Tumult and Silence at Second Creek: An Inquiry into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy / Edition 1

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In the war-fevered spring and summer of 1861, a group of slaves in Adams County, Mississippi, conspired to gain their freedom by overthrowing and murdering their white masters. The conspiracy was discovered, the plotters were arrested and tried, and at least forty slaves in and around Natchez were hanged. By November the affair was over, and the planters of the district united to conceal the event behind a veil of silence. In 1971, Winthrop D. Jordan came upon the central document, previously unanalyzed by modern scholars, upon which this extraordinary book is based - a record of the testimony of some of the accused slaves as they were interrogated by a committee of planters determined to ferret out what was going on. This discovery led him on a twenty-year search for additional information about the aborted rebellion. Because no official report or even newspaper account of the plot existed, the search for evidence became a feat of historical detection. Jordan gathered information from every possible source - the private letters and diaries of members of the families involved in suppressing the conspiracy and of people who recorded the rumors that swept the Natchez area in the unsettled months following the beginning of the war; letters from Confederate soldiers concerned about the events back home; the journal of a Union officer who heard of the plot; records of the postwar Southern Claims Commission; census documents; plantation papers; even gravestones. What has emerged from this odyssey of research is a brilliantly written re-creation of one of the last slave conspiracies in the United States. It is also a revealing portrait of the Natchez region at the very beginning of the CivilWar, when Adams County was one of the wealthiest communities in the nation and a few powerful families interconnected by marriage and business controlled not only a large black population but the poorer whites as well. In piecing together the fragments of extant information about the conspiracy, Jordan has produced a vivid picture of the plantation slave community in southwestern Mississippi in 1861 - its composition and distribution; the degree of mobility permitted slaves; the ways information was passed around slave quarters and from plantation to plantation; the possibilities for communication with town slaves, free blacks, and white abolitionists. Jordan also explores the treatment of blacks by their owners, the kinds of resentments the slaves harbored, the sacrifices they were willing to make to protect or avenge abused family members, and the various ways in which they viewed freedom. Tumult and Silence at Second Creek is a major work by one of the most distinguished scholars of slavery and race relations. Winthrop D. Jordan's study of the slave society of the Natchez area at the onset of the Civil War is a landmark contribution to the field. More than that, his exhaustive and resourceful search for documentation and his careful analysis of sources make the study an extended and innovative essay on the nature of historical evidence and inference.

LSU Press

In 1861, 40 slaves in Mississippi were hanged for conspiring to murder their masters. In 1971, award-winning historian Jordan came upon the central document, previously unanalyzed by modern scholars, upon which this extraordinary book is based--a record of testimony of some of the accused slaves. The discovery led to a 20-year search for the facts of the aborted rebellion. 1 halftone; 2 maps.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Historian Jordan turns his prize-winning skills from probing the nature of white attitudes toward blacks in early America to exploring the process, possibilities, and limits of historical inference from the fears and facts of black-white violence in early Civil War Mississippi. Delving into an alleged 1861 slave conspiracy and the actual repression near Natchez, Jordan discourses on his finding and their meanings. His essay puts the local crisis in a context of sights, sounds, and other sensations that develop the significance of the events while showing how a historian works; for the latter purpose, he appends much of his evidence in 20 documents. More than the story of a black plot or white panic, this book is an engaging primer in historical reasoning and an absorbing study of the tenuous hegemony that ruled the slave South. Recommended for Civil War, local, Southern, and general history collections.-- Thomas J. Davis, Univ. at Buffalo, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807120392
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1996
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 424
  • Sales rank: 1,279,449
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Winthrop D. Jordan, the William F. Winter Professor of History at the University of Mississippi, is the author of several books, including White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550--1812, for which he received the Bancroft Prize, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, the National Book Award, and the Francis Parkman Prize.

LSU Press

LSU Press

LSU Press

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Table of Contents

Note of Appreciation and Thanks
Abbreviations and Notations on Sources
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 An Episode in May 9
Ch. 2 Evidentiary Sounds and Voices 20
Ch. 3 Of Water, Land, and Work 29
Ch. 4 Of the Planting Classes 46
Ch. 5 Of One Kind of Politics 60
Ch. 6 The Trials 73
Ch. 7 The Rebels 99
Ch. 8 Road Travelers 136
Ch. 9 Of Women White and Black 149
Ch. 10 Of Ideologies and Occupations 181
Ch. 11 Of Means and Leaders 212
Ch. 12 The Voices of Reprise 237
Ch. 13 A Separate Peace 260
Appendixes: Documents and Cast of Characters
Note on the Documents 265
Document A: Lemuel P. Conner's Record (Literal) 268
Document B: Lemuel P. Conner's Record (Augmented) 285
Document C: Susan Sillers Darden Diary 303
Document D: How[ell] Hines to Governor 308
Document E: Jo. D. L. Davenport to Governor 310
Document F: Benjamin L. C. Wailes Diary 311
Documents G: Louisa and Joseph Lowell Letters 315
Document H: William I. Minor Plantation Diary 317
Document I: S[ophia] H. Hunt to Jennie [Hughes] 320
Documents J: William H. Ker to Mary S. Ker 321
Document K: A. K. Farrar to Governor 323
Document L: Van S. Bennett Diary 325
Document M: Statement of Pleasant Scott 326
Document N: Statement of James Carter 328
Document O: Testimony of Rebecca A. Minor 330
Document P: Testimony of William T. Martin 334
Document Q: Brief on Loyalty, Katherine S. Minor Claim 338
Document R: Opinion on the Minors' Role at the Racetrack 340
Document Y: Charlie Davenport Interview (Version Y) 341
Document Z: Charlie Davenport Interview (Version Z) 345
Cast of Characters
Black, by Own Name (If Known) 349
Black, by Owner's Name or Not Owned 354
White 358
Index 369
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