something of the extent and tendency of their future 
plans : since it was his object to make known to his 
fellow-citizens the result of his inquiries, as he felt un- 
willing to require of them to believe statements of the 
truth of which he had not himself, as yet, been fully 

During all this time Murrell had not omitted to make 
inquiries respecting such of his clan as lived along the 
river ; mentioning among the rest the names of the 
Lloyds, Barneys, and others. Murrell asked Mr. C. 
what standing they occupied as honourable and honest 
men, representing himself as an utter stranger to 
them, and the part of the country in which they resi- 
ded ; and urged as a reason for his curiosity, that he 
was going over among them with a view of collecting 
some money that was due him. He also called him- 
self a negro-trader, and spoke of a lot of negroes that 
he wished to dispose of; in all which Ms motive will be 
apparent as the reader progresses in the following pages. 

It was now a late hour of the night, and Hues and 
his companion desired to be shown to their chamber ; 
for they had determined to renew their journey at a very 
early hour on the followdng morning, and were already 
much in want of rest. Soon after they had been ush- 
ered to their lodging-room, as they found themselves 
alone, and all about them still and quiet, Murrell broke 
in upon the silence in the following manner: — 

Murrell. " Well, Hues, how do you like the way in 
which I managed our landlord ?" 

Hues. "None could have managed him better, sir." 

76 Stewart's life 

31. " We shall be compelled, Hues, to leave our 
horses here with Mr. Champion, and work our passage 
through the swamp on foot, until we can meet with a skiff 
to convey us to my friends on the other side of the 
river. We shall be dependant on Mr. Champion, and 
I can see he is no friend to the speculators. For this 
reason I have pretended to know nothing about the peo- 
ple on the other side of the river. An acquaintance 
with them, you know, would afford just grounds for 
suspecting us of being after no good," 


After an early breakfast on the morning of the 
29th, Murrell and Hues prepared to leave Mr. Cham- 
pion's, and seek, lower down on the river, a skiff to con- 
vey them across ; but, before leaving, they inquired of 
Mr. C. what the prospect was ? He informed them 
that there was a probability of being accommodated at 
Mr. Erwin's, who lived a little below him ; but that, in 
the event of a disappointment there, there was but lit- 
tle doubt of their obtaining a conveyance of Parson 
Hargus, who lived still lower down. With these as- 
surances, and leaving their horses with Mr. Champi- 
on, they set forward on their journey on foot. They 
had proceeded but a few hundred yards when Hues 
paused, and remarked to his companion that he had 
left his gloves at the house of their late landlord, and 
that the weather was so very cold he could not conve- 


niently dispense with their use. He requested Mur- 
rell to wait till he could return for them, promising to 
be absent but a short time. The truth was, Hues had 
intentionally left his gloves with a view to obtain, 
through their means, an interview with Mr. Champi- 
on (which he had not deemed prudent to seek while 
with Murrell), to disclose to him the character of Mur^ 
rell, his business and plans, and to claim his friend- 
ship and assistance. Murrell seated himself on a log, 
and Hues made all possible haste to the house of Mr. 
Champion, for delay might awaken suspicion. No 
sooner had he reached the house than he sought an 
opportunity to unfold to Mr. C. the story of his situa- 
tion and adventure, and make known his real name. 
He desired him to hold himself in readiness to afford 
nim the aid of a guard should he return to claim it ; 
which he should do if he found things as they had 
been represented. Mr. C. furnished him with an ad- 
ditional pistol, assured him of his friendship, and re- 
marked that he could command a guard of fifty men at 
any time when he might need them. He, moreover, 
spoke in high terms of Messrs. Erwin and Hargus, to 
whose houses Hues and his companion were going in 
search of a skiff, and recommended to him also the 
advantage of their friendship in his perilous underta- 
king. All this was done in much less time, perhaps, 
than is here employed in relating it ; for Hues had 
foreseen the great danger of any thing that might sa- 
vour of unnecessary delay. 

While Hues was engaged in disclosing the above to 
Mr. Champion, he exhibited evident signs of alarm, 
and has himself since declared, that he felt more sen- 


sibly the effects of fear at that time than he had in all 
his life before. The idea of trusting his life in the 
hands of an individual whom he had never seen till the 
night before, made a more fearful appeal to his moral 
4 firmness and courage than any thing that had trans- 
pired during the vi^hole history of his adventure. It 
called up feelings and emotions wellnigh beyond his 
ability to endure. He might be disclosing himself to 
an associate bandit. At least, he might prove dishon- 
est and betray him, and thus make sure that destruc- 
tion which he had already sufficient reason to dread. 
The occasion was surely one to try the nerves of the 
firmest, and strike terror to the heart of the boldest 
Hues requested Mr. Champion to detain Murrell's 
horse till he should hear from him. He instructed him 
further, that if Murrell should return for his horse 
without him, to have him arrested immediately, as that 
would be sufficient evidence that he (Stewart) had 
been assassinated, or confined by the clan. Mr. 
Champion promised most cheerfully to attend to all his 

Hues had now grown impatient to arrest the deso- 
lating and destructive progress of this incorrigible ene- 
my of his country. He had listened to his tales of 
outrage, robbery, and assassination, till his sickened 
and disgusted heart, almost maddened to vengeance, 
could only be satisfied by the most speedy visitation 
of that justice which had so long been cheated of its 
victim. Hence his determination to peril all that was 
sacred and valuable to him — nay, life itself, for the ac- 
complishment of so important an object; and upon 


which the welfare and safety of his country and fellow- 
citizens so essentially depended. 

Hues was now armed with three pistols ; one which 
he had with him when he fell in company with Mur- 
rell, a second which he received from Col. Bayliss at 
Wesley, and a third just presented him by Mr. Cham- 
pion. He wore a thick Bolivar overcoat, by means of 
which he was enabled to conceal his new supply of 
arms, which he deemed of no little importance to him 
at this critical conjuncture. Mr. Champion suggested 
to Hues the necessity of much caution, and urged the 
great uncertainty and danger of ttie almost desperate 
experiment which he was about to make. He spoke 
to him of the fatal consequences of miscarriage, but 
not without representing to him also the possibility of 
success, and the interesti'ng and brilliant results that 
would reward his efforts. They parted, and Hues 
hastened to rejoin his companion at the log. They 
were soon again on their journey. After much diffi- 
culty and toil they succeeded in crossing the sloughs 
that embarrassed their way, and reached the house of 
Mr. Erwin, distant about three miles, as had been rep- 
resented by Mr. Champion, where they learned the 
skiff Mr. E. had been using was a borrowed one, and 
had been returned to its owner, who lived still three 
miles lower down the river ; and between whose resi- 
dence and Mr. Er win's there was a lake of consider- 
able size, which they had no present means of cross- 
ing. They were compelled to stop at the house of 
Mr. Erwin, where they concluded to linger till some 
trading-boat or other craft should pass, in which they 
might obtain a conveyance beyond the lake to th© 


house of Mr. Hargus, at which, they had been told, 
they would find the skiff. While with Mr. Erwin, 
Hues and his companion indulged comparatively but 
little conversation of a private nature, as they had not 
the advantage of a private room. Murrell, however, 
was by no means idle ; he was engaged, as had been 
his wont on such occasions, in learning the character 
of Mr. Erwin, and obtaining his views in regard to a 
subject that, more deeply than all others, interested 
him and engaged his thoughts. As at Mr. Cham- 
pion's, here also he spoke of himself as a negro-trader : 
nor did his manly address and captivating demeanour 
fail of finding ready access to the credulity and confi- 
dence of his landlord. Mr. Erwin proposed to con- 
tract with him for three negro men, to be delivered 
within three weeks, to which Murrell readily assented, 
offering them at the price of six hundred dollars each. 
The terras suiting Mr. Erwin, they proceeded to close 
the bargain, so far as they could, till delivery was made 
of the negroes. This was more than Hues could suf- 
fer to pass unnoticed : he sought, as early as practica- 
ble, a private conversation with Mr. Erwin, and ac- 
quainted him with the character of Murrell, and his 
own business with him ; and solicited, as he had done 
of Mr. Champion, his assistance, should his situation 
require it, which he most readily promised to afford 

Hues carried a blank-book in his pocket, from which 
he tore small pieces, on which he had kept a record 
of Murrell's plans and confessions as he progressed 
in his dark narrative. His object in tearing the book 
into pieces so small was to avoid the suspicion of 


Murrell ; for he knew that nothing could escape the 
ever-vigilant glance of his keen and searching eye. 
While riding, as he could not then conveniently make 
use of the pieces from his blank-book, he frequently 
wrote the proper names of individuals, and places, and 
the more prominent incidents, on his boot-legs, saddle- 
skirts, finger-nails, and portmanteau, with a needle. 
This was done with a view to aid his memory, when, 
on stopping to dine or call for lodgings, he proceeded 
to record a more enlarged account of what he had 
heard on the scraps from the blank-book, which, as 
they were filled and numbered, were successively de- 
posited with care in the crown of his cap, through a 
hole which he had made with his knife for the pur- 
pose. While at Mr. Erwin's, Hues availed himself of 
the opportunity of reducing to writing all that he had 
heard during their journey from Mr. Champion's, and 
arranging his other memoranda in such order as to 
be understood whenever he should have occasion to 
use them. In this ingenious and cautious manner 
Hues succeeded in keeping a correct journal of all 
that occurred during his disagreeable and dangerous 
wanderings with John A. Murrell. 

They were at Mr. Erwin's house until the next af- 
ternoon (30th), when a small trading-boat landed at 
the wood-yard, on which they secured a passage as 
low down on the river as Mr. Hargus's landing. 

It was late in the afternoon when they landed at the 
house of Parson Hargus, who offered them, as their 
only chance, a conveyance over the river in an old 
canoe, which, having long been unused, was much in 
want of repair. This circumstance, though at first 

82 Stewart's life 

discouraging, was in the end of great advantage to 
Hues ; for, while Murreli was employed in calking 
the boat, he sought an interview v/ith Mr. Hargus, and 
apprized him of the character of his guest, and his 
own reason for being in his company. For he had 
heard the most favourable accounts of the character 
of Mr. H., both from Mr. Champion and his late land- 
lord Mr. Erwin, and therefore felt no hesitation in in- 
trusting to him so important a secret. It was long 
after nightfall before Murreli had finished his repairs 
on the boat, which made it necessary to postpone 
crossing the river till morning ; they accordingly 
sought lodgings with Mr. Hargus. 


On the following morning of January 31st, Mur- 
lell and Hues were early at the landing, and making 
arrangements for launching their boat. But a gath- 
ering storm timely suggested to them the prudence 
of delay. They accordingly wisely determined to 
await the return of fair weather ; for the frail bark 
in which they found themselves obliged to take pas- 
sage (at best of doubtful safety) was poorly calcula- 
ted to live amid the buffetings of wind and waves. It 
was not long ere a violent storm of wind, accompani- 
ed by a heavy fall of snow,^ which lasted all day and 
the following night, reminded them of the danger they 
had escaped. 


Murrell became very impatient, and his impa- 
tience (almost amounting to irritation) appeared to 
increase with the storm ; for he would frequently 
break forth in oaths, and swear that " the devil had 
ceased to cut his cards for him ;" and insist that *' the 

d d old preacher's negroes had cost him more 

trouble and perplexity than any he had ever before 
stolen." In the midst of all his excitement, however, 
he never once so far forgot himself as to let fall one 
imprudent word in presence of his landlord. On the 
contrary, his conversation was studiously turned on 
those subjects which he deemed most consonant to his 
feelings. He dwelt with peculiar emphasis and ani- 
mation on the great advantages of a moral and reli- 
gious education, and the happy eflects of a general 
diffusion of religious intelligence. 

He often expressed to Hues much curiosity as to 
what steps young Henning was probably taking towards 
the recovery of the negroes ; as frequently wishing 
that he might meet him over in Arkansas ; and decla- 
red that he would give five hundred dollars for the op- 
portunity it would afford him of punishing his offi- 
ciousness ; and said that he was not satisfied with 
stealing hi& negroes ; and mentioned a plan that he 
had already set on foot for bringing him to feel more 
sensibly the consequences of the free use he had been 
making of his and his brother's name ; which plan 
consisted of an arrangement he had made with a 
number of his friends, headed by one of the promi- 
nent leaders of his clan (Eli Chandler), to go to Hen- 
nihg's house some night, take him from his bed, and 
" give him two hundred and fifty lashes." And as he 


knew suspicion would at once attach to him, he in- 
tended to lodge at a hotel in Jackson on the night it 
took place. He said he entertained no fears of the 
leader he had selected for the occasion, whom he pro- 
nounced " a second Cesar." The affair, as related, 
was surely one (laying aside all consideration of its 
consummate effrontery) of a character to appeal to the 
risibles of the gravest : that an individual should 
first lose his property, and afterward be punished by 
the thief for complaining. A recollection of his situa- 
tion, however, aided by a struggle of indignation at the 
danger that threatened his friend, enabled Hues to re- 
strain his feelings. 

The day gradually wore away, and night at length 
succeeded. The prospect was still dark and lower- 
ing, and Murrell and his companion were once more 
obliged to call for quarters with Mr. Hargus. 


The morning of February 1st introduced the same 
gloomy prospect that had detained Hues and Murrell 
the preceding day (except, indeed, the wind had meas- 
urably subsided); the waves still rolled high and 
threatening, and the snow continued to fall, though in 
less quantities- They determined, however, to make 
an effort at crossing, though at great hazard. They 
had proceeded but a few hundred yards from shore 
when they became convinced that their apprehensions 


were by no means unfounded. Their boat very soon 
began to show itself unequal to a contest with the 
waves and current ; and they found it necessary to 
make a timely retreat from a struggle in which the 
chances appeared so evidently against them. They 
returned to the landing whence they had set out, re- 
solved to seek a safer conveyance, or postpone their 
visit to Arkansas till fairer weather should remove the 
danger of crossing the river in the boat of which they 
were already in possession. 

On their return, at the solicitation of Murrell, Mr. 
Hargus furnished them a safer boat, and sent his son 
with them to take it back (for it was one for which 
he had constant use). They landed at a point on the 
western shore of the river opposite the mouth of Old 
River, which joins the Mississippi at the Chickasaw 

Murrell led the way, taking a northwestern course 
through the swamp, which was rendered almost im- 
passable by a thick growth of luxuriant cane, and in- 
terspersed at no distant intervals with large collections 
of water, occasioned by the high tide of the Missis- 
sippi. When they had been travelling about half an 
hour, Hues found himself suddenly on the borders of 
an extensive lake, which, swollen by the overflowing 
waters of the Mississippi, had overtopped its banks, 
and stretched among the surrounding timber and cane 
beyond the reach of sight, and which seemed at first 
to bound the prospect ; till, continuing a short distance 
along the shore, they discovered on their right a con- 
siderable bayou, which made out from the Mississippi 
and entered the lake above them. On the opposite 

86 Stewart's LIFE 

side of the bayou lived a friend of Murrell, who af- 
forded ihem a ready conveyance across. They next 
proceeded in a western direction along the borders of 
what appeared to be an extensive tract of overflowed 
country, but which was most probably but a continua- 
tion of the lake they had just left. On their way 
Hues spied a small open hut at a distance, which, 
from the volumes of smoke that curled away from its 
chimney, he knew to be tenanted. It suddenly occur- 
red to him that there might be deposited Parson Hen- 
ning's negroes ; and there too (betrayed by their recog- 
nition of him) he might experience the fatal consequen- 
ces of his desperate experiment. Sensations of inde- 
scribable horror agitated his whole frame, as, preceded 
by Murrell, he advanced with almost trembling step to- 
Avards the door of the hut. He had muffled his face with 
his pocket handkerchief, with a view of concealing, as 
far as possible, such of his features as would most 
likely betray him to the negroes, and, prepared for the 
worst, had cocked the two pistols which he carried in 
the pockets of his over-coat, determined, in the event 
of an attack, to discharge their contents among the as- 
sailants before yielding to his fate. It had all along 
been his plan to keep somewhat in rear of Murrell, in 
order to take advantage of the first fire, whenever he 
should discover signs of hostility. On this occasion 
he deemed it of the utmost importance ; for he had 
much reason to fear that the hut before him might be 
the spot on which was to be decided — perhaps with 
his blood — the fate of his undertaking. He accord- 
ingly entered with Murrell the fearful hovel, prepared 
to sell his life as dearly as possible. He found three 



white men and two negroes (but not Mr. Henniiig's), 
eating together by the fire ; and hope, " which comes 
to all," once more visited him, and the possibility of 
success again dawned upon the prospect. The shan- 
ty, for such it was, appears to have been constructed 
for temporary use, as a shelter from the weather, till 
such lime as discovery, or the operations of the clan, 
might make it necessary to seek, in the depth of the 
morass, some more private retreat. One of the wbite 
men Murrell appeared to recognise, and called by the 
name of Rainhart ; the others he had never before 
seen. He made several inquiries of Rainhart as to 
the prosperity of their cause, and parted with him, 
promising to meet him on the following day at the 
council-house ; and proceeded on his journey, accom- 
panied by Hues, still preserving a western course. 
They at length came to a second lake of considerable 
size ; and, finding a skiff, embarked in it for the oppo- 
site shore. They had been on the water near an 
hour, when they descried a point of elevated land not 
far distant, which gave promise of a convenient land- 
ing-place. They directed their skiff thither, and were 
soon again on terra fir ma. They now travelled in a 
more northern direction (as well as can be recollected) ; 
though, in crossing the lake, they had faced nearly 
every point of the compass. They had proceeded but 
a short distance when their progress was again inter- 
rupted by a large bayou ; which, making out from the 
Mississippi, crossed- their path and entered the lake 
above them. On its bank stood a small filthy cabin, 
which proved the wretched abode of a white man and 
his family. They entered : Hues with feelings of re- 

88 Stewart's life 

turning apprehension and dread, lest he should meet 
the old parson's negroes. A man, his wife, and two 
children, who sat in drowsy silence by the fire, were 
the only inmates of this gloomy and comfortless habi- 
tation. Murrell recognised them with an air of famil- 
iarity and a carelessness of demeanour that bespoke 
them old acquaintances ; and. in a few moments with- 
drew to converse in private with the man of the house, 
leaving but little doubt on the mind of Hues that he was 
also a member of the clan ; and he prepared himself 
(as from the beginning he had resolved) to shoot Mur- 
rell when he discovered any thing in his manner in- 
dicative of suspicion. When they re-entered the 
cabin he glanced a look of scrutiny at their counte- 
nances, but discovered in them any thing but that 
which he most dreaded, and felt once more secure. 

They obtained here the loan of a canoe to carry 
them across the bayou that stretched before them. 
Owing to the overflow, which rendered the opposite 
shore impassable, they did not cross immediately, but 
turned down the bayou in a western direction, and 
soon found themselves entering a large body of water, 
formed by some recent overflow of the Mississippi or 
a neighbouring lake. They were near an hour cross- 
ino-, and were at last obliged to land amid a thick 
growth of cane. After toiling their tedious and difli- 
cult way for a short time among the cane, a column of 
smoke rising before them indicated at length their 
near approach to the habitation of the living. They 
advanced to the spot whence proceeded the smoke, and 
found a camp, constructed of boards, and exhibiting 
any tiling but the appearance of comfort. In it were 


seated three negroes, alone and cheerless, in filthy at- 
tire, and with subdued and downcast countenances, be- 
speaking rather the melancholy pensiveness of de- 
sponding criminals than the cheerful hilarity of joyful 
freemen. Unfortunate beings ! thought Hues, as he 
surveyed, with emotions of pity, their forlorn condi- 
tion ; how soon will your delusions vanish ! how soon 
will be written, in letters of blood, the disappointment 
of all your fond visions and cherished hopes of liberty 
and independence ! There was no white person with 
them. Murrell inquired what had become of their 
leader : they replied they had not seen him for several 

Murrell and Hues left the camp, and continued their 
way among the cane. They had progressed but a few 
hundred yards when Murrell paused ; and, pointing 
through the morass to a large cottonwood-tree that 
rose in height and magnitude above the surrounding 
growth, and addressing himself to Hues, said, " Do you 
see yon lofty cottonwood that towers so majestically 
over all the other trees ?" To which Hues replied he 
did. " That tree," continued Murrell, " stands in the 
Garden of Eden ; and we have but a quarter of a 
mile to travel before we shall set foot on that happy 
spot, where many a noble plot has been concerted." 
They continued along the shore of a lake which they 
now found themselves approaching, till, finding a canoe 
that belonged to the clan, they embarked for the island 
that rose in its midst, and on which stood the cot- 
tonwood to which Murrell had been directing the at- 
tention of his companion. The island was covered 
with thick matting cane and a growth of lofty trees, 

90 Stewart's life 

which, added to a luxuriant underwood, gave it an air 
of peculiar solemnity and gloom. Full in the midst of 
it, as if proud of its empire, rose a solitary cabin. It 
was the grand council-house of the mystic confeder- 
acy ; in which, protected by the secrecy of surround- 
ing deserts and trackless solitudes, they originated and 
digested a plan of operations more, alarming in its ten- 
dency, extensive in its object, and destructive in its ef- 
fects, than any of which history furnishes a record in 
all past time. 

They landed on a point of the island, and proceed- 
ed towards the council-house. The most solemn and 
interesting reflections occupied the mind of Hues as 
he followed his mysterious companion towards that 
dismal, and, as he feared, fated spot. The fond recol- 
lections of home, and the many cherished objects that 
he had left behind ; the endearments of kindred and 
attachment of friends, from whom he might perhaps 
be sundered for ever ; the fertile fields and smiling 
scenes of his native land, destined to be deluged in 
the blood of his fellow-countrymen ; its cities and 
villages laid waste by the desolating march of a law- 
less and murderous band of ruffians and robbers, led 
on by a poisonous swarm from the '* great northern 
hive" of fanatics and incendiaries, presented to his 
mind a picture that strung anew his sinking energies, 
and nerved him to meet with dauntless front an occa- 
sion to which before he had felt wellnigh unequal. 
He resolved — it might be at the peril of his life — to 
march with determined step boldly to the throne, and 
learn there the decrees of the dread conspiracy ; and 
never was there an occasion that required more cool 


and deliberate firmness. To enter alone the camp of 
the enemy, listen to their secret councils, and mingle 
in their debates, with no other protection than a sim- 
ple disguise, which he had no certain assurance had 
not been already pierced by the keen glance of their 
mysterious and veteran leader, called for an effort of 
moral courage that can only be accounted for, scarce- 
ly justified, by a consideration of the dangenous and 
threatening cloud that hung in such fearful proximity 
over the destinies of his country. 

On entering the, council-house they found eleven 
of their most prominent characters assembled, among 
whom Hues learned the four following names : James 

Haines, Perry Doddridge, Samuel Robertson, and 

Sperlock. After the first salutation and greeting, a 
general inquiry followed as to their respective pros- 
perity and success ; what progress they had been ma- 
king in the distribution of counterfeit money ; what 
new speculations had been made ; were any of the 
fraternity overtaken or in prison, and needed their as- 
sistance ; how many proselytes each member had 
made to the cause ; who were candidates for admis- 
sion, &c. Murrell was interrogated as to the cause 
of his absence from the council-house at the time des- 
ignated for meeting the striker with Henning's ne- 
groes. He replied that his too early start, occasioned 
by his great anxiety to redeem his engagement, had 
brought upon him a most unfortunate suspicion, but 
urged that he had been detained by the high waters 
of the Mississippi. They informed him that the ne- 
groes had arrived some days before, and were bad- 
ly frosted. And that, becoming doubtful as to the 


time of his return, they had deemed it best to pusn 
them, and make sales as early as possible. The 
usual ceremonies past, all interrogatories answered, 
and accounts rendered by the members of the clan, 
Murrell desired the attention of the house ; and, ta- 
king Hues by the hand, presented him to the fraterni- 
ty in the following language : " Here, my brave coun- 
sellors, this is a counsellor of my own making, and I 
am not ashamed of the workmanship ; let Mr. Hues 
be examined by whom he may." They all approach- 
ed and shook hands with Hues, and gave him the two 
degrees, and the signs by which they were distin- 
guished. He first received the sign of the striker, and 
afterward that of the grand counsellor. Hues was 
drilled by them in giving and receiving these signs till 
he could equal the most skilful. 

He was next desired to give his opinion respecting 
the negro war ; and asked what was his idea of their 
faith and principles. The following is taken from 
an address which he then proceeded to deliver before 
them : — 

" Gentlemen of the Mystic Conspiracy : — 

" My youth and inexperience must plead the cause 
of any deficiency I may betray before this worthy and 
enlightened congregation. I am better qualified to ac- 
quiesce in the measures and sentiments of others than 
to advance any thing of my own. So recently have I 
been honoured with the secrets of this august conspir- 
acy, that I am unable to offer any thing original. I 
have received all my ideas from our honourable dicta- 
tor; and I should feel myself guilty of presumption 
were I to offer any amendments to his present deep and 


well-arranged plans and purposes. Your schemes, un- 
der the guidance of our experienced leader, appear to 
me practicable and praiseworthy. 

" My opinion of the faith and principles of this lord 
ly band may be expressed in few words ; and as I have 
been honoured by the instruction and confidence of our 
gallant leader, to be whose creature only is my highest 
aspiration, I flatter myself of its correctness. I con- 
sider the members of this fraternity absolved from duty 
or obligation to all men save their commander. We 
find ourselves placed in the world surrounded with ev- 
ery thing needful for our comfort and enjoyment ; and 
shall we stand supinely l^y and see others enjoy those 
things to which we have an equal right, because an es- 
tablished order of things, which we neither believe in 
nor respect, forbids our participating in them 1 

" We consider every thing under the control of our 
power as our right : more, we consider man, earth, and 
beast, all as materials subject to the enterprise of our 
power. Turn your attention to the animal world ; do 
we not see the beast of the field, the fowl of the air, 
and the fish of the sea, all tn their turns falling victims 
to each other : and, last of all, turn your attention to 
man, and do we not see him falling a victim to his fel- 
low-man. If there be a Ged, he has evidently given 
his sanction to this system of violence, and impressed 
it upon nature with the force of a law. But, my brave 
associates, we are sworn foes to law and order, and 
recognise no obligations apart from those of the frater- 
nity. Be it our boast that we are lords of our own 
wills, and while we live let us riot in all the pompous 
luxuries which the spoils of our enemies can afford. 

" We are told in history that Rome lost her liberty by 
the conspiracy of three Romans, on an island of the 
river Rhenus. And why may not the conspiracy of 
four hundred Americans in this morass of the Missis- 


sippi river glean the southern and western banks, de- 
stroy their cities, and slaughter our enemies ? Have 
we no Antony to scatter the firebrands of rebellion ; 
no Lepidus to open his coffers of gold ; or no Augustus 
(o lead us to battle ? Such a conclusion would be an im- 
peachment of the abilities of our gallant chieftain." 

We give but a small portion of Mr. Hues's speech 
in the council-house, which was very long, and em- 
braced many topics not here introduced. He dwelt 
much upon the moral irresponsibility of mankind — the 
superiority of the animal over the intellectual propen- 
sities, as proved from the strength of the passions con- 
trasted with the weakness of the judgment of men, <tc. 
But we shall not longer trespass on the reader's pa- 

To return to the scene at the council-house : when 
Hues had finished his speech, and all unsettled busi- 
ness was disposed of, the assembly rose and dispersed, 
each to his own residence : for many of them owned 
huts, which they had erected about on points of high 
land contiguous to the morass, under pretence of keep- 
ing wood-yards to accommodate Mississippi boatmen, 
though really on account of their privacy, and con- 
venience to the operations of the clan. 

Murrell having business with members of the fra- 
ternity who had not made their appearance at the 
council-house, proposed to visit such of them as lived 
on the river, and set forward, in company with Hues, 
for the house of Jehu Barney. They found their skitf 
necessary during most of the way. They passed on 
their right a small hut, near which were four ne- 
groes, cutting wood. Their hut stood upon the bank 
of the largo bayou down which they were paddling 


Murrell remarked to Hues that those negroes had been 
stolen and sold several times, and were still in re- 
serve for a future market ; and would be again sold so 
soon as the excitement in regard to them should sub- 
side. They made no halt at the hut, but continued in 
the direction of the river. They passed in the bayou 
a riat-boat of considerable size, that appeared to be 
undergoing repair, which Murrell called his ; and said 
that he intended it to convey negroes to some point on 
the river below New-Orleans, where they could be 
shipped to Texas at the shortest notice, on board of a 
packet ; remarking that he had already made arrange- 
ments for some forty or fifty with that view. 

They at length arrived at the house, or rather the 
cabin, of Jehu Barney. It was near sunset, and there 
was no prospect of reaching more agreeable quarters. 
They were consequently compelled to remain, though 
Hues had resolved not to trust himself to sleep, 
through the night ; for he felt but little fondness for 
such chamber-companions. During the evening con- 
versation turned on various topic.s, chiefly, however, 
on such as were more immediately connected with the 
operations of the morass. Among other things. Hues 
learned the arrangement which Murrell made for re- 
taking the negroes he had promised to deliver to Mr. 
Erwin ; which were, in the first place, to deliver the 
negroes and secure his money, leaving with them di- 
rections to appear at a certain point on the river the 
following night, where Barney was instructed to meet 
and convey them to some other market. 

Hues spent the night, not in sleep, but in preparing 
an excuse to part with Murrell in the morning. For 

96 Stewart's life 

he had determined not to spend another day in the 
morass. He had seen enough to relieve his doubts as 
to the representations of Murrell, and being satisfied 
of the removal of Mr. Henning's negroes, he saw no 
longer any prospect of serving him there. Besides, 
he had so far come off victorious, and had no sufficient 
assurance that he would be so fortunate upon a second 
trial ; and hence saw no good reason for longer ex- 
posing his life, and the hope of serving his fellow- 
countrymen, to the uncertainties and dangers with 
which, in that gloomy place, he saw himself surround- 
ed. Moreover, having learned the extent of the clan, 
that many of its members lived in those parts of the 
difTerent states where he was known, and some of 
them occupying respectable standings before the com- 
munity', he did not know but he might meet some ac- 
quaintance ; or, if not, some one who had seen him, 
and who might betray his disguise ; for he had been 
told by Murrell that the meeting at the council-house 
on the morrow would be much larger than the one he 
had witnessed. Hence this resolution. 


Early on the morning of February 2d, Hues made 
known to Murrell his intention of leaving him. Mur- 
rell appeared much disappointed (for he had never 
once imagined that Hues contemplated returning so 
soon), and objected that he had not, as yet, been en» 


abled to redeem his promise to show him the Arkan- 
sas ladies ; and continued, that there were several 
subjects of importance to be brought before the coun- 
cil, on which he had promised himself the pleasure of 
hearing his views. To which Hues replied, that, as 
to the Arkansas ladies, for the pleasure of seeing the 
fair widow at Mr. Erwin's, he could afford to dispense 
with them for the present : and as regarded his opin- 
ions before the council, they could be of but little im- 
portance ; as he was not prepared, for reasons already 
given, to advance any thing new : assuring Murrell at 
the same time that he had the utmost confidence in 
his opinions on any subject that might be agitated be- 
fore the house, and should be proud to adopt them as 
his own. This appeal to Murrell's vanity had a most 
happy effect in putting an end to his importunities. 
He offered no farther objection, but accompanied Hues 
on board a skiff that lay at the shore, and saw him 
safely landed on the opposite bank of the river. Hues 
set out for Mr. Erwin's, where he promised to remain 
till Murrell should rejoin him ; and Murrell returned to 
his clan. On his arrival Hues found Mr. Erwin at 
home, and communicated to him all that had transpired. 
Upon which they determined to have a guard in readi- 
ness to arrest Murrell when he should bring the ne- 
groes which Mr. Erwin had contracted to purchase ; 
and accordingly made arrangements to that effect. 
Hues preferred such an arrangement, as it would go 
very far to anticipate the incredulity of the world : for 
although he was himself satisfied, the world was yet 
to be convinced, which he foresaw would be attended 
with much difficulty, unless he could overtake him 
E 9 

98 Stewart's life 

(Murrell) in some act of villany. Besides, should he, 
by arresting him sooner, risk his statements to the pub- 
lic upon his own bare assertion, unsupported by the 
proof of any overt act, there were many of the clan 
who stood as yet unimpeached before the community, 
ready to certify to Murrell's good character, and thus 
discredit his testimony, perhaps bring his motives in 
question, and, it might be, defeat the very purpose 
which had led him to encounter so many and great 
dangers. Nay, more ; it would have been their policy 
to assassinate him, and prevent his evidence from ever 
coming before the public. 

On the following afternoon of February 3d, Mur- 
rell returned to the house of Mr. Erwin, where he 
found Hues, according to promise, awaiting his arrival. 
It was not long before he took occasion to renew 
with Mr. E. the subject of the negroes, and designa- 
ted the time at which they were to be delivered. 
At length (for he seldom remained long in the same 
place) he proposed to Hues to set out for Mr. Cham- 
pion's, with whom they had left their horses six days 
before, to which Hues assented ; and early in the 
evening of the same day they reached Mr. Champi- 
on's house. While there Hues had no opportunity of 
conversing privately with Mr. C, and hence gave him 
no account of his adventure. 

Early on the morrow Murrell and his companion 
once more mounted their horses and directed their 
course for Madison county. 

The following are the certificates of Messrs. Er- 
win, Champion, and Shelby ; — 


" Slate of Tennessee, Tipton County. 

" Having been called on by Virgil A. Stewart to 
state to the public ^vhetller the statements set forth in 
the publication entitled ' The Western Land-Pirate' 
are correct or not, I do hereby certify to the world that 
all that is set forth in that publication relative to the 
said Virgil A. Stewart calling at my house in this coun- 
ty, on the bank of the Mississippi river, in the latter 
part of January, 1834, in company with the notorious 
villain John A. Murrell, is strictly correct in all the 
many particulars set forth in that publication. The said 
Virgil A. Stewart was travelling with Murrell in dis- 
guise, and under the fictitious name of Adam Hues 
Mr. Stewart then informed me of his real name and 
business, and soUcited my assistance, provided he should 
need it. I also informed him that he might depend on 
the aid of Matthew Erwin, my neighbour, who lived 
a few miles below me on the river. I have frequently 
conversed with Mr. Erwin on the subject of Murrell 
having agreed to bring him (Erwin) three negro men ; 
of the arrangement that ]Mr. Stewart had made with Mr. 
Erwin to have a guard to arrest the said Murrell when he 
should arrive with the negi'oes which he had promised 
to bring Mr. Erwin. I have also heard Mr. Hargus, 
who lives on the river below Mr. Erwin, state that INIr. 
Stewart was at his house in company with the said 
Murrell, and that his son carried Mr. Stewart and Mur- 
rell over the river in a skiff ; and that the said Virgil A. 
Stewart informed him (Mr. Hargus) of his real name 
and business with John A. Murrell. 

" Mr. Stewart requested me, before he started over 
to the morass, if Murrell came back to my house af- 
ter his horse, and he (Mr. Stewart) was not with him, 
to have Murrell arrested" immediately, as I might know 


100 Stewart's life 

that he was murdered. JNIr. Stewart and INIurrell had 
left their horses at my house. 

" I hope these statements will be fully satisfactory 
to all who are not satisfied on the subject. 

" Given under my hand and seal, tliis 18th day of Oc- 
tober, 1835. 

[Sealed.] "JOHN CHAMPION. 

* State of Tennessee, Shelby County. 

" Having been called on by Virgil A. Stewart to 
state to the world what I know relative to the said Vir- 
gil A. Stewart and the notorious John A. Murrell be- 
ing at my house while I resided on the Mississippi 
river, in Tipton county of this state, in the latter part 
of January and first of February, 1834, I now certify 
to the w^orld that all that is set forth in the publica- 
tion entitled the ' Western Land-Pirate' is correct so far 
as my name is connected with the same ; and I will 
further state, for the satisfaction of all who may wish to 
know it, that John A. Murrell did engage to bring me 
three negro men, and that Virgil A. Stewart concerted a 
plan with me to arrest Murrell when he should bring 
said negroes. 

" Mr. Stewart was travelling with said Murrell in 
disguise, and under the fictitious name of Adam Hues. 
Mr. Stewart informed me of his real name and busi- 
ness. All this transpired as mentioned in the * Western 

" Given under my hand and seal, this 20th day of Oc- 
tober, 1835. 

[Sealed.] " MATTHEW ERWIN." 

" Tipton County, Tennessee, Oct. I9th, 1835. 
" Mr. Virgil A. Stewart : — 

" You have requested me to state what I know of 
your trip to Arkansas in company with John A. Mur- 


rell, the western land-thief, which I will do in a few 
words. Early in February, 1834, I was standing on 
the bank of the Mississipoi river, near my dwelling, 
when I perceived two men riding towards me, one of 
whom I suspected of being the notorious Murrell, hav- 
ing seen him once previously ; the other I now know 
must have been you ; moreover, at the time, being un- 
acquainted with you, I supposed you to belong to the 
same gang. After you passed I went to the house, and 
ebsen^ed to my wife that two suspicious-looking fellows 
had just gone by. She then informed me that, during 
my absence from home, two white men on horseback had 
been among our negroes tampering with them, offering 
to take them to a free state, &c. I got on my horse 
and rode out to the place where my negroes were at 
work, determining to learn from them all the particu- 
lars. They described the men so as to leave no doubt 
on my mind that they were the same fellows who had 
passed but a short time before. I concluded then to fol- 
low you to Randolph, whither I supposed you had gone, 
and to ascertain if one was Murrell (as I was not cer- 
tain of it myself), and have him well Lynched ; but 
nothing was to be seen of you. Next day I went down to 
my neighbour's (John Champion), who was then living 
four miles below me on the river, to learn from him if 
he had seen them and knew them. He told me they 
stayed there all night, and that one of the men was Mur- 
rell, who had stolen negroes from a Mr. Tlemiing, a 
preacher of INIadison county. The other was a man by 
the name of Stew^art, who was following said Murrell 
for the purpose of detecting his villany. And Champi- 
on then related to me the conversation that passed be- 
tween you and himself ; the same that w^as afterward 
published in Stewart's life of John A. Murrell. 

" A few days afterward I saw another man, Mr. Mat- 

102 Stewart's life 

thew Eiwiu, who confirmed what Mr. Champion had 
Baid. With Champion I am well acquainted, and know 
him to be an honest man, and any thing he would state 
is deserving of credit. I will here inform you that 1 
too have had some knowledge of the Murrell clan in 
Arkansas, and believe them to be villains of the deep- 
est die. Many of them were concerned in robbing a 
flat-boat that grounded six miles below mc, in May, 
1834. As it regards the Barneys, fellows mentioned in 
your list of MurrelFs accomplices, I can say, they stole 
from me last fall two negroes, and kept them conceal- 
ed for several days ; they soon learned they were sus- 
pected, and that I was determined, if I did not get them, 
to punish the Barneys agreeably to the merits of their 
crime; therefore, in a short time, my negroes were 

" On the subject of G. N. Saunders, the man who 
certifies and swears for Judge Clanton, I will merely 
state, I know nothing of him personally ; he left this 
countrj'^ before I moved to it; but, from his general 
character here, I should say he was a base man ; and 
whatever he might say or swear to not entitled to credit. 
" Respectfully, your friend, 


Murrell now began to speak of the bad luck he 
had had with the old parson's negroes, which ap- 
peared to give him much uneasiness. Hues, deeming 
the occasion a safe one, ventured, for the first time, to 
ask him a direct question respecting the negroes. He 
inquired to what market he had sent them. Murrell 
replied, " They have sent my two, with three others, 
and seven horses, down the river in one of those small 
trading-boats ; they intended, if they could, to go 
tlirough the Choctaw pass to the Yazoo market ; and 


they have with them ten thousand dollars in counter- 
feit money, which I fear is to upset the whole matter. 
I am not pleased with the arrangement. The fellows 
whom they have sent are only strikers, and that is too 
much to put in their hands at one time. D — d if I am 
not fearful they will think themselves made when they 
sell, and leave us behind in the lurch ; though Lloyd 
says there is no danger in them ; that he told them to 
sell and mizzel." 

Once more on the road, Murrell renewed the unfin- 
ished narrative of his life, as follows : — 

Murrell. " After I returned home from the first grand 
circuit I made among the speculators, I remained 
there but a short time, as I could not rest when my 
mind was not actively engaged in some speculation. 
I commenced the foundation of this mystic clan on 
that tour, and suggested the plan of exciting a rebell- 
ion among the negroes, as the sure road to an inex- 
haustible fortune to all who would engage in the expe- 
dition. The first mystic sign which is used by this 
clan was in use among robbers before I was born : 
and the second had its origin from myself, Phelps, 
Haines, Cooper, Doris, Bolton, Harris, Doddridge, 
Celly, Morris, Walter, Depout, and one of my brothers, 
on the second night after my acquaintance with them 
in New-Orleans. We needed a higher order to carry 
on our designs, and we adopted our sign, and called it 
the sign of the grand council of the mystic clan ; and 
practised ourselves to give and receive the new sign 
to a fraction before we parted : a-nd, in addition to this 
improvement, we invented and formed a mode of cor- 
responding, by means of ten characters, mixed with 

104 Stewart's life 

other matter, which has been very convenient on many 
occasions, and especially when any of us get into dif- 
ficulties. I was encouraged in my new undertaking, 
and my heart began to beat high with the hope of be- 
ing able one day to visit the pomp of the southern 
and western people in my vengeance ; and of seeing 
their cities and towns one common scene of devasta- 
tion, smoked walls and fragments. 

" I decoyed a negro man from his master in Middle 
Tennessee, and sent him to Mills's Point by a young 
man, and I v/aited to see the movements of the owner 

" He thought his negro had run off. So I started to 
take possession of my prize. I got another friend at 
Mills's Point to take my negro in a skiff, and convey 
him to the mouth of Red river, and I took a passage on 
a steamboat. I then went through the country by 
land, and sold my negro for nine hundred dollars, and 
the second night after 1 sold him I stole him agah\ 
and my friend ran him to the Irish bayou in Texas ; I 
followed on after him, and sold my negro in Texas 
for five hundred dollars. I then resolved to visit 
South Ameiica, and see if there was no opening in 
that country for a speculation ; I had also concluded 
that I could get some strong friends in that quarter to 
aid me in my designs relative to a negro rebellion ; 
but of all people in the world, the Spaniards are the 
most treacherous and cowardly ; I never want them 
concerned in any matter with me ; I had rather take the 
negroes in this country to fight than a Spaniard. I 
stopped in a village, and passed as a doctor, and com- 
menced practising medicine. I could ape the doctor 
firstrate, having read Ewel, and several other works 


on primitive medicine. I became a great favourite of 
an old Catholic ; he adopted me as his son in the faith, 
and introduced me to all the best families as a young 
doctor from North America. 1 had been with the old 
Catholic but a very short time before I was a great 
Roman Catholic, and bowed to the cross, and attended 
regularly to all the ceremonies of that persuasion ; and, 
to tell you the fact. Hues, all the Catholic requires 
or needs to be universally received, is to be correctly 
represented ; but you know I care nothing for re- 
ligion ; I had been with the old Catholic about three 
months, and was getting a heavy practice, when an 
opportunity offered for me to rob the good man's 
secretary of nine hundred and sixty dollars in gold, 
and I could have got as much more in silver if I could 
have carried it. I was soon on the road for home 
again; I stopped three weeks in New-Orleans as I 
came home, and had some high fun with old Mother 
Surgick's girls. 

" I collected all my associates in New-Orleans at 
one of my friend's houses in that place, and we sat in 
council three days before we got all our plans to our 
notion ; we then determined to undertake the rebellion 
at every hazard, and make as many friends as we 
could for that purpose. Every man's business being 
assigned him, I started for Natchez on foot. Having 
sold my horse in New-Orleans with the intention of 
stealing another after I started, I walked four days, 
and no opportunity offered for me to get a horse. The 
fifth day, about twelve o'clock, I had become very tired, 
and stopped at a creek to get some water and rest a 
little. While I was sitting on a log, looking down the 
E 3 

106 Stewart's life 

road tlie way I had come, a man came in sight riding 
a good-looking horse. The very moment I saw him I 
determined to have his horse if he was in the garb 
of a traveller. He rode up, and I saw from his equipage 
that he was a traveller. I arose from my seat and drew 
an elegant rifle pistol on him, and ordered him to dis- 
mount. He did so, and I took his horse by the bridle, 
and pointed down the creek, and ordered him to walk 
before me. We went a few hundred yards and stop- 
j)ed. I hitched his horse, then made him undress 
himself, all to his shirt and drawers, and ordered him 
to turn his back to me. He asked me if I was going to 
shoot him. I ordered him the second time to turn his 
back to me. He said, ' If you are determined to kill 
me, let me have time to pray before I die.' I told him 
I had no time to hear him pray. He turned round, 
and dropped on his knees, and I shot him through the 
back of the head. I ripped open his belly, and took 
out his entrails, and sunk him rn the creek. I then 
searched his pockets, and found four hundred and one 
dollars and thirty-seven cents, and a number of papers 
that I did not take time to examine. I sunk the pocket- 
book and papers and his hat in the creek. His boots 
were bran new, and fitted me very genteelly, and I put 
them on, and sunk my old shoes in the creek to atone 
for them. I rolled up his clothes and put them into his 
portmanteau, as they were quite new cloth of the best 
quality. I mounted as fine a horse as ever I strad- 
dled, and directed my course for Natchez in much 
better style than I had been for the last five days. 

" 1 reached Natchez, and spent two days with my 
friends at that place and the girls under the hill to- 


gether. I then left Natchez for the Choctaw nation, 
with the intention of giving some of them a chance for 
their property. As I was riding along between Ben- 
ton and Rankin, planning for my designs, I was over- 
taken by a tall and good-looking young man, riding an 
elegant horse, which was splendidly rigged off; and 
the young gentleman's apparel was of the gayest that 
could be had, and his watch-chain and other jewellery 
were of the richest and best. I was anxious to know if 
he intended to travel through the Choctaw nation, and 
soon managed to learn. He said he had been to the low- 
er country with a drove of negroes, and was returning 
home to Kentucky. We rode on, and soon got very in- 
timate for strangers, and agreed to be company through 
the Indian nation. We were two fine-looking men, and, 
to hear us talk, we were very rich. I felt him on the 
subject of speculation, but he cursed the speculators, 
and said he was in a bad condition to fall into the 
hands of such villains, as he had the cash with him 
that twenty negroes had sold for ; and that he was very 
happy that he happened to get in company with me 
through the nation. I concluded he was a noble prize, 
and longed to be counting his cash. At length we 
came into one of those long stretches in the nation, 
where there was no house for twenty miles, on the 
third day after we had been in company with each 
other. The country was high, hilly, and broken, and 
no water; just about the time I reached the place 
where I intended to count my companion's cash, I be- 
came very thirsty, and insisted on turning down a deep 
hollow, or dale, that headed near the road, to hunt some 
water. We had followed down the dale for near four 


hundred yards, when I drew my pistol and shot him 
through. He fell dead ; I commenced hunting for his 
cash, and opened his large pocketbook, which was 
stuffed very full ; and when I began to open it I thought 
it was a treasure indeed ; but oh ! the contents of that 
Book! it was richly filled with the copies of love- 
songs, the forms of love-letters, and some of his own 
composition, — but no cash. I began to cut off his 
clothes with my knife, and examine them for his 
money. I found four dollars and a half in change in 
his pockets, and no more. And is this the amount for 
which twenty negroes sold ? thought I. I recollected 
his watch and jewellery, and I gathered them ; his 
chain was rich and good, but it was swung to an old 
brass watch. He was a puff for true, and I thought 
all such fools ought to die as soon as possible. I took 
his horse, and swapped him to an Indian native for four 
ponies, and sold them on the way home. I reached 
home, and spent a few weeks among the girls of my 
acquaintance, in all the enjoyments that money could 

" My next trip was through Georgia, South Carolina, 
North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, and then back 
to South Carolina, and from there round by Florida 
and Alabama. I began to conduct the progress of my 
operations, and establish my emissaries over the coun- 
try in every direction. After I had turned for home 
from Alabama, I was passing by where one of my 
friends lived in company with three of my associates, 
who were going home with me ; we stopped to see 
how our friend was doing ; while we were setting out 
in his portico, a large drove of sheep came up to his 


blocks. He went out and examined tHem, and found 
them to be the flock of an old Baptist, who lived about 
six miles up the road from his house ; they had been 
gone from their owner for three months, and he could 
hear nothing of them. The old Baptist had accused 
my friend of having his sheep driven off to market, and 
abused him very much for stealing them. My friend 
acquainted me with all the circumstances, and I conclu- 
ded to play a trick on the old jockey for his suspicions j 
so we gathered up all the flock, and drove them on be-- 
fore us, and got to the old Baptist's just after dark : we 
called the old man out to the gate, and wanEed to lodge 
with him all night ; but he refused to take us in, and 
urged as a reason that his old woman was sick, and 
could not accommodate us as he would wish. In an- 
swer to these objections, I told him that we could wait 
on ourselves ; that I had three active young men with 
me, who could do all that was wanting to be done. I 
told him I had moved down below in the spring of the 
year, when my sheep were scattered, and I concluded 
to leave them until fall ; and that I had been up to my 
old place after them, and was going home ; and com- 
plained of the hard drive I had made that day, as an 
excuse to stop with the old Baptist. I then told him I 
had a very fine wether that I wished to kill, as he was 
very unruly, and hard to drive, and what we did not 
use that, night he was welcome to. The old man 
showed us a place to pen our sheep, and the corn-crib, 
and stables ; and told us that, if we could wait on our- 
selves, we were welcome to stay. We soon fed our 
horses, and had tlie mutton dressed, and a large pot- 
ful cooking. The old man told us where to find meai, 


milk, and butter ; and while my associates wei e cooking 
the sheep, I was conversing with the old Baptist on 
religion ; I told him I was a Baptist preacher. When 
news came that the sheep was done, I went into the 
kitchen, and we had a real feast of mutton, at the ex- 
pense of the old Baptist. 

" After supper we went in where the old lady 
lay sick. The old man got his ^ible and hymn- 
book, and invited me to go to duty. I used the books, 
and then prayed like hell for the recovery of the old 
lady. The next morning we were up before daylight, 
and had the sheep all on the road. We drove them 
about a mile, and scattered them in the woods, and 
left them. We left the head of the wether that we 
killed lying in the lot, where the old man could see 
that it was his own mark. 1 arrived home after a trip 
of six months. 

" I have been going ever since from one place to 
another, directing and managing ; but I have others 
now as good as myself to manage. This fellow, 
Phelps, that I was telling you of before, he is a noble 
chap among the negroes, and he wants them all free ; 
he knows how to excite them as well as any person ; 
but he will not do for a robber, as he cannot kill a 
man unless he has received an injury from him first. 
He is now in jail at Vicksburg, and I fear will hang. 
I went to see him not long since, but he is so strictly 
watched that nothing can be done. He has been in 
the habit of stopping men on the highway, and robbing 
them, and letting them go on ; but that will never do 
for a robber : after I rob a man he will never give evi- 
dence igainst me, and there is but one safe plan ift 


the business, and that is to kill — if I could not afford 
to kill a man I would not rob. I have often told 
Phelps that he would be caught before he knew it. I 
could raise men enough to go and tear down the jail 
and take Phelps by force ; but that would endanger 
all our other plans. I have frequently had money 
enough to settle myself in wealth ; but I have spent 
it as freely as water in carrying on my designs. The 
last five years of my life have been passed in the 
same way that I have been telling you, Hues ; I have 
been from home the best part of the time, and have 
let but few chances escape me when I could rob that 
I did not do it. It would take a week yet, Hues, to 
tell over all my scrapes of that kind. You must come 
and stay at my house the week before I start with 
those negroes to Erwin, and I will have time to teL 
over all my ups and downs for the last five years. I 
want you to go that trip with me. You can arrange 
your business in the nation in two weeks, and get to 
my house in Madison county. You will make more 
that trip than all your concerns are worth in the na- 
tion, so you had better give away what you have there 
than be confined to it." 

The approach of night now warned Murrell and 
his companion to look out for a house of entertaie- 
ment, and Murrell ended his narrative. 

1)2 Stewart's lifl 


MuRRELL and his companion, at an early hour of 
the following morning (February 5th), were on the road 
and pursuing their journey. The time was drawing- 
near when business of an important character, as Mur- 
rell had been assured by Hues, would make it neces- 
sary for them to separate. But the short distance of 
two miles lay between them and the point (Wesley) 
that was to divide them. Murrell expressed himself 
averse to the separation, and urged many reasons for 
continuing their journey longer together. Hues, how- 
ever, inexorable, still pressed the plea of business ; 
and Murrell, finding his solicitations unavailing, yield- 
ed on condition that Hues would hasten his business 
in the Choctaw Nation, and rejoin him at his house in 
Madison county ; promising himself, meanwhile, to 
proceed immediately homeward, and have in readi- 
ness the negroes promised Mr. Erwin by the time 
Hues should visit him. Upon this, the following 
(which is the last) dialogue between Murrell and 
Hues ensued : — 

Murrell. " Well, Hues, we part to-day, and I am 
not half done talking ; but I will quit telling what I 
have done, and tell what I am going to do. I have 
about forty negroes now engaged that are waiting for 
me to run them; and, the best of it is, they are almost 
all the property of my enemies. I have a great many 
friends who have got in to be overseers : they are a 


Strong support to my plans. I have a friend by the 
name of Nolin, my brother-in-law's brother, who is 
overseeing in Alabama for a man who is from home. 
Nolin has decoyed six likely negro men for me. I 
am to go within about ten miles with a two-horse car- 
ryall, and stop at an appointed place. Nolin is to 
raise a sham charge against the negroes, and they are 
to run off and come to my wagon. I will put them 
into the wagon, and fasten down the curtains all 
round, and then throw fodder over them, and have 
a striker to drive them to the Mississippi swamp for 
me, where there will be no danger. I will ride a few 
miles behind, but never seem to notice the wagon. 
Nolin is to be driving the woods for the negroes, and 
reporting that he has seen them every day or two, un- 
til I have ti-me to get clear out of the country with 
them. I have eight more engaged in Alabama, at one 
Eason's, the fellow whom I was speaking of before 
The remainder of the forty I shall get in my own county. 
You recollect the boat I showed you in the bayou, on 
the other side of the river ? that boat I intend to fill 
with negroes for my own benefit." 

Hues. " There is a fellov/ by the name of Bundels, 
or Buns, or some such name, a negro-trader, who lives 
somewhere in the new part of Tennessee, who, I 
think, is as hard to cheat as any man I have seen in 
all my travels ; and, if all the Tennesseans are as 
sharp as I think he is, I do not want to deal with many 
of them." 

M. " O ! I know who you are thinking of; his name 
is Byrn ; he does pass down through your country 
sometimes, and a great sharper he is ; he can cheat 

114 Stewart's life 

you to death, and make you think all the time he is 
putting you on the road to a fortune ; but, in spite of 
him, I handled the cash that one of his negroes sold 
for. He suspected me of running his negro, and of- 
fered me the chance of him for three hundred dollars, 
but I thought it was a poor business to give three hun- 
dred dollars for a thing I already had. Byrn is a hard 
hand, and I would as soon fall into the hands of the 
devil as into his." 

Hues pretended not to remember the name of Byrn, 
with a view of leaving an impression on Murrell that 
his acquaintance with him was very slight. Yet he 
took care to give such an account of him as enabled 
Murrell, without any difficulty, to understand to whom 
he alluded. 

Hues knew that Byrn had lost a negro, and his ob- 
ject was to ascertain whether or not Murrell had 
stolen him. Hence the above ingenious plan. 

Murrell. " I can tell you another trick we have, 
Hues, to get horses. One of our friends examines the 
stray -books regularly ; and, whenever there is a stray 
horse of any value found on them, he goes and gets a 
description of the horse, and then writes for two of his 
friends, if none are near, who are strangers in the 
country he lives in. He gives his friends a minute 
description of the horse ; and one will go and claim, 
and the other prove the property. I was in Arkansas 
this fall, and there was a man there who had found a 
fine horse standing in the edge of the Mississippi 
river, which had probably got off of some boat and 
swum to the shore ; but he could not get up the bank. 
The man dug away the bank and saved the horse 


One of my friends heard of it, and went and examined 
the horse, and told me all his flesh-marks. I went 
and asked the man if he had found a horse of such a 
description, describing the horse in every particular. 
He said he had. I looked at the horse and claimed 
him. I gave the fellow five dollars for his trouble, 
and took the horse home, and have him yet. I have 
swum the Mississippi twice on that horse." 

Hues. " We are not far from Wesley, where we 
will part : but you have not yet given me a list of the 
names of our friends." 

M. " Oh ! yes, yes. Have you any paper with 
you ? You must have that before we part." 

Hues here bethought himself of the remainder of his 
blank-book, which he drew from his pocket ; but, upon 
examination, found it containing but four and a half 
leaves, which Murrell assured him were much too lit- 
tle paper to contain all the names of the clan ; and 
proposed to postpone the list till he should visit him in 
Madison county, at which time he would give him a 
complete one, accompanied with the residence of 
each. But Hues, reflecting that it might become im- 
possible or imprudent, as was his design, to visit Mur- 
rell at his residence, insisted on a list, as far as the pa- 
per would warrant it, suggesting to him to confine it 
chiefly to the principal characters in the diff'erent sec- 
tions of the country ; as he would thereby be enabled 
to form some tolerable idea of their strength : and that, 
by the time they should again meet, he would be pre- 
pared, in some degree, to advance an opinion respect- 
ing the general plan of operations. Murrell replied, 
that, upon the whole, he thought it best himself to 


give him some idea of iheir strength before they part- 
ed ; and accordingly proposed to ride out a little from 
the road with that view. On commencing the cata- 
logue, he remarked to Hues that it might be well, on 
account of the scarcity of paper, to omit the Christian 
names ; to which Hues assented, with the reservation 
of the initial, as it might prevent confusion, ^ 

Hues had observed much more particularity on this 
occasion, had he not intended seeing Murrell again 
before his arrest. The list obtained was not pri- 
marily intended for the public eye. It had been pro- 
cured merely for the gratification of his own curiosity. 
Circumstances, however, which happened after, made 
its publication necessary. 

The following are the names of the clan, as given 
by Murrell, with the several states in which they re- 
side : — 

Tennessee. — Two Murrells, S. Wethers, D. Cren- 
shaw, M. Dickson, V. Chisim, K. Dickson, L. Ander- 
son, P. Johnson, J. Nuckels, L. Bateman, J. Taylor, 
E. Chandlor, four Maroneys, two Littlepages, J. Har- 
din, Esq. Wilbern, Y. Pearson, G. AViers, five Lathoms, 
A. Smith, six Hueses, S. Spiers, two Byrdsongs, Col. 
Jarot, two Nolins, Capt. Ruffin, Ja. Hosskins, W. Cren- 
shaw, J. Goaldin, R. Tims, D. Ahart, two Busbeys, L. 
More, J. Eas, W. Howel, B. Sims, Z. Gorid, three 
Boaltons, G. Sparkes, S. Larit, R. Parew, K. Deron. 

Mississippi. — G. Parker, S. Williams, R. Horton, 
C. Hapes, W. Presley, G. Corkle, B. Johnson, D. 
Rooker, L. Cooper, C. Barton, five Willeys, J. Hess, 
two Willsons, Capt. Moris, G. Tucker, three Glenns, 
two Harlins, Bloodworth, J. Durham, R. Forrow, 


S. Cook, G. Goodman, Stautton, Clanin, C. 

Hickman, W. Thomas, Wm. Nawls, D. Marlovv, Capt. 
Medford, three Hunters, two Gilberts, A. Brown, four 

Arkansas. — S. Pucket, W. Ray, J. Simmons, L. 
Good, B. Norton, J. Smith, P. Billing, A. Hooper, C. 
Jimerson, six Serrils, three Bunches, four Dartes, two 
Barneys, G. Aker, four Tuckers, two Loyds, three 
Skurlocks, three Joneses, L. Martin-, S. Coulter, H. 
Petit, W. Henderson, two Nbwlins, three Hortons. 

Kentucky. — Three Forrows, four Wards, two Fore- 
sythes, D. Clayton, R. Williamson, H. Haly, H. Pot- 
ter, D. Mugit, two Pattersons, S. Goin, Q. Brantley, L, 
Pots, four Reeses, two Carters. 

Missouri. — Four Whites, two Herins, six Milers, G. 
Poap, R. Coward, D. Corkle, E. Boalin, W. Aker, two 
Garlins, S. Falcon, H. Warrin, two Moaseways, three 
Johnsons, Col. S. W. Foreman. 

Alabama. — H. Write, J. Homes, G. Sheridon, E, 
Nolin, three Parmers, two Glascocks, G. Hammons, 
R. Cunagen, H. Chance, D. Belfer, W. Hickel, P. 
Miles, O. More, B. Corhoon, S. Baley, four Sorils, 
three Martins, M. Hancock, Capt. Boin, Esq. Malone. 

Georgia. — H. Moris, D. Haris, two Rameys, four 
CuUins, W. Johnson S. Gambel, two Crenshaws, four 
Peakes, two Heffils, D. Coalmon, four Reves, six 
Rosses, Capt. Ashley, Denson, Esq., two Lenits. 

South Carolina. — Three Foarts, four AVilliamses, 
0. Russet, S. Pinkney, six Woods, H. Black, G. Hol- 
ler, three Franklins, G. Gravit, B. Henry, W. Simp- 
son, E. Owin, two Hookers, three Piles, W. King, N. 
Parsons, F. Watters M. Ware two Robersons. 


North Carolina.— k. Fentres, two Micklejolins, D. 
Harilson, M. Coopwood, R. Huiston, four Solomons, J. 
Hackney, S. Stogdon, three Perrys, four Gilferds, W. 
Farmers, tliree Hacks, J. ^ecel, D. Barnet, S. Bulkes, 
M. Johnson, B. Kelit, V. Miles, J. Haris, L. Smith, 
K. Farmer. 

Virginia. — R. Garison, A. Beloach, J. Kerkmon 
three Merits, W. Carnes, D. Hawks, J. Ferines, G. 
Derom, S. Walker, four Mathises, L. Wiseman, S. 
Washorn, P. Hume, F. Henderson, E. Cockburn, W. 

Maryland. — W. Gwins, H. Brown, F. Smith, G. Dot- 
herd, L.Strawn, three Morgans, D. Hays, fourHobeses, 
H. M'Gieton, S. M'Write, J. Wilkit, two Fishers, M. 
Haines, C. Paron, G. M'Watters, A. Cuthbut, W. Lee- 
mon, S. Winston, D. Read, M. O'Conel, T. Goodin. 

Florida. — E. Carmeter, W. Hargeret, S. Whipel, A. 
Sterling, B. Stafford, L. M'Guint, G. Flush, C. Winkle, 
two M'Gilits, E. Foskew, J, Beark, J. Preston, three 

Louisiana. — C. Depont, J. Bevley, A. Rhone, T.. 
M'Nut, H. Pelton, W. Bryant, four Hunts, two Baleys, 
S. Roberson, J. Sims, G. Murry, R. Miler, C. Hender- 
son, two Deris, J. Johnson, A. Pelkin, D. Willis, P. 
Read, S. M'Carty, W. Moss, D. Cotton, T. Parker, L. 
Ducan, M. Bluren, S. Muret, G. Pase, T. Ray. 

Transient members who travel from place to place. — 
Two Hains, S. Coper, G, Boalton, R. Haris, P. Dod- 
dridge, H. Helley, C. Moris, three Rinens, L. Tailor, 
two Jones, H. Sparkes, three Levits, G. Hunter, G. 
Tucker, S. Skerlock, Soril Phelps. 

When the above catalo ue was finished, Murrell ob- 


served, " There is not paper to make a proper list; but 
when you come up to my house we will have time to 
make a complete one. This will do until then, as you 
will not travel any until you go with me a few trips 
and learn the routes. There are not near all the 
names on this list ; but there is no more paper to write 
on. Hues, I want you to be with me at New-Orleans 
on the night that the negroes commence their rav- 
ages. I intend to head the company that attacks that 
city myself. I feel an ambition to demolish the city 
which was defended from the ravages of the British 
army by the great General Jackson." 

Murrell and Hues arrived at Wesley, where they 
were to part. Hues promised Murrell that he would 
visit him in three weeks or sooner. They took their 
leave of each other and parted. 

So soon as Murrell was out of sight, Hues returned 
to Wesley ; and leaving at that place the pistol he had 
borrowed from Colonel Bayliss, he set out for Madison 
county by a route different from the one which Mur- 
.rell had taken, and rode on to the house of James H» 
Corr, distant about seven miles from Wesley, where 
he spent the night. 


After an early breakfast on the following morning 
(February 6th), Hues continued his journey towards 
Madison county, and about twelve o'clock at night 

120 Stewart's life 

reached the residence of his old friend the Rev. Johu 
Henning, and proceeded to acquaint him with the story 
of his adventure, particularly as it related to Mur- 
rell's confessions in respect to his negroes. Assisted 
by Mr. H., he managed to communicate with a num- 
ber of the most respectable citizens of the neighbour- 
hood before day, who volunteered their services as a 
guard to arrest Murrell. To avail himself of this si- 
lent occasion, he had travelled the last ten miles of his 
journey after dark. It was not his intention to arrest 
him till he should return to Mr. Erwin's with the ne- 
groes he had engaged to deliver him, as he deemed the 
detection of some such overt act of his villany of no 
little importance in lessening the responsibility that 
would otherwise rest upon himself in his disclosures to 
the public. But he found, on the following day (Feb- 
ruary 7th), much to his disappointment, that his sug- 
gestions of the above prudent and cautionary measure 
offered but feeble resistance to the just, though per- 
haps intemperate and hasty vengeance of an incensed 
and injured community. 

They determined never again to trust so fearful and 
dangerous an enemy beyond their reach. He was 
now in their power, and they were resolved to make 
sure of him ; and on the evening of the same day he 
set out for his house, with a guard to arrest him, Hues 
himself being one of the guards. 

On approaching the house, Hues desired the guard 
still to call him by his assumed name ; and, after in- 
structing them to put certain interrogatories to Mur- 
rell, remained without while they entered and pro- 
ceeded to the arrest. 


After they had taken MurrcU into custody, the offi- 
cer, as directed by Hues, asked the following ques- 
tions : — 

Officer. " Who went with you to Arkansas ?" 

MurrelL "A young man by the name of Hues." 

O. " Had you ever seen the young man before he 
went with you to Arkansas ?" 

M. " Never, until I saw him at the bridge at Esta- 
naula, on my way to Arkansas." 

The officer then called Hues into the presence of 
Murrell. When he made his appearance the counte- 
nance of the arch-demon fell, and for the first time in his 
life his self-possession and wonted firmness forsook 
him. Indeed, so unexpected was the shock, that more 
than once he was near swooning away. The idea of 
having unbosomed himself, in all the confidence of fan- 
cied friendship and security, to one whom he now be- 
held, after the lapse of so short a time, in the attitude 
of an enemy — a spy — was more than he was prepared 
to meet ; and to see himself thus out-generalled by a 
mere youth, whom, but so shortly before, he had im- 
agined captivated by the splendour of his great abili- 
ties, and charmed by the dazzling prospect of future 
fortune, griped to its core his obdurate and flinty 

The guard proceeded to conduct Murrell to the 
committing court at Jackson ; and while on the road 
he asked one of them " who this man Hues was ; and 
whether he had many acquaintances in the country ?" 
The guard, anxious to hear what he would say, repli- 
ed that Hues was a stranger. " Wejl," continued 
F U 

122 Stewart's life 

Murrell, " he had better remain a sr ranger ; I have 
friends. I would much rather be in my condition 
than his." 

Guards' Certijicate. 
"State of Tennessee, Madison County. 

" We, the undersigned, citizens of the county and 
state aforesaid, do hereby certify that we formed a part 
of the guard that arrested John A. Murrell in February, 
1834, under the charge of having stolen Parson John 
Henning and his son's negroes, of this county. After 
Murrell was arrested he was questioned as to the young 
man who detected him; he then and there declared 
that he had never known him until he met him at the 
bridge at Estanaula. A'irgil A. Stewart was in com- 
pany with the guard, and had requested them still to 
call him by his assumed name, Adam Hues. Murrell 
was asked if he knew the name of the young man who 
accompanied him to Arkansas. He stated that he call- 
ed his name Hues. Murrell was then desired to state 
when he had first seen this man Hues. He stated 
that he had never seen him until at the bridge at 
Estanaula, about eleven days before ; and that he had 
never heard of Hues until that time. After the guard 
had received Murrell, Mr. Stewart presented himself be- 
fore him, and Murrell called him Hues. As the guard 
were going on to Jackson with Murrell, he inquired 
of them who this man Hues was, and whether he had 
any acquaintances in this country. 

" We were very particular to make every discovery 
we could to ascertain whether Murrell could ever have 
known INIr. Stewart before that time. We do there- 
fore declare to the world, that Murrell could never 
have had any knowledge of Mr. Stewart under any 


name whatever, until after Mr. Stewart practised his 
deception on him. 

" Given under our hands, this 10th of October, 1835. 
R. H. BYRN, 

When th^ guard reached Jackson (February 8th), 
Murrell was conducted to a tavern, where he was de- 
tained in custody till a court could be called. While 
they were at the tavern, many persons visited Hues 
and the prisoner. Till then Hues had not revealed his 
r-eal name. Deeming it now no longer of importance 
to continue his disguise, he requested his friends to 
call him by his proper name. When Murrell discov- 
ered that he had been mistaken also in the name of 
Mr. Stewart ; and, instead of being, as he supposed, 
a stranger, that he was in the midst of his friends and 
old acquaintances, he betrayed much embarrassment 
aiid evident signs of despondency. His spirits, which 
a little before had seemed to revive, and his returning 
firmness at being told that Mr. Stewart (for we must 
hereafter call him by his proper name) was a stranger 
now sunk under the weight of this new discovery; 
and Murrell, though a mystic chief, found himself in- 
volved in a mystery he could not unfold. 

In his testimony before the committing court, Mr. 
Stewart confined himself to such facts as related to the 
abduction and subsequent disposition of Mr. Henning's 
negroes. The deep-laid and sanguinary plot which 
Murrell had confessed to him was in progress against 

124 Stewart's life 

the southern community, he deemed it both imprudent 
and unsafe to disclose at a period so early, and when 
the public mind, unschooled to deeds of such dark and 
desperate daring, was so little prepared to receive and 
credit it. He foresaw the great difficulty of bringing 
his fellow-citizens to believe, upon his simple assu- 
rance, a narrative, in itself so unnatural and startling ; 
and revealing a scheme of villany so dark in its con- 
ception, so extensive in its object, and so alarming 
and destructive in its operations, as the one which 
he felt himself charged with making known to the 

Thus circumstanced, he had much reason to fear 
that the cry of persecution would find but little diffi- 
culty in enlisting public sympathy in Murrell's favour, 
which would have defeated the very object that such 
a disclosure contemplated, and possibly resulted in his 
release. His plan was to withhold the confession of 
Murrell till further developments should excite public 
attention to the subject ; for he knew that the affair 
had already progressed too far to be successfully 

Mr. Stewart here occupied a position truly embar- 
rassing, standing as he did between his threatened 
country on the one hand, and the almost inevitable de- 
struction of himself and character on the other. Too 
much haste would have seriously endangered the lat- 
ter ; and, in an affair in which they were so intimately 
identified, probably the safety also of the former ; and 
long delay would have made sure of the destruction of 
the one, while it held out no hope of protection to the 
other. At this interesting and highly important crisis, 


tiius Standing, as it were, between Scylla and Charyb- 
dis, there was but one alternative presented. That 
alternative, be it said to the honour and the credit of 
Mr. Stewart, he most wisely adopted. He determined 
to postpone his publication till such period before the 
commencement of hostilities as, while it would afford 
ample time for a preparation to meet the danger, would 
equally furnish an opportunity for the truth, in part at 
least, to find its way to light, through other and per- 
haps less questionable channels. Another reason, 
perhaps not less strong than the above, had its share 
in influencing the conduct of Mr. Stewart. He was a 
stranger in the country, without the aid of family in- 
fluence, or the prompt and ready testimony of those 
who best knew his character and worth, to bear him 
out in his trying situation. He stood alone amid his 
subtle and bloodthirsty enemies, sustained only by the 
conscious justice of his cause ; for truth, though at 
all times omnipotent, had not as yet sufliciently de- 
clared in his favour to aftbrd immediate protection. 

In this situation he saw before him but one dark 
and cheerless prospect of uncertainty and danger, per- 
haps of death and disgrace, unrelieved by any hope of 
present protection. Added to the imminent perils to 
which, for the public, he had already exposed himself, 
he now saw but little chance of escaping the sacrifice 
also of his life. But, like the firm mountains of his 
cherished country, against which the storm3 of cen- 
turies have raged and spent their fury, he stood un- 
moved, undismayed, and prepared, should it become 
necessary, to make this last offering upon the altar of 
its safety. 


126 Stewart's life 

Murrell was committed to prison, February 8th, 
1834, to await his trial, which took place in July- 


Efforts of John A. Murrell and his confederates for the 
destruction of the life and character of Virgil A. 
Stewart, with an exposition of their characters. 

Having now secured Murrell's arrest, Mr. Stewart 
saw at once the importance of ferreting out other evi- 
dence than his confessions to sustain the prosecution, 
and vindicate his own motives at the coming trial : 
for, although those confessions might convict Murrell, 
they might fail to convince the world, which he 
deemed of the utmost importance to his own safety 
and that of the community. Murrell had told him that 
Mr. Henning's negroes had been sent, in charge of 
some of the subordinate agents of the clan, to the Ya- 
zoo country, where, if they could cross the Yazoo pass, 
they were to be sold. He therefore determined to pro- 
ceed, accompanied by a son of Mr. Henning, immedi- 
ately to that country in search of them ; hoping, if they 
had not been conveyed to another market, to be able to 
overtake and reclaim them. In doing this Mr. S. found 
himself obliged to neglect very important business, 
which had already much suffered for the want of his 
attention ; for, having a few months before made sale 
of his property, with a view of investing his capital in 


the lands of the new purchase, he could employ no 
agent who had either the leisure or the inclination to 
give that attention to such business as he would have 
given it himself. His time, therefore, could never 
have been more dearly sacrificed than on that occa- 
sion. Could self-interest, under any circumstances, 
have been a sufficient temptation to relinquish his un- 
dertaking, those were the circumstances with which 
he now found himself surrounded. The public lands 
had been brought into market, and were being entered 
at government prices ; capitalists were flocking in 
from all quarters, and the chances of advantageous 
speculation were rapidly passing by. But we find 
such considerations weighing but little with Mr. Stew- 
art, when put in competition with the more interesting 
claims of his country's welfare, and the high and im- 
portant duty which he felt himself called upon to per- 
form, in contributing to avert the fearful and impending 
calamity that threatened its security. 

Pursuant to his determination, Mr. Stewart proposed 
to young Mr. Henning to set out for Yazoo, suggesting 
his reasons as given above ; and, upon his assenting, 
they accordingly left Madison county, in the State of 
Tennessee, for Manchester, Mississippi. 

On their way thither they passed through Mr. S.'s 
old neighbourhood in the Choctaw Purchase. The 
time was near at hand when they were to establish 
courts of justice, and the day for the election of county 
officers already appointed. While there, they called 
at the house of Matthew Clanton and Wm. Vess, to 
whom Mr. S. had intrusted the care of his property and 
business during his absence. Clanton expressed him- 

128 Stewart's life 

self much pleased to see Mr. S., and treated him with 
every mark of friendship and attention. Viewing him 
in the light of a particular friend, Mr. Stewart felt no 
hesitation in confiding to him the history of his recent 
adventure. He gave him also the names of several 
individuals of his acquaintances whom Murrell had 
numbered among his accomplices. Clanton expressed 
much astonishment at the intelligence, and manifested 
much concern on the occasion ; but promised the 
strictest secrecy as to the names given. 

On the 12th they left Mr. Clanton, and proceeded 
on their way to Manchester, at which place they ar- 
rived on the fifteenth ; but could obtain no news of 
the negroes ; and were told by a boatman that, at the 
lime Murrell's boat was to be in the pass, boats could 
not enter it ; hence they concluded that his agents had 
changed their course and gone down the river. 

They separated at Manchester, and young Henning 
set out for Vicksburg, to make a farther search, while 
Mr. S. directed his course to Madison county, Missis- 
sippi, to see Mr. Hudnold, if there was such a man, of 
whom Murrell had spoken in the history of his life. 
This he deemed of great importance in his intended 
publication, as it would tend to corroborate some of the 
statements which that publication would set forth. 
Besides, his testimony would be of advantage to Mr. 
Hudnold, if, as Murrell had represented to him, a suit 
was pending against him, at the instance of the clan, 
for the value of Eason's negro. He was at no diflH- 
culty in finding Mr. Hudnold, a wealthy and respectable 
planter of Madison county, who testified to the truth of 
all Murrell had told him. To the mind of Mr. Stewart 


now, the inference was very natural, that all his other 
representations were equally true. He therefore re- 
turned to the Choctaw Purchase more than ever sat- 
isfied of the great importance of giving publicity to 
Murrell's confessions ; and resolved to do so, so soon 
after his trial in July as prudence might seem to 

On his return to the Purchase on the 21st, he learn- 
ed that it was generally known throughout that part of 
the country that Murrell had been arrested, and that 
his conspiracy had been exposed, together with the 
names of many of his associates ; and that many of 
his friends were engaged in conjuring up slanders 
against his (Mr. S.'s) character. 

The object of these attacks upon him Mr. S. very 
soon discovered to be to discourage the reception of 
his testimony. 

Among others who, as above described were at- 
tempting to cast odium upon the name of Mr. Stewart, 
were a certain Dr. Malone and a Mr. M'Macking, of 
Hendersonville. The motives of these last we refer 
to the judgment of the public. 

Mr. Stewart remained in the Purchase ten days, du- 
ring which time he became apprized of the movements 
of the enemy, made his arrangements accordingly, and 
set forward once more for Madison county, in the State 
of Tennessee. On his arrival there, he found the 
same spirit of detraction and abuse of his character 
prevailing among a certain class of people, that he had 
left behind him in the Choctaw Purchase. Some of 
these, whose situations enabled them to wield a more 
dangerous influence against him, he exposed to the 


public in their true colours ; the rest — too contempti- 
ble to merit the trouble — he left to sink under the 
weight of their own infamy and insignificance. While 
in Madison county, where he remained until the first 
of April, he had a fine opportunity to learn, and in 
many instances to observe, the machinations and ma- 
noeuvres of the private agents of the clan. Much cu- 
riosity was expressed as to whether he would publish 
the names of those whom Murrell had given as his 
associates. This, however, was a matter which he 
deemed it prudent to say but little about, particularly 
at so early a stage of affairs. He had already seen 
fearful indications of the gathering storm — already 
had murmurs of threatened vengeance saluted his 
ears. He saw by no very doubtful signs how many 
felt interested in his destruction ; for he knew ifeat 
the fate of too many characters depended on his tes- 
timony not to make it an object to prevent its coming 
before the public, which could be accomplished in no 
other way so effectually as by putting an end to his 
life and destroying his papers. This he knew would, 
moreover, be of importance to them, as it might save 
their leader from the penitentiary, and thus enable 
them to continue their operations without any serious 
interruption ; and there was but one alternative — they 
must destroy Mr. Stewart, or be destroyed by him. 
Thus exposed to the united vengeance of a whole 
confederacy of exasperated and blood-hungry ruffians, 
whose lives had presented but one black catalogue 
of deeds of death, robber}^ and crime, he saw the 
chances for his life but loo evidently against him. 
Parson Henning having novv given up all idea of 


ever reclaiming his negroes, Mr. Stewart again re- 
turned to his business in the Choctaw Purchase, with 
the promise to be at the court, which was to be held in 
Madison county, in July following ; but exacted from 
his friends in Madison, that, in the event any thing 
should transpire during his absence that might make 
it dangerous to return to court, they would transmit to 
him the intelligence immediately, that he might adopt 
such measures for his safety as his situation should 
demand. He found it necessary to travel with much 
caution, concealing from even his best friends both his 
routes and his days of travelling ; and, on all occa- 
sions, demeaning himself with almost fastidious re- 
serve ; accessible to few, familiar with none but his 
most intimate and confidential friends. 

On his return to the Purchase, Mr. Stewart again 
visited Messrs. Clanton and Vess, to whose care and 
management, as has already been stated, he had in- 
trusted his property and business during his adven- 
ture with Murrell. He saw at once a change in their 
conduct towards him. Vess appeared confused when- 
ever in his presence, and seemed disposed to shun 
him. Yet, how to account for the strange phenome- 
non, he found himself entirely at fault. It* was not 
long, however, before he discovered a key to the whole 
mystery. The truth was, Mr, Stewart having re- 
mained in Tennessee much longer than he had in- 
tended, and a report having reached the Purchase that 
he had left Tennessee for that region in a few days 
after his arrival in Madison county, Clanton and Vess 
at once concluded him dead. But whether they had 
not been enlightened in relatio- to the danger that 


threatened Mr. Stewart's life, may hereafter more fully 
appear. With Vess, his death appears scarcely to 
have been made a question ; for he had already taken 
steps for administering on his estate (Mr. Stewart hav- 
ing no relations in that country), and having forged a 
claim against him, equalling in amount the value of 
his property, he had circulated the report that there 
would be but little left to meet outstanding debts. No 
wonder, forsooth, his countenance fell, when Mr. S. 
made his living appearance before him ! And it can 
hardly be imagined that his embarrassment was much 
relieved, when, upon investigation, he was found con- 
siderably indebted to Mr. S. 

Mr. Stewart had never looked upon either Vess or 
his wife as worthy the character which Clanton had 
given them ; who had induced them to settle near him 
for the convenience of boarding with them until he 
could remove his family to that country. He usually 
kept Vess employed in exchange for the provisions it 
required to support his family, and in this way en- 
abled him to keep up his establishment. Vess was a 
mechanic, though a very indolent and lazy man ; and 
his poverty, more than any hope of being benefited by 
his services, had induced Mr. Stewart to engage his 
assistance in the erection of some buildings which he 
had contemplated commencing on a parcel of land that 
had been presented him by Clanton, in testimony of his 
gratitude for his attention to his business while he was 
gone to Tennessee for his family. From considera- 
tions of charity for his family, Mr. S. had taken more 
notice of Vess than he otherwise would have done ; 
and profi'ered him employ, to incite him to some efforts 


for a livelihood ; and, at the suggestion of Clanton, had 
taken board at his house, where he continued till his 
visit to Tennessee, a short time before his adventure 
with Murrell. 

On opening a chest in which he had left his books 
and papers_, together with many articles of household 
convenience, a gun apparatus, and fifty dollars in spe- 
cie, a part of his money, his gun apparatus, and several 
other articles were missing. He immediately inquired 
of Vess and his wife whether they had opened his 
chest during his absence, to which they replied they 
had not ; but continued, that Clanton had unlocked it 
to get a powder-flask. This last Mr. Stewart believed 
Avas as they had represented it ; for Clanton had been 
frequently in the habit, before he left the Purchase, of 
opening his chest when he wanted any article of its 
contents ; but he could by no means imagine that he 
had also found use for his money. On the contrary, 
a recollection of Vess's conduct during his recent ab- 
sence left but little doubt on his mind as to the man- 
ner in which that had disappeared. He was rather at 
a loss to conjecture how so much of it remained. He 
concluded, however, to say nothing about it, as Clan- 
ton, he knew, had opened his chest, and it might bring 
unmerited suspicion on him ; besides, the amount mis- 
sing was but small, and not worth the risk of unpleas- 
ant feeling, which it might occasion, though he resolv- 
ed to change his boarding-place so soon as an oppor- 
tunity offered. But houses, and especially boarding- 
houses, were very scarce at that time in the Purchase ; 
and no such opportunity offering, he was obliged, for 
a short time, to continue with Vess. 

134 Stewart's life 

Mr. Stewart began now to be convinced of tlie im- 
portance, both for his own safety and the good of the 
community, to adopt some measures for the punish- 
ment and expulsion from their neighbourhood of all 
suspicious characters, and such whose business was 
either unknown or disreputable, and loungers who ap- 
peared to have none. As the former were a positive 
nuisance, and the latter could be very conveniently 
dispensed with, and both might be much less harm- 
less than appearances seemed to indicate. He accord- 
ingly proposed to a number of the better class of his 
neighbours the plan of organizing a regulating compa- 
ny, whose duty it should be to acquaint such charac- 
ters with the resolutions of the neighbourhood, pun- 
ishing disobedience in every instance, pursuant to the 
decisions of Judge Lynch, who, as a part of the ar- 
rangement, he suggested, should be clothed with unre- 
stricted judicial authority. His proposition was read- 
ily acceded to by a number ; though, to his great 
surprise, Clanton was found among those who refused 
their assent. 

The first that experienced the effects of this new 
arrangement was a man named Tucker, from Arkansas, 
who, a short time before, had threatened Mr. Stewart's 
life. He was dealt with according to "the law," and 
ordered to leave the county immediately. The next 
was a man by the name of Glen, one of Murrell's 
clan, a notoriously base character. In the investiga- 
tion of his case Mr. S. perceived, much to his dis- 
appointment and regret, that a little purging would by 
no means injure his company of associate " regula- 
tors." He found among the number some whom he 


had strong reasons for suspecting of being friendly to, 
if not positively interested in, the measures of the 
clan ; and through whose means Glen was finally ac- 
quitted and discharged. He saw at once that a com- 
pany composed of such materials, so far from estab- 
lishing order and expelling villany, would but give the 
appearance of order to the more secret and unsuspect- 
ed, and consequently more dangerous, operations of 
the very individuals against whom they seemed to di- 
rect their authority ; and hence determined to aban- 
don them. 

He was now not long in discovering the great insecuri- 
ty of the position he occupied^ and how little confidence 
was to be reposed even in those who pretended most 
to be his friends. He had already been apprized of 
the disposition towards him of those who had openly 
avowed their hostility to him, and sworn vengeance 
against his life and character. He now saw himself 
obliged to contend with a more subtle and secret, and 
therefore less manageable enemy. He became also 
convinced,, on many accounts, that Vess and his fami- 
ly, who had by no means been wanting in professions 
of friendship, were not among the least malignant of 
these secret enemies ; and was more than ever satis- 
fied of the importance of procuring other accommoda^ 
tions so soon as an opportunity offered. Meanwhile 
Mr, Stewart employed himself in examining and taking 
the numbers of unappropriated lands in the Purchase, 
Returning home late one evening horn one of these 
land-hunting excursions, he found himself obliged to 
sup alone. When he had swallowed a cup of coffee, 
and was preparing to take a second, he was taken 

136 Stewart's life 

suddenly very sick, and rose from the table vomiting 
most violently. From the demeanour and general ap- 
pearance of his landlord and lady during the opera- 
tion, he had much reason to fear that he had been 
poisoned, though he had then no sufficient evidence of 
the truth of his conjectures to warrant him in ma- 
king them public. His vomiting, continued by repeated 
draughts of warm water, which his fears of poison 
had induced him to take, was followed by great debil- 
ity, accompanied with spasmodic symptoms. In this 
situation Mr. Stewart began to revolve more seriously 
in his mind his highly perilous condition, the ten 
thousand dangers that beset his path, and the great 
degree of cautious circumspection necessary to be 
observed in all his future movements ; and a more 
careful review of Vess's recent conduct in connexion 
with this last strange and mysterious occurrence, left 
but little doubt on his mind that his life had been 
compassed, and that Vess had been deputed to admin- 
ister the fatal dose. On the following day he inquired 
of Clanton whether Vess had ever mentioned to him 
that he had a claim against his estate at the time it was 
believed he had been assassinated. He replied that 
" he had, but that he was drunk, and he had attributed 
it all to that." Clanton appeared much confused on 
the- occasion ; which, with his recent change of con- 
duct towards him, Mr. Stewart found himself at fault 
to account for : insomuch that he did not venture, as 
had been his intention, to make known to him his 
opinion of Vess. 

Returning home late in the afternoon of the same 
day, from the examination of a tract of land in the 


neighbourhood, a man rode up from his rear and fell in 
company with him, armed with a pair of holsters and 
a large Buoyer knife. Mr. S., as was natural, with the 
knowledge he had by this time acquired of his situa- 
tion, put himself at once upon his guard ; for, unarmed 
as he was, contrary to custom, should his new com- 
panion be of the Murrell tribe, he saw his only safety 
in cautious and well-managed dissimulation. The 
stranger rode near him, and, after the usual common- 
place of travellers, inquired whether he had any ac- 
quaintances in the country about Troy ; and, among 
others, whether he knew a family of Glens (a name, by- 
the-way, which Mr. Stewart at once recognised among 
the associates of Murrell). His suspicions, already 
partially kindled by the stranger's equipments, were at 
once confirmed, and he had but little doubt that he 
was in the presence of a member of the clan. The 
stranger continued his inquiries, as will appear in the 
following dialogue : — 

Stranger. " Are you acquainted with a man in this 
country by the name of V. A. Stewart ?" 

Mr. Stewart. " Yes, sir, just as well as I would 
wish to be with all such fellows." 

Stranger. " What, do you not like him, sir?" 

Mr, Stewart. " 1 have seen people I liked as well." 

Stranger. " Have you any particular objection to 
this fellow, Stewart ?" 

Mr. Stewart. " O ! yes, many." 

Stranger. " If you are not averse to telling your ob- 
jections to him, I should like to hear them, as I dislike 
him very much myself." 

Mr. Stewart, *' O ! he is too smart. Interferes with 


things which do not concern him. He had no right to 
take the advantage he did of a man by the name of 

Stranger. " Do you understand this ? — [giving his 
hand a flirt. Mr. Stewart answered the sign with a 
flirt of his hand.] Oh ! yes, you are up to it. I am 
glad to see you, sir ; what is your name 1 — [shaking 

Mr. Stewart. " I have several names ; but, when- 
ever I wish to be very smart, or successful in specu- 
lation and trade, I go by the name of Tom Goodin. I 
see you are a master of mystic signs — what is your 
name, sir ?" 

Stranger. " My name is George Aker, sir, and I am 
on a mission from our council to stop the wind of 
Stevi^art. Can you give me any assistance in the 
matter ?" 

Goodin. " O ! yes, sir, I am the very man to assist 
you in that business. I did not know there had been 
a meeting on the subject ; but, so soon as I heard of 
the misfortune, and heard where Stewart lived, I was 
soon in his neighbourhood, waiting for a good opportu- 
nity. I have been very cautious and siill. I have 
managed to get acquainted with Stewart, and have had 
some tolerably good chances ; but have been waiting 
for a better. He thinks me a very clever fellow, and 
I have bee© waiting to get him off" by ourselves." 

Aker. " We collected and consulted on what plan 
to pursue to destroy the rascal, and restore the charac- 
ter of those whom he has betrayed. We have got him 
in a close box. He is living with his enemies, and 
the friends of some of the men whom he has aspersed. 


We will give him hell before we quit him ! Our plan is 
to get Murrell out of prison, and let him go off until the 
session of the court ; and, after he is gone from prison, 
get a charge against Stewart that will destroy his 
character before the world ; and when the session 
comes on Murrell will appear for trial, which will con- 
vince the world that he is innocent of the charge ; and 
should Stewart even appear, no person will believe 
him, for we will prove him to be one of the greatest 
rascals that live. Murrell will be acquitted, and the 
character of those who have been defamed will be re- 
stored ; but we never intend Stewart to live till the 
trial ; we will kill him, and disgrace him too. We 
have it all fixed — the fellow with whom he lives is a 
good friend to some of our clan, and we have agreed 
to give him a thousand dollars to raise a charge against 
Stewart ; and he is a big fish — any thing he says will 
be believed ; you know we have some big bugs among 
us. I am told he is a confidential friend of Stewart's, 
and that they have frequently done business for each 
other. You know it will be an easy matter for him to 
make a plausible accusation ; but he will not agree to 
make the charge against Stewart until after he is kill- 
ed, as they have always been very friendly, and he 
wants no investigation by the young Tartar. We sent 
one fellow before, who engaged with an old man and 
his wife to poison him for a hundred dollars ; but they 
have not done it for some cause, and we are tired of 
waiting for them, so they made up two hundred dol- 
lars for me, and sent me to despatch the traitor ; and, if 
I can get no chance at him this time before I leave 
the Purchase, we intend to bring men from Arkansas 


with an accusation against him for passing counterfeit 
money to them, and in this way get him in our power ; 
and when we get him back into the Mississippi morass 
we will give him hell ; we will give him something 
else to do besides acting the spy. We will speechify 
him next time. But I am told Stewart has managed 
to get a company to take up strangers who come into 
the neighbourhood after his scalp." 

Goodin. " Yes, but his company will not be in our 
way ; for I know all his habits, where he walks, and 
where he sleeps, just as well as he does ; and I am 
not in the least suspected by any person : so, you see, 
I can fix him." 

Aker. " O ! yes, I count him mine now ; and I will 
give you a hundred dollars to help me get his scalp. 
I have no doubt the company that went on to get Mur- 
rell out have released him more than a week ago. 
Where do you live, Goodin?" 

Goodin. " I am a little like a stray dog, sir ; I have 
neither home nor master, and stay longest where there 
are the best speculations to be had, though I stay 
mostly in the neighbourhood of Commerce at present, 
and sometimes work, to prevent being suspected. I 
play ofi' occasionally. The people think me a good 
sort of a fellow, only a little wild. I have still been 
looking- out for every chance that might offer for this 
fellow Stewart; I have a choice scatter gun, and one 
fine pistol, which I keep for the purpose of saving his 
scalp ; I want it very much. Have you ever been in 
this country before ?" 

Aker. " O ! yes, frequently, though I have not been 
much seen. 1 generally come into the neighbourhood 


of an evening, and leave it the next morning before 
daylight, which you know is the usual mode of visiting 
among mystics. I had a chance to see Stewart some 
time back at an election at Troy ; but there was an- 
other fellow who had undertaken to despatch him 
then, so I let the opportunity pass without improving 
it. I have never heard the Glens speak of you in this 
country ; did you wtf^ know they were speculators ?" 

Goodin. " O ! yes, but I never go among them. 
You know it is necessary to have some respectable 
fellows, and you know it would not do for me to be 
among them, as they are suspected, if I wish to play 
the deep game ; and, to be more certain of victory, I 
have never made myself known to any of the Glens, 
or any of the speculators of this country. If you ex- 
amine the list you will find my name. I have been 
looking out for Stewart. AVe have as much right to 
play tricks as they have : but I dislike to run too great 
a risk for his scalp ; I would like to have a good 
chance, and you know there is getting away to be 
thought of." 

Aker. " Do you think you can kill Stewart to-night, 
and meet me to-morrow at Glen's, to let me hear the 
news ? You are acquainted in the settlement, and are 
not suspected ; but I am a stranger, and had rather 
not be seen by any but my friends, as this company 
might catch me." 

Goodin. " I will meet you in the morning on the 
path which leads from Glen's to Commerce, at a pile 
of house-logs. Glen can tell you how to go, but you 
must not let any person come with you in the morn- 
ing, or say any thing to Glen, or any person else about 

?42 Stewart's life 

'lehal is going on. We are enough to know it, as it 
will be a very daring act. I will act for the best," 

Aker. " I will be at the place soon in the morning. 
Here is a hundred dollars. That is not all you will 
get if you are successful in stopping that villain's wind. 
You say you have a good scatter-gun. If you can get 
no other chance, shoot him as he sits by the fire : you 
can get off without being seen, and we will make our 
escape to Arkansas together. We can do nothing 
until he is killed, as we can get no clew at his char- 
acter until then." 

Goodin. " That will be a daring project : but I en- 
ter into it with a determined mind ; and I am of opin- 
ion you had better not go to Glen's to-night ; but go 
with me to a respectable house of my acquaintance, 
where we will go to bed, and in the night I will get 
my gun and go where Stewart boards, and do what I 
can for him, and return to bed before day. I have a 
friend whom I wish to go with us to Arkansas. We 
can then leave his house the next morning, and I and 
my friend can leave the neighbourhood without being 
suspected of the crime." 

Ahcr. " I have some particular business with Glen, 
relative to some instructions, and they must be left 
with him, as he will have the best opportunity of for- 
warding matters. You go to your acquaintance's, and 
do as you have said ; but I had rather not be seen by 
any but my friends, as a stranger would be suspected 
much sooner than you. I will go to Glen's ; but I 
will not mention your name to a living soul, as you are 
playing the same sort of game on him that he played 
on us. We will keep it to ourselves until all is over, 


and the villain is finished, as you have never made 
yourself known to the other speculators of this coun- 
try. Your plan is a good one, and the best of it is to 
have hirn beat in his own w^ay." 

The parties now arriving at the place of separa- 
tion, Aker continued, " Well, Goodin, I wish you 
great success ; we meet in the morning at the ap- 
pointed place." And, shaking hands, they parted,. 

Mr. Stewart was now satisnod that an attempt had 
been made to poison him ; and revolving in his mind, 
as he proceeded homeward, his late extraordinary in- 
terview, he felt convinced that many of his former 
conjectures were by no m-eans unfounded ; and was 
enabled to account for many things which, till then, 
had appeared mysterious. And although, at first 
(probably on account of favourable prejudices),, it had 
not occurred to him that Aker's conversation bad any 
allusion to Clanton, a very few moments' reftectiort 
taught him that much of it could apply to no other. 
His first impression was that Vess and family were all 
that were intended by the words, " He is living with 
his enemies ;" and to this he was the more inclined by 
a recurrence to what had happened at the supper-ta- 
ble only the night before, and the report of Vess's 
false claim against his estate ; his great suspicions 
against Vess had caused him to apply all of Aker's 
remarks to him, and prevented his using any mean* 
to define the persons alluded to. But, on reflectionv 
he found that the words, " He is living with his ene- 
mies" were equally applicable to Clanton, for Vess 
and Clanton were living nearly as one family, their 
cabins being close by each other ; and, altJbiGugh he 

144 Stewart's life 

was at the time boarding with Vess, there were many 
reasons that cool reflection immediately applied to 
Clanton, and no other person. 

The words of Aker, " He is a big fish, and any 
tiling he would say would he believed'^ (thereby mean- 
ing that he was a man of standing), he at once saw 
were by no means descriptive of Vess. Again, the 
words, " He is a confidential friend of Stewart — they 
have frequently done business for each other,^* were 
equally inapplicable to him. Loath still to suspect a 
man that had hitherto seemed so much his friend, Mr. 
Stewart would fain have suspected some acquaintance 
in Tennessee with whom he was on terms of intima- 
cy ; but he was not a resident of that state, and Aker 
had conversed in the present tense. He could at 
length no longer doubt that Clanton was alluded to, 
though he regretted not having been more inquisitive 
while with Aker. Clanton was the only man in the 
Purchase for whom he had ever done any business, or 
who had any claims to his confidence. In this view 
of it a flood of light was at once thrown upon the 
whole subject. Vess had received the hundred-dol- 
lar bribe to take his life by poison ; and Clanton, at 
the still higher price of a thousand, was charged with 
blasting his fair fame and character. There was no 
longer any difficulty in accounting for Clanton's mys- 
terious appearance when told of Murrell's confession, 
and the implication of Colonel Jarrot, of Denmark ; 
his subsequent change of conduct ; his refusing to join 
the company of regulators ; and his evasive behavioiur 
when interrogated in relation to Vess's forged claim 
against the estate of Mr. Stewart. 


The startling truth now rushed with tenfold force 
upon the mind of Stewart, that the place of nis 
fancied security was but the " hotbed" of his tne* 
mies ; that his pretended friends were so many- 
cherished vipers, destined, in some confiding moment, 
to sting him to the vitals. Should all this prove true 
(and that it would he had but little reason to doubt), 
stranger as he was in the country, he saw no longer 
any protector upon whom to hang his hope of safet}'-, 
unless that protector, that friend, should be found m 
George N. Saunders, who will be better known to tiie 
reader hereafter. But he was Clanton's friend and as* 
sociate, and why not a partaker, also of his guilt/' 
But no ! his former show of friendship, and a charac- 
ter uniformly above suspicion, as he had been inform- 
ed, could not conceal so base and black a heart. And 
yet he thought, " if Clanton be false, who can be de- 
pended on ?" A man in whose hands, till now, he had 
felt his life secure, and for whom he had never before 
refused its peril. He could scarce realize, even yet, 
that for such devoted friendship he was rewarded with 
such cruel treachery, such murderous and remorseless 

But he had heard and seen too much longer to hes- 
itate ; for the picture drawn by Aker in their recent 
interview, blind charity itself could nowhere find so 
fit an original, besides a train of circumstances. But 
Saunders, the slightest breath of suspicion had not 
as yet lit upon him ; nay, his character had always 
been esteemed amiable ; and his hoary locks, silvered 
by the bleaching winds of so many winters, and sanc- 
tified by the superaddition of the Christian name, sure- 
G 13 

146 Stewart's life 

ly could not shelter such deep corruption — such vile 
and villanous hypocrisy ! He resolved to believe him 
true till time should prove him false. 

Thus circumstanced, alone and undefended, amid 
the desertion of friends and the threats of enemies — 
beholding in every form a foe — and in every voice 
recognising but the cry of vengeance ; thus exposed 
to the fearful impending storm, surcharged with death 
in a thousand frightful shapes, a spirit less dauntless, 
less proud and determined than that of Mr. Stewart, 
had shrunk from the dread encounter ; and his, but 
that, already accustomed to the sight, it had grown 
reckless of danger, and, from long familiarity, supe- 
lior to fear. 

It being late, Mr. Stewart determined not to sup at 
his boarding-house, for he saw the great importance 
of being ever on his guard against Vess. The more 
particularly on the present occasion, as from the late- 
ness of the hour he knew he would be obliged to sup 
alone ; and accordingly proceeded to the house of 
Saunders, distant but a few hundred yards from Vess's 
and Clanton's. While reflecting on his situation, Mr. 
S. was often, in the agony of excited feeling, on the 
point of unbosoming himself to Saunders, and seeking 
his counsel ; but the recollection that his confidence 
had been so recently betrayed by those with whom he 
was better acquainted, fortunately suggested the pru- 
dence of forbearance ; and how far he was indebted 
for his life, the security of his character, and the sub- 
sequent important services rendered to the public 
through means of his disclosures, to this single act of 
prudence, will be better understood in the sequel. 


When he had finished his supper with Mr. Saun- 
ders, Mr. S. walked over to his boarding-house with a 
view of scrutinizing more attentively the conduct of 
Vess and his wife. He knew Mrs. Vess would invite 
him to sup, and, if they wished to poison him, a period 
so much beyond their usual supping-hour was the one 
best suited to their purpose ; for they knew he would 
sup alone, if at all, and had doubtless made arrange- 
ments with that viev/. His object was to ascertain, if 
possible, what disposition would be made of the coffee 
which had been provided for his supper ; if, as he had 
Kiuch reason to believe, it should contain a dose, he 
had no doubt it would be thrown away, and resolved 
to make that the test. 

Reaching at length the house, Mrs. Vess, as ex- 
pected, invited him to sup ; and, notwithstanding the 
plea that he had already supped with Mr. Saunders, 
repeatedly insisted on his taking a cup of coffee ; but, 
finding him inexorable, she at length ceased her im- 
portunities, and proceeded to remove the provisions 
that had been served for him. Meanwhile Mr. Stew- 
art, having concealed himself without the house, sat 
eying her every movement. But a few minutes had 
elapsed when the coffee that had been intended for 
his use was poured out at the door ; and, as a favour- 
ite cur came up and smelt on the ground where she had 
emptied the coffee, she observed, " Take care, Watch ! 
that was prepared for a spy. I would give you a more 
kind and better supper." He was now satisfied of the 
truth of what Aker had told him, and that Vess was 
the man that had been bribed to take his life. 

With the earliest sunlight on the following morning, 

148 Stewart's life 

Mr. Stewart, gun in hand, was on tlie road and making 
the best of his way to the pile of logs, the spot desig- 
nated for his appointed meeting with Aker ; for he 
had at length determined to meet him alone. 

It was his intention, when he parted with Aker on 
the preceding evening, to take a friend with him as a 
pretended accompli<:e to witness the appointed mter- 
view, to hear Aker's account of himself, and assist in 
arresting him ; but subsequent reflections, as before 
described, had induced him to change his plan. 

Mr. Stewart awaited at the appointed place the ar- 
rival of Aker till ten o'clock, who, failing to make his 
appearance, he concluded had by some means learned 
his mistake ; and, taking the timely warning, had made 
good his escape. 

If Aker had met him according to agreement, and 
Clan ton had proved the man alluded to in their former 
interview, he had determined to shoot him and leave 
the country ; but his failing to appear left the subject 
still involved in uncertainty, and Mr. Stewart returned 
home under the influence of feelings far from agree- 
able ; for he little doubted that Aker had been en- 
lightened on the subject of their meeting ; and if so, 
he saw but too clearly the great insecurity of his 
present situation. 

He had commenced building, with a view to making 
a permanent location in the Purchase ; but the present 
aspect of things pointed too evidently to the perilous 
consequences that might be attendant on such a 

A few days of continuous and intense anxiety pass-- 
ed away, and Mr. Stewart remained still undecided 


as to his most prudent course, but arranged his af- 
fairs for leaving the country. At length, receiving a 
letter from a friend in Tennessee, notifying him of Mur- 
rell's escape from prison, removed all doubts as to the 
wisdom of continuing longer in the Purchase. Mean- 
while, he had been by no means inattentive to the ma- 
noeuvres of Vess and his family, at whose house he 
had taken care never to eat since the supposed at- 
tempt at poisoning him. He had, however, on several 
occasions witnessed the same disposition made of the 
coffee that had been provided for him as on the even- 
ing he had supped with Mr. Saunders. He had more- 
over heard repeated private conversations between 
Vess and his wife, in which they expressed fears that 
they were suspected. 

Having now satisfied himself that Vess was the in- 
dividual alluded to by Aker, as having received a bribe 
to take his life ; for which purpose, and to conceal his 
suspicions of him and Clanton, he had continued at his 
house as if nothing had occurred, but always making 
it convenient to be absent at meal-times, he made 
known his intention of leaving the country. All his 
preparations had been narrowly scanned by Clanton 
and Vess, who manifested much anxiety on the occa- 
sion. About this time Clanton became suddenly very 
much dissatisfied with the manner in which Mr. Stew- 
art had managed his business during his visit to Ten- 
nessee, full four months before ; and for which, at that 
time, he had expressed himself under many obHga- 
tions ; and in testimony thereof, as before stated, had 
presented him with a lot of ground in his new town- 
ee ; and moreover, in proof of his confidence, pro- 

150 Stewart's life 

posed receiving liim as a partner in a mercantile es- 

What at this late period gives birth to so important 
a discovery ? Clanton had the same access to his 
books and money-drawer, and as good an opportunity 
to detect mismanagement, the first day or week after 
his return from Tennessee, as at any time during the 
succeeding four months. Whence, then, this new- 
light that now so mysteriously breaks upon the con- 
duct of Mr. Stewart ? He had not before taken up 
arms against bandits and villains ; had not " brought 
to light the hidden things of dishonesty," nor expo^ 
sed to just infamy and disgrace the hireling hordes of 
incendiaries and robbers. 

Clanton's dissatisfaction with his conduct, however, 
it is here worthy of remark, was not made known to 
Mr. Stewart openly and in person, but was stealthily 
circulated with a view to his prejudice ; nor was any 
specific charge made that was capable of being met till 
after he left the Purchase. He knew that the charac- 
ter of Mr. S. stood too fair to be publicly attacked 
with any hope of success ; and an investigation (for 
reasons that will subsequently appear) was what he 
.ittle desired. 

These reports having at length come to the ears of 
Mr. Stewart, he called on Clanton, and relinquishing 
his right to the lot with which a short time before he 
had presented him, and cautioning him against prema- 
turity in his remarks upon his character, requested him, 
whenever he preferred exceptions to it, to publish them 
to the world. A short time after, having arranged his 
business and appointed Saunders his agent, Mr. S. 


set out for Lexington, Kentucky, where it was his in- 
tention to prepare and publish John A. Murrell's con- 
fessions. On his way thither he passed through 
Madison county, Tennessee, where he spent several 
days with his old acquaintances. At this latter place, 
already much discouraged by reports of slander and 
the threats of destruction that everywhere beset his 
path, added to the intelligence of Murrell's recent 
escape from prison, he was wellnigh brought to the 
conclusion to terminate his journey. But, seeing the 
responsibility that rested upon him to the public, whom 
he saw the hapless victims of a most fatal delusion in 
connexion with his own almost hopeless doom, he de- 
termined to prosecute his undertaking, resolved, if his 
life should be the sacrifice (and he saw but too much 
reason to fear it would be), to offer it up freely on the 
altar of his threatened country. Shortly after Mr. S. 
left the Purchase, Clanton and his co-agents of the 
Murrell confederacy, growing bold at the opportunity, 
set on foot a report that he had stolen a quantity of 
goods from Clanton and eloped, intending thereby 
to destroy his character, and shake the confidence of 
the public in the exposition it was believed he was 
about to make of Murrell's conspiracy and plans. Bat, 
when the intelligence reached Mr. S., so far from 
changing his purpose, he determined to hasten his 
publication, which, at first, he had intended to delay till 
after the trial of Murrell ; but his escape from prison 
before his trial had made it his duty to commence the 
publication, as it removed all the difficulties of his 
pending trial. Mr. Stewart left his friends in Ten- 
nessee and proceeded on his journey, intending to 


take water at Randolph, and go up the river to some 
point in Kentucky, and thence to Lexington. The 
same day ,that Mr. S. started from Madison county, 
Tennessee, Parson Henning received intelligence of 
John A. Murrell's arrest at Florence, Alabama, and de- 
spatched his son after Mr. S. to inform him of Murrell's 
recapture. Mr. S. received the intelligence before he 
reached Randolph, having stopped on the way on 
business, which enabled Mr. Henning to overtake 
him. He being the only evidence in that part of the 
state, he returned to await the trial of Murrell. From 
this period till Murrell's trial, in July, Mr. S. found it 
necessary to keep himself, as much as possible, con- 
cealed ; as, foiled hitherto in their attempts on his life 
and character, the friends and confederates of the clan 
became now more industrious in their efforts, since 
the intelligence of Murrell's recapture had made their 
only hope of success to depend on the most speedy 
destruction of the one or the other. 

The following letter, found in possession of John A. 
Murrell by the sheriff at Florence after his recapture, 
of which we give an exact copy, and which was read 
in evidence against him, will furnish a key to Clanton's 
hitherto mysterious conduct, and shed some light upon 
other subjects which before have not been sufficiently 
accounted for. 

Copy of John A. MurrelVs Letter. 
" This day pcrsonaUij appeared before us &c Jahu 
Barney — James Tucker Thomas Dark Joseph Dark Wm 
Loyd &c who being sworn in due form of law, did de- 
pose and say, that they were present and saw 

Stewart of Yellow Busha in the evening of the first day 
of Februaiy last, in company with John Murrell. at the 


house of Jahu Barney, over the Mississippi River and 
that him the said Stewart, informed us, that he was in 
pursuit of John Murrell, for steahng two negro men from 
Preacher Henning and his son Richard, in Madison 
County, near Denmark, and that he had told Murrell his 
name was Hues, and he wished us to call him Hues in 
Murrell's hearing — we also recollect, to have heard 
him, the said Stewart say distinctly, that he was to get 
five hundred dollars for finding said negroes, & causing 
Murrell to be convicted for stealing them. — But he did 
not say, who was to give him this reward — But he held 
the obligation of several rich men for that amount &cc. 
The above is a copi/ given to me, by one who heard 
him say it, in the presence of you all You will there- 
fore please to send me the names of all, that ivill testify 
these facts in writing — also send me the names of all and 
every man that will certify these witnesses to be men 
of truth &CC. 


But above all things, arrest him the said witness, for 
passing the six twenty dollar bills — You will have to go 
out in Yellow Busha, in Yellow Busha County, near the 
centre, for him, and undoubtedly, this matter will be 
worth your attention — for if it be one two, or three 
hundred dollars, the gentleman to whom he passed '°' 
it can present it before a magistrate and take a judg- 
ment for the amount ; and his little provision store ace's 
&CC. is worth that much money,, " I shall conclude with 
a claim on you for your strictest attention" My dis- 
tressed wife, will probably call on you, and if she does, 
you may answer all her requests, without reserve. 

Yours «fecc J :tt||: MURRELL. 

Dear wife, I am in tolerable health, and I hope this 
will find you all well ; I am of opinion, that the busi 

154 Stewart's life 

ness, that I was endeavouring to effect, will be done, in 
the course of this week— On last night there was a 
man committed, w^hich is no Uttle pixYft* 

" State of Tennessee, Madison County. 

" I, Henry W. McCorry, Clerk of the Circuit Court of 
Madison county aforesaid, certify that the foregoing is 
a true and perfect copy, in word and letter, of an in- 
strument of writing filed in my office, and read in evi- 
dence against John A. Murrell, upon his trial for negro- 
stealing, at the July term of our said court, 1834. 

" In testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed 
my name and affixed my private seal (there being no 
public seal of office), at office in Jackson, this 29th day 
of September, A. D. 1835. 

[Sealed.] " H. W. McCORRY." 

In the foregoing letter, the reader will perceive a 
distinct allusion to a prior meeting of the clan, in 
which measures were concerted and a specific plan 
relied upon for the destruction of Mr. Stewart's life 
and character. This is apparent from the manner in 
which it is referred to. His object seems to have 
been rather to instruct his agents how to proceed in 
the execution of a plan already matured, than to rec- 
ommend one for their adoption. It is a most remark- 
able document, and, viewed in connexion with, fur- 
nishes a key to, many of the facts contained in the 
preceding narrative ; and, to enable the reader the bet- 
ter to comprehend its true import, we shall offer a 
passing notice to each paragraph separately. 

The first is nothing more than a transcript of what 
Murrell wished sworn to by his friends, pursuant to 
the plan alluded to, in order to discredit Mr. Stewart's 


testimony against him at the coming trial. If he could 
have succeeded in making it appear that Mr. Stewart 
was hired to detect him, or was in any way interested 
in the issue of the trial, it would have answered the 
contemplated purpose in the interdiction of his testi- 
mony. It is also here worthy of remark, that Murrell 
takes advantage of a circumstaace in naming his wit- 
nesses, which, to persons ignorant of their characters, 
would carry with it some plausibility. It is known to 
the reader that, on a former occasion, when Murrell 
was before the committing court, Mr. S. spoke of hav- 
ing made, while on his adventure with him, confidants 
of Col. Bayliss of Wesley, John Champion, and Mat- 
thew Erwin, on the Mississippi river ; and, if them, 
why not these witnesses also beyond the river ? for 
they were all equally strangers to him, and their very 
obscurity favoured his plan by preventing any ready 
acquaintance with their characters ; besides, in this 
there would have been a further difficulty, since, resi- 
ding as they did among, and being members of, the clan, 
nothing would have been easier than to obtain certifi- 
cates of character, which, on further examination, the 
reader will find to have been the calculation ; and the 
ingenuity of the manoeuvre is still more clearly mani- 
fested in the omission of the names of the individuals 
whose obligations Mr. S. is charged with having held 
for the five hundred dollar reward, thus putting it out 
of his power to prove a negative to the testimony of 
his witnesses. 

The second paragraph, " The above is a copy given 
to me by one who heard him say it in presence of you all. 


You will therefore please send me the names of all 
that will testify these facts in writing ; also send me 
the names of all and every man that will certify these 
witnesses to be men of truth," &c., proves, as has 
been already asserted, that the first was a copy of 
what he wished sworn to by his friends from Arkan- 
sas ; and suggests, moreover, the importance of ob- 
taining certificates to their credibility as witnesses. 

The above plan was, however, only to be resorted 
to in the event a more desirable stratagem should fail ; 
that of the accusation of having passed counterfeit 
money, which, the reader will remember, was spoken 
of by Aker, in which, had they succeeded, they would 
have accomplished the twofold purpose of reaching 
both Mr. Stewart's life and character. Hence he 
says : — 

"But, above all things,. arrest him, the said witness 
(meaning Stewart), for passing the six twenty-dollar 
bills. You will have to go out on Yellow Busha, in 
Yellow Busha county, near the centre, for him, and 
undoubtedly this will be worth your attention ; for if it 
be 07?e?, two, or three hundred dollars, the gentleman to 
whom he passed it can present it before a magistrate 
and take a judgment for the amount ; and his little 
provision-store, accounts, &:c., is worth that much 
money. 1 shall conclude with a claim on you for 
your strictest attention. My distressed wife will 
probably call on you, and i{ she does, you may an- 
swer all her requests without reserve." 

It may here be remarked further, that the origina- 
tion of the charge in Arkansas was also designed to 


have an important bearing in the consummation of 
the nlan ; the intention was, doubtless, to convey him 
thither, under arrest, for trial ; and, when in their pow- 
er, to despatch him. Hence the remarks of Aker on 
this subject : — " And if I can get no chance at him this 
time before I leave the Purchase, we intend to bring 
men from Arkansas, with an accusation against him 
for passing counterfeit money to them, and in this 

wav fiet the d d traitor into our power ; and when 

we set him back into the Mississippi morass, we will 
give him hell," &c. <fec. 

In the fourth paragraph, addressed to his wife, and 
which reads, " Dear wife : I am in tolerable health, 
and I hope this will find you all well. I am offopin- 
ior\ that the business I was endeavouring to effect will 
be done in the course of this week. On last night 
there was a man committed, which is no little pity," 
it will be seen most clearly that Murrell's wife took a 
conspicuous part in the above conspiracy : this is evi- 
dent from her visit to his friends alluded to in the 
third paragraph ; and perhaps her peculiar situation 
was better adapted to forward its measures, and by 
consequence made her agency of more importance to 
its success than that of any one party to it ; for, be- 
ing admitted into his prison apartments, she had many 
opportunities of counselling with him, and communi- 
cating his views unsuspected to his friends. It is 
farther evident from the above, that, when this let- 
ter was penned, the plan in contemplati(m was al- 
ready ripe for execution. Hence he says, " The busi- 
ness I was endeavouring to effect will be done in the 
course of this week ;" and this letter appears to have 


been tlie last step preparatory to its final consumma- 

Throughout the above letter there appears to be a 
constant reference to the same conspiracy spoken of 
by Aker, and the same prematured plan for carrying 
out its measures. And it is couched in language 
which plainly proves it to have been addressed to in- 
dividuals already acquainted vi^ith it. 

The reader will remember that the last news from 
Clanton represented him, his friend Vess, and others 
of " the fraternity," industriously employed in circu- 
lating disreputable reports of Mr. Stewart's conduct 
while in the Purchase ; and, if he has attended to the 
preceding narrative, he is doubtless by this prepared 
to conjecture the object and motive of those reports. 
If. however, he is not yet sufficiently enlightened on 
this subject — if there still remain any doubts as to the 
nature of his conduct towards Mr. Stewart or his iden- 
tity with his enemies and MurreU's clan, we invite his 
attention to the following pages. 


" State of Mississippi, Holmes County. 

" The undersigned, citizens of said state and county, 
having been present and heard the confessions of Capt. 
Isham Med ford, of Attala county, on the fifth day of 
July last, do hereby certify that he stated that, altliough 
not personally acquainted with Judge Clanton of Yalla- 
busha county, he had understood from others engaged in 
the samc^ nefarious practices with himself that said Clan- 
ton was a friend of, and belonged to, the clan of coun- 
terfeiters and thieves with which he vr&B associated, and 


"which so long had infested the country ; and that the 
house of said Clanton, on or near Yallabusha, was about 
two days' ride from the section of the county in which 
he hved, whose house and the neighbourhood were 
places of rendezvous for the party, 

" Given under our hands, this 8th day of August, 1835. 

WILLIAM McAllister, 


J. M. McAllister, 


" Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 8th day of 
August, 1835. 

[Sealed.] " JOHN B. MURRAY, Justice Peaces 

Copy of a letter from Matthew Clanton to James C. Bole. 

" Yallabusha County, Miss., Aug. 24, 1835. 
" James Bole, Esq. > 

Franklin, Miss. ^ 

*' Dear Sir — I was informed by Gov, Runnells, on 
Saturday last, that, as he came through your county, he 
saw a certificate signed by yourself and twelve others, 
purporting to be the confessions of Isham Medford, of 
Attala county, who was brought before you and tried 
for some charges against him, and that he impeached 
me in some way in his confessions. Will you be so 
good as to forward me a copy of the certificate you 
gave V. Stewart of that confession, and also state ex- 

160 Stewart's life 

plicitly whether that confession was made under the 
lash or not. Please also to inform me where Medford 
lived when he was brought before you, and where he 
now lives (if you know). I hope, my dear sir, you will 
grant this favour to a man who wishes it in vindica- 
tion of a character as unsullied by crime of any sort as 
the mountain snoiv. I am assured, by both Gov. Run- 
nells and Col. Wyatt, that I may ask this favour of you 
as a highminded gentleman who is disposed to do im- 
partial justice to every one. 

" With great respect, your obedient servant, 


Answer by James C. Bole to the foregoing. 

" Franklin, Holmes County, Sept. 14, 1835. 
" Matthew Clanton, 
Pittsburg, Miss. 
" Dear Sir — Yours of the 24th of August has been re- 
ceived, and I now proceed to answer the same. You 
request a copy of the certificate given to V. A. Stewart ; 
this I cannot give you, as I did not take a copy of that 
certificate, and cannot conveniently call on any individ- 
ual who did ; but the certificate was given for publication, 
and you will no doubt see it before long. I will, how- 
ever, give you the substance of Medford's statement, so 
far as the same is connected with your name; this I 
will do from memory, which serves we well on that 
subject. He stated that they (meaning the organized 
band of rogues and counterfeiters) had stolen from the 
citizens of this and the adjoining counties many ne- 
groes and horses, which were put under the care of a 
man of the name of Hansford, but most generally known 
by the name of Leiper, in Choctaw county ; that this 
man lived in a camp, and changed his residence as ne- 
cessity required ; that, so soon as the excitement pro- 
duced by the loss of the property had subsided, they 


would move it generally to Arkansas, Texas, or the 
neighbourhood of Alexandria on Red river. He gave 
the names of all the individuals at whose houses they 
would call in moving this property to the aforesaid 
places, and among others he gave the name of Matthew 
Clanton ; said that he kept a house at w^hich they called 
on their expeditions of this kind ; said that he did not 
know you personally, but that he knew your character 
well, and that he knew you to be one of their (meaning 
the rogues and counterfeiters) friends. He said that he 
had never travelled the route by which the stolen prop- 
erty was removed, but that he had the names of their 
friends on the same. I will further state explicitly for 
your satisfaction, that this confession was not made 
under the lash, but after he was punished ; and, so far as 
relates to you, was wholly voluntary on his part. 

" I have now given you the substance of his confes- 
sions so far as it was calculated to implicate you. 
These statements w^ere made to a company of from 
thirty to thirty-five individuals, all citizens of this coun- 
ty, all men of respectability. I cannot, hovv^ever, dis- 
miss this subject without noticing another request in 
your letter, viz., that I would inform you where Med- 
ford lived wheii he was brought before me, and where 
he now lives. After you had stated expressly, in the 
outset of your letter, that he lived in Attala county, I 
cannot conceive what could induce you to make such 
a request. Were I disposed, I beheve I could point out 
other ambiguities in this letter, but do not deem it ne- 
cessary. With the difficulty between yourself and 
Stewart I have nothing to do. I never heard the name 
of either until I saw the ' Western Land Pirate ;' conse- 
quently I have no partialities for the one, nor prejudices 
against the other. That V. A. Stewart has rendered 
important services to his country, is a fact which no 


honest man will deny. In conclusion, I will say to you, 
that ' Truth is mighty^ ajid will prevail.^ 

" Respectfully, your obedient servant, 


To the Editor of the Clinton Gazette. 

" It is known to most of the community around Clin- 
ton, that some time since I had three negro fellows 
stolen from me by Murrell's clan. Being called upon 
by several gentlemen, Mr. Virgil A. Stewart among oth- 
ers, to pubUsh the circumstances attending their ab 
duction and recovery, I give the following brief ac- 

" In December, 1833, at that time living on the Mis^ 
sissippi river, a few miles below Randolph, one morning 
I found three of my most valuable fellows missing from 
their labour. I supposed they had got on a steamboat 
with a view of reaching a free state, and probably under 
the protection of some of the agents of Arthur Tappan 
& Co., and had a reward for the apprehension of the 
negroes published in Louisville and other places. 

" About six months after this circumstance transpi- 
red, a few miles below where I had resided, in the neigh- 
bourhood of the Shawnee village, a flat-boat was rob- 
bed of most all of its load. At this outrage the citizens 
of Randolph, in a manner highly creditable to them- 
selves, raised a company, went over the river, and 
took twenty suspected persons ; whipped about half of 
them, and committed some to jail. It was from the 
confessions of these that I first learned that my ne- 
groes were stolen and sold somewhere. The Lloyds, 
Bunches, Barneys, and others, names given in Stew- 
art's publication, reside in this neighbourhood, and gen- 
erally keep a great many worthless characters about 
them, who have no appearance of an honest living; 


and are often taken up with counterfeit money in their 
possession, and generally break jail before their trial 
comes on. 

" I made an ineffectual search for my negroes through- 
out the Attuckapa country, in Louisiana, and had given 
them over as lost ; but, learning that Parson Henning's 
negroes had been found, in search of whom Mr. Stew- 
art had hazarded his life, and discovered so much that 
is valuable to the community, I conferred with Mr. Hen- 
ning, to ascertain if he had heard any thing of other 
negroes supposed to have been run into the country ; 
he informed me that he had ; and I went on to the par- 
ish of Avoyl, and found my negroes fifteen or twenty 
miles in the interior from Red river. I seized them by 
writ of attachment, and went over to court about three 
weeks since with my evidence of ownership ; the de- 
fendants paid cost, and gave up the negroes without 
submitting the case to the court ; and I now have them 
on my plantation, four miles north of Clinton, Missis- 
sippi. In that section of country there are now many 
negroes which there can be no doubt were run by Mur- 
rell's clan. 


''November, 1835." 

" State of Mississippi, Holmes Countij. 

" The undersigned, citizens of said state and county, 
do hereby certify, that we were present and heard the 
confessions of Captain Isham Medford, of Attala county, 
on the 5th day of July, 1835. The said Medford did not 
make his confessions while under the lash, but after he 
was released, and was assured that he would not be 
farther punished. We do farther certify, that he impli- 
cated two of his own sons-in-law, as well as Judge 
Clanton, of Yallabusha county ; and, from the consist- 
ency of his story throughout the whjole matter, we are 


bound to believe that he told the truth as to his o\vii 
guilt, as well as that of those whom he implicated. 

" Given under our hands and seals, tliis 17th day of 
July, 1835. 

[Sealed.] JOB TAYLOR, 

A. HAYS." 

There is a strong corroborative analogy between 
the statements of Captain Medford, as given in James 
C. Bole's letter to Clanton, and Dr. D. O. Williams's 
publication as to the places of rendezvous for the clan. 
We leave the reader and the public to draw their own 
inferences from the evidence above. 

When Clanton first began to whisper slanders 
against the character of Mr. Stewart, it was done to 
excite suspicion in the minds of his friends in the 
Purchase, so as to enable his accusers from Arkansas 
to carry him to that country to answer to their accusa- 
tions. Once there, they intended to torture him to 
death. Mr. Stewart had many warm friends in the 
Purchase, whose confidence it was necessary to shake 
before their designs could be effected. 

Thus the protector of his country was to fall a vic- 
tim to a false accusation, and be delivered into the 
hands of his bloodthirsty enemies, even at the instance 
of the laws of his venerated country, through the 
agency of Clanton and his co-workers in crime ; and 
thus his infamy legally sanctioned by the tribunals of 
his country ; but, when they were disappointed in their 
fiendish purposes, Murrell again in the iron grasp of the 


law, before their bloody designs against Mr. Stewart 
could be accomplished, and the time of trial drawing 
near, all their hopes were hung on the accusation 
which Clanton had made against his honour ; at the 
same time Clanton and his agents began to discover 
that all who were acquainted with Mr. Stewart looked 
on his accusation with contempt ; they consequently 
saw the necessity of enlarging the charge, and support- 
ing it with more substantial reasons. Mr. Stewart 
had been a housekeeper for several years before he 
moved to the Choctaw Purchase, and, when starting 
to move, he packed up all his table-furniture in a chest, 
and carried it with him, expecting to need it at some 
future day. Though all these articles. had been used 
for several years, to give increased importance to his 
charge, Clanton accused Mr. Stewart of getting them 
from his store, and never accounting for them. But 
Providence kindly ordered it that Mr. Stewart was 
among his old neighbours, who knew that he had kept 
house, and some of whom had assisted him in packing 
up his furniture to move. Clanton's blunder in this 
particular exposed the full depth of his villany, as will 
be seen from the following evidence. The reader has 
before been informed that Mr. Stewart had furnished 
himself with a supply of the comforts of life necessary 
for exploring a wilderness country, on leaving Ten- 
nessee for the Choctaw Purchase. We offer the fol- 
lowing for the reader's consideration : — 

" Tuscahoma, August 15, 1835- 
" Mr. V. A. Stewart : 

" Dear Sir — 1 have been induced, since I saw Matthew 
Clanton's pubhcation, to inform you of certain evidence 

166 Stewart's life 

that will remove all doubt of the baseness of the charge 
which he has alleged against you, which charge few of 
his near neighbours and friends pretend to believe and 
impress on others, 

" Col. Duncan Mclver and his family state that they 
saw the principal, and perhaps all the articles, stated by 
Clanton in hi? accusation against you, in your posses- 
sion while boarding at their house before you became 
Clanton's agent, immediately after you emigrated from 
Tennessee to the Purchase. Also the Avagoner, Mr. 
Hardy, who hauled your goods from my boat, states 
that he saw several bolts of domestic calico, &c., in 
your possession, when getting medicines from you in 
a case of sickness, I saw several of the articles before 
they left my boat, particularly the ware, knives and 
forks, &c. 

" 1 am quite unwell, and can hardly write. 
" Respectfully yours, &c., 

" L. McLaughlin. 

" P, S. The people are very much exasperated against 
Clanton, except a few of his neighbours. They pass 
the severest censure and contempt on him. He cannot 
stand it long, for it is getting worse for him every day. 

" L. McL." 

^^ Madisonville, Miss., Aug. 19, 1835. 
" Mr, V, A, Stewart : 

" Dear Sir — I was at Vicksburg some four weeks 
since, and saw a card in the newspaper over your sig- 
nature, requesting the people of the south to suspend 
their opinion concerning Matthew Clanton's pamphlet. 
You say you did not expect to obtain positive proof 
against said Clanton. I have just returned htme from 
the Choctaw nation, and, on passing through Clanton's 
neighbourhood, I first met with Mr, Cobb, nine miles 
above Chocchuma, with whom I stayed all night. Our 


evening's conversation was about the controversy be- 
tween you and Clanton, having both the pampWets in 
our possession. Mr. Cobb stated that Clanton and 
Saunders had stood as fair as any two men could stand ; 
but said that he had seen Duncan Mclver a few days 
before, and, conversing about the matter, he said that he 
had hauled your trunk and chest from the boat when 
you landed in that country from Tennessee, and that he 
saw them opened, and that they then contained nearly 
all the articles which Clanton now accuses you of 
stealing from his store, and that he was ready to make 
affidavit of the fact at any time when called on. Pas- 
sing on through Coffeeville, I saw several men who 
had heard Mr. Mclver state the same facts. Finally, 
1 intended to call on Mr. Mclver and get his certificate ; 
but, misunderstanding where he lived, I had passed him 
before I knew it. I learned from a Mr. Duke, who 
keeps the ferry on the Yocknepotoflfa, that he had heard 
Mr. Mclver and sons state the same facts as above re- 
lated. I left Esq. Duke's on Thursday morning last ; he 
promised me he would go to Mr. Mclver's on Friday 
and get his certificate, and send it to me by mail. I look 
for it in a few days. 

" I am a planter living near Canton, Madison county. 
In haste, I must close, by subscribing myself your sin- 
cere friend and well-wisher, 


" State of Mississippi, Warren County : — te loit. 

" Personally appeared before me, R. J. McGinty, a 
justice of the peace in and for said county, William J. 
Cowan, a citizen of said county, who, being duly sworn, 
on oath says, that he became acquainted with Mr. Vir- 
gil A. Stewart in July, in the year 1833, immediately 
after his emigration to the Choctaw Purchase, in said 
state, at the residence of Mr. Duncan Mclver, about one 


mile above the town of Tuskahoma. This deponent 
resided with Mr. Stewart about six weeks in the same 
house, and was present when he unpacked the goods 
which he brought with him to this country, and had a 
full knowledge of the property and household-furniture 
of said Stewart at that time in his possiission. Said 
Stewart having emigrated to that section of country at 
a time when it was quite a wilderness, very sparsely 
settled by white people, brought with him a small stock 
of groceries suited to the demand of the early settlers ; 
and also came better prepared for housekeeping than 
the majority of settlers who emigrated to the country 
at that time. This deponent had free access to the 
trunk and chest of Mr. Stewart, and every thing about 
the house, and was in the daily use of his furniture j 
among other articles, Mr. Stew^art had plates, cups, sau- 
cers, spoons, knives, forks, a mattress, and bedclothing, 
table-cloths and towels, and small packages of coffee, 
tea, spice, ginger, pepper, saltpetre, medicines of vari- 
ous descriptions, and remnants of cotton domestic, and 
remnants of cloth of various descriptions. Among 
other articles in the house was a set of glass cup- 
plates, which he, this deponent, had bought at Tuska- 
homa, and when he, this deponent, parted with Stewart, 
they were left with the other table-furniture of Stewart. 


" Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 18th day of 
July, A. D. 1835. 

[Sealed.] "R. J. McGINTY,/w5i;;ce of the Peace " 

" State of Mississippi, Carroll County. 

" This day personally came before me, Joshua Will- 
iams, an acting justice of the peace of said county, 
Thomas Rhodes, who, being first duly sworn, deposeth 
and saith, that in the year 1833 (the summer of that 
year), he became acquainted with Virgil A. Stewart, 


who settled on or near the Yallabusha river, near Tus- 
cahoma, and with a Mr. William J. Cowan, then resi- 
dent with the said Stewart, as he, said Rhodes, believes, 
as he has seen the said Cowan and Stewart frequently- 
together at Stewart's own house at Tuscahoma, and at 
his own (Rhodes's) house ; that he beheves said Cowan 
to be an honest, sober young man, and entitled to credit ; 
and also that he has seen at the house of said Stewart 
about the same time the most of the necessary articles 
of housekeeping, such as cups and saucers, knives and 
forks, plates, spoons, &c., as set forth in the affidavit 
of said Cowan, and that said Stewart was as well pro- 
vided for housekeeping as any or most of the new 
settlers were at that time ; and that he believes the 
said Stewart to be a worthy, honest, and upright young 


" Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 20th Sep- 
tember, 1835. 

[Sealed.] " JOSHUA WILLIAMS, Justice Peaces 

'^Slate of Tennessee, Madison County. 

" Having been called on to state to the public what I 
know relative to the goods and property that Virgil A. 
Stewart had packed at my house, in this county, to be 
shipped to the Choctaw Purchase, and which were put 
on board a boat that left Jackson for said Purchase du- 
ring the spring of 1833, I now give the following brief 

"Virgil A. Stewart lived in this county two years 
and better previous to his leaving here for the Choctaw 
Purchase, in the State of Mississippi, during which time 
he lived a bachelor, or kept a house of his own, until he 
sold off his property for moving in the fall of 1832, at 
which time I rented the farm which he had occupied, 
H 15 

170 Stewart's life 

and moved to his house, and he boarded with me the 
remainder of the time he stayed in this county. He was 
well provided with house furniture, farming utensils, 
and a numerous quantity of fine tools of almost every 
description that is used. These things he carried with 
him when he moved to the Choctaw Purchase, in the 
spring of 1833. He had a quantity of queensware, 
knives and forks, spoons of various sizes, casters, cru- 
ets, and all the necessary furniture for table use; a 
general supply of tinware, necessary for the use of a 
family; a quantity of valuable bed-clotliing of various 
kinds ; a considerable number of books ; a quantity of 
paints ; and such metals and materials as are used in 
making cotton-gins. In addition to the above, Mr. 
Stewart had a general supply of medicines and drugs, 
such as a family might need in case of sickness, &c. 
In short, I will say he was well provided for both com- 
fort and convenience, having every thing that a family 
necessarily needs, even down to needles, thread, silk, 
thimbles, shears, scissors, and a variety of buttons, 
which he kept in his trunk for his own convenience. 
He had remnants of domestic and imported cloth, and 
packages wrapped in paper, the contents of which I 
did not know. 

" Mr. Stewart's goods were in a separate apartment 
of the house while he boarded with me, but I frequent- 
ly saw them when he used them, or when I wanted to 
borrow any thing from him, and I frequently had his 
property left in my care before it was carried to the 
boat in the spring of 1833. The above statements are 
due to Mr. Stewart and the public. 

" Given under my hand and seal, this 7th day of Oc- 
tober, 1835. 

[Sealed.] " HEZEKIAH ASKEW." 


" State of Tennessee^ Madison County. 

"Personally appeared before me, Harbut Nuisoni, 
an acting justice in and for said county, Hszekiah As- 
kew, a citizen of said county, who, being sworn in due 
form of law, did depose and say that the above certifi 
cate relative to the goods and property of Virgil A 
Stewart is just and true. 

" Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 7th day of 
October, 1835. 

" HARBUT NUISOM, Justice of the Peaces 

Owing to the infamous slanders of Clanton and his 
clan, we have been compelled to introduce evidence 
on matters that are beneath the notice of a gentleman. 
We will here dispense with Clanton and his guilty 
train for the present, and turn our attention to the ap- 
proaching trial of Murrell. 

The trial of Murrell came on, and the courthouse 
was crowded to overflowing with the deeply anxious 
spectators, who thronged to hear the mysterious tale 
of Murrell's daring feats unravelled before the jury 
that were to decide this important case. The wit- 
ness, Mr. Stewart, was called ; he appeared before 
the court and waiting congregation, and was sworn. 
He then commenced his evidence by giving a narra- 
tive of his adventure, and developing all the circum- 
stances and occurrences which led to the introduc- 
tion and acquaintance between Murrell and himself, 
frequently giving the subject of their conversation, 
and the language of the prisoner as he expressed 
himself in the company of the witness; and inclu- 
ding all those feats of villany denominated by the pris- 
oner the feats of the elder brother, together with the 

172 Stewart's life 

manner in which the prisoner made himself known to 
the witness, as being the elder brother himself. He 
gave the occurrences and subjects of conversation con- 
nected with the confessions of the prisoner, both be- 
fore and after he made himself known as the elder 
brother, and the wonderful hero of the feats which he 
had related. 

The witness commenced his testimony in the after- 
noon, and was stopped at dark : the next morning he 
resumed his place before the court, and finished his 
evidence. He was many hours engaged in making 
his disclosures, and was then cross-examined by the 
prisoner's counsel on the evidence he had given the 
preceding day. His answers were clear and satis- 
factory to all but the prisoner and his friends. The 
friends of the prisoner, having been revealed before 
his arrest, were afraid to appear in court, lest they 
should be known and apprehended. This misfortune 
of Murrell's disarmed him ; for, in any other case, he 
could have proved any thing he wished by his own 
clan : now, their names were on a list given to the 
witness by Murrell himself, and they dared not ven- 
ture forward to his assistance. 

Failing to destroy the evidence of Mr. Stewart, 
Murrell's friends next endeavoured to prove that he 
was interested in the conviction of the prisoner, and 
that Parson Henning had hired him to detect him. 
Accordingly they induced a man by the name of Reu- 
ben M'Vey, who was an enemy to Mr. Stewart, to 
come into court and swear that Mr. Stewart had told 
him the fact ; but, like all other liars, he was caught 
in his own net ; his story had so many contradictions 


in it, that it was of no force. Mr. Stewart was pre- 
pared to prove that M'Vey had sworn to a lie ; but the 
prosecuting counsel deemed it unnecessary, as the ev- 
idence was its own refutation. So far from being 
hired to undergo the danger of this adventure, Mr. 
Stewart would not even receive a handsome suit of 
clothes which Parson Henning wished to purchase for 
him, as a remuneration for his time and labour in pur- 
suit of the negroes. 

The malignant hatred which induced M'Vey to ruin 
himself in trying to do Mr. Stewart an injury, arose 
from the simple fact that the latter gentleman had re- 
fused to associate with M'Vey, not regarding him as a 

Mr. Stewart's evidence was supported by gentlemen 
of the greatest respectability that the country afforded. 

John A. Murrell was found guilty of negro-stealing, 
and sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years, at hard 

Thus ended the trial and conviction of the great 
" Western Land-Pirate," who reduced villany to a sys- 
tem, and steeled his heart against all the human family. 

During the pleadings a Mr. Brown, one of Mur- 
rell's lawyers, bore on the feelings of Mr. Stewart in 
an unwarrantable and dishonourable manner, for which 
Mr. Stewart was determined to give him a Stansberry 
reproof as soon as he could meet him in the street ; but 
he was prevented by his friends, who were old men, 
and whose advice and request he felt himself bound 
to respect. 

The following is an extract from a letter written by 
Mr Stewart to a friend, that was afterward published, 

174 Stewart's life 

in which he answers Mr. Brown in a spirited manner. 
And we would further remark, that the same senti- 
ments are very applicable to many of his envious, 
jealous, and bitter persecutors at the present time, 
whom we could name, and who are ambitious of fame 
and public favour ; but do not deem them of sufficient 
importance to receive a passing notice, or to be des- 
ignated by the finger of scorn. 

"I feel the truest pleasure in seeing and knowing 
that my friends and the community resent the dis- 
honourable treatment I received from INIr. Brown in 
his sophistical pleadings. The assumed privilege of 
abusing and calumniating credible witnesses, as prac- 
tised by gentlemen of the bar, is calculated seriously to 
retard the operation of law and justice ; and, were all 
men of my opinion on this subject, it would be relin- 
quished by them in all cases sustained by conclusive 

" Let me lay before you a few of the unfair proposi- 
tions, or rather syllogisms, in the syllabus of his plead- 

" He declared I had acted with deception, and prac- 
ti3ed a falsehood on John A. Murrell, in procuring his 
confidence by representing myself as a horse-hunter 
and a villain ; and contended that he who will act a 
falsehood or practise a deception, will — for it is but the 
next step — swear to it : and therefore my testimony 
was undeserving of credit, and should not be listened to 
or respected. 

" He represented me as the friend of INIurrell, and de- 
clared that a man who would betray the confidence of 
a friend was a villain : — I had betrayed the confidence 
of my friend, ergo, I was a villain. 

" To this unfair mode of reasoning, I thus reply to 


Mr. Brown : — When I took measures to secure the con- 
viction of John A. Murrell, I was not proceeding against 
a friend, but an enemy ; an enemy not only to me, but 
to every honest man in the community : whose outrages 
were insufferable, and whose systematic plans evaded 
every effort to bring him to justice. Thus the dignity of 
our laws and institutions, which were established for the 
protection of our lives, liberty, and property, lay in- 
sulted and trampled under the feet of that daring incen- 
diary and his piratical legion, who gloried in the havoc 
they were making of our property, and the dissensions 
they produced in the social bands of society ; for to 
both these ends were their purposes directed. In my 
proceedings against this formidable banditti, I consider- 
ed myself justified in imitating measures which have 
been taken by the greatest patriots and generals of our 
country, whose opinions and acts we are bound to re- 

" As to the deceptions I practised on John A. Murrell 
in obtaining his confidence and disclosures, I refer you 
to the following in justification of my course. 

" Recollect the deception practised by General Wash- 
ington, at the time Major Andre, the British spy, was 
captured, in trying to get Arnold the traitor back into his 
possession ; and recollect Washington's reasonings on 
that subject. Sir, they will sustain me, and cover Mr. 
Brown with shame and confusion. And again I refer 
you to the deception of Colonel Washington, practised 
at Clermont. See his stratagem in mounting the trunk 
of a pine-tree on wagon-wheels, so as to resemble a 
fieldpiece, which caused the garrison to surrender, and 
has ever been considered a gallant act of Col. Wash- 
ington. But, because I dissembled the outward bearing 
of a villain for the purpose of learning the conduct of 
many villains, and ridding the community of a craft de^ 


structive to the peace and happiness of all civil and 
honest society, Mr. Brown is not willing that I should 
ever wear any other character than the infamous one 
I represented to John A. Murrell, and he professed to 
see no virtuous motives in my conduct which propelled 
me to action. No, sir, as there was no large fee, or 
other selfish consideration, to influence my actions, it 
was a mysterious matter with him, because his own 
narrow soul is too small to render the same services : — 
and for that very reason, all such men as Milton Brown 
have no right to express their contracted views of me 
and my conduct ; and, should they express them, they 
are entitled to no credit. I consider him, and all such 
men, nothing more than the organ through which the 
venom of a detestable and piratical clan of villains was 
vented towards me, whose machinations and calumny 
were ignobly piled on my character by Mr. Brown, like 
another ignominious hireling in iniquity. 

'^ And what makes his skepticism and abuse the more 
disgusting to good feeling and sense, they were unsup- 
ported by even the shadow of evidence, and must have 
emanated from a desire to please a train of piratical vil- 
lains, whose only purpose of life is the destruction of 
all the social ties of society, and the prostration and 
perversion of our national institutions, that have hither- 
to been the pride and boast of all freemen, and the safe 
guardians of our lives and property. 

" Were not my evidence and veracity supported by 
as good citizens as our country can boast of ? Why, 
then, the volley of abuse, sarcasm, and filth, that was 
spawned and belched forth on my character by that son 
of vanity ? Is it criminal to stand up in the defence of 
our country, our wives, our children, our mothers, our 
sisters, and all the tender and sacred ties of humanity 
and justice I If so, then I am a criminal, and deserve 


all the slander and abuse I have received at his hands ; 
and I am then willing to concede the right to the pro 
fessional lawyer to shake hands with the vilest slan- 
derer and defamer of character, and claim him as an 
equal in crime and detraction ; but, until then, Milton 
Brown is a disgrace to the high bearing and dignity of 
the profession of the laAv. It is the duty of the lawyer 
to see that his client is legally dealt with : but he has 
no right to abuse a witness merely to please a villain 
and his friends. Sir, j^ou will please indulge me in a 
few syllogistic remarks in answer to Mr. Brown. 

" Any attorney at law, who will lie and misrepresent 
evidence for the sake of indulging in abuse and slan- 
der on the character of a witness, is a base, corrupt 
scoundrel, and should not be respected by any man- 
Milton Brown hed and misrepresented my evidence for 
the sake of indulging in abuse and slander on my char- 
acter when a witness : therefore Milton Brown is a 
base, corrupt scoundrel, and should not be respected by 
any man." 

Mr. Brown has since very justly experienced the 
weight of Mr. Stewart's argument against him, in a 
political point of view, and he could not have been 
touched on a more sensitive part, as he is as ambi- 
tious as corrupt. Mr. S. can never forgive Brown for 
the base and unmanly treatment he received at his 
hands in Murrell's trial ; nor is it to be wondered at, 
when we reflect on the motives that governed his ac- 
tions on that occasion. Mr. Brown thought, as Mr. 
S. had left Madison county, and was residing at a dis- 
tance, any undue liberties he might indulge in with 
his character would soon be forgotten, as he had no 
relations or family influence in the country to breed 

178 Stewart's life 

opposition against him ; and that any laurels he might 
gain in a professional point of view, by using the 
means of lying, misrepresentation, sarcasm, abuse, 
and a sacrifice of all honour and principle, would only 
be considered smart, as it was practised on a strange 
young man, who was destitute of family influence to 
hold him in check. When we take this view of the 
subject, who can blame Mr. Stewart's resentment ? 
But Mr. Brown was not apprized of Mr. S.'s popu- 
larity in that country, or he would hfive been more 

We will now offer the statements of General Brad- 
ford, of Jackson, Tennessee, who was the prosecuting 
counsel on the part of the state. 

''Jackson, Tennessee, October 10th, 1835. 
" Mr. Virgil A. Stewart : — 

" Sir — At your request, and in justice to you and 
other persons concerned in the trial and conviction of 
John A. Murrell, late of Madison county, Tennessee, for 
the crime of negro-stealing, I deem it my duty to make 
the following statement. 

" At the July term of the Circuit Court of said coun- 
ty, I endicted the said John A. Murrell for the crime 
above described, at which time he was tried, convicted, 
and sentenced to be confined in the penitentiary for ten 
years; I have prosecuted the pleas of the state for 
many years, during all which time I have never known 
any prisoner to have a fairer or more impartial trial than 
Murrell had on this occasion. He was defended by sev- 
eral counsel, and that, too, with zeal and ability ; and 
they were allowed by the court every latitude usual in 
such cases ; and the jury who passed upon his case 


stand as high for honesty and inteUigence as any men 
in the county. 

" In relation to yourself I have to say, that Murrell 
was convicted mainly upon your testimony, the facts 
of which were lengthy and complicated : that you un- 
derwent a most rigid cross-examination, and I have no 
hesitation in saying that I never heard any man sustain 
himself better. Your character was attacked directly 
in the defence, yet your veracity was sustained by 
some of our most worthy citizens, among whom were 
Colonel Thomas Loftin, of this county (Madison), and. 
Alexander Patton, Esq., of this place. Indeed, the 
ample testimony borne to your good character was 
highly creditable. Until the trial of IMurrell, you were 
to me an entire stranger; still the impression made 
upon me by you was favourable, and, as an officer of 
the government, I was satisfied at the time that he was 
rightfully and legally convicted of the crime of negro- 
stealing, on your evidence, and I have yet no reason 
to doubt it ; and, moreover, the verdict of the jury, as I 
believe, met with the general sanction of those who 
witnessed the trial. 

" Given under my hand, at Jackson, the date above. 
" Solicitor General of the lith District in \ 
the State of Tennessee.'''' > 

Sentiments of the citizens of Madison County, Tennessee. 
" State of Tennessee, Madison County. 

"We, the undersigned, citizens of said state and 
county, feeling sensibly the obligation we are under to 
Mr. Virgil A. Stewart, for the many dangers he has en- 
countered in ferreting out the land pirate John A. 
Murrell, and bringing him to justice, present the amount 
annexed to our names as a donation, and token of our 

180 Stewart's life 

gratitude, for the important and dangerous services ren- 
dered by JMr. Stew^art in capturing said pirate, believ- 
ing, as we do, that he is entitled to it for the loss of time 
and expenses which were necessarily incurred by Mr. 
Stewart for the public good ; and we mean further by 
this subscription and declaration of sentiments to mani- 
fest to the world our approbation and applause of the 
course pursued by Mr. Stewart, and not only appreciate 
his courage, but discountenance the odium which has 
been attempted at his character, in pursuing so disa- 
greeable a course for the good of the community : — and 
we further consider that he deserves to be protected 
and upheld by society in the course he has pursued. 

" William Armour, Allen Deberry, A. Patton, B. W. 
Burrowy M. Chalmers, Labon Dodson, M. Deberry, M. 
Cartmel, B. W. Perry, Samuel Givens, F. C. Edwards, 
E. H. Childers, Samuel Hays, J. H. Rawlings, Mills 
Durdin, Thomas Campbell, R. H. Lake, Hazael Hewett, 
H. R. Lacy, John Sanford, Zebulon Jackson, G. Slay- 
ton, Jacob Hill, William Taylor, C. T. Harris, James 
Yoss, H. S. Ross, Gabriel j!\nderson, John Garison, D. 
L. McDonald, Alfred Sharp, S. Sypret, George Hicks, 
John Harrison, John Burrow, F. McKenzie, E. Mc- 
Knight, A. Hutchens, G. Snider, John T. Porter, Phihp 
W^erlick, Mathias Boon, Thomas H. Shores." 

" I, Mathias Deberry, do hereby certify, that I am and 
have been the sheriff of the county aforesaid for a 
number of years, and that I am personally acquainted 
with all the persons whose names appear to the above 
declaration of sentiments, and take pleasure in testify- 
ing, to all whom it may concern, that they are of the 
most honourable and respectable class of citizens of our 
state ; and that the above declaration of sentiments to- 
wards Mr. Stewart has been subscribed to by all of the 
like character who have had an opportunity presented, 


and that the above subscription was unsolicited on the 
part of Mr. Stewart. 

" Given under my hand at Jackson, the 29th day of 
September, A. D. 1834. 



Immediately after the trial had closed, and Mur- 
rell's conviction was sealed, Mr. Stewart determined 
to prosecute his design, and, if possible, complete his 
publication. Accordingly, he commenced arranging 
his papers for this purpose, but still kept his design as 
much as possible to himself. It was generally believ- 
ed at this time that Mr. Stewart intended to publish 
some facts relative to this affair ; yet, even his own 
intimate friends were ignorant of the extent of Mur- 
rell's power, or the nefarious nature of his designs ; he 
therefore deemed it unnecessary to endeavour to con- 
vince them, until he should bring all the circumstances 
in the case to bear together. 

Mr. Stewart was now placed in an extremely trying 
situation. He had long since learned that his safety 
depended entirely upon his own judicious manage- 
ment and exertions, and consequently, although he 
communicated his design of setting forth to the world 
a detailed history of this whole affair to a few of his 
most intimate friends, yet still he determined to follow 
the course which prudence and the demands of his own 
personal safety suggested, and keep his designs for 
the present as secret as possible. It was peculiarly 

182 Stewart's life 

mortifying to his feelings to meet with much incre- 
dulity from even those in whose faith and integrity- 
he reposed the most entire confidence ; and, if even 
those who best knew him were unwilling to give cre- 
dence to a limited and partial account, what was he to 
expect from an unbelieving populace, when the facts 
should appear before them in their true colours ? How- 
ever, Mr. Stewart was not to be deterred by the incre- 
dulity of even his best friends from publishing the haz- 
ardous, but deeply important details, which h-e felt it 
his duty to the community to disclose. 

It will readily be perceived that the situation in 
which these circumstances placed Mr. Stewart at 
this time was not the most enviable ; possessing the 
knowledge of facts of a nature the most vitally impor- 
tant to the whole country, but of a character so fear- 
fully wild and aggravated that the very mention of them 
seemed an imputation upon the good sense of those to 
whom they were related, and that, too, when they 
were but told in their most simple and mitigated form. 

Notwithstanding the conviction of IMurrell, and the 
facts which had been adduced upon his trial, still 
those which yet remained untold, and remained alone 
in the knowledge of Mr. Stewart, and, to a trifling ex- 
tent, with those friends to whom he had communicated 
them, were of a character so unprecedented that he 
had hardly any reason to hope they would find a 
believing ear in the whole community. But, with a 
magnanimity and generous sacrifice of self to the good 
of his fellow-citizens, did this determined and perse- 
vering man steadily proceed in his undertaking, and 
determined, in the face of all opposition, with almost 


equal danger in the publication as he had encountered 
in the means of obtaining this valuable information, to 
lay before the public a true and impartial statement of 
the facts, and patiently await until time should bring 
to light circumstances in corroboration of his story. 

Such now was the state of Mr. Stewart's affairs. 
He still continued to reside in Madison county, Ten- 
nessee, from the period of Murrell's trial and convic- 
tion, in the month of July, up to the twenty-eighth of 
September, during which time he steadily continued 
his purpose of arranging and writing out his notes for 
publication, embracing the greater portion of the facts 
which he intended to make known to the world ; during 
which time the emissaries of the Murrell gang were 
not unemployed in striving to devise means to deter 
him from his undertaking. Private agents of the clan 
were sent to him in the guise of friends, to represent 
to him the dangerous position in which he would place 
himself by publishing such disclosures to the world ; 
while others endeavoured in another way to frustrate 
his design, and hinted, in the most artful and insinua- 
ting manner, the possibility that such a clan might be 
willing to advance a large amount of money to ensure 
his secrecy. In this manner did the beings who had 
enlisted in this dangerous gang endeavour to ascertain 
whether Mr. Stewart might not be vulnerable to 
bribery ; but all their insinuations failed. The gener- 
ous and noble-minded man, who had already perilled 
his life, and willingly sacrificed his safety, for the good 
of his country and his fellow-citizens, was not capable 
of being seduced, by the hope even of a large reward, 
tp withhold their operations and designs from those 


whose dearest interests were only to be preser\ed by 
the suppression of this dangerous and desperate gang. 

On the twenty-eighth of September Mr. Stewart 
left the house of his old and valued friend, Col. Loftin, 
and took up his departure for Lexington, Kentucky, 
and towards evening reached the house of Mr. Deber- 
ry, the then acting sheriff of Madison county, wiih 
whom he remained till the next morning, and on the 
twenty-ninth again proceeded upon his journey by the 
Avay of Perry county, where he wished to meet with 
a gentleman who had written him concerning a tract 
of land in the State of Mississippi which he wished to 
purchase of Mr. Stewart. There was another reason, 
however, why Mr. Stewart wished to travel by a cir- 
cuitous route, and avoid those roads which were most 
frequented, which was, that he might avoid observa- 
tion as much as possible upon his journey, and at the 
same time evade being intercepted on the way by any 
of the prowling emissaries of that formidable and dan- 
gerous gang, to whom he had rendered himself pecu- 
liarly obnoxious by his generous devotion to the inter- 
ests of his country, by throwing open to the gaze of 
the world the picture of their iniquity. 

The circumstances in which Mr. Stewart was 
placed naturally made him distrustful, and his mind 
was continually on the alert. Under this state of 
feeling he had kept his intention of making the journey 
a profound secret, and to all inquiries as to when he 
intended to leave that part of the country he made the 
most circumspect replies. 

On the night of the 29th, Mr. Stewart put up at a 
country house on the road, where he imagined that he 


should be most likely to pass tlie night without obser- 
vation, and quietly prosecute his journey next morn- 
ing, after having enjoyed the grateful refreshment of a 
quiet night's rest ; but he had not long been here be- 
fore his anticipations were dissipated by the sudden 
arrival of four men, who immediately made known 
their intentions of passing the night at the house. 
From these men Mr. Stewart failed not to receive a 
most scrutinizing glance. They scanned his person 
with the most critical eye, and endeavoured by the 
most inquisitive interrogatories to learn every thing 
connected with his intended course ; as to what part 
of the country he intended journeying ; and by what 
roads he should most probably travel ; whether he in- 
tended crossing the Tennessee river ; and, if so, by 
what ferry ; and what direction he would then take. 
These and many other such questions were put to 
him by the strangers : and, although there was noth- 
ing in them more than might naturally be expected 
from travellers journeying through the same country, 
and anticipating enjoyment from each other's society, 
still, to the naturally acute and peculiarly sensitive 
mind of Mr. Stewart, they seemed to convey an omin- 
ous import. He had been long enough among men 
of desperate character to know that they could at 
pleasure assume the guise of friendship, the better to 
hide under its blandishments the evil designs which 
they meditated ; and knowing, too, as he did, the pecu- 
liar relation in which he had placed himself in re- 
gard to a gang of desperadoes, whose nefarious de- 
signs were too well understood by him to give him 
any promise of mercy if he should chance to fall into 

186 Stewart's life 

their hands. Ever on the alert, and naturally suspi- 
cious of every stranger, he determined to know no 
man by his appearance and pretensions, let them be 
never so alluring ; and, acting in the present case under 
these feelings, he studied every precaution to give to 
their inquiries the most evasive answers, and, at the 
same time, if possible, preserve the appearance and 
manners of one entirely ignorant of their designs. 
By his answers he led them to suppose that he had 
business in the neighbourhood which would detain 
him several days ; but, in an unguarded moment, he 
unthinkingly inquired of the host, in their hearing, 
which was the nearest road to Patton's Ferry, and 
what distance it was hence ; and it was not until cir- 
cumstances afterward brought it to his remembrance, 
that his mind reflected upon the unsuspecting inquiry 
which he had made, and which was sufficient at once 
to frustrate all his previous carefulness in returning 
evasive answers to the interrogatories of the strangers. 
But so it often chances, that in the very moment of our 
self-assumed security, we are most apt to lay our- 
selves open to the very snares which our most artful 
and ingenious endeavours had been exerted to conceal. 

By daybreak the next morning the four strangers 
left the house where they had lodged over night ; and 
Mr. Stewart, after having remained to breakfast with 
the host and his family, departed upon the same road, 
and continued his journey that day to the house of 
Mr. Gilbert, where he was detained until the morning 
of the 2d of October, when he again proceeded upon 
his journey. 

Mr. Stewart had determined to cross the Tennes» 


see river at Patton's Ferry, and pursue his journey 
through Columbia, in Murray county, and from thence 
to Lexington, Kentucky, by the way of Nashville, 
hoping thereby to be able to elude the pursuit of 
any who might have observed his motions with an 
evil design. The wild and desolate region of coun- 
try extending along the road between Jackson and 
Patton's Ferry, seemed calculated to excite the most 
unpleasant emotions in the mind of a solitary travel- 
ler, and seemed fraught with dark forebodings to 
a mind so feelingly alive to every gloomy sensa- 
tion as that of Mr. Stewart. The feelings which 
this dreary prospect created induced Mr. Stewart to 
place himself in readiness for any emergency that 
might chance to occur, and accordingly he withdrew 
his pistol from his portmanteau, where he had hitherto 
carried it, and, after carefully examining it, placed 
it in his side pocket. 

Mr. Stewart had, until now, placed more reliance in 
the hope of eluding danger and observation, than in the 
event of a physical resistance when such danger might 
be at hand. Having taken these precautions, he con- 
tinued his journey solitarily through this desolate and 
inhospitable region, and throughout the morning met 
with scarce an object to relieve his mind from the 
deep gloom that seemed to hang like an incubus upon 
him ; and in this state of feeling he journeyed along 
until it had reached the hour of four in the afternoon, 
by which time he had arrived at within some eight or 
ten miles of the ferry, when he was suddenly startled 
by the appearance of three men fully armed, who had 
been concealed behind trees by the roadside. 

188 Stewart's life 

Mr. Stewart was for a moment startled by this sudden 
attack ; but, instantly recovering his self-possession, 
he placed himself in an attitude of defence. The as- 
sassin on his right ordered him to dismount ; but, not- 
withstanding the overpowering numbers and strength 
of his enemies, he summoned to his aid all his forti- 
tude, and manfully refused to obey the summons ; but 
his situation was truly hazardous, and, in all probabil- 
ity, one who had seen less of the buffets and hard- 
ships of life would have yielded a pliant and passive 
obedience to the stern mandate of a gang of despe- 
radoes, armed at all points with the glittering weapons 
of death. 

In the countenance of one of the villains Mr. Stew- 
art imagined that he recognised the features of one of 
the four men who had lodged at the same house with 
him on the night of the twenty -ninth of September, but 
the other two he had no recollection of ever having 
seen before. He saw depicted in the countenances 
of all the appearance of determined vengeance and 
slaughter ; and, as the fearful weapons of destruction 
were clashing and gleaming around him, he felt that 
each moment was destined to be his last. He saw 
himself within the very jaws of death ; but the grim 
monster did not unman him of his firmness and deter- 
mined resolution. He was determined to sell his life 
as dearly as possible, and either die defending the 
sacred gift which he had received from his Creator, or 
escape, if not immediate death, at least the premedi- 
tated tortures which he knew they had in store for him, 
and which he knew they would inflict with no spa- 
ring hand. 


Mr. Stewart was armed with no other weapons than 
the small pistol, which he had haply taken the precau- 
tion about two hours before to remove from his port- 
manteau to a more convenient situation in case of 
need, and a heavy dagger, which he carried in his bo- 
som. The assassin on his right stood within about 
two rods of Mr. Stewart, and was armed with a large 
fowling-piece, and his companion on the left held in 
his hands a long rifle ; the third member of this banditti 
placed himself back against a tree, immediately before 
Mr. Stewart's horse, armed with a heavy-barrel pis- 
tol ; his assailants thus disposed, one on the front and 
the two others on either side, stood in form of a tri- 
angle into which Mr. Stewart had entered. 

The assassin on the right appeared to be the chief 
of the party : he continued drawing closer and closer to 
him, several times ordering him to dismount ; when 
within about six or eight paces of Mr. Stewart he 
stopped, and, with a determined tone, demanded wheth- 
er he intended to dismount from his horse or not ; to 
which inquiry he received as determined an answer 
in the negative ; at which the fellow levelled his piece, 
but Mr. Stewart, being remarkably expert in the use 
of the pistol, drew it and fired in the villain's face be- 
fore he had time to suspect such an event. The ball 
entered his forehead, and he dropped, apparently life- 
less ; and, as he fell, his piece went ofT, but without ef- 
fect ; for the charge passed harmlessly under the 
belly of the horse, and lodged in the ground a few 
yards distant. Mr. Stewart's situation now grew every 
moment more and more desperate ; the monster on his 
left levelled his rifle and fired, but without efTect ; thus 

190 Stewart's life 

leaving him for the moment to contend with but one 
armed assailant ; this was the man who had taken his 
position in front, who, seeing that Mr. Stewart at- 
tempted to draw no other pistol after he had dischar- 
ged the first, considered h'lm thea unarmed ; and, to 
make sure of his prize, he, coward like, advanced 
within a few paces of Mr. Stewart, who, in the mo- 
ment of his extremes! danger, had yielded up nothing 
of that courage and presence of mind so essential to 
one placed in desperate circumstances : with a pecu- 
liar dexterity and an unerring aim, he flung the empty 
pistol, which had already been effectual in prostrating 
one of his assailants, with all his force in the face of 
his companion, and struck him over his eye. He was 
60 stunned by this unexpected blow that he was en- 
tirely thrown off his guard, and his pistol snapped and 
fell harmless from his hand. 

Mr. Stewart having then almost miraculously es- 
caped so far unharmed, drew his dagger and rushed 
his horse upon this assassin, for the purpose of plun- 
ging it into his bosom ; but, while in the act of bending 
forward to inflict the wound, he received a severe 
blow across his breast from the heavy rifle in the 
hands of the villain on the left. This blow stunned 
him for a moment, but, summoning all his physical as 
well as mental strength and energy, he raised himself 
in his saddle to turn upon his third assailant, when he 
received a heavy blow upon the back of his head 
and neck, which seemed to vibrate throughout his 
whole frame, and which displaced him from his sad- 
dle and threw him across the horse's neck. He dis- 
covered that he was badly wounded from the last 


blow he had received, and made an effort to escape by 
flight ; and, so soon as he could regain his saddle, he 
put spurs to his horse, and endeavoured to escape be- 
yond the reach of his enemies. As soon as he had 
recovered from the excitement occasioned by this af- 
fray, he hastened the speed of his horse, and directed 
his course through a thick wood, the more effectually to 
avoid the chance of observation in case of pursuit ; for 
he imagined that he might have to encounter other par- 
ties of this same desperate gang by continuing on the 
road ; and consequently, not even in this perturbed 
state of mind did Mr. Stewart forget the natural firm- 
ness of his character, for he still, even in the pre- 
cipitancy of his flight, kept all his fortitude at his 
command ; but, just at the moment of his turning 
from the road to enter the wood, the report of another 
gun sounded in his ear. This report, however, he 
judged was made by the horse-pistol belonging to the 
assassin whom he had stunned by the blow from his 
own pistol. Mr. Stewart had raised his left hand as 
a support to the back of his neck, which had been se- 
verely bruised by the blow from the stock of the rifle, 
and when in this position he received a buckshot in 
his arm, but which, however, did him no material 

Mr. Stewart now directed his course down a vale 
that extended on his right, and continued his flight 
through this unfrequented wood until he imagined that 
he had left his assailants something like three miles 
behind him. The immediate appearance of danger 
now no longer staring him in the face, he began to 
grow quite sick, and concluded that, in this condition, 


exhausted and wounded as he was, he should not be 
able to continue his flight much farther ; but he did 
not know how near his pursuers might be to him ; he 
however became more and more faint, and at last was 
forced to seek for a place where he might lie down 
unobserved from the surrounding country. He direct- 
ed his course up a little bayou, along which he trav- 
elled to a spot that appeared entirely secluded and 
hidden by the thick foliage of the neighbouring hills, 
and dismounted in a grove of thick underbrush, and 
tied his horse where he would be most secure from 
observation : he took his portmanteau and blanket 
from the horse, and bent his steps some distance 
from him ; he thought that, should they pursue him 
and find his horse, they should not so easily discover 

Mr. Stewart now lay down in great agony, and his 
feelings carried him almost to the brink of despair. 
He had long since looked upon his life as sacrificed 
to a generous emotion and warmth of soul ; yet still 
he determined to dispose of it as dearly as possible. 

He now kept his mind continually on the alert, and 
kept a constant watch until the sun sank down in the 
west, and nature betook herself to repose. The 
shades of evening now began to gather round, and fche 
stillness of the night seemed to add to the deep gloom 
of his feelings. Now and then the rustling of the dry 
leaves, as they dropped from their parent branch, broke 
upon the ear ; and occasionally a slight pufi* of air 
would breathe over the scene. 

His feelings now grew wild and desolate ; he fre- 
quently found himself crawling through the brush and 


thicket as if under the influence of a horrible dream ; 
and in this frightful manner did he pass the whole 
night of the 2d of October. Towards daybreak he 
got a moment's rest, but awoke in almost indescriba- 
ble pain ; his neck was much swollen, and he had 
a considerable fever ; his wounded arm was very stiff 
and sore, and his whole frame was racked with mis- 
ery ; his mental excitement added still more to his 
dreadful feelings ; his mind continually dwelt upon 
his forlorn and almost hopeless condition, and the 
danger that might still await him. 

To attempt to find a house in that part of the coun- 
try might prove fatal, for he knew not in what manner 
the emissaries of that desperate gang might lie in wait 
for him ; but, even should he chance to fall into the 
hands of an honest man, he knew that he was likely 
to be tracked out and discovered before he could suf- 
ficiently recover from his wounds, and at least would 
be likely to be intercepted upon his departure from the 
house. To attempt to continue his journey to Lex- 
ington, Kentucky, he now considered almost certain 
death ; and to attempt to return to Madison county 
seemed to him to threaten a like result. Although 
Mr. Stewart had many excellent friends in this part of 
the country, he could not now avail himself of their 
services, for they could afford him but little aid, even 
should they be made acquainted with his real situa- 
tion. He was also well aware that he had many 
deadly enemies, who exerted a mighty influence in 
Madison county ; danger and death seemed to 
stare him in the face on every side ; and, even should 
he now be fortunate enough to escape from their 
I 17 


hands, he felt well assured that he could never re- 
main in that part of the country after the disclosure 
of the horrible transactions which as yet remained a 
secret in his own bosom, and of the names of those 
beings who conducted the machinery of this extensive 
plan of operations. 

Thus, as it were, proclaimed an outlaw, and hunted 
down by those whose enmity was almost certain de- 
struction, he came to the conclusion that it was his 
duty to leave America. His mind being fixed, he di- 
rected his course across the country towards Columbus, 
in the State of Mississippi, and intended to go from 
thence to Mobile, and from there to some part of Eu- 
rope, for a few years. This resolution being formed, 
he aroused himself to the greatest exertions for put- 
ting it in execution. 

It was late in the afternoon when Mr. Stewart bade 
a.dieu to the desolate region which had served him for 
a couch and place of concealment during the night : 
he however first examined his horse, to see whether he 
had not received injury in the rencounter, but happily 
he found him free from all harm. Covered with blood, 
and exhausted with faintness, and want of rest, and 
food, Mr. Stewart mounted and began a retreat from 
his hiding-place ; he set out in a southerly direction, 
and determined to prosecute his journey through the 
night. He was almost famished for want of water, 
and he also wished to cleanse himself from the blood 
that covered him before he should n:eet with any per- 
son from whom he should be liable to attract observa- 
tion. After about an hour's travel he found water, 
Avhen he allayed his thirst, and cleansed his gar- 


merits and person from the blood which covered 
them ; he changed his dress and strove to divest 
himself of every thing that bore any mark of the affray ; 
and, after as much as possible hiding every vestige of 
the encomiter, he resumed his journey ; he passed a 
farmhouse before dark, but studiously avoided coming 
in contact with any of its inmates. He met with sev- 
eral roads during the night, but not one of them ap- 
peared to run in the direction that he wished. 

He continued his solitary journey through the woods 
and unfrequented paths until near midnight, when he 
met with a serious obstacle. A creek lay exactly be- 
fore his course, which, in the night, he could not dis- 
cern a fording-place to cross. 

He now dismounted and relieved his horse from his 
burden, and, tying him by the head and leg, allowed 
him to go in quest of whatever he could find to satisfy 
the demands of hunger, which by this time had 
doubtless become most acute ; for Mr. Stewart could 
not bear to tie him up for a second night, to fast again 
until he should arrive at some place of safety. Mr. S. 
again prepared his couch, and, stretching himself upon 
his blanket, attempted to get an hour's repose. The 
weather was not very cold, but was quite damp, and in 
his weak and exposed condition he took a violent cold 
from this exposure ; this, added to his sufferings, pro- 
duced a state of mind bordering on delirium. 

On the morning of the fourth, he found his horse 
not far from the place where he had turned him loose 
the evening before, saddled him, and again proceed- 
ed upon his journey. Mr. Stewart, as ^vell as his 
borse, was now almost exhausted from fatigue and 

196 Stewart's life 

want of food, and he determined to stop at the next 
house, be it at whatever hazard it might. Mr. Stew- 
art continued his ride until he came to a settlement- 
road, and, about eight in the morning, stopped at a 
farmer's house by the roadside, and immediately made 
inquiries whether he could feed his horse, and pro- 
cure something for his own breakfast. The host 
made a frivolous excuse at not being able to accommo- 
date him, and Mr. Stewart then made inquiry if he 
could tell him the road to Purdyville ; but, instead of 
giving him the desired information, he answered all 
his interrogations with other questions. 

Mr. Stewart then told him that he was hungry, and 
anxious to arrive at some place where he might stop 
and obtain breakfast, and would be glad if he would 
direct him without further equivocation. The man 
pointed out to him the way to the main road. Mr. 
Stewart thought it the most prudent plan to assume 
another name, and change as much as possible his ap- 
pearance. He however required almost the whole 
stock of his clothing from his portmanteau to meet the 
demands of his present delicate situation. 

Between eleven and twelve he arrived at a house 
on the public road, which road was, in fact, but little 
more than a distinguishable foot-path, where he pro- 
cured refreshment for both himself and horse ; and, be- 
ing extremely worn down by fatigue and exposure, 
Mr. Stewart sought relief in a few hours' repose. 

Mr. Stewart eluded all inquiries from his host by 
observing a reserved demeanour, and alleging for his 
conduct the ill health under which he was labouring. 
Had he deemed it prudent, he would gladly have re- 


mained at his house until he should have recovered 
from the effects of his wounds, and become in a condi- 
• tion better adapted to the fatigues and exposures inci- 
dental to a long journey through so wild and inhospi- 
table a portion of the country ; but, in case he re- 
mained, he would be forced to make known the cir- . 
cumstances of his rencounter, and consequently the 
development of his name and business would naturally 
follow, in which case he could promise himself but 
little hope of safety. 

Under his present peculiar circumstances, Mr. Stew- 
art thought it the most prudent plan to bear his situa- 
tion as long as he could support himself upon his 
horse, and at least avoid an exposure of his real name 
and business until he should leave this part of the 
country far behind him. Mr. Stewart left this house, 
and proceeded upon the direct road to the Chickasaw 
nation ; but was compelled to stop travelling before 
night from excess of misery. His fever grew worse 
and worse, and this, added to the pain arising from 
his wounds, made him almost delirious. He stopped 
at a house that day and procured food ; but what 
passed during the remainder of the day he could not 
remember. The next house at which he stopped was 
at a Chickasaw settlement ; but of the time that had 
elapsed since he left his previous stopping-place, he 
could form no idea, nor of the country over which he 
had travelled. 

The old Indian with whom he lodged was very at- 
tentive and kind to him, and Mr. Stewart remained at 
this place until his fever had somewhat abated, when 
his extreme anxiety, and the loneliness of his situation, 


urged him to make another effort to continue his 

A port on the Tombigbee river, called Cotton-gin, 
was the point to which, under the direction of the In- 
dian, he now directed his course ; he spent one night 
at this town without attracting any peculiar observa- 
tion, or being questioned as to his name and business. 
Having somewhat recruited himself by a good night's 
rest, he again set out next morning on the road to Co- 
lumbus ; but, to his extreme disappointment, there was 
no boat running on the river at that time. At this 
place, as at Cotton-gin, he succeeded in keeping him- 
self free from particular observation. 

Mr. Stewart had the gratification, however, next 
morning, to learn from the keeper of the hotel where 
he stopped, that there was a party of ladies and gen- 
tlemen who were then crossing the ferry on their 
way to the river counties, and he immediately resolv- 
ed to join the party, and travel in their company to 
some port on the Mississippi river, and then down to 
New-Orleans. Accordingly he hastened his move- 
ments as much as possible, and came up with the party 
just as they were setting out from the opposite side of 
the river. Mr. Stewart did not wish to make any new 
acquaintances, but merely to be able to travel along 
with this party, for the purpose of being less likely to 
attract observation on the road ; and at the same time 
be relieved from the fear of an attack while performing 
the remainder of his journey. 

# His retiring and unobtrusive manner saved him from 
any particular notice from the party with whom he 
was travelling. Towards evening they began to divide 


off in different squads, and seek for lodgings at the va- 
rious cabins along the road, as they could not all find 
accommodations at the same house. 

The first day after Mr. Stewart left Columbus, he 
gtopped at a house where he met with some highly 
respectable citizens of Tennessee, who were travel- 
ling down towards the Mississippi river ; he made the 
acquaintance of Captain Watson and his son, of Will- 
iams county, and travelled with them the next day. 
These gentlemen were the only acquaintances that he 
had made since he left the house of Mr. Gilbert, in 
perry county, and this was the only place where he 
had ventured to make known his real name for the 
distance of more than two hundred and fifty miles. 
But he was destined to enjoy his new friends but a 
short time. The extremely distressing state of his 
wounds now brought him almost to the verge of de- 
spair ; he found it to be impossible to ride faster 
than a walk, and gradually fell behind the rest of the 
party ; a burning fever pervaded his whole frame, and 
he suffered under the most torturing pains ; all of 
which, however, he endeavoured to smother as much 
as possible ; but he was now again left alone ; his sit- 
uation would not allow him to keep up with the party, 
and he was obliged to travel again with no other com- 
panion than his own distressing sensations of both 
body and mind ; he continued his ride for a few hours 
in this way, but, growing fainter and fainter, could no 
longer support himself, and fell from his horse sense- 
less in the road. 

In this deplorable situation Mr. Stewart remained 
for some time, when a wagoner passed by, who, had 

200 Stewart's life 

it not been daylight, would undoubtedly have run over 
his body ; but fortunately he acted towards him the 
part of the good Samaritan, and rendered him all the 
assistance in his power. He removed him from his 
exposed situation to the roadside, caught his horse 
and tied him, so that he could have him at hand when 
he should be able to remount. Some time after this Mr. 
Stewart made a great exertion, and succeeded in re- 
mounting his horse, and again setting out on his jour- 
ney. He had not rode far before he met very unex- 
pectedly with a friend, whom the reader will hereafter 
know by the name of AValton. 

This gentleman was travelling on his way from the 
Chickasaw nation to Memphis, Tennessee, and was 
in great haste to arrive there ; but, meeting with his 
friend in his present wretched situation, he turned and 
accompanied him to the nearest house, and remained 
with him till the next day ; when, being extremely 
anxious to proceed, he was forced to leave him and 
pursue his journey. Mr. Stewart informed him of his 
intention to leave the country for some length of time. 
He delivered to him his papers, and deposited two 
thousand dollars in his hands for the purpose of defray- 
ing the expense of their publication, which his friend 
promised to superintend. He advised Mr. Stewart 
to go further on, to the house of Mr. James Moore, 
who lived some miles ahead, in Madison county, 
as soon as he had sufficiently recovered, and prom- 
ised to meet him at Natchez as soon as his affairs 
, would admit. 

His friend then bade him farewell, and left him in a 
state of mind much improved. He now felt that his 


disclosures would be published without doubt, whether 
he lived or not. The second day after his departure, 
Mr. Stewart arrived at the house of Mr. Moore, where 
he was treated with the utmost kindness and attention 
until he was sufficiently recovered to prosecute his 
journey. This was the first landlord to whom he had 
made known his name since his departure^ from Mad- 
ison county, with the exception of Mr. Gilbert, whom 
he had called to see in Perry county. But Mr. Moore, 
by his own kind attentions, as well as from the recom- 
mendations of his friend, proved himself worthy of all 
confidence, and to him Mr. Stewart made known the 
relation of his whole affairs, as will be seen from the 
following certificate of Mr. Moore on that subject. 

" State of Mississippi, Madison County. 

" I do hereby certify, to all whom it may concern, 
that Virgil A. Stewart lay sick at my house, in this 
county, in the latter part of October, 1834. At that 
time he was on his way to Natchez from Columbus, 
where he informed me that he contemplated taking a 
passage on some boat for New-Orleans, and then ma- 
king his way to some part of Europe, probably to 
France. While sick, he informed me who he was, and 
of his having put his papers into the hands of a friend 
to be made public ; but that he had been hunted and 
sought after with such avidity by a numerous band 
of villains, that he felt it to be his duty to leave the 
country until such time as the people would be suffi- 
ciently aroused to a sense of the extent and designs of 
the banditti, and the danger to which he himself was 
exposed in consequence of his adventure in exposing 
the same. He'then informed me of his having started 
from Madison county, Tennessee, with the intention of 


going to Lexington, Kentucky ; and of his rencounter 
with three assassins near Tennessee river, which was 
the cause of his having turned his course through tliis 
country, to evade pursuit and assassination from the 
band of villains whom his adventure and trip with Mur- 
rell to Arkansas had exposed, and w^hich they were try- 
ing to prevent being published. 

" This statement is freely made, for the satisfaction 
of all, and in justice to Mr. Stewart. 

" Given under my hand and seal, this 27th day of De- 
cember, 1835. 

[Sealed.] "JAMES MOORE." 

The kind attentions of Mr. Moore soon enabled 
Mr. Stewart to again undertake the prosecution of his 
journey ; and his own anxiety urged him to set for- 
ward as soon as possible. 

Mr. Stewart's mind was so entirely occupied with 
his own situation, and his troubles took such deep root, 
as almost entirely to eradicate all other reflections. He 
neglected taking note of the date, but thinks it was 
near the latter end of the month of October when he 
set forward from Mr. Moore's, bound for the city of 

He again thought proper to assume a feigned name, 
and passed through Clinton, Raymond, and Port Gib- 
son without meeting with any circumstances worthy 
of note. About three miles from Port Gibson Mr. 
Stewart fell in with a young gentleman, and in his 
company continued during the remainder of his jour- 
ney to Natchez. 

Mr. Stewart found himself peculiarly happy in his 
new companion, for he esteemed him most highly for a 


combination of excellent qualities, rarely united in a 
young man : he possessed a mild and amiable dispo- 
sition, agreeable manners, and, withal, was very in- 
telligent ; free to converse, yet too modest to be troub- 
lesome and inquisitive. The society of this young- 
man had a most salutary influence upon the feelings 
of Mr. Stewart. They arrived together at Natchez, 
and stopped at the same house, and during the whole 
lime of their journey neither one of them inquired the 
name of the other. 

While Mr. Stewart remained waiting at this place 
for letters from his friend, Mr. Walton, he took the op- 
portunity of exploring that portion of the town known 
by the title of " Natchez under the hill.'' It presented 
an awful sink of crime and pollution.* This scene 
so disgusted him, that he took the earliest opportunity 
of quitting the town ; for he could not feel himself 
safe in the vicinity of such a dissolute place, in his 
unhappy situation. After leaving a letter for his 
friend, he left Natchez for St. Francisville. 

At the latter place, where he remained for a few 
days, he occupied most of his time in writing out the 
notes which he wished to place in the hands of Mr. 
Walton, and in writing to some of his friends. On the 
10th of November Mr. Walton arrived at St. Francis- 
ville, and Mr. Stewart started in his company for 
New-Orleans ; but his health was so bad that his 
friend persuaded him to alter his determination, and 
they turned for the north, up the river. 

Mr. Stewart's health now rapidly declined; and, 

* This has since become an interesting and decent portion of the 

204 Stewart's life 

growing weaker and weaker from his wounds, and 
constant exposure and anxiety, he was obliged to lay- 
by at Cincinnati, and remain there till the ensuing 
spring. During his stay at this place Mr. Walton 
prepared his publication for the press ; and, although 
he had been too unwell himself to give it that supervis- 
ion which was necessary, still he was not willing to 
delay it any longer, it having been already put off 
much longer than he desired. 

The pamphlet was finished in the latter part of 
February, 1835 ; Mr. Stewart sent it by mail to all the 
principal military, as well as civil officers of any note 
in the country. By the first of March he recovered his 
health sufficiently to travel, and visited New-Orleans, 
and saw that his pamphlet was distributed throughout 
the whole of the valley of the Mississippi. Mr. Stew- 
art procured a suit of disguise, in which he equipped 
himself, and set out upon this expedition, which 
was at the same time arduous and hazardous. He 
took every opportunity of distributing his pamphlet 
wherever he went, and would frequently, after dark, 
secretly leave it in public "places, where it would be 
most likely to fall into the hands of those for whom 
he had intended it. 

In this way he was compelled to travel from one 
place to another, in disguise, for the purpose of self- 
preservation ; and, at the time, he knew of but one 
single individual in the whole western region in whom 
he could place entire confidence. 



After Mr. Stewart's " Western Land Pirate" was 
published and generally distributed throughout the 
Mississippi valley, it excited great curiosity, and was, 
as Mr. S. had expected, the subject of much specula- 
tion. " Such deeds of horror had surely never found 
an actor among Christians in the nineteenth century !" 
was the opinion of many. "It is all fiction!" said 
others. " It is a catchpenny affair !" would cry a 
third ; notwithstanding he had, perhaps, found the book 
on his counter, and knew not how it came there. Du- 
ring this suspense of public opinion, the friends of Mur- 
rell and his clan, who had been exposed and held up to 
public odium, lost no time in endeavouring to discredit 
the publication and slander its author. Matthew 
Clanton and Col. Jarrot, the reputed friends of Murrell, 
united all their powers for the destruction of Mr. 
Stewart's character ; and as drowning men, struggling 
for the last gleam of hope, they entered the field, bear- 
ing the arms of slander and perjury. At their heels 
were found murderers, thieves, and refugees, bran- 
dishing their envenomed weapons of destruction. The 
dark mantle of infamy was just closing in on them for 
ever. After rallying all the forces of vice and corrup- 
tion, they resolved to make ohe united and vigorous 
effort in a desperate cause. From such a combination 
what but slander and detraction could be expected? 

206 Stewart's life 

They sallied forth with an abusive and malicious 
pamphlet, impeaching the honour of Mr. Stewart ; and, 
as that pamphlet may have obtained some circulation, 
it may not be amiss to give it here a passing notice, 
though by no means in its details : for, like its authors, 
it is far too filthy to be handled with impunity ; and 
with them, save this slight interruption, it may repose 
for ever in its couch of corruption. 

The reader has before been informed, that when 
Mr. Stewart last left the Choctaw Purchase, he made 
George N. Saunders his agent, and that he had formed 
a good opinion of him, and that Saunders had also pro- 
fessed to be a great friend to Mr. Stewart ; but that 
there was something about him that prevented Mr. 
Stewart from making a confidant of him, even in his 
greatest distress. While standing amid the thickening 
storm of danger and destruction, in a thousand fright- 
ful shapes, an hour that tries the soul and nerve of 
man, George N. Saunders had been introduced to 
Mr. Stewart by Clanton, a few months before he left 
the Purchase. He is an elderly man, venerable and 
amiable in his appearance and demeanour, but a devil 
and villain at heart. He too was combined with the 
conspirators for the destruction of Mr. Stewart ; while 
making the greatest outward show of friendship and 
respect, his demon soul rankled within, and, like that 
of the midnight assassin, thirsted for blood. He is the 
man that now comes forward and swears to a volley 
of lies for Clanton and his motley companions in guilt 
and iniquity. As the venerable George N. Saunders 
is his main witness, we will here show the reader and 
the world who George N. Saunders is. 


" Covington, Aug. 20, 1835. 
" The undersigned, citizens of Tipton county, Ten- 
nessee, having seen a communication in the Pittsburg 
(Mississippi) Bulletin, of Matthew Clanton, in which he 
relies on the certificate of Geo. N. Saunders to prove 
certain charges against Virgil A. Stewart, tending to de- 
stroy his character, do hereby certify, that we were 
well acquainted with Geo. N. Saunders during his resi- 
dence in this county, and from our knowledge of him 
and his general character, we would not believe him 
upon oath in a court of justice. We know nothing of 
either Clanton or Stewart ; but are unwilling to see the 
character of any human being destroyed by the testi- 
mony of so unworthy an individual as we know Geo. 
N. Saunders to be. We further certify, that so far as 
we know any thing of the circumstances related by 
Stewart in the ' Land Pirate,' they are true as set forth. 





" State of Tennessee, Tipton County. 

" I, Robert W. Sanford, clerk of the court of pleas 
and quarter sessions for said county, having been re- 
quested by sundry citizens of this county, do hereby 
cheerfully certify, that the gentlemen whose signatures 
appear to the foregoing certificate or statement are 
honourable and respectable citizens of Tipton county, 
whose veracity has not been questioned in any way 
within my knowledge. 

" Given under my hand at oiRce in Covington, tliis 
27th day of August, 1835. 

"R. W. SANFORD,'» 

208 Stewart's life 

" State of Tennessee, Tipton County. 

" I, Jacob Tipton, chairman of the court of pleas and 
quarter sessions, do certify, that R. W. Sanford is clerk 
of our said court, and that due faith and credit should 
De given to all his acts, both private and public. 

" Given under my hand and seal, this 27th day of 
August, 1835. 

[Sealed.] " J. TIPTON, J. P., Chairman^ 

" I, Jacob Tipton, chairman, as aforesaid, and clerk 
of the circuit court, do further certify, that I am ac- 
quainted with Geo. N. Saunders, formerly of this coun- 
ty, now of Mississippi ; and that he is not worth the 
notice of any man, much less the public ; and that he 
did, in a transaction with me, tear his name from a note 
of hand that he had given, and swore he never executed 
such a paper, which he afterward admitted and paid, 
rather than be endicted. 

" Given under my hand, this 27th Aug., 1835. 


" N. B. — For the truth of the above statement, I refer 
to Robt. G. Green, Esq., now residing at Lexington, 
Mississippi. J. T. 

" A tnie copy. 

" Test, R. Scurry, Robt. G. Boon, Philip B. Glenn." 

Next we see a certificate signed by a number of 
persons, speaking very disrespectfully of Mr. Stewart, 
and telling the public that Matthew Clanton had been 
honoured with the title of probate judge by the people 
of a new county in the Choctaw Purchase, and there- 
fore he must be a gentleman : but let us reflect how 
an Indian country is first settled. Is it not by Tom, 
Dick, and Harry ? Who is to be probate judge ? 
Tom, Dick, or Harry ; and sometimes Tom, Dick, or 


Harry is a gentleman, and sometimes a villain, as Mat 
thew Clanton has proved himself to be. But to the 
subject. Many of the names annexed to this certifi- 
cate are those of refugees and men of no character, 
and many others had never seen Mr. Stewart, and 
therefore could know nothing about him. All who 
signed the first part of the certificate are perjured, 
and will swear falsely whenever it is to their advan- 
tage to do so. We offer the following evidence to 
sustain the truth of our assertions. 

" State of Mississippi, Holmes County. 

" The undersigned, citizens of the county and state 
above written, do hereby certify, that we were at 
Pontetoc, in the Chickasaw Purchase, on the 25th of 
September, 1835, and saw William G. Crawley introdu- 
ced to Virgil A. Stewart at that place ; and we after- 
ward heard the said Crawley acknowledge that he had 
never seen Mr. Stewart before that time. We were 
present when Mr. Stewart called on the said Crawley 
for his authority for signing a libellous and slanderous 
publication against his character, and we heard the said 
Crawley deny ever subscribing his name to any docu- 
ment derogating from the character of Virgil A. Stew- 
art. He asserted that he had only signed a document 
giving Matthew Clanton a good character. He also 
stated that he had been acquainted with Matthew Clan- 
ton for six months at least. 

" Given under our hands and seals, this 23d day of 

October, 1835. 


L^eaiea.j ALLEN COLLINS." 

" State of Mississippi, Holmes County. 

" I do hereby certify, to all whom it may concern, 
that at the time Virgil A. Stewart left Yallabusha coun- 


ty, in this state, in May, 1834, he called at my store in 
the county of Yallabusha, and settled a small bill which 
I had against him. Said Virgil A. Stewart then and 
there informed me that he contemplated leaving that 
county on the day following. He also declared the 
same facts openly in the presence of all in the house. 
I do therefore feel it my duty to say to the world that 
he did not leave Yallabusha county clandestinely, but 
openly and aboveboard. 

" Given under my hand and seal, this 18th day of 
September, 1835. 

[Sealed.] ^'A. C. CHISHOLM." 

Declaration of the Sentiments of the Citizens of Carroll 
County, Mississippi. 

" At a public meeting of a part of the citizens of Car- 
roll county, Mississippi, on the 1st day of August, 1835, 
at Smith's Mill, on motion of Robert M. Spicer, Doc- 
tor John Wright was called to the chair, and Wilham 
Blanks appointed secretary. The object of the meet- 
ing being briefly explained by the chairman, the follow- 
ing resolutions were read and respectfully submitted : 

" Resolvedy That the undersigned, citizens of said 
county, view with indignation the sentiments advanced 
by Matthew Clanton, in his reply to the 'Western 
Land Pirate,' on pages 15 and 37, in reference to the 
manner in which he would esteem those who avowed 
themselves the friends of Virgil A. Stewart. 

" Resolved, That we look upon liis (Clanton's) vindi- 
cation of the charge alleged against him by Virgil A. 
Stewart as entirely inadequate in its present form to 
wipe away the stain on his character ; and, until fur- 
ther and stronger evidence is produced, we are not pre- 
pared to admit his innocence ; and take this method of 
announcing to him and the public that we are the friends 
of Virgil A. Stewart. 


" Resolved, That the secretary furnish the editors of 
the Grenada Bulletin and Vicksburg Register with 
copies of our proceedings for publication. 

""Resolved, That we adjourn, to meet again in Carroll- 
ton on Saturday next, the 8th August. 

" All which resolutions were unanimously adopted, 
and subscribed by the following persons, viz. : — Titus 
Howard, James Blanks, Silas O Neal, Joel Smith, Thos. 
H. Wright, John Ward, John W, Smith, Patrick Riley, 
David A. Ren, Edward G. Howard, Stark H. Roach, 
James T. House, R. R. WilUams, L. C. Maclin, Robert M. 
Spicer, Berry Green, John P. Rozier, Henry A. Roach, 
Edmond O'Neal, Clark Cobb, James Oldham, William 
S. Crowson, John Blanks, Byrd Matlock, Edwd. Moore, 
Richard S. Blanks, John Jackson, A. M'Millan, Charles 
P. Taylor, Peterson Pason, Bardin O'Neal, John B. 
Kerr, William Clark, David Cobb, Michael Magraw, 
WiUiam H. Beck, Branson Lattrem, John A. Howard, 
James Blanks, jr., S. S. Ward, R. S. Kerr, Wiley Ro- 
zier, S. B. Piers. 

" JOHN WRIGHT, Chairman, 

" William Blanks, Secretary.'''' 

" Carrollton, August Sth, 1835. 
" Met according to adjournment. By request, Will- 
iam G. Kendall read the above resolutions, when they 
were adopted and subscribed by the following persons, 
viz. : — William G. Kendall, Samuel Clay, John Clark, 
Matthew Little, Wilham M. Thompson, John G. Rus- 
sell, John R. Foy, John S. Crittenden, Reuben Henry, 
J. Cooper, J. Boyd, John E. Green, Jonah Ashley, Bur- 
rell Jones, G. W. Green, W. N. Miller, E. Elkin, Green- 
wood Leflore, Joseph Drake, John L. Irvin, Joseph Nel- 
son, J. G. Russell, jr,, Enoch Lattum, Derram Daverson, 
Richard Hester, Thomas Rhodes, Jas. Mathews, Thos. 


Mathews, Johii S. Robertson, James M'Manaw^y, Mor* 
gan Smith, James Forbiis, N. A. Barnett, Thomas M. 
Cohnan, D. Brown, John Brown, WilUam G. Herring, 
John Mathews, W. P. Patton, John Robinson, R. H. 
Hawthorn, Daniel Fulhnton." 

Next we notice a certificate signed by several per- 
sons, stating that they saw a letter written by Mr. 
Stewart to Clanton, in which he acknowledged his 
guilt and dishonour. This is so absurd in itself, we 
deem it unnecessary to offer any proof ; but for the 
special benefit of those certificate-makers, we will 
here give an extract from a letter written by Mr. 
Stewart to George N. Saunders, before he knew he 
was his enemy ; and, as it was published by Clanton 
and Saunders for some purpose, we know not what, it 
will hardly be disputed. We have another object in 
calling the attention of the reader to this extract. It 
will be seen from this document that Mr. Stewart had 
never revealed himself to Saunders as to the evidence 
he had against Clanton and his future movements. It 
is as follows : — 

" I am very anxious to hear from you. Please write 
to me as soon as possible. I have the pleasure to in- 
form you that I am sustained by the best citizens of the 
country, and that I have every assurance of the strong- 
est protection. It would be as much as a man's life is 
worth to interfere with mc in any way. The time is 
past that villains can do me any harm except in secret; 
plans and schemes will lie against me no longer. Mr. 
Saunders, recollect what I told you, about the last con- 
versation we had together : you know that I said Clan- 
ton's feelings would bleed some day ; but you did not 
understand what was then meant; but, sir, the four winds 
of heaven can now explain it. I have lived to see it. 


and can now die contented ; not that I glory in Clan- 
ton's reproach (for you know that I loved him once), 
but that the high prerogative of heaven rules over vice 
and corruption, and makes them cower and yield sub- 
mission to its wishes." 

What would any rational man infer from the above 
declaration ? Mr. Stewart was then speaking of Clan- 
ton as he felt, but never expected to see it in print. 
The reader and the public must draw their own con- 

There is a certain Mr. A. C. Bane, of Clan ton mem 
ory, who has been calumniating Mr. Stewart by means 
of abusive and slanderous letters, in which he has en- 
deavoured to produce the impression on the mind of 
the public that Mr. Stewart was an accomplice of 
Murrell's in villany. We now offer the following ev- 
idence to prove the baseness of his accusation. 

^''Jackson, Tennessee, 30th September, 1835. 
" Whereas divers insinuations have been put in cir- 
culation, involving the character of Virgil A. Stewart, 
the author of the ' Western Land Pirate,' one of 
which is intended to produce the impression that said 
Stewart was associated with John A. Murrell in his 
thefts and robberies ; I hereby certify, to all whom it 
may concern, that I was, at the time of Murrell's arrest 
for the crime of which he was convicted, and for which 
he was sentenced to our state prison, where he is now 
prisoner, on the evidence of said Stewart, as detailed 
in the '■ Western Land Pirate,' the sheriff of Madison 
county in Tennessee ; and that, previous to Murrell's 
conviction, after his arrest, he was a prisoner in my 
custody at least twenty days, fourteen of which he was 
kspt in my office, near my dwelling-house, in the coun- 


try, our jail being out of repair. The prisoner excited 
great curiosity, and many visited him during the time, 
as well strangers as citizens of our county ; and the sub- 
ject of the route with Stewart was one of the most com- 
mon topics of conversation, of which he always con- 
versed freely, and always admitted that he had never 
known Virgil A. Stewart ; and always, when it was in- 
volved, candidly confessed that fact, and very frequent- 
ly, when conversing freely on the subject, called and 
designated Stewart by the name of Hues ; and on his 
way to the penitentiary, after conviction, he frequently 
spoke of Stewart, calling him Hues. It was also proved 
in court, that Stewart was presented to Murrell imme- 
diately after his arrest by way of interrogatory, and that 
Murrell then called him Hues. I have no hesitancy in 
saying that it has been as strongly proved, that John A. 
Murrell and Virgil A. Stewart were as completely stran- 
gers personally, except what Stewart probably was im- 
pressed with from the infamous character of Murrell, 
from circulating reports, as any two citizens who had 
lived as near. John A. Murrell was in the close cus- 
tody of myself when present, and, when absent, of my 
son, Absalom Deberry, Mr. Richd. Turner^ Mr. Henry B. 
Stewart, Mr. L. W. Stewart, and Maj. Charles R. Has- 
kill, all or any of whom will cheerfully subscribe the 
foregoing, should it be necessary, as well as divers 
other respectable citizens who conversed with Murrell 
on the subject, and were as firmly convinced of the fact 
that MurreU and Stewart were strangers, as myself or 
the guard. There was found in the possession of John 
A. Murrell a form of affidavits for persons of the names 
of Dorks, Loyd, and Tucker. It was taken from him 
at Florence after he was retaken ; it appeared to be a 
letter of instruction how to dispose of Stewart for pas- 
sing counterfeit bills, but was not directed to any per- 


son. This paper he admitted to have been written by 
himself ; said it was done before he broke jail at Browns- 
ville, and afterward he carelessly kept it about his per- 
son, not expecting to have occasion to use it. 

" The foregoing statement is made for the use and 
benefit of the community, to make such disposition of 
it as may be thought proper, it being what I thought the 
pubhc, and particularly Virgil A. Stewart, is justly en- 
titled to. 


We would also refer the reader to the evidence of 
the guard who arrested Murrell, on page 122 of this 

It appears that Clanton has endeavoured to excite 
prejudice against Mr. Stewart by means of letter- wri- 
ting and false accusation. We will here convict him 
of a base falsehood, and an effort at slander, from his 
own productions. 

The following is a letter of Clanton's, in which he 
accuses Mr. Stewart of forgery : — 

" Yallabusha County, Mise., Sept. 25th, 1835. 
"Messrs Arthur, Fulton, & Co., ) 
" Natchez, Miss. 5 

" Gentlemen : — I have in my possession two letters, 
written by Virgil A. Stewart to George N. Saunders, 
of this county, directing him to forward his goods, &c. to 
your address, to be forwarded by you to some point on 
Red river, w^here he stated he designed settling. The ob- 
ject of this is to learn from you two facts in reference 
to him. First, at what point on Red river were you di- 
rected by him to forward his things ? and, secondly, 
at what time was he first in Natchez, and requested 
vou to take the agency of his things 1 I have a letter 

216 Stewart's £ife 

written on the 1st day of November, 1834, at St. Fran 
cisville, Louisiana, to George N. Saunders, requesting 
him to forward the things to you. It must therefore 
have been before that that he saw you. His fight near 
Patton's Ferry took place, according to his statement, 
some time in October, 1834. The certificate of Matthi- 
as Deberry, sheriff of Madison county, Teimessee, is 
dated the 29th day of September, 1834 [see ' Land Pi- 
rate,' page 80], at which time he was at Jackson, Ten- 

" I presume you have already learned that no such 
fight ever took place, and that his certificates are 
forgeries. I hope, gentlemen, you will answer this in 
stantly, and obhge 

" Your obedient servant, 


" P. S. — Direct your answer to Pittsburg, Yallabusha 
county, Mississippi." 

We will now give Clanton's inquiries to the Geor 
gians respecting Mr. Stewart, and the genuineness of 
his certificates of character from that state, with their 
reply to the same. 

[From the Natchez Daily Courier.] 
Jefferson, Jackson Co., Ga., Sept. 10th, 1835. 
Mr. Wm. p. Mellen : — 

Dear Sir, — You will understand, by reading the en- 
closed, the object we have in view by sending it to you 
for publication. It would be an act of justice to Mr. 
Stewart, and a satisfaction to the community in which 
he resides, to know that he was a man in good standing 
in this country. 

Yours truly, S. RIPLEY. 


Jefferson., Jac/cson Co., Ga., Sept. 9lh, 1835. 
Mr. Editor — The following letter was received at 
this place by mail a day or two since. 

** Yallabusha County, Miss., August 11, 1835. 
•* Mr. Syltanu.s Ripley, Jackson Co., Ga. 

" In a pamphlet recently published by Virgil A. Stewart, enti- 
tled ' The Western Land Pirate,' is the following certificate : 
" ' State of Georgia, Jackson Comity. 

" ' The undersigned, citizens of said state and county, do here- 
by certify, that we have been acquainted with Virgil A. Stewart, 
formerly of this county, now of Madison county, State of Tennes- 
see, for a number of years (and some of us from his infancy), and 
that he has always supported a respectable and honourable char- 
acter ; — and we take pleasure in recommendmg him to the confi- 
dence of the citizens of whatever county he may visit, assuring 
them that we entertain no fears of his ever committing any act 
derogatory to his character as an American citizen, or in the 
least calculated to forfeit the confidence to which he is herein 

" ' Given under our hands, this 15th February, 1833. 

*' ' W. E. Jones, LL. D., Geo. R. Grant, M. D., U. Witt, 
LL. D., John Appleby, James D. Smith, E. C. Shackelford, 
Wm. Cowan, Esq., L. A. R. Lowry, Jno. M'Elhanon, Wm. N. 
Wood, Jno. Lindsay, W. H. Jones, Jackson Bell, A. C. Bacon, 
Wm. Niblock, Charles Witt, John Park, Maj., Samuel Barnet, 
Col, Jno. Shackelford, James Orr, G. Mitchell, LL. D., David 
Witt, Esq., H. Hemphill, George F. Adams, L. W. Shackelford, 
A. J. Brown, Esq., Green R. Duke, W. C. Davis, Jno. Car- 
michael, Charles Bacon, Samuel Watson, Wm. Morgan, J. Cun- 
ningham, M. D., Lewis Chandler, Wm. D. Martin, Esq., G. M. 
Lester, Wm. Park, J. W. Glen, Esq., James Nabus, Geo. 
Shaw, Maj.' 

" ' Georgia, Jackson County. 
" * I, Sylvanus Ripley, clerk of the superior and inferior courts 
for the county aforesaid, do hereby certify, that I am acquainted 
with Mr. Stewart, the person named in the above recommenda- 
tion, and believe him to be of good moral character ; — and also 
with the persons whose names are signed to the same — as pro- 
fessionally connected — who are entitled to the same.' 

" ' Given under my hand and seal of ofhce, the 27th day of 
February, 1835. 

K 19 


' < Georgia, Jackson County. 
*' ' I, Edward Anderson, one of the judges and chairmen of the 
inferior court for the county aforesaid, do hereby certify, that 
Sylvanus Ripley, who gave the above certificate, is the clerk 
of said courts ; — and I further certify, that I am well acquamted 
with Virgil A. Stewart, and heartily accord with the sentiments 
expressed by the above respectable citizens of this county. 

'"EDWARD ADAMS, Judge and Chairman:'' 

♦' The object of this communication is to inquire what you 
know of this certificate 1 Was such a one ever given to Virgil 
A. Stewart 1 What was his standing among you \ I make 
these inquiries because his pamphlet has created considerable ex- 
citement among the people of this country, and he is believed by 
many of us to be an impostor and villain. Please let me hear 
from you without delay. Direct your letter to Pittsburg, Yalla- 
busha county, Mississippi. 

" Yours very respectfullv, 


" From the foregoing we regret to learn that doubts 
are entertained by some of your citizens in regard to the 
genuineness of the certificate it contains — and also of 
the integrity of the individual (Mr. Stewart) to whom it 
was given. As an act of justice to Mr. Stewart, and in 
order that his character may be duly estimated by the 
citizens among whom he now resides, we repeat to you, 
and through you to tlie public (if you will do us the 
favour to give publicity to our statements), that we have 
known Virgil A. Stewart intimately for a long lime- 
he having been principally brought up among us — and 
that his character for honesty, probity, and integiity, so 
long as we knew him, would not suffer by a compari- 
son with that of any other individual with whom we are 
or have been acquainted. And we whose names ap- 
pear to the foregoing certificate further certify, that 
said certificate was made and assigned by us — and that 
it contains but a feeble expression of the estim.ation 
in which we hold the character of the individual to 
whom it was given : and finally, we would state, that 


we-have no doubt the above-stated sentiments in regard 
to Mr. Stewart would, upon application, receive the uni- 
ted concurrence of all his acquaintances in this part of 
the country. 

" Jno. H. P^ndergrass, W. H. Jones, George Shaw, 
Samuel Watson, W. B. Winters, Charles Bacon, Ed- 
ward Adams, A. J. Brown, Benj. S. Adams, H. Webb, 
Middleton Witt, William Cowan, Jackson Bell, Sylva- 
nus Ripley, John Appleby." 

It appears from the above documents that Clanton 
made his inquiry to the Georgians on the 11th of Au- 
gust, and, after receiving the above reply, we find him 
writing to Arthur, Fulton, <fc Co., on the 25th of Sep- 
tember, charging Mr. Stewart with forgery. What 
ciependance is to be put in the assertions of such an 
unblushing villain? Would he not swear away the life 
of Mr. Stewart? Do we not see his latter accusation 
against Mr. S. made in the very teeth of light and 
knowledge ? We leave the reader and the world to 
determine his merits, and shall only add, that he and 
his associates in crime may revel in all the infamy of 
their profession, and heap abuse on abuse, without 
giving offence or attracting notice in future. 


After the exposition and discomfiture of the clan 
and their designs, a fragment of its more daring mem- 
bers conspired to carry out the plans of their chief- 
tain on the 4th of July, instead of the 25th of Decem- 
ber, and thus anticipated the vigilance of the commu- 
nity ; but, being deprived of the management of theii 
arch demon, who had successfully directed the clan and 
conspiracy over thirteen states, for eight years, with- 
out miscarriage, their plans were unsuccessfully man- 
aged, which exposed them to the fury of an injured 
and incensed community, as will be seen from the fol- 
lowing history of Madison county, Mississippi. 

Proceedings of the citizens of Madison county^ in the 
State of Mississippi, at Livingston, in July, 1835, 
in relation to the Trial and Punishment of several in- 
dividuals, implicated in a contemplated Insurrection 
of the Slaves in that state, as reported by the Commit- 
tee of Safety. 


The Committee of Livingston have caused to be laid 
before their fellow-citizens and the public the grounds 
upon which an imperious necessity, as they conceived, 
and still firmly beheve, compelled them to act, and cause 
the lives of a number of their fellow-beings to be taken. 
No one need be informed that the principle of self- 


defence is the first law of nature, derived from our Cre- 
ator as essential to the preservation of life. 

When, too, it is recollected, that all we hold most 
dear in this world was involved in the common danger, 
and calling for every manly energy in its defence, the 
odds will be found very great between the cold rea- 
soning of statesmen and lawyers, and the vituperations 
of fanatics at a distance. But imminent and pressing 
as was the danger, the organization of a committee, 
chosen by the unanimous consent of their fellow-citi- 
zens, assembled on the occasion, and invested by them 
(however unclothed with the forms of law) with the 
fearful power of life and death, was the result. This 
may, nevertheless, be considered salutary, not only as 
providing against and checking the impending danger, 
but as wresting and restraining those wild sallies of 
passion, and not unfrequently of private revenge, which 
mark the devastating career of an excited and enraged 
people. The awful responsibility which thus, by the 
unsolicited suffrages of their fellow-citizens, devolved 
upon the committee, called for the most patient exer- 
cise and calm deliberation of their judgments, not only 
to break the force of the coming storm, but to shield 
the innocent from being confounded with tlie guilty — 
no very easy task in times of great public excitement, 
and when the people are driven, from the urgency of 
the occasion, to resort to natural law for safety. If 
the committee have in any instance erred, in consigning 
the innocent to death, of which they remain yet to be 
convinced, it has not been produced by precipitation on 
their part — for due deliberation and an earnest desire 
to find out the truth, rather than the guilt of the accused, 
have been attested by the length of time devoted to tlie 
examination of each case. To those acquainted with 
the circumstances and condition of the surrounding 
country and population at the time, an apology for 
the strong measures adopted by the citizens, and by the 
committee, under the authority confided to them, would 
be unnecessary ; it may not be to those at a distance. 

The question may arise among the latter, why was 
not the civil authority appealed to ? and which, the com- 
mittee are free to declare, is always greatly to be pre- 
ferred, when its powers are competent to restrain the 
evil. The civil authority was inadequate to this end ia 


Madison county ; for there is no jail in that county suf- 
ficient to contain more than six or eight prisoners, and 
even those very insecurely ; and, whenever prisoners 
would have been despatched to any other county, a 
guard would have been required, which would have' left 
many families defenceless ; and it was unknown at what 
moment this protection might be required ; besides, im- 
mediate example, and its consequent terror, without 
hope from the law's delay or evasion, seemed, as in 
truth it was, indispensable to safety. 

Already had many of the slaves marked out the 
victims of their lust or revenge ; and no time to con- 
vince them of the fatal attempts of their rash enter- 
prise was to be lost. If they had been permitted to 
commence it, though a failure must have eventually 
taken place, horrid would their momentary triumph 
have been. That the plot was headed by a daring band 
of villanous white men, there now remains no doubt, 
and the desperate evil required a prompt and efficient 
remedy, to the extent of the one resorted to by the cit- 
izens of Madison county, and carried into effect by the 


About the middle of the month of June, 1835, a ru- 
mour was afloat through Madison county that an insur- 
rection of the slaves was meditated; no authentic in- 
formation, however, having been t)btained how or where 
the report originated, most of the citizens were dispo- 
sed to treat it as unfounded, and consequently took no 
steps to ascertain its truth or falsehood, until within a 
few days previous to the fourth of July. 

After ascertaining that the report had emanated from 
a lady residing at Beatie's Bluff, in this county, about 
nine miles from Livingston, a number of gentlemen 
waited upon her, for the purpose of learning upon what 
grounds or suspicions she had given publicity to it. 
The lady, in compliance with their request, informed 
them that she was induced to believe an insurrection 
of the negroes was in contemplation, from the follow- 
ing circumstances, and parts of conversation she had 
overheard among her house-girls. 


She remarked, her suspicions were first awakened 
by noticing in her house-servants a disposition to be 
insolent and disobedient ; occasionally they would use 
insulting and contemptuous language in her hearing 
respecting her, and their general deportment towards 
her was very unusual, and very different from such as 
she had been accustomed to receive from them before ; 
aftd that she was satisfied something mysterious was 
going on, from seeing her girls often in secret conver- 
sation when they ought to have been engaged at their 
business. She forthwith determined to scrutinize their 
conduct more closely, and, if possible, to ascertain the 
subject of their conversation ; and in a few days she 
heard the girls in conversation, and, among other simi- 
lar remarks, she heard one of them say, " she wished 
to God it was all over and done with ; that she was tired 
of waiting on the tvhite folks, and wanted to be her own 
mistress the balance of her days, and clean up her own 
house." Soon after, she again heard the same girl 
engaged in secret conversation with a negro man be- 
longing to a neighbour. From the low tone in which 
the conversation was carried on. she was unable to hear 
it all, but gleaned the following remarks : The girl re- 
marked, " Is it not a pity to kill such * * * * i" The 
man replied " that it was, but it must be done, and that 
it would be doing a great favour, as it would go to 
heaven, and escape the troubles cf this world." 

The lady communicated to her son in the evening 
what she had heard that morning, who told the girl she 
had been overheard in conversation that morning, and 
that she 77iust tell it. She, thinking all of it was over- 
heard, without hesitation or punishment, confessed what 
it was. She related the same in substance, but more 
fully ; and the above remark of the girl in full was, " Is 
it not a pity to kill such a pretty little creature as this V 
having reference to a child she then held in her arms. 
And, in addition to the above, she said that the negro man 
had informed her that there was to be a rising of the 
black people soon, and tliat they intended killing all 
the whites. And, in conclusion, the lady remarked, that 
from these hints she had given publicity to the report. 

To make assurance doubly sure, and to try and see 
if something more specific could not be obtained, the 
girls were examined by the gentlemen, and their state- 


ments corresponded in every particular with the above 
communication of the lady. The report of the gentle- 
men of course was, that tliey had good reason to believe 
that an insurrection of tiie negroes was contemplated 
by them, and warned their feliow-citizens to be on their 
guard, and requested them to organize patrols, a matter 
which had been entirely neglected heretofore, and to 
appoint committees of vigilance throughout the county. 

This report awakened the people in a measure from 
their lethargy. Meetings were held in different parts 
of the county for the purpose of taking into considera- 
tion the state of affairs. 

On the 27th of June, at a large and respectable meet- 
ing of the citizens, held at Livingston, Colonel H. D. 
Runnels in the chair, resolutions were adopted, ap- 
pointing patrols and committees of investigation, who 
were requested to report the result of their inquiries 
and discoveries at an adjourned meeting, to be held at 
Livingston on the 30th June. 

On the 30th June, pursuant to adjournment, the citi- 
zens again met at Livingston ; Dr. M. D. Mitchell was 
called to the chair, when Mr. William P. Johnson, a 
planter near Livingston, made a report of his investiga- 
tion on his own plantation. He informed the meeting 
that he had instructed his driver, a negro man, in whom 
he had confidence, to examine all the negroes on his 
place, and see if they knew any thing of the conspiracy. 
He said, in compliance with his request, the driver had 
examined all the negroes on his place, and had learned 
from an old negro, who was in the habit of hauling 
water from Livingston, that there was to be (using his 
own language) "a rising of the blacks soon, but did 
not know when ; that he had learned it from a negro 
man belonging to Ruel Blake, who lived in Livingston." 
The driver, he said, asked him for powder and shot, 
pretending to him he wanted it to shoot the white 
people when the rising should take place : he, the old 
negro man, told him he had none, but that he would 
get him some ; that Blake's boy, Peter, told him he in- 
tended to break open the store of Wm. M. Ryce, and 
steal some kegs of powder: afterward ascertained 
that Blake's boy had assisted in unloading wagons at 
the store, and that he had asked what was in the kegs 
when he was carrying them in. 
K 3 


Mr. Joljnson had the old negro brought to town and 
put into the hands of the committee of investigation for 
Livingston, whom he instructed to use him as tliey might 
deem proper. Tlie neg^ro man M'as asked to confess 
what he had told the driver of Mr. Johnson the evening 
previous. He denied positively ever having any conver- 
sation with the driver; and the committee, finding they 
could get nothing out of him by persuasion, ordered 
him to be whipped until he would tell what the conver- 
sation was, they not being informed of its nature. 

After receiving a most severe chastisement, he came 
out and confessed all he knew respecting the contem- 
plated insurrection, and conlirmed in every particular 
the statement of the driver, but could not tell what par- 
ticular day was fixed upon for the insurrection. He 
said Blake's Peter told him he would let him know in 
a few days. Johnson's negro implicated no white 
men, but said a negro man belonging to Capt. Thomas 
Hudnold was engaged in the conspiracy.* 

Blake's boy was forthwith taken into custody and 
put under examination, but refused to confess any thing 

* This negro was implicated by Johnson's negro man. The citi- 
zens attempted to take him, but he, suspecting something was not 
right, moved off when the gentlemen entered the field where he 
was at work. He was run by track-dogs some two hours without 
being taken, making his escape by taking to water. He remained in 
the woods until the e.x;citement had partially subsided. By the 
laudable exertions of his master, he was decoyed mto Livingston, 
where he was taken. He was reputed a desperate and daruig vil- 
lain, and had been a terror to the neighbourhood for some years. 
There was evidence sufficient obtained, during the examination of 
the Gther criminals, against him. to satisfy the committee he was 
guilty, and it was agreed upon, when he should be taken, to hang 
him. However, nothmg was said about the determination of the 
committee. In the meantime the committee of safety had adjourned 
when he was taken. The citizc'ns seemed determined he should be 
hanged, and consequently organized a committee, composed of some 
of the members of the first committee and othcj freeholders, who 
condemned him to be hanged ; and, in pursuance of the sentence, 
he was executed in Livingston. Under the gallows he acknowl- 
edged h\s guilt, and said that 11. Hlake told him of the insurrection 
in the first of the spring, when Blake and he were in a swamp get- 
ting out gin-timber. He said it alarmed him when Blake told him 
of it, which Blake noticed, and told him to say nothing about it, 
and he would give him ifo, which he did; at last he consented to 
join in the conspiracy ; Blake told him he must kill his master ^rai 
which he promised to do. Blake told him he was to be one of the 
c;iptains of the negroes, &c. 



respecting the conspiracy — having been informed pre- 
vious lo his examination, that a conspiracy of the 
negroes to rebel against their masters was on foot, 
and that they wislied to know if he had any knowl- 
edge of it. He was severely whipped by order of the 
committee, but refused to confess any thing — alle- 
ging, all the time, that if they wanted to know what 
his master had told him, they might whip on until 
they killed him ; that he had promised him that he 
never would divulge it. After obtaining all they could 
from the two old negroes, the committee had them re- 
manded into custody for further examination. 

These developments being circulated through the 
country, seemed to convince the people that a con- 
spiracy w^as on foot, which had the effect of creating 
considerable alarm, from not knowing when it would 
be attempted. 

It was the general impression at this time that it 
would be attempted on the night of the 4th of July, 
being a day always given to them as a holyday, when 
they are permitted to assemble together from the dif- 
ferent plantations, and enjoy themselves in uninter- 
rupted feasting and festivity. 

The boy w^ho was overheard in conversation at Bea- 
tie's Bluff having run off, and the negro man of Mr. 
Johnson having implicated no white men as accom- 
plices, the general impression was, that the conspir- 
acy was confined to the negroes of a few plantations, 
and principally within the knowledge of negro preach- 
ers (generally considered to be- the greatest scoundrels 
among negroes), who were supposed to be the origina- 
tors of it, as has been the case in all negro conspira- 
cies heretofore detected in theslave-holding states. Of 
course there could be but little system or concert in 
their plans. 

It was agreed upon, by common consent of the citi- 
zens assembled in the various meetings, that when the 
ringleaders in the conspiracy should be detected, to 
make examples of them immediately by hanging, 
which would strike ten*or among the rest, and by that 
means cnish all hopes of their freedom. 

The citizens in the neighbourhood of Beatie's Bluff 
were not idle. During the investigations at Living- 
ston, to which they were mainly indebted for the detec- 


tion of the conspirators, and tlie discovery of their 
sanguinary and diabolical designs, they had, by their 
indefatigable exertions, succeeded in detecting the ne- 
gro ringleaders, from whom they obtained confessions 
of their plans, and of some of their white accomplices. 

After two days of patient and scrutinizing examina 
tion of the negroes implicated at Beatie's Bluff, their 
guilt was fully established, not only by their own con- 
fessions, but by other facts and circumstances, which 
could not leave a doubt on the mind. Each negro was 
examined separate and apart from the rest, neither 
knowing that another was suspected or in custody ; 
each acknowledging his own guilt, and implicating all 
the others ; every one implicating the same ivhite men, 
and the whole of their statements coinciding precisely 
with each other. 

After ascertaining so fully the guilt of these negroes, 
and the time for the consummation of the design be- 
ing at hand, the situation of the country being such as 
to render consummation so easy, the whole community, 
and the owners of the negroes in particular, demanded 
the immediate execution of the guilty, and they were 
accordingly hung on the 2d of July. In order that the 
facts relative to the proceedings at Beatie's Bluff may 
be fully understood, and inasmuch as a full knowledge 
of them will go to explain and justify the course pur- 
sued by the committee at Livingston, which was sub- 
sequently organized, it is deemed necessary here to 
insert at large a statement procured from a gentleman 
near Beatie's Bluff, who was cognizant of the whole 

Mr. Mdbrifs Letter. 

Mr. Shackelford : — 

Dear Sir, — I now attempt to comply with your re- 
quest, in giving you what information came to my 
knowledge during the late investigations had before 
the citizens in the vicinity of Beatie's Bluff, in regard 
to the late contemplated insurrection in Madison 
county. I had been absent from the county until the 
Sunday before the 4th of July; when I arrived at 
home, I learned that there was some apprehension that 


the slaves of the vicinity intended an insurrection — ' 
that Madam Latham had overheard a conversation be- 
tween one or two of her house-girls and one of Mr. 
Landfair's men, in which she distinctly understood the 
man to say that the negroes were going to rise and kill 
all the whites ; and, when being asked by one of the 
girls what they would do with such a child as she then 
held in her arms (having one of her mistress's grand- 
children in her arms), he replied, that they intended to 
put them to death, as it would be doing thern a ser- 
vice, ^3 they would go to heaven, and be rid of much 
trouble in this world, &c. On the first aay of July we 
had a small meeting at the bluff, wiien I w as requested 
to examine the two girls. They both said, in unqualified 
terms, that the boy above alluded to had informed them 
that the negroes intended rising and slaying all the 
whites. Mr. James Lee, who resides near the bluff, 
a very close observer of men, both white and blacks- 
had his suspicions aroused from w^hat he had seen and 
heard, and was consequently on the alert both day and 
night. He had overheard conversations which coil- 
firmed him in his suspicions, and this was of great ser- 
vice to the committee in the investigations ; among 
the slaves he had heard two of Capt. Sansberry's boys, 
Joe, and Weaver (a preacher). There Avas a motion 
made that a committee of three be appointed to arrest 
Joe and examine him ; whereupon Capt. Beatie, James 
M. Smith, and myself were appointed, and immediately 
proceeded to the plantation of Capt. Sansberry, who 
promptly delivered up Joe for examination. This man 
Joe is a blacksmith, and works for the public. I had 
sent one of my men to the shop twdce some short time 
before this. This man of mine,^Sam, I consider a great 
scoundrel; and I felt confident that, if Joe knew any 
thing of the intended insurrection, Sam was also in the 
scrape. This I communicated to Capt. Beatie and Mr. 
James M. Smith, before we commenced the examination 
of Joe. The first question we put to Joe was this : Do 
you know who we are ] Joe replied that he knew 
Capt. Beatie and Mr. Smith, but thvit he did not know 
me. I immediately insisted that he did know me, and 
continued to look him full in the face for some min- 
utes, until he began to tremble. When I saw this, I 
asked him if he knew Sam, and when he saw him last ? 


Joe replied that he knew Sam, and had seen him twice 
not long since at his shop. I then told him that our 
business with him was to know the conversation that 
passed between himself and Sam at their last inter- 
view. He declared that nothing had passed between 
himself and Sam but what Avas usual when fellow-ser- 
vants meet. We then called for a rope, and tied his 
hands, and told him that we were in possession of 
some of their co^nversation, and that he should tell the 
whole of it; after some time he agreed that, if we 
would not punish him, he would tell all that he could 
recollect. He said he knew v/hat we wanted, and 
would tell the whole, but that he himself had notliing 
to do with the business. He said that Sam had told 
him that the negroes were going to rise and kiU all 
the whites on the 4th, and that they had a number of 
white men at their head : some of them he knew by- 
name, others he only knew when he saw them. He 
mentioned the following white men as actively enga- 
ged in the business : Ruel Blake, Drs. Cotton and Saun- 
ders, and many more, but could not call their names ; 
and that he had seen several others. He also gave the 
names of several slaves as ringleaders in the business, 
who were understood to be captains under those white 
men. He said that one belonging to his master, by 
the name of Weaver, and one belonging to Mr. Riley, 
by the name of Russell (a preacher also), and my old 
carpenter, Sam, were of the list of captains. Joe stated 
that the insurrection was to commence the 4tliof July ; 
that the slaves of each plantation were to commence 
with axes, hoes, &c., and to massacre all the whites at 
home, and were then to make their way to Beatie's 
Bluff, where they were to break into the storehouses, 
and get all the arms and ammunition that were in that 
place, and then proceed to Livingston, Avhere they 
Avould obtain re-enforcements from the different planta- 
tions ; and from thence they were to go to Vernon and 
sack that place, recruiting as they went ; and from 
there they were to proceed to Clinton ; and by the 
time they took the last-n^entioned place, they calcu- 
lated they would be strong enough to bear down any 
and every opposition that coukf be brought against 
them from there to Natchez; and that, after killing all 
the citizens of that place, and plundering the banks,. 


&c., they were to retire to a place called the DeviVs 
Punch Bowl — here they were to make a stand, and that 
no force that could be brought could injure them, &c. 
While Joe was going of with his confession, Capt. 
Sansberry, and his overseer, Mr. Ellis, brought up old 
Weaver : he would not confess any thing ; said that 
Joe had told lies of him, and that he did not know 
any thing about the matter at all. He was put under 
the lash, Mr. Lee being present, who had overheard 
his conversation with Mr. Riley's boy Russell, in 
which he heard them pledge themselves to each other 
that they would never confess any thing, either of 
themselves or any others ; and although he frequently 
repeated these words to W^eaver, yet he would not 
confess. Joe v/as set at liberty, and W^eaver remained 
in confinement. We then went to Mr. Riley's and 
took up Russell : all was mystery with him ; he knew 
nothing, nor could he conceive what we were punish- 
ing him for ; we now concluded that we would hand 
him over for safe keeping to Mr. Ellis, who took charge 
of him, and just as he arrived at home with him Mr. 
Lee rode up, and told Russell that he had overheard 
Weaver and himself in conversation, at a certain place 
and time, and that he should tell him what had pass- 
ed between them. Mr. Lee at this time struck him 
twice ; Russell asked him to wait, and he would tell 
him all about the business ; he then went on to make 
a full statement of all that he knew. His statement 
was, in all particulars, precisely like the one made 
by Joe. Next day we again met at the bluff; a 
number of slaves were brought in; among the rest, 
one belonging to Mr. Saunders, by the name of Jim, a 
very sensible, fine-looking fellow. I was appointed 
to examine him ; he would not, for some time, make 
any confession ; but at length agreed that, if I would 
not punish him any more, he would make a full con- 
fession, and proceeded so to do. His statement was 
very much like that of Joe's ; implicating, however, 
more white men by name than Joe had done, and 
some more slaves. There was a man present on the 
ground by the name of Dunavan„whom he pointed out 
as deeply imphcated; he also pointed out a man by 
the name of Moss, and his sons, as being very friendly 
to tlie slaves ; said that to him they could sell all they 


could lay their hands on; that he always furnished 
them with whiskey; and, also, that these bad white 
men, while in the neighbourhood, always made Moss's 
house their home ; but that he did not know whether 
he, Moss, intended to take any part with them in the 
intended insurrection. Jim further stated, that it was 
their intention to slay all the whites, except some of 
the most beautiful women, whom they intended to keep 
as wives ; said that these white men had told them 
that they might do so, and that he had already picked 
out one for himself; and that he and his wife had al- 
ready had a quarrel in consequence of his having told 
her his intention. Jim gave the names of Blake, Cot- 
ton, Saunders, and Dunavan, as deeply engaged in the 

Bachus, a boy belonging to Mr. Legget, confirmed 
all that Jim had stated, and added one more white 
man's name to Jim's list. The name given by Bachus 
I understood to be Slirerf a pedler ; and that Sliver was 
making up money to buy arms. &c. ; and that he, Ba- 
chus, had given him six dollars for that purpose, and 
had not seen him from that time. This man we 
could never get hold of. After getting through with 
these examinations, Jim, Bachus, Weaver, Russell, and 
Sam, were all put to death by hanging. And being 
sent for to-day to take my seat on the committee or- 
ganized and Jippointed at Livingston, I do not know 
any thing more that transpired at Beatie's Bluft', except 
this, — one of Mr. Landfair's boys who was implicated 
made his escape, and when he was brought Jtmk. to 
the bluff the people met and hung him. I was present 
at this hanging. 

The above is all that I now recollect that took place 
at the bluff while I was present. 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 


September ?0, 1835. 

The news of the execution of the negroes at Beatie*s 
Bluff, and of their horrid and sanguinary intentions, as 
developed by their confessions in the preceding report, 
being quickly circulated through the county, had the 
effect of arousing the citizens from their inaction, and 
of dispelling the illusion, and warning them of the 


awful reality of their precarious sitiiation. They were 
now apprized, for the first time, when the conspirators 
would attempt to consummate their unholy work. 
They ascertained that they were not to contend alone 
with a few daring and desperate negroes, and such of 
their deluded race as they might enhst in their daring 
and bloody enterprise, but that these negroes were in- 
stigated and encouraged by some of the most wicked 
and abandoned white men in the country ; highway rob- 
bers, murderers, and abolitionists, who were to supply 
them with arms and ammunition, and lead them on to the 
work of massacre and carnage, conflagration and blood. 

In order that the proceedings of the people of Madi- 
son county at this critical and trying emergency may 
be the better understood and justified, the situation of 
the county should be here fully explained. 

The county is settled principally in large plantations, 
and on many of them there is no white man but an 
overseer, most of the large planters being absent at 
the north ; and on a number only the families of the 
absent — being at least 50 negroes to one white man in 
the neighbourhood of Livingston and Beatie's Bluff, 
where the scene of desolation was to commence^ 
Having no arms for their defence but their fowling- 
pieces ; no organized militia in the county ; what would 
the ordinary array of arms avail, opposed to the steal- 
thy marauder of the night — the demon of the fire- 
brand and the dagger — and no place of security as a 
retreat for their families ? The only prospect before 
them was certain destruction, should they fail to arrest 
the progress of the impending danger. Intense excite- 
ment was pervading the whole community at this time, 
and was increasing every hour. 

The following white men. Cotton and Saunders, 
were arrested and in custody ; and this, too, before the 
disclosures of the negroes at Beatie's Bluff were known ; 
the arrest being made upon circumstances of suspi- 
cion and facts, indicating in a very strong degree their 
agency and participation in the plans then hastening to 
their full development and consummation. And when 
the disclosm-es made at Beatie's Bluff, as above unfold- 
ed, were fully made known at Livingston, there seemed 
to be left no alternative but to adopt the most efficient 
and decisive measures. 



The question became general — what should ihey do 
with the persons implicated ? Should they hand them 
over to the civil authority 1 This would seem, un- 
der ordinary circumstances, to be the proper course. 
But, should that be the course, it was well known that 
much of the testimony which established their guilt 
beyond all doubt, would, under the forms of the law, 
be excluded; and, if admissible, that the witnesses 
were then no more. If, from our peculiar situation, 
the laws were incompetent to reach their case — should 
such acts go unpunished? Besides, from what had 
been seen and witnessed the day before, it was univer- 
sally believed, and, doubtless, such would have been 
the fact, that these persons would be forcibly taken, 
even from the custody of the law, and made to suffer 
the penalty due to their crimes. Should they even be 
committed for trial, there was much reason to appre- 
hend that they would be rescued by their confederates 
in guilt — if not by perjury, at least by breaking jail. 
They had an example of the dreadful excitement on 
the evening of the 2d July, at Livingston. Immediate- 
ly after the execution of the negroes at Beatie's Bluff 
was made known at Livingston, it c»reated a most 
alarming excitement. The two old negro men who 
were in custody of the committee of examination at 
Livingston were demanded by the citizens ; and, pre- 
vious to a vote of condemnation, and a full examina- 
tion, they were forcibly taken by an infuriated people 
from the custody of those who intended to award 
them a fair trial, and immediately hung. 

The time was near at hand when the intentions of 
the conspirators would inevitably be carried into effect, 
if some prompt and efficient means sliould not be adopt- 
ed by the citizens to strike terror among their accom- 
plices, and to bring the guilty to a summary and exem- 
plary punishment. It was not believed that the execu- 
tion of a few negroes, unknown and obscure, would 
have the effect of frightening their white associates 
from an attempt to perpetrate their horrid designs ; 
which association was fully established by the confes- 
sions of the accused and other circumstances. 

There Avas no time to be lost ; and, for the purpose of 
effecting their object, to arrest the progress of the im- 
pending danger, to extend to the parties implicated 


something like a trials if not formal, at least suhstantial, 
and to save them from the inevitable fate of a speedy 
and condign punishment, the citizens circulated a call 
for a general assemblage of the community on the day 
foUow^ing, at Livingston, which call was obeyed ; and, 
at an early hour the next day, July 3d, there collected 
a vast concourse of people from the adjoining neigh- 

This meeting, thus speedily assembled (for it was 
full by 9 A. M.), was composed of at least one hun- 
dred and sixty respectable citizens of Madison and 
Hinds counties, whose names are appended to the res- 
olutions, who, then and there, acting under the influ- 
ence of the law of self-preservation, which is para- 
mount to all law, chose from among the assemblage 
thirteen of their fellow-citizens, who were immediately 
organized, and styled a " Committee of Safety;"— to 
whom they determined to commit what is emphatically 
and properly called the supreme law, the safety of the peo- 
ple, or salus populi est suprema lex, and then pledged 
themselves to carry into eff'ect any order which the 
committee might make ; which committee were in- 
vested by the citizens with the authority of punishing 
all persons found guilty by them of aiding and exciting 
the negroes to insurrection, as they might deem neces- 
sary for the safety of the community ; all of which 
will more fully appear^ by the subjoined resolutions, 
adopted at the meeting which organized the committee. 

Dr. M. D. Mitchell being called to the chair, on mo- 
tion of Dr. Joseph J. Pugh, the following resolutions 
were unanimously adopted : — 

Resolved, That a standing committee be by this meet- 
ing organized ; that the said standing committee shall 
consist of thirteen freeholders; that the committee 
shall have a regular secretary and chairman ; that they 
do meet every day at 9 o'clock, A. M., and sit until 4 
o'clock, P. M. ; that the committee shall have power to 
appoint the captain of any patrol company ; to bring be- 
fore them any person or persons, either white or black, 
and try in a summary manner any person brought be- 
fore them, with the power to hang or whip, being al- 
ways governed by the laws of the land so far only as they 
shall be applicable to the case in question, otherwise to 


act as in their discretion shall seem best for the benefit 
of the country, and for the protection of its citizens. 

Resolved, That Hardin D. Runnels, Thomas Hud- 
nold, sen., Israel Spencer, Sack P. Gee, M. D. Mitchell, 
Nelson L. Taylor, Robert Hodge, sen., John Simmons, 
James Grafton, Charles Smith, D. W. Haley, Jesse Ma- 
bry, and WiUiam Wade, be chosen and appointed by 
this meeting as a committee of safety. 

Resolved, That the said committee have power to ap- 
point any person to fill any vacancy that may occur in 
their body by death, resignation, or otherwise ; and fur- 
ther, the said committee shall have power to call a 
meeting of all the citizens of this county, when in 
their discretion they may deem it necessary ; and that 
the said committee be clothed with all the power here- 
tofore assumed by this meeting. 

Resolved, That nine members of said committee con- 
stitute a quorum, with power to discharge all the duties 
assigned said committee. 

Resolved, That said committee have power to ap- 
point their own chairman and secretary ; that it be the 
duty of the secretary of said committee to keep a rec- 
ord of all the proceedings of said committee, and also 
to procure from tlue secretary of this meeting all its 
proceedings, and to preserve the same. 

Resolved, That we whose names are hereto affixed, 
do hereby pledge ourselves to sustain said committee 
against all personal and fecuniarxj liability which may 
result from the discharge of the duties hereby assigned 
them. And further, that we will in like manner sustain 
all persons in the discharge of the duties which may be 
from time to time assigned them by said committee ; 
and that we are not responsible for any acts done by 
persons acting without the orders of said committee. 

John N. Legrand, Irvin C. Wadlington, A. W. Rob- 
inson, T. C. Griffing, John G. Andrews, John C. Smith, 
Thomas Coleman, Thos. Hudnold, jr., Garret Goodloe, 
John Lowe, Ira Harris, H. H. Schrock, Jos. T. Pugh, 
Wm. M. Royce, Sol. S. Mitchell, T. P. Jones, Charles 
B. Green, XJlfis. Shackelfo_ xtl, Hiram Perkins, John G. 
Ott, John A. Gilbreath, Jno. R. Grigsby, Albert G. Ben- 
nett, Jona. Coleman, Jose W. Camp, C. S. Brown, Sam- 
uel Barrow, Alfred Perry, Wm. Pack, Abner Sholan, 
John Steady, S. W. Ewing, L. Estill, R. S. Hodge, Will- 


iam S. Rayner, Geo. D. M'Lean, Wra. G. Doyle, Hen- 
ry G. Pipkin, Halcut Alford, Charles L. Starr, Jeff. E. 
Gagdon, S. B. Thompson, W. M. Bole, A. S. Lepping- 
well, James P. Wyatt, Thos. CoUins, Robert Clark, N. 
S. White, Littleton W. House, W. D. F. Harrison, M. 
Dulaney, Wm. Wells, George W. Coffee, Daniel Mann, 
Robert M. M'Gregor, John T. Long, Elijah Boddie, L. 
W. Wesley, Wm. Simmons, Albert Hendrick, W. B. 
Hendrick, Benj. Pulliam, Wm. H. Atkinson, Willis 
B. Wade, Robert T. Cecill, W. E. Harrold, Guilford 
Griffin, James T. Wilson, Edwd. Cheatham, Joseph A. 
Fort, John A. Gotten, Ramsey M. Cox, R. S. Hunter, 
Reuben L Gee, Duncan York, H. M. Merreth, D. P. 
Austin, Stephen M. Old, James G. Goodhue, James S. 
Wood, John Fletcher, Harry Latham, Gane. Logan, 
Thos. Saunders, G. P. Wadlington, Jas. M. Smith, A. 
M. Goodloe, Pierson Reading, sen., Geo. Dixon, Jona. 
Van Cleare, Edwin R. Isler, S. C. M'Gilvary, Nathan B. 
Pequin, Jno. S. Cock, Eleazer Kilpatrick, Geo. Trotter, 
Benj. W. Trotter, Jas. F. Beazley, Jas. D. Hester, Ed- 
ward Wills, Saml. B. Simmons, L. B. Trotter, Jas. Pat- 
terson, Dempsey Taylor, Wm. Barrow, William Frith, 
Andrew C. Steger, Edwin Perry, Thos. Atwood, Rob- 
ert G. Anderson, William Bennett, Saml. Moseley, Har- 
rison Gill, Jos. L. Holland, Thornton Sandridge, Hugh 
M'Elroy, Geo. W. Amos, N. Webb, Edwin Bass, James 
R. Jones, Wade H. Mills, D. W. Saxon, John W. Lind- 
sey, G. Flint, N. W. Bush, B. Wells, T. J. Catching, G. 
W\ Walsting, B. Strother, H. Hayneau, Wm. H. Ste- 
ger, Isaac Rhodes, John Bisco, Henry Hines, Joseph 
Clark, Gadi Gibson, I\L N. Gasy, Wm. Gartley, John 
H. Rolhns, S. D. Shackelford, Samuel D. Livingston, 
Tames Avery, William B. Ross, WilHam Wildy, T. B. 
Daugherty, Osmun Claiborne, Alexander Allen. 

M. D. MITCHELL, Chairman. 

William Royce, Secretary. 

W'ith the organization of the committee, all disposi- 
tion to continue the scene of the previous evening 
ceased. The community then seemed to be relieved 
from the intensity of their concern about the state of 
things, and hailed and regarded the organization of the 
committee (really a committee of safety) as a relief 
from their fearful and unsettled condition. 

A-11 wore determined to support the committee ; somo 


formed themselves into guards, and dispersed in search 
of offenders; others waited on the committee to re- 
ceive their orders. 

Previous to taking up any case, the committee organ- 
ized themselves, and elected Dr. M. D. Mitchell chair- 
man, and William M. Royce secretary. After being 
organized, they adopted rules to govern them in their 
examination of offenders ; which rules they adhered to 
during the continuance of their authority. They de- 
termined to take no cognizance of any crime which 
was not directly connected with the contemplated in- 
surrection ; to examine all witnesses under oath ; to 
punish no man without strong circumstantial evidence, 
in addition to the dying confessions of those previously 
executed, or such other evidence as should seem con- 
vincing to all of the guilt of the accused; to give the 
accused every opportunity that the nature of the case 
would admit of, to prove their good character, or any 
thing that would go to establish their innocence ; and, 
in fact, to give them all the privileges allowed to crim- 
inals in courts of justice in similar cases, partly to per- 
mit them to explain doubtful points by their own vol- 
untary statements. 

At 10 o'clock, A. M., on the 3d, the committee com- 
menced their labours with the examination of the case 
of Joshua Cotton. 

Trial of Joshua Cotton. 

This man had been in the State of Mississippi about 
twelve months ; was a native of some one of the New- 
England states, but last from the Avestern district of 
Tennessee. On his arrival in this state, he settled at 
the Old Indian Agency, in Hinds county, where he 
married soon after. From the agency he moved to 
Livingston, in Madison county, where he set up shop, 
and hoisted a sign as " Steam Doctor." 

"William Saunders, at the meeting of the citizens held 
at Livingston, on the 30th June, stated that Cotton was 
in the habit of trading with negroes ; would buy any 
thing they would steal and bring to him ; that he be- 
lieved Cotton had stolen John Slater's negroes, in con- 
nexion with Boyd — (afterward ascertained Boyd had 
stolen them). 

This disclosure, and other evidence of his bad char- 


acter being generally known, led to his arrest on the 
1st of July. But Saunders having left town, and no 
evidence being offered at his examination sufficient to 
justify the citizens in detaining him, he was by their 
order discharged.* Immediately after his dismission he 
returned to the house of his father-in-law, whither he 
had removed with his family a few days prior to the 
discovery of the insurrection. Saunders, in the mean- 
time, was making off, as he said, for Texas. He in- 
formed a gentleman on his way to Vicksburg, that a 
discovery of a conspiracy of negroes was made in Mad- 
ison county, and disclosed to him all their plans, as 
subsequently developed,, in the course of the investiga- 
tions of the committee at Livingston, and said that 
Cotton wanted him- to join them, hut he would not. He 
likewise stated that it was the intention of the conspir- 
ators, should some one of the clan fail to rob one of 
the partners of the commission house of Ewing, Mad- 
dux, & Co., who was then on his Avay from New-Or- 
leans to Livingston, to rob their house at Livingston. 
This part of their plan was to be attended to by Cotton 
and Blake. The gentleman, believing Saunders to be 
one of the conspirators, had him arrested and delivered 
into the hands of the Livingston guard, who w^ere in 
search of him, and he was brought back to Livingston 
on the 2d of July, 

On the strength of Saunders's confessions Cotton 
was again arrested, and he brought back to Livingston 
on the same evening. 

Liimediately after the organization of the committee, 
he was brought before them for trial. 

Doctor William Saunders, under oath, confirmed his 
statements made before the meeting on the 30th June ; 

* He was not liked by the citizens of Livingston, with whom he 
had no social intercourse. In his business transactions he had been 
detected in many low tricks, and attempts to swindle. It was in 
evidence before the committee, that he had left Memphis, Ttinnessee 
(soon after the conviction of the celebrated Murrell), with a wife and 
child, who were never aflencard heard of. . As an evidence of his 
want of feeling and affection for his second wife, Saunders stated tO' 
the committee that he. Cotton, had made a proposition to him to 
take CJotton's second wife to Red river, in Arkansas, and there leave 
her, with the promise that Cotton would meet her as soon as he 
should settle his affairs in this country ; at the same time informing 
Saunders that his object was to abandon her. 


and that Cotton, and Boyd (who was supposed to be 
Cotton's brother), and some others, had been exten- 
sively engaged in negro-steaUng; and that Cotton had 
contracted to purchase from a gentleman in the neigh- 
bourhood of Livingston a number of Spanish horses, 
but that he never completed the purchase ; but always 
claimed them as his, and turned them loose in the 
country, as a pretext for hunting them, that he might 
have opportunities to converse with the negroes, and, 
by that means, seduce them from their allegiance to 
their owners, by instilling rebellious notions among 
them ; and to form plans, and to make converts to his 
propositions, w^hich he could not do by being a steam- 

It was in evidence before the committee, in confirma- 
tion of Saunders's statement, that he was repeatedly 
seen skulking around the plantations in the neighbour- 
hoods of Livingston, Vernon, and Beatie's Bluff: if asked 
what he was doing, his answer was, "hunting horses." 

A boy, after the execution of the negroes at Beatie's 
Bluff, was arrested in that neighbourhood on suspicion 
of being connected with the conspirators ; although not 
knowing what the negroes had confessed, he acknowl- 
edged he knew something about the contemplated insur- 
rection, and that he obtained his information from a 
white man in the neighbourhood of Beatie's Bluff. One 
day, while hunting horses in a prairie, ihe man, he said, 
told him he was hunting horses likewise, and soon began 
to question him respecting his master ; if he was a bad 
man ] whether they, the negroes, were whipped much ? 
and asked how he would like to be free 1 and tokl him 
his plan for liberating the negroes, &c. (as will be seen 
hereafter, as developed in the course of the trial) ; said 
he too/c a drink of brandy with him, and made him drink 
first ; he said he lived in Livingston, and that he must 
come and see him, and then he would tell him when the 
insurrection was to commence ; he said he did not know 
his name, but thought he would know him if he could 
see him. This conversation took place about the last 
of May. The negro was brought to Livingston, ten 
miles from his home, on the morning of the 3d of July, 
for the purpose of finding out who the man was he had 
conversed with, if he should be in custody. Cotton, at 
the time the negro man was brought in town, was in 


custody, but not chained. The negro man was intro- 
duced into a room where some six or seven men were 
chained, and requested to point him out ; he looked at 
them all, and said the man was not among them ; Cot- 
ton then being in the crowd, the company were re- 
quested to form a circle, in order that he might see all 
in the room. When he saw Cotton, he boldly pointed 
him out, and exclaimed, '^That is the man who talked 
with me in the prairie." Cotton looked thunderstruck, 
and came near fainting on hearing the annunciation of 
the boy. The boy made the same statement to the 
committee in the presence of Cotton, which he did not 

The statement at length of Saunders, to the gentle- 
men previously noticed, was in evidence before the 
committee That there was to have been an insurrec- 
tion of the negroes on the n:'ght of the fourth of July,^ 
and that certain v/hite men mtended to head them. 
Cotton was considered one of the chief men, in connex- 
ion with Ruel Blake ; and that operations were to be 
commenced first at Beatie's Bluff; and that Cotton in- 
tended to remain at Livingston, to attend to that place^ 
and to secure the arms, ammunition, and money in both 
places, and then commence the work of murder, pillage, 
and fire ; and from thence they were to go to Vernon, 
rob that town, and murder its inhabitants, and so on ta 
Clinton and Jackson — arms being deposited at or near 
the Old Agency for their use in taking the latter place, 
robbing the bank, &c. Such were the declarations of 
Saunders before his arrest, which he neither could nor 
did deny before the committee on the third of July, but 
confirmed them by saying Cotton told him all when 
he requested him to join the clan ; which statement of 
Saunders was made in the presence of Cotton. 

On the 4th of July the confessions of the negroes 
hung at Beatie's Bluflf were in evidence before the com- 
mittee, as it was seen in the preceding report of the 
proceedings at Beatie's Bluff. Cotton was said to be 
one of the ringleaders in exciting them to insurrection. 
After having much other corroborating testimony, 
the committee had Cotton removed from the commit- 
tee-room, in order that they might deliberate on his 

Immediately after leaving the room, he exclaimed to 
L 21 


the guard, " It's all over with me I" All I wish is, that 
the committee will have me decently buried, and not 
suffer me t<> hang long after I am dead. " Great God !" 
was the exclamation of the by-standers — " Cotton, you 
do not know that you will be convicted I" He rephed, 
despondingly, " that the testimony was so strong against 
him that they must convict him — that they could not 
avoid it." Some said, " He must be a very guilty man 
to condemn himself; and, if he was guilty, he had 
better tell the truth; that it would be some atone- 
ment for his guilt to tell them who were his accom- 
plices," there being a number of white men in cus- 
tody at the time, in Livingston and elsewhere in the 
county. Cotton replied to their request by saying, " If 
the committee would pledge themselves not to have 
him hung immediately, he would come out and tell them 
all he knew about the conspiracy." The request of 
Cotton was communicated to the committee, who in 
answer said, through tlieir chairman, " 'I'hat they would 
not pledge themselves to extend any favour to him 
whatever ; that they were satisfied as to his guilt, and 
that he might confess or not." In answer to the reply 
of the committee. Cotton sent word to them, " If they 
would hear what he had to say, he would make a con- 
fession ;" and accordingly he made the following con- 
fession, which he signed and swore to. 

Collofi's Confession. 
I acknowledge my guilt, and I was one of the prin- 
cipal men in bringing about the conspiracy. I am one 
of the Murrell clan, a member of what we called the 
grand council. I counselled with them twice; once 
near Columbus, this spring,* and another time on an 
island in the Mississippi river. Our object in underta- 
king to excite the negroes to rebellion, was not for the 
purpose of liberating them, but for plunder. I was try- 
ing to carry into etlect the plan of Murrell as laid down 
in Stewart's pamphlet. f Blake's boy, Peter, had his 
duty assigned him, which was, to let such negroes into 
the secret as he could trust, generally the most daring 
scoundrels ; the negroes on most all the large planta- 

* He was absent from Livingston about three weeks in March ; 
no person ever knew where he went to. 
t See ante, p. 53—60. 


tions knew of it ; and, from the exposure of o\n' plans 
in said pamphlet, we expected the citizens would be on 
their guard at the time mentioned, being the 25th of 
December next ; and we determined to take them by 
surprise, and try it on the night of the 4th of July, and 
it would have been tried to-night (and perhaps may 
yet), but for the detection of our plans. 

All the names I now recollect who are deeply con- 
cerned, are Andrew Boyd, Albe Dean, William Saun- 
ders, two Rawsons, of Hinds county, who have a list of 
all the names of the men belonging to the Murrell clan 
in this state, being about one hundred and fifty ; and the 
names of all who are connected with me in this con- 
spiracy, being fifty-one. John and William Earl, near 
Vicksburg, in Warren county, Ruel Blake, of Madison 
county. I have heard Blake say he would make his ne- 
groes help, and he was equal in command with me. 
Lunsford Barnes, of this county ; James Leach, near 
Woodville, Wilkinson county ; Thomas Anderson, be- 
low Clinton, in Hinds county ; John Rogers, near Ben- 
ton, Yazoo county; Lee Smith, of Hinds county, and 
John Ivy, in Vernon.* There are arms and ammu- 
nition deposited in Hinds county, near Raymond. 

July 4, 1835. JOSHUA COTTON. 

The committee, after receiving his confession, con- 
demned him to be hanged in an hour after sentence, in 
order that the news of his execution might be circula- 
ted extensively before night, thinking it would frighten 
his accomplices from the undertaking. 

After his condemnation, he made publicly some ad- 
ditional disclosures, which unfortunately were not re^ 

* This man, whose name has been associated with so much villa- 
ny, and so often mentioned in the preceding work, was implicated by 
Cotton as an accomplice of liis in the late contemplated insurrection 
of the negroes in Madison, was in the neighbourhood of Livingston 
at the time of the discovery of the conspiracy. Having been releas- 
ed, as will be seen in the disclosures of the Earles, by their perjury, 
he was seen in a swamp near Livingston by a gentleman, who com- 
municat:cd the information to the citizens then assembled in Living- 
ston, where they soon started him with track-dogs, and pursued hiin 
until it became so dark that the dogs could not be followed any 
longer ; m the morning they resumed the chase ; but, unfortunately, 
he escaped from the dogs by getting on to a horse he found in the 
>yoode, and has never been heard of since ; having left a large family 
dependant upon charity for subsistence. 


duced to writing. Under tlie gallows he acknowledged 
his guilt, and the justness of his sentence, and remarked, 
" it was nothing inure tlian he deserved ;" and likewise 
invoked the vengeance of his God, if every word he had 
written was not true ; and said that all those he iiad impli- 
cated were as actively engaged in the conspiracy as he 
was. And, lastly, in answer to some person who asked 
him " if he really thought there would be any danger 
that night I" he said " he did, if they should not hear he 
was hung." His last words were, " Take care of your- 
selves to-night and to-morrow night ;" and swung off. 

Trials dJTC, of William Saunders. 
This man was a native of Sumner countj^, Tenn. ; he 
emigrated to this state last fall, and commenced over- 
seeing in JNIadison county, near Livingston, but did not 
remain at it long : his deportment was such as to in- 
duce his employer to discharge him. After his dis- 
charge, becoming acquainted with Cotton, he joined 
him in the practice as a steam-doctor, in Hinds county. 
His conduct in Hinds attracted the notice of the gentle- 
man with whom he boarded ; he would often be out 
all night, and never could give satisfactory explana- 
tions for so doing ; always giving some equivocal an- 
swer. The gentleman afterward ascertained that while 
at his house, and without any reasons therefor, he 
was often seen not only in remote parts of Hinds, but 
also in Madison and Yazoo counties. While in Hinds 
his conduct was of such equivocal character that the 
gentleman with whom he boarded ordered him to leave 
his house ; and his reasons for so doing were explain- 
ed to the committee, which went to show that Saun- 
ders was a fit instrument for such an enterprise. After 
his departure from Hinds, he was seen lurking about 
in the neighbourhood of Livingston, where he was on 
the 30lh of June. P'rom his intimacy with Cotton, and 
his character being none of the best in the estimation 
of the citizens of Livingston, they were induced to 
take him up, and see if he could give any account of 
himself. At the meeting, as has been seen, he made 
some disch)sures, and was discharged. By divulging 
his knowledge of the conspiracy, as previously noticed 
in Cotton's trial, he was arrested and brought back to 
Livingston, where, on the 3d of July, he was put on 
trial before the committee. 


The close connexion existing between this man and 
Cotton, rendered it necessary to examine witnesses in 
the presence of both ; and, in most all cases, the evi- 
dence applied to each. 

In addition to the above circumstances, it was in evi- 
dence before the committee that he had been a convict 
in the penitentiary of Tennessee for steahng ; likewise 
abundant proof of his general bad character was in evi- 
dence before the committee, which it is unnecessary 
to notice, as his own confessions went to confirm it. 

Albe Dean, under oath, said Saunders was one of the 
promoters of the insurrection. 

The confessions of the negroes hung at Beatie's 
Bluff were before the committee, in wliich his name 
was mentioned by all four of the negroes, in connexion 
with Cotton's, in the manner as set forth in the prece- 
ding report of the proceedings at Beatie's Blutf, not 
knowing what each had confessed, &c. The com- 
mittee were satisfied, from his intimacy with Cotton, 
that he must have been one of the clan. It was a 
question with the committee how he could be cogni- 
zant of the plans of the conspirators without being 
one of them. He said. Cotton had informed him of 
the conspiracy and his intentions when he requested 
him to join the clan ; and that, when Cotton made the 
proposition to him, he positively refused, and attempted 
to dissuade Cotton from the attempt ; and henceforth 
determined to cease all intercourse with Cotton, which 
determination he had adhered to. It was proved satis- 
factorily to the committee, that Saunders was on very 
Ultimate terms with Cotton, and that they were seen 
in secret together in Livingston but a few days before 
the developments at Beatie's Bluff. Saunders was 
asked why he did not reveal what he knew of the 
conspiracy when first arrested 1 He made no satisfac- 
tory excuse for refusing. 

In addition to the facts and circumstances in proof 
against Saunders before his conviction. Cotton stated 
that no one was privy to the designs of the conspira- 
tors but such as had consented fully to engage in.them ; 
that Saunders had so consented, and was fully posses- 
sed of all their plans and designs, and had consented 
to co-operate with them. 

Saunders, like all others, when conscious of guilt, 


and desirous of preserving their lives by making dis- 
closures, and fearful that by making them his life 
would not be preserved, exclaimed, " Were 1 to disclose 
all I know respecting the conspiracy, I would be shot 
down in ten minutes after entering Livingston" (about 
the time he was entering Livingston) ; leaving it to 
the speculations of his hearers whether his fears were 
of the citizens or of the spies of the clan who sur- 
rounded him. 

There was other evidence before the committee of a 
similar kind to the foregoing, together with concur- 
rent circumstances. 

The majority of the committee were of opinion that 
Saunders was guilty, though they had not passed sen- 
tence on him, nor did they till Cotton came out and 
confessed his own guilt, disclosing the name of Saun- 
ders as one of his accomphces, and a chief actor in 
bringing about the conspiracy; which disclosure was 
made to the committee in the presence of Saunders; 
whereupon the committee, by a unanimous vote, found 
liim guilty, and sentenced him to be hanged ; and, in 
pursuance of the sentence, he was executed on the 4th, 
with Cotton. 

Thus, after all his treachery, he fell a victim to his 

Trial of Alhe Dean. 
This man was a native of Ashford, Connecticut, 
whence he emigrated to Mississippi two years since. 
His general character before the disclosure of the 
conspiracy was not good; he was considered a lazy, 
indolent man, having very few pretensions to honesty. 
He had previously resided in the neighbourhood of 
Livingston, where he pretended to make a living by 
constructing washing-machines, until he became ac- 
quainted with Cotton, when he abandoned his business 
and turned steam-doctor, and \vent into partnership 
with Cotton, Saunders, & Co., and settled in Hinds 
county. He was known to associate with negroes, 
and w^ould often come to the owners of runaways 
and intercede with their masters to save them from a 
whipping. It was in evidence before the committee 
that he was seen prowling about the plantations in the 
neighbourhoods of Vernon, Beatie's Bluff, and Living- 


stoii ostensibly for the purpose of inquiring for run- 
away horses, which he did with great particularity — 
sometimes inquiring for a black, bay, gray, or other 
colour that suggested itself at the time. It was evi- 
dent that horse-hunting was not his business, but that 
he was reconnoitring the country, and seeking oppor- 
tunities to converse with the negroes. He acknowl- 
edged that he was in the swamp near Livingston when 
the notorious Boyd was started by the dogs. (See note 
on page 243.) 

Dean was arrested at the instigation of Saunders, 
who said he was a great rascal, and one of the con- 
spirators. He was brought to Livingston with Saun- 
ders, on the 2d of July. On Monday, the 6th of July, 
he was placed on trial before the committee ; but was 
in presence of the committee during the trial of Saun- 
ders and Cotton, and heard the whole of the testimony 
which went to implicate him. It was in evidence be- 
fore the committee, that, when on his way to Living- 
ston, he had asked a witness, among other things, if 
some of Mr. W. P. Perkin's negroes were not engaged 
in the conspiracy' • and particularly if Hudnold's Ned (a 
noted villain, whom he. Dean, had often endeavoured to 
screen from a wiiipping) was not concerned. He also 
inquired if Mr. Wm. Johnson's, Ruel Blake's, and some 
other gentlemen's negroes were not accused. He 
was not aware, at the lime, that the very negroes about 
whom his inquiries were made had not only been sus- 
pected, but some of them actually hung ; and, when in- 
formed Blake's negro had been hung, he asked if he had 
made any disclosures about him. He was identified as 
one of their white accomplices by negroes accused. 

And, lastly, he was accused by Dr. Cotton, who 
said, " Dean was one of his accomplices, and deep- 
ly engaged in the conspiracy, as a member of the 
Murrell c/an." After a cool and deliberate investigation 
of his case, he was, by a unanimous vote of the com- 
mittee, found guilty of aiding and exciting the negroes 
to insurrection, and sentenced to be hanged. 

In pursuance of the sentence, he was executed on 

the 8th of July, with Donovan, and died in dogged 

silence, neither acknowledging his guilt nor asserting 

his innocence. 

This man requested that his name should not be 


given to the public, as his father was a pubhc man, and 
it might lacerate the feelings of a venerated mother, 
who still survived. This request the committee and 
the writer would have scrupulously regarded, but that 
the name of this unfortunate man had already been 
made public by the officious and gratuitous information 
of some of the letter-writers, who have already given 
his name to the pubhc. 

Trial of A. L. Donovan, of Maysville, Ken. 

After the trial of Dean, this young man was brought 
before the committee for examination, having been 
arrested on the evening of the 2d July, at Beatie's 
Bluff. His deportment, some weeks previous to his 
arrest, was very suspicious, from his intimacy with the 
negroes in the neighbourhood, being suspected at the 
time of trading with them, &c. His behaviour was so 
reprehensible as to compel the gentleman with whom 
he boarded to tell him, if he did not change his course 
he must leave his house, which he did a fewdiys after, 
and went to the house of a man by the name of Moss, 
reputed a great scoundrel, whose name is mentioned 
in the report of the proceedings at Beatie's Blufl': there 
Donovan remained until his arrest. Donovan's con- 
duct was so very extraordinary and suspicious after he 
commenced boarding with Moss, as to induce the citi- 
zens of the neiglibourhood to watch his movements. 
He was repeatedly found in the negro cabins, enjoying 
himself in negro society. Some persons requested him 
to leave the place, but he refused, alleging as a reason 
that he had to take care of some old keel-boats (which 
were entirely useless), half sunk, in Big Black river. 

After the plot of the conspirators was discovered, 
instead of using his exertions to ferret out the ringlead- 
ers, and to assist the citizens in their efforts of detec- 
tion, he would be found sneaking about the negro quar- 
ters, seeking opportunities to converse with them ; and 
was caught at the house where the discovery of the 
conspiracy was made, engaged in earnest conversation 
with the girls who divulged the plot. 

After arrests were made and examinations were going 
on, his conduct was such as no honest man would pur- 
sue ; he would introduce himself into any company of 
gentlemen hp would see conversing ; this in itself at 


the lime, was not noticed, as every one was desirous 
of finding out something to direct him in his investi- 
gations ; but he would then go off and engage in con- 
versation with Moss and his sons-in-law, who he knew, 
from their character, were suspected of being engaged 
in promoting the insurrection. 

Even after several negroes were taken on suspicion, 
he still persisted in his attempts to converse with them, 
and at one time actually undertook (while the citizens 
were examining one) to release a negro who was tied, 
which negro afterward implicated him. He was re- 
quested by the gentlemen who w^ere examining the 
negroes not to come about them ; they were compelled 
to take this step, from the fact that, when he was pres- 
ent, the negroes ivould say nothing, for the experiment 
was frequently tried ; but when they were apprized that 
Donovan was not present, their disclosures were full, 
complete, and corresponding ; the experiment was tried 
several times with the same success. 

When he found he could not be permitted to be pres- 
ent at the examination of the negroes, he evinced cou 
siderable uneasiness, and kept walking to and fro, in 
view of the negroes under examination. The cause of 
his anxiety and alarm was soon explained ; after his 
removal the negroes commenced a full detail and ex- 
pose of the whole conspiracy (being at the time one or 
two hundred yards apart, and examined one at a time). 

Among other white associates implicated by them, 
Donovan was said to be one of their leaders, and deeply 
concerned with them in the conspiracy. 

After being implicated by a number of negroes at 
Beatie's Bluff, the citizens thought proper to arrest him 
and bring him to Livingston, where the committee then 
organized was in session. 

He was put on trial before the committee on the 7th 
July, and, in addition to the testimony before adduced, 
the following evidence was brought forward, which 
proved his participation in the conspiracy : — 

A negro man from Beatie's Bluff stated that Donovan 
was one of the white men engaged in persuading him 
to rebel with the rest, on the 4th of July, and that he 
had often solicited him to join them ; Donovan said 
nothing was easier than for them to get their freedom ; 
that the negroes could kill all the white people ; and, if 
L 3 


they should be pushed, that he would take them to a 
free state. 

The confession of another negro man was in evi- 
dence before the committee, who pointed Donovan out 
at the time of the negro's examination, and said, " he 
was to be one of their captains at Beatie's Bluff." It 
was also in evidence before the commitiee,that another 
boy, just before his execution, pointed Donovan out, 
when in a crowd, and said he was one of the men who 
persuaded him to enter into the conspiracy, and had 
encouraged him to go on, and get as many negroes to 
join as po:;sible : other negroes implicated liim. 

A young man of unimpeachable character testified to 
the committee, in the presence of Donovan, that he and 
Donovan were walking through the field of his employer 
about the 25th or 26th INIay, when Donovan remarked 
to him that he should hate to be an overseer very 
much. Witness asked him why? He answered, it was 
such cruel w ork to be whipping the poor negroes, as he 
was obliged to do. Witness told him he never whipped 
only when they deserved it, and that was not often. 
Donovan exclaimed—-" My friend, you will not have use 
for this long," at the same time putting his hand on wit- 
ness's whip^ Witness was a little astonished, and asked 
him to explain himself. Donovan, by way of explana- 
tion, remarked, the reason why he would not have use 
for it long was, that the negroes would soon,be all free 
in this state. Witness replied, he knew the owners 
were not going to set them free, and that he (Donovan) 
ought to know that they could not eff'ect their liberty 
by force, as they had tried it two or three times, and 
always failed ; and that he thought they were now con- 
tented to remain in slavery. Donovan replied warmly 
in answer to his remarks, " that they could obtain their 
liberty by forcey and that they would do it, not by them- 
selves, but with the aid of thousands of rich, smart ivhite 
men, ivho loere ready to head them, with money, arms, and 
ammunition for their use.'''' And, before leaving the plan- 
tatior, requested permission of witness to converse with 
the negroes, and to inform them of their rights, &c. Of 
course, after the expression of such sentiments as above 
set forth, his request was denied, and at the same time 
he received a httle good advice, and a threat from wjtr 
ness that, if he was seen on tie plantation again, he 


might expect a " benefit'''' from his negro whip ; and, using 
witness's remark, Donovan cut out, and he had not seen 
him since until before the committee on his trial. 

The committee were satisfied, from the evidence be- 
fore them, that Donovan was an emissary of those de- 
luded fanatics at the north — the abolitionists. Andy 
that while disseminating his incendiary doctrines among 
the negroes to create rebellion, he had found oat that 
he was anticipated by a band of cut-throats and robbers, 
who were engaged in the same work, not wishing to 
liberate negroes, but to use them as instruments to as- 
sist them in plunder. Being of a dissolute and aban- 
doned character, as will be seen by his wife's letter to 
him,* and ripe for every rash enterprise, he joined the 

" * MaVsville, 24th August, 1834. 

My dear Angus : — I once -more take up my pen to inform you I 
received your letter of the 18th ; you say you have not heard from me 
since you left here — for what reason I cannot tell — I have answered' 
every letter since you left this place. You say you have httle hopes 
of receiving an answer to this. Do you think that woman's heart is 
so hard, or that she could forget the one she once loved '. No, she 
could not. Your conduct has grieved me more than you have any 
idea of, or I think you would not have done so. I feel thankful to 
hear that you have come to a fall determination to break off from ait 
bad habits, and to study yourself and try to become a naeful iViembe? 
of society ; this I have long prayed for ; I hope now my prayer is 
answered in some degree. O, my dear Angus, pray to God that he 
may change your heart, and give you grace to put those good resolu- 
tions into practice. I cannot consent to come there and live until I 
am fully convinced that you will not return to your former ways, 
which I think time wiH prove. If you study geography and gram- 
mar (which I think v9^ill be the best thing you can do), Mr. Barnes 
will transfer his school to you. Then I shall liave no objection to 
coming there to live ; in the meantime, I shall expect you to lay up 
something to commence housekeeping with, foi [ fear yoir have not 
done it yet, though you have had a year to do it m, and I not received 
a cent from you since you left here ; and now, before I close this let- 
ter, let me earnestly entreat yotr to be on youi guard, and never give 
way to those evils you have so fully determined to forsake ; for it is a 
great consolation for me to think of seeing you again, and once more 
enjoying your company. I have not said any thing concerning my 
health ; I still have a weakness in my back and breast, which I fear I 
shall never get over ; Mr. Gibson and fanwly are well : your father's 
family are well also ; I might say a good deal more, for there are a 
gi-eat many changes taken place since you left here, but 1 defer for 
the present. I want you to write often; and I subscribe myself 
yours, affectionately, 

Angus X* Donovan. 


conspirators with the hope of receiving part of the spoils. 
If there had been any doubt on the minds of the com- 
mittee as to his connexion with the conspirators, he 
would at least have been sentenced to be hanged for his 
attempts at diffusing among the negroes rebellious no- 
tions. On the 7th he was condemned to be hanged. 

Accordingly, at twelve o'clock on the 8th of July he 
offered up his life on the gallows, as an expiation for his 
crimes. He said, from the gallows, that the committee 
did their duty in condemning him ; that from the evi- 
dence they were compelled to do so. 

Thus died an abolitionist, and let his blood be on the 
heads of those who sent liim here. 

Trial of Ruel Blake. 

After the trial and execution of Donovan and Dean, 
the committee were engaged in the trials of some sus- 
pected individuals, who were all discharged ; no evi- 
dence appearing against them to prove their connexion 
with the conspiracy, until the arrival of Blake in Liv- 
ingston. Blake had resided in IMadison county some 
two or three years. Although he had so long lived 
among them, he could claim but few or none as friends. 
He was of a cold, phlegmatic temperament, with a for- 
bidding countenance ; kept himself almost aloof from 
white society, but was often seen among negroes. His 
character, as known to the citizens, was one of the dark- 
est die. He was noted for cold-blooded revenge, insatia- 
ble avarice, and unnatural cruelty ; had been detected in 
several attempts to swindle his fellow-citizens, who, 
if they exposed his rascahty, were ever after the objects 
of his deadly hatred. 

From his own account, he had been a seafaring man 
in his youth, having commenced at it when in Connec- 
ticut, his native state ; and, from vague hints he would 
occasionally drop, it was the general impression that 
he had been a pirate. He worked at his trade of gin- 
wright, which he had learned after coming to this 
county, up to the time of the discovery of the contem- 
plated insurrection of the negroes in Madison, when he 
had opportunities of becoming acquainted with the ne- 
groes on most of the large plantations in Madison ; and 
was, at the time of the discovery of the conspiracy, 


working in the neighbourhood of Livingston. His old 
negro was implicated by Mr. Johnson's negro, as has 
been seen in the preceding part of this work, and taken 
up by the committee of examination of Livingston. 
Blake being in Livingston at the time, the committee 
requested him to examine his own negro. It will be 
recollected that this negro had refused to divulge any 
thing, and persisted in it. The committee, believing him 
to be guilty, requested Blake to whip him, and make him 
tell what he knew about the conspiracy. 

Blake informed his negro, before he commenced 
whipping, what it was for, and requested him to tell all 
he knew about it. The boy refused, and Blake com- 
menced whipping him, but in such a manner as to con- 
vince every one present that he did not wish to hurt 
him, occasionally striking a hard lick to keep up ap- 
pearances. The citizens found that Blake would never 
get any thing out of him ; believing his presence acted 
as a restraint on the boy, they politely requested Blake 
to withdraw from where his boy was, and let them try 
him. Blake withdrew a short distance, and kept walk- 
ing to and fro, each turn getting closer to his boy^ until' 
the boy commenced talking, when he could stand it no 
longer, and rushed through the crowd to where his ne- 
gro was, and swore, if h« was touched another lick, they 
would have to whip him first. The gentleman who 
was whipping the negro drew his whip to strike Blake, 
and a rencounter ensued, which resulted in a knock 
down or so. The by-standers, from the best of motives, 
and to prevent more serious consequences, which would 
most certainly have resulted had they not got Blake 
away, dragged him off and told him to " run," or the 
gentleman he had grossly insulted " would kill him if 
he should see him." Blake, taking the hint, put off at 
full speed through Livingston ; and, to frighten him, the 
boys, ct cetera, raised a hue and cry, and ran him a few 
hundred yards. 

Blake being a slave-holder, no one at that time sup- 
posed, or had the most distant idea, that he was con- 
nected with the conspiracy, but attributed his conduct 
to sympathy for his negro ; and, in the confusion of the 
moment, the remark of Blake's negro was forgotten, or 
not viewed in the light it afterward was. It will be rec- 
ollected the negro said, " Gentlemen, if you are whip- 


ping me to make me tell what mxj master told ms, you 
may whip on till I die, for I promised him I never would 
tell :" and he never did. 

After the developments at Beatie's Bluff, the citizens 
began to reflect about Blake's extraordinary conduct, 
and became satisfied something more than sympathy for 
his negro had influenced him to act as he had done on 
the 30th of June, when steps were immediately taken to 
arrest him, he having left Madison county on the morn- 
ing of the 1st July, at the request of Capt. Thomas 
Hudnold, for whom he was at work, who, out of the 
kindest motives for Blake, and the gentleman he had 
insulted, provided Blake with a horse and money to go 
away on, and instructed him to stay away until the ex- 
citement should subside ; Blake promising him, when he 
returned, to make the necessary apologies. It must be 
recollected that he was provided with the horse and 
money before it was known or suspected any white men 
were engaged in the conspiracy. 

Blake, in the meantime, went from Livingston to 
Vicksburg, and thence to Natchez, where he remained 
a few days, and returne,d to Vicksburg, where he was 
passing himself off as an Indiana boatman at the time 
he was taken — five hundred dollars reward having been 
offered for hinu * 

He arrived in Livingston on the 8th of July, under a 
strong escort, intimations being obtained that an at- 
tempt would be made by the clan to rescue him. 

His appearance in liivingston created a most alarm- 
ing exciteme.ii; and, but for the commitfce's being in 
session, in all probability he would have been forcibly 
taken from the guard, and immediately executed. After 
arriving, he was immediately put on his trial before the 
committee, when the following evidence was adduced 
in connexion with the above circumstances : — 

It was in evidence before the committee that lie had 
engaged his own negroes to rebel on the niglit oC the 
4th of July, and tliat he had promised to assist them. 
In corroboration of the above, his own negroes testified 
that he told them there was to be an insurrection of 
the negroes on the night of the 4th of July. 

The confessions of the negroes hung at Beatie's 
Bluff were in evidence before the committee, all of 
whom, and in manner as set forth in the report of tha 


proceedings at Beatie's Bluft', implicated him ; likewise 
testimony of negroes from the bluff was in evidence. 

The confession of Dr. Cotton was in evidence be- 
fore the committee, who swore, it will be recollected, 
that Blake was deeply concerned, and one of the chief 
men in the conspiracy ; and that he had heard Blake say 
he would assist his own negroes on the night of the 4th 
of July, &c. ; which statement was confirmed as above 
by Blake's own negroes. Every disclosure whix:;h was i^ 
made was replete with testimony against him. 

After hearing all the evidence, every opportunity 
was given him to produce counteracting testimony, 
which he failed to do. There being no doubt on the 
minds of the committee, he was, by a unanimous vote, 
condemned to be hanged. He appeared to be con- 
scious that he would be hanged ; and, just before leav- 
ing the committee-room, he requested the committee 
to give him time to settle his affairs. 

On the 10th of July, in the presence of an immense 
concourse of people, he was executed. He privately 
commended the verdict of the committee, and said 
they could not have done otherwise than condemn 
him from the evidence before them, and publicly, un- 
der the gallows, made the same declaration. 

He protested in his innocence to the last^ and said 
that his life was sworn away. 

Trial of Lee Smith. 

This man was a resident of Hinds county, originally 
from Tennessee. His ch3,racter previous to his arrest 
had been reputed good. He was said, by Cotton, to be 
one of his accomplices in the conspiracy. 

It was in evidence before the committee, that at the 
time the guard w^as approaching the house where he 
was, he manifested a disposition to get at his gun, 
which was in the yard near him, he being engaged at 
the time in cleaning another- H« was told, if he at- 
tempted to defend himself he would be shot down. He 
was so alarmed as to faint; he had pistols and some 
guns, and a large quantity of ammunition ; he asked 
if he was charged by Cotton as being connected with 
the conspiracy. This arrest was made before he could 
have been apprized of Cotton's confession, it not being ^ 
known out of Livingston at that time (6th of July). 


He was asked if he was acquainted with Cotton, and 
answered that he had seen him but twice — which was 
false, for it was proved satisfactorily that he was inti- 
mate with Cotton, and that he was one of the firm of 
Cotton, Saunders, & Co., in the steam practice. From 
the multiplicity of evidence introduced to establish his 
good character, and the circumstances in addition to 
the confession of Cotton not being sufficiently strong, 
the committee thought they could not punish him, but 
determined on requesting him to leave the state in as 
short a time as was convenient ; which request he has 
complied with. After his discharge he was taken by 
some of the citizens of Hinds county (where he lived) 
and Lynched. 

Trial of William Benson. 

This man was a native of New-York, from the neigh- 
bourhood of Albany. He worked as a day-labourer in 
Madison. Had been working for Ruel Blake. After 
Blake's flight he remained in the neighbourhood till 
Cotton was hanged, when he made an attempt to 
escape from the county, but was taken by the guard, 
and brought to Livingston and tried. 

His name was mentioned by negroes in some disclo- 
sures made at Vernon. 

On his trial no other evidence was adduced in ad- 
dition to the above, with the exception of the testi- 
mony of R. Blake's negro man, who said Benson ask- 
ed him if it was not a hard case for the negroes to 
remain in slavery ; and said that they ought to be free, 
which they might easily be, there being at least twenty 
negroes to one white man ; and with sticks alone they 
might whip the whites. 

These remarks were made in the presence of Ruel 
Blake, who said nothing against his talking in that man- 

He was considered by the committee a great fool, 
little above an idiot, and it was thought that the best 
>vay to dispose of him would be to order him off; which 
order he complied with. 

Trial of Lunsford Barnes. 
This young man was accused by Dr. Co 
an accomplice of his in the conspiracy. 


was always considered good, ever since he had lived 
in Madison county ; was reputed to be a good, honest, 
hard-working boy ; was very ignorant and uneducated. 
He was often seen in company with Cotton and Sajun- 
ders, and others who were represented by Cotton to be 
of the Murrell clan. It was in evidence before the 
committee that he was very intimate with Cotton, and 
had agreed to go to Texas with him to sell stolen ne- 
groes. Other evidence was before the committee 
which did not add any thing to his good character. 
The committee, considej:ing his youth, and not being 
fully satisfied that he was guilty, ordered him to leave 
the county, which he has done. 

Trial of William and John Earle. 

These two men were brought from Warren county 
to Madison, by several respectable citizens of that 
county, on the 18th of July. It will be recollected that 
their names were given by Cotton in his confession as 
his accomplices in the late conspiracy. 

The citizens of Warren being apprized of the confes- 
sion of Cotton, and believing the Earles to be rascals, 
from their course in relation to Boyd, who they after- 
ward acknowledged had been released from the custo- 
dy of the law by their swearing to li^s, and proving an 
alibi before the examining court, determined to bring 
them to Livingston and have them tried. On their 
arrival in town they were placed in confinement lo 
await their trial. The committee were not in session at 
the time of their arrival ; and, before they met, William 
Earle, without any fear or jcompulsion, made the follow- 
ing disclosure before a justice of the peace : — 

" My brother John told me there was going to be a 
rising of the negroes ; and Boyd said to me, about the 
12th of June, We can live without work ; that there was 
to be a rising of the negroes on the 4th of July, and 
Cotton and Saunders were to be eaptains; that he was 
to go to Natchez with his company. Boyd and Saun- 
ders told me the same one day, and said that men by 
the names of Lofton and Donley were engaging negroes 
to enter into the conspiracy. Boyd wanted me to gath- 
er as many negroes as I could, and meet him near the 
Big Black. Samuels, WiUiam Donley, and Lofton, said 
George Rawsin would join them ; Lofton was to be cap- 


tain in the Yazoo swamp. All of us were sworn to 
stick to our own company; Lofton administered the 
oath, and took it himself. We all calculated to take 
Madison county ; and by that time we expected to have 
force to visit the large plantations in the river counties, 
and, by the time we arrived at Natchez, we could take 
' any place. We held out the idea to the negroes that 
they should be free ; but we intended they should work 
for us. Spies were to go ahead on all occasions. My 
brother John and Boyd were riding about three weeks, 
trying to get out as many negroes as they could. 
Brother and I were summoned on Boyd's trial before 
the examining court, to prove his character, &c. ; we 
were sworn to stick to our party; we thought Boyd 
would have sworn the same for us that we did for him ; 
we swore to lies." 

He gave the sign of the party, &c. 

After making this disclosure he was remanded to cus- 
tod)-, and that night committed suicide, by hanging him- 
self to the round of a ladder which was in the room, 
with his handkerchief. 

When his brother John heard of the death of William 
Earle, he evinced great delight, and said he was glad he 
had hung himself; that his brother had made him a ras- 
cal, and, if boili had been released, he thought William 
would certainly have killed him for something he had 

On the 18th July John Earle was brought before the 
committee for examination, when he made the follow- 
ing disclosure on oath : — 

" I have known Andrew Boyd since last fall. Mrs. 
Boyd told me that Boyd was a bad man ; that he stole 
negroes and gave them free papers. Lofton first told 
me about the insurrection of the negroes, and that they 
were to rise on the 4th of July. I heard of the ' Do- 
mestic Lodge' in March last from Lofton, who showed 
me the sign of the lodge; and wanted me to join it. I 
knew T)r. Wm. Saunders, Albe Dean, Dr. Cotton, A. 
Boyd, Rucl Blahe, Scrugs, near Old Agency, and John 
McKnight, all of whom were members of the ' Domes- 
tic Lodge,' and were engaged in the conspiracy ; they 
were to have arms and ammunition at the Old Agency 
in Hinds county, in Yazoo Swamp, near Vernon, and at 
Baton Rouge, La." 


He was asked why iie did not tell that 1 Answered 
that he was afraidviie would be killed by the clan, be- 
cause they had threatened his life if he divulged any 

The arms they intended distributing among the ne- 
groes, and Boyd and Lofton told him the insurrection 
was to commence in Madison county, and so on to 
Natchez, &c. 

"My brother, I think, belonged to the 'Domestic 
Lodge,' because he told me he would shoot me or anyone 
else who would divulge any thing, or come after Boyd, 
who was then suspected of having stolen vSlater's ne- 
groes. My brother told me to keep my mouth shut 
about Boyd and Lofton, and not to keep company with 
Wm. Slater, who lost five negroes Bovd had stolen from 
him ; Lofton told me that Cotton told him, that men of 
influence would join in the conspiracy ; Jas. S. Ewing 
was the man Boyd was to rob on his way from New- 
Orleans ;* Boyd wanted me to join them ; Lofton and 
Boyd informed me some of Capt. Hudnold's negroes in- 
tended joining them, &c. ; William Donley, who lived 
in Yazoo, is one of the clan." 

He had made a disclosure voluntarily, before his 
brother Wilham made any ; for which he was afraid his 
brother would kill him if they were released. 

After hearing all the testimony in his case, a great 
deal of which is not shown, the committee came to the 
conclusion he was guilty, but would take no further 
steps in relation to him until they could hear from 
"Warren. A copy of his disclosures, and the proceed- 
ings in his case, were forwarded to the gentlemen who 
brought the Earles to Madison. In a few days a guard 
was sent from the " Committee of Safety" at Vicksburg, 
requesting the committee of Livingston to deliver him 
into their hands, which request was complied with. 
•With this case the committee adjourned sine die. 

Executive Department, Jackson, July 8, 1835. 
Gentlemen : — I regret extremely that, in consequence 
of my absence, you were not furnished the arms desired 
by you for the protection of the citizens of Madison 

* Told so by Cotton. 


county. It is true that the arms had been distributed 
among the people of this vicinity, who, hke yourselves, 
were much alarmed from the apprehension of a general 
insurrection among the slaves, against which nothing 
but the vigilance of the people can protect us. But if, 
in your opinion, the insurrectionary movements are 
not sufficiently quelled to secure the safety of the peo- 
ple of your county, 1 will cause a portion of the arms 
at this place to be forwarded to you, and, if required, 
you will please send for them. I have employed the 
bearer of this communication to carry it directly to you. 

Gentlemen : with a sincere hope that by your vigi- 
lance you may be enabled to protect yourselves against 
all danger from a deep-laid conspiracy for the destruc- 
tion of yourselves and families, 

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

Messrs. M. D. Mitchell, Chairman, James Grafton, 
John Simmons, W. Wade, Sack P. Gee, Israel Spen- 
cer, Thos. Hudnold, Charles Smith, Jesse Mabry, Robt. 
Hodge, H. D. Runnels, and Nelson L. Taylor. 

*#* The letter to the governor eliciting the above 
cannot be found. 

Livingston, July 9, 1S35. 
To liis Excellency H. G. Runnels : — 

Sir, — We have the honour of acknowledging the 
receipt of your excellency's letter, by the hand of 
Samuel Thornhill, Esq. ; in reply to which we would 
observe, that on the relm-n of our messenger from 
Jackson, we despatched another to Vicksburg, for the 
purpose of procuring arms for defending ourselves, 
which we so much stood in need of; should we be 
unsuccessful in this, we shall without delay send for 
those you have the goodness to offer. In the investi- 
gation of all the cases that have come before us, we 
have found that deep-laid plans have been prepared for 
the destruction of the whites, and the overthrow of all 
our liberties. Having full confidence in your patriotism, 
we shall, sir, ever look to you as the source of aid and 
counsel, with the pledge for ourselves and country 


that we will never forsake her in the hour of danger, 
nor permit her rights to be infringed by a lawless club. 
We have the honour to be, 

Sir, your excellency's ob'dt serv'ts. 

[Signe(? by the committee.] 
H. W. RoYCE, Secretary. 

Beatie's Bluff, 1th July, 1835. 
To Db. Mitchell and the members of the committee at 

Gentlemen : — I am not anxious to spread unnecessary 
alarm, but would suggest to your body the propriety of 
making such arrangements as to have all of the roads 
strictly guarded ; for, from all the discoveries that we 
are able to make, we have spies upon our proceedings 
every night, and you should name to the people the 
propriety of guarding the roads in every direction by- 
two or three discreet persons in a company, to proceed 
in the most private manner possible. 

Respectfully yours, and your acts are mine, in every 
sense of the word, 


We all concur in the above : — W. M. Riley, Wm. E, 
Haruld, J. L. Pennington, A. Legget, D. D. Lavidfair, 
J. H. Grember, Samuel A. Matthews, Samuel K. Sors- 
by, Jas. Lee, Wm. T. Graves, S. A. Ratliif, Wm. Hes- 
ter, Hugh Somers, Henry Amsden, jr., Keightley Saun^- 

I hereby certify that the manuscript of Alonzo Phelps, 
which I have in my possession, to the amount of be- 
tween sixty and seventy pages, contains a statement of 
a plan for exciting an insurrection among the slaves of 
the south. He mentions, in his rude and coarse phra- 
seology, his inchnation to break forth from the prison 
in which he was confined, for the purpose of bringing 
«Jbout an insurrection among the slaves. He discusses 
.he expediency of the measure very freely ; but finally 
relinquishes the project, from considerations of human- 
ity. He, in another portion of the manuscript, acknowl- 
edges having a large number of associates, whose 
names he cautiously concealed from the public, and 


from me likewise. These facts, connected with the 
circumstan:;e of his being recorded in Stewart's pamph- 
let as one of the Murrell clan, induce me to feel addi- 
tional confidence in the developments made by Stew- 
art. The manuscript of Phelps is in my possession, 
subject to be examined by the curious. I refrained 
from the publication of that part of the manuscript al- 
luded to, solely on account of my believing it danger- 
ous to publish it. H. S. FOOT. 
April 15th, 1836. 




The following history of the proceedings of the cit 
izens of Vicksburg, in hanging five professional gam 
biers, on the 6th day of July, 1835, is given for the sat 
isfaction of those who may wish to be correctly in 
formed on that subject. It will be seen that the diffi- 
culty with the gamblers at that place was unconnected 
with the insurrection, except the high state of excite- 
ment that pervaded the whole southern country at that- 
time, which had led the citizens to deal more rigor- 
ously with all offenders ; and more especially those 
of an abandoned and dissolute character, as ail profes- 
sional gamblers are. The exigency of the times had 
determined the citizens of Vicksburg to purge their 
city of all suspicious persons who might endanger the 
public safety ; and deeming the den of vipers that had 
for many years infested the city under the vile yet 
plausible appellation of sporting gentlemen, highly 
dangerous to the welfare of the city at so critical a 
time ; believing them fit subjects for the rashest en- 
terprise that might present itself, as they are a class of 
beings wholly disconnected with all the social ties of 
society and the better principles of man^ — wholly un- 
restrained by any moral compunction, from the perpe- 
tration of any act that their avarice or revenge might 
suggest, the citizens resolved that all professional 


gamblers should leave the city ; and they were the 
more determined to put their resolve into execution, 
inasmuch as the revengeful spirit of the whole frater- 
nity was imbittered against them and the place, as 
will be seen from the following history of that extra- 
ordinary occurrence, as reported by the citizens and 
those who were eyewitnesses of the circumstances. 

" Our city has for some days past been the theatre 
of the most novel and startling scenes that we have 
ever witnessed. While we regret that the necessity 
for such scenes should have existed, we are proud 
of the public spirit and indignation against offenders 
displayed by the citizens, and congratulate them on 
having at length banished a class of individuals, whose 
shameless vices and daring outrages have long poisoned 
the springs of morality, and interrupted the relations of 
society. For years past, professional gamblers, desti- 
tute of all sense of moral obligation — unconnected with 
society by any of its ordinary ties, and intent only on 
the gratification of their avarice — have made Vicks'burg 
their place of rendezvous — and, in the very bosom of 
our society, boldly plotted their vile and lawless ma- 
chinations. Here, as everywhere else, the laws of the 
country were found wholly ineffectual for the punish- 
ment of these individuals ; and, imboldened by impuni- 
ty, their numbers and their crimes have daily continued 
to multiply. Every species of transgression followed 
in their train. They supported a large number of tip- 
pling-houses, to which they would decoy the youthful 
and unsuspecting, and, after stripping them of their pos- 
sessions, send them forth into the world the ready and 
desperate instruments of vice. Our streets were ever 
resounding with the echoes of their drunken and ob- 
scene mirth, and no citizen was secure from their vil- 
lany. Frequently, in anned bodies, they have disturbed 
the good order of public assemblages, insulted our citi- 
zens, and defied our civil authorities. Thus had they 
continued to grow bolder in their wickedness, and more 
formidable in their numbers, until Saturday, the 4th of 
July (inst.), when our citizens had assembled together, 
with the corps of Vicksburg volunteers, at a barbecue, 


to celebrate the day by the usual festivities. After din- 
ner, and during the delivery of the toasts, one of the 
officers attempted to enforce order and silence at the 
table, when one of these gamblers, whose name is Ca- 
bler, who had impudently thrust himself into the com- 
pany, insulted the officer, and struck one of the citizens. 
Indignation immediately rose high, and it was only by 
the interference of the commandant that he was saved 
from instant punishment. He was, however, permitted 
to retire, and the company dispersed. The military 
corps proceeded to the public square of the city, and 
*were there engaged in their exercises, when informa- 
tion was received that Cabler w^as coming up, armed, 
and resolved to kill one of the volunteers, who had been 
most active in expelling him from the table. Knowing 
his desperate character, two of the corps instantly step- 
ped forward and arrested him. A loaded pistol and a 
large knife and dagger were found upon his person, all 
of which he had procured since he separated from the 
company. To liberate him would have been to de- 
vote several of the most respectable members of the 
company to his vengeance, and to proceed against him 
at law would have been mere mockery, inasmuch as, 
not having had the opportunity of consummating his 
design, no adequate punishment could be infficted on 
him. Consequently, it was determined to take him 
into the woods and Lynch him — which is a mode of 
punishment provided for such as become obnoxious in 
a manner which the law cannot reach. He was im- 
mediately carried out under a guard, attended by a 
crowd of respectable citizens — tied to a tree — punished 
with stripes — tarred and feathered, and ordered to leave 
the city in forty-eight hours. In the meantime, one of 
his comrades, the Lucifer of his gang, had been endeav- 
ouring to rally and arm his confederates for the purpose 
of rescuing him — which, however, he failed to accom- 

" Having thus aggravated the whole band of these 
desperadoes, and feeling no security against their vea- 
geance, the citizens met at night in the courthouse, in 
a large number, and there passed the following resolu- 
tions : — 

" Resolved, That a notice be given to all professional 
gamblers, that the citizens of Vicksburg are resolved to 
M 23 


exclude them from this place and its vicinity ; and that 
twenty-fotir hours' notice be given them to leave the 

" Resolved, That all persons permitting faro-dealing 
in their houses, be also notified that they will be prose- 
cuted therefor. 

" Resolved, That one hundred copies of the foregoing 
resolutions be printed and stuck up at the corners of 
the streets — and that this publication be deemed notice. 

" On Sunday morning, one of these notices was 
posted at the corners of each square of the city. Du- 
ring that day (ihe 5th) a majority of the gang, terrified 
by the threats of the citizens, dispersed in different 
directions, without making any opposition. It was sin- 
cerely hoped that the remainder would follow their 
example, and thus prevent a bloody termination of the 
strife which had commenced. On the mornmg of the 
6th, the mihtary corps, followed by a file of several 
hundred citizens, marched to each suspected house, and 
sending in an examining committee, dragged out eveiy 
faro-table and other gambling apparatus that could be 
found. At length they approaclied a house which was 
occupied by one of the most profligate of the gang, 
whose name was North, and in which it was under- 
stood that a garrison of armed men had been stationed. 
All hoped that these wretches would be intimidated by 
the superior numbers of their assailants, and surrender 
themselves at discretion, rather than attempt a des- 
perate defence. The house being surrounded, the back 
door was bin-st open, when four or five shots were 
fired from the interior, one of which instantly killed 
Dr. Hugh S. Bodley, a citizen universally beloved and 
respected. The interior was so dark that the villains 
could not be seen ; but several of the citizens, guided 
by the flash of their gims, returned their fire. A yell 
from one of the party announced that one of the shots 
had been effectual, and by this time a crowd of citi- 
zens, their indignation overcoming all other feelings, — 
burst open every door of the building, and dragged into 
the light those who had not been wounded. 

" North, the ringleader, who had contrived this des- 
perate plot, could not be found in the building, but was 
apprehended by a citizen, while attempting, in com- 
pany with another, to make his escape at a place not 


far distant. Himself, with the rest of the prisoners, was 
then conducted in silence to the scaifold. One of 
them, not having been in the building before it was 
attacked, nor appearing to be concerned with the rest, 
except that he was the brother of one of them, was 
liberated. The remaining number of five, among whom 
was the individual who had been shot, but who still 
lived, were immediately executed in presence of the 
assembled multitude. All sympathy for the wretches 
was completely merged in detestation and horror of 
their crime. The whole procession then j^turned to 
the city, collected all the faro-tables into a pile, and 
burnt them. This being done, a troop of horsemen set 
out for a neighbouring house, the residence of J. Hord, 
the individual who had attempted to organize a force 
on the first day of this disturbance for the rescue of 
Cabler, who had since been threatening to fire the city. 
He had, however, made his escape on that day, and 
the next morning crossed the Big Black, at Baldwin's 
Ferry, in a state of indescribable consternation. We 
lament his escape, as his whole course of life for the 
last three years has exhibited the most shameless profli- 
gacy, and been a continual series of transgressions 
against the laws of God and man. 

" The names of the individuals who perished were as 
follow: North, HuUams, Dutch Bill, Smith, and Mc- 

" Their bodies were cut down on the morning after 
execution, and buried in a ditch. 

" It is not expected that this act will pass without 
eensure from those who had not an opportunity of 
knowing and feeling the dire necessity out of which it 
originated. The laws, however severe in their provis- 
ion, have never been sufficient to correct a vice which 
must be estabhshed by positive proof, and cannot, like 
others, be shown from circumstantial testimony. It is 
practised, too, by individuals, whose whole study is to 
violate the law in such a manner as to evade its punish- 
ment, and who never are in want of secret confederates 
to swear them out of their difficulties, whose oaths can- 
not be impeached for any specific cause. We had 
borne with their enormities until to suffer them any 
longer would not only have proved us to be destitute 
of every manly sentiment, but would also have impli- 


cated us in the giiilt of accessaries to their crimes. So- 
ciety may be compared to the elements, which, although 
* order is their first law,' can sometimes be purified by a storm. Whatever, therefore, sickly sensibil- 
ity or mawkish philanthropy may say against the course 
pursued by us, we hope that our citizens will not relax 
the code of punishment which they have enacted 
against this infamous and baleful class of society — and 
we invite Natchez, Jackson, Columbus, Warrenton, and 
all our sister towns throughout the state, in the name of 
our insulted laws, of ofl'ended virtue, and of slaughter- 
ed innocence, to aid us in exterminating this deep-rooted 
vice from our land. The revolution has been conducted 
here by the most respectable citizens, heads of families, 
members of all classes, professions, and pursuits. None 
have been heard to utter a syllable of censure against 
either the act or the manner in which it was performed. 
" An Anti-Gambling Society has been formed, the 
members of which have pledged their lives, fortunes, 
and sacred honours for the suppression of gambling, and 
the punishment and expulsion of gamblers." 

Startling as the above may seem to foreigners, it 
will ever reflect honour on the insulted citizens of 
Vicksburg, among those who best know how to ap- 
preciate the motives by which they were actuated. 
Their city now stands redeemed and ventilated from 
all the vices and influence of gambling and assignation 
houses ; two of the greatest curses that ever corrupted 
the morals of any community. 


Clinton^ Miss., July 3lst, 1835. 
At a large and respectable meeting of the citizens of 
Clinton, Miss., called for the purpose of taking into 
consideration the laudable and adventurous conduct of 
Virgil A. Stewart, in the capture of the celebrated land 
pirate, John A. Murrell, of Tennessee ; J. B. Morgan 
was called to the chair, and E. D. Fenner appointed 

The object of the meeting having been explained from 
the chair, on motion, a committee was appointed to 
draught a preamble and resolutions suited to the occa- 
sion; and the following gentlemen nominated, viz., H. 
S. Foote, Thos. Harney, and G. W. Thatcher. 

After retiring for a short time, the committee returned 
and reported the following preamble and resolutions, 
w^hich were unanimously adopted, viz. : — 

Whereas the citizens of Clinton have understood that 
Mr. Virgil A. Stewart has just arrived in this town, and 
are desirous of manifesting that respect for him which 
they consider him to deserve, by reason of his having 
been instrumental in bringing to condign punishment 
the notorious villain John A. Murrell, and 

Whereas it is understood that the said Stewart 
positively declines receiving any pecuniary compensa- 
tion for the services performed by him in bringing to 
light the most bloody plot ever designed against the 
lives and fortunes of any community ; therefore, 

Be it resolved. That Mr. Stewart be invited to a public 
dinner, to be given him in this place at such time as he 
may designate, as a testimonial of the high respect of 
this people for his disinterested, patriotic, and perilous 
enterprise, undertaken, not for his own benefit, but for 
the general good. It was furthermore 

Resolved, That William M. Rives and E. D. Fenner 
be appointed a committee to present Mr. Stewart a copy 


of these resolutions, and request his compliance with 
the first resolution. 

Resolved, That Mr. L. Lindsey, G. W. Thatcher, and 
T. Parsons, be appointed a committee of arrangements, 
to raise a subscription, provide for the dinner, &c. 

Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be 
signed by the chairman and secretary, and published ni 
the newspapers of this county 

J. B. MORGAN, Chairman. 

Fi. D. Fenner, Secretary. 

Clint&n, August 1st, 1835. 
To Virgil A. Stewart. 

Dear Sir, — The undersigned have been appointed a 
committee, in behalf of the citizens of Clinton, to pre- 
sent you a copy of a preamble and resolutions recently 
adopted at a public meeting convened in this place, 
and request that you will designate some day when it 
will suit your convenience to meet our fellow-citizens at 
the festive board. With earnest wishes for your safety 
and happiness, 

We remain yours, respectfully, 


Clinton, August 1st, 1835. 
To Messrs. E. D. Fenner and Wm. M. Rives. 

Gentlemen, — I herewith acknowledge the receipt of 
your poUte invitation on the part of the citizens of 
Chnton. I am sorry that my business is such that I 
cannot designate a day when I can meet them at the 
festive board. I must therefore beg leave to dechne 
the invitation, and assure the citizens of Clinton that I 
could not receive a richer reward for my services than 
the confidence and respect of my fellow-citizens. 

In conclusion, I beg leave to express my high respect 
for your citizens, and my gratitude for the distinguished 
attentions shown me since my arrival in your city. 
With high respect, 

I am your friend and servant, 



Canton^ Miss., August 5th, 1835. 
Mr. Virgil A. Stewart : — 

Dear Sir, — At a meeting of the citizens of Canton, 
held this evening at the courthouse, S. D. Livingston, 
Esq., was appointed chairman, and Colonel Henry- 
Phillips secretary ; whereupon the following preamble 
and resolutions were unanimously adopted : — 

Whereas Mr. Virgil A. Stewart has lately arrived in 
town — a gentleman who has recently placed the people of 
the southern and western states under great obligations 
to him, by his disclosure and detection of an infamous 
conspiracy, formed by an extensive and desperate ban- 
ditti, directed against the fortunes and lives of our fel- 
low-citizens — a conspiracy which, for its deliberate 
and extensive organization, and the important and de- 
structive consequences attendant upon its ultimate aim, 
is perhaps unprecedented in the annals of crime ; — and 
whereas, believing that we can no better exhibit a sense 
of our obligations to Mr. Stewart than by extending to 
him the hospitalities of our town in a public manner — 

Resolved, That Mr. Stewart be invited to partake of 
a public dinner to-morrow, at 1 o'clock, P. M., at the 
house of W. H. Bole, Esq., of this town. 

Resolved, That T. J. Catching, T. C. Tupper, D. M. 
Fulton, C. I. Starr, Henry Phillips, S. D. Livingston, 
and Thomas Collins, be a committee to communicate 
the above invitation to Mr. Stewart, request his accept- 
ance of the same, and make such other arrangements 
for the occasion as they may deem necessary. 

We therefore beg you to accept the above testimo- 
nial of the gratitude of our fellow-citizens, and assu- 
rances of the high esteem of, 

Dear sir, your obedient servants, 


New-Orleans, August 2Ut, 1836. 
Mr. Virgil A. Stewart : — 

Sir, — The " LouisianaNative American Association," 
a patriotic institution lately organized in this state, be- 
ing apprehensive that your noble and unprecedented 
exertions for the Avelfare and happiness of your species 
are likely to prove abortive, by the almost total disap- 
pearance of your pamphlet in relation to the great 
western conspiracy, not a single copy being procurable 
in this city ; and said association believing, further, 
that your pamphlet has been surreptitiously obtained by 
the secret emissaries of said conspiracy, in order to be 
effaced from public consideration and destroyed, they 
are desirous of reprinting an edition of one thousand 
copies, to be distributed throughout the State of Loui- 
siana. Said association has therefore authorized me, 
as their official agent, to address you, and to solicit 
your permission to reprint said pamphlet in this city 
at their expense, and to inquire of you on wliat con- 
ditions you will Avaive your copyright, so as to enable 
them to accomplish this important act, and, at the same 
time, to promote your laudable and patriotic intentions. 

Entertaining, as the " Louisiana Native American As- 
sociation" does, the most exalted estimate of your phi- 
lanthropy, magnanimity, and disinterestedness, they 
trust you w ill not deny them this request. 

An immediate reply will be received by said associa- 
tion as a special favour, in addition to the great obliga- 
tions which they have already received at your hands, 
in common with the entire American family. 

With personal considerations of the highest esteem 
and admiration, I remain, sir. 

Your most obedient servant. 

Corresponding Secretary of the Louisiana 
Native American Association. 

Manchester, Miss., Sept. 8th, 1835. 

To Mr. James S. McFart.ane, Corresponding Secretary 
of the Louisiana Native American Association, at New- 
Dear Sip, — I have just received your complimentary 

and polite communication on the part of the honour- 


able body you represent. Your association requests 
permission to publish one thousand copies of the "West- 
ern Land Pirate," for the benefit of yo^ir state. You 
have my entire approbation to publish five thousand 
copies, which I hope you will do as soon as possible. 
In conclusion, I beg leave to express my gratitude 
and respect for the good opinion and friendship of your 
honourable association. 

With high respect, I am 

Your friend and servant, 




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