Slave revolt led by Nat Turner begins in Southampton County, Va. - 1831
Turner started with several trusted fellow slaves, but the insurgency ultimately numbered more than 70 enslaved and free blacks, some of whom were mounted on horseback. On August 13, 1831, an atmospheric disturbance made the Sun appear bluish-green. Turner took this as the final signal, and began the rebellion a week later on August 21. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing all the white people they encountered.
Because the rebels did not want to alert anyone, they discarded their muskets and used knives, hatchets, axes, and blunt instruments instead of firearms. (The latter also would have been more difficult for them to collect.) Historian Stephen B. Oates states that Turner called on his group to "kill all the white people." A contemporary newspaper noted, "Turner declared that 'indiscriminate slaughter was not their intention after they attained a foothold, and was resorted to in the first instance to strike terror and alarm.'" The group spared a few homes "because Turner believed the poor white inhabitants 'thought no better of themselves than they did of negroes.'"
The rebels spared almost no one whom they encountered. A small child who hid in a fireplace was among the few survivors. The slaves killed approximately sixty white men, women and children before Turner and his brigade of insurgents were defeated. A white militia with twice the manpower of the rebels and reinforced by three companies of artillery eventually defeated the insurrection.
The Rebecca Vaughan House is the last remaining intact building in Southampton County at which owners and their families were killed in the Nat Turner Insurrection.