Solomon Northup.

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[Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this
text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant
spellings and other inconsistencies. Text that has been changed is
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[Illustration: SOLOMON IN HIS PLANTATION SUIT.

Solomon Northup (signed)]




FIFTH THOUSAND.


TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE.


NARRATIVE

OF

SOLOMON NORTHUP,

A CITIZEN OF NEW-YORK,

KIDNAPPED IN WASHINGTON CITY IN 1841,

AND

RESCUED IN 1853,

FROM A COTTON PLANTATION NEAR THE RED RIVER,
IN LOUISIANA.


AUBURN:
DERBY AND MILLER.

BUFFALO:
DERBY, ORTON AND MULLIGAN.

LONDON:
SAMPSON LOW, SON & COMPANY, 47 LUDGATE HILL.

1853.




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight
hundred and fifty-three, by

DERBY AND MILLER,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Northern District
of New-York.


ENTERED IN LONDON AT STATIONERS' HALL.




TO

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE:

WHOSE NAME,

THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, IS IDENTIFIED WITH THE

GREAT REFORM:

THIS NARRATIVE, AFFORDING ANOTHER

Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin,

IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED




"Such dupes are men to custom, and so prone
To reverence what is ancient, and can plead
A course of long observance for its use,
That even servitude, the worst of ills,
Because delivered down from sire to son,
Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing.
But is it fit, or can it bear the shock
Of rational discussion, that a man
Compounded and made up, like other men,
Of elements tumultuous, in whom lust
And folly in as ample measure meet,
As in the bosom of the slave he rules,
Should be a despot absolute, and boast
Himself the only freeman of his land?"

COWPER.




CONTENTS.


PAGE.

EDITOR'S PREFACE, 15


CHAPTER I.

Introductory - Ancestry - The Northup Family - Birth and
Parentage - Mintus Northup - Marriage with Anne Hampton - Good
Resolutions - Champlain Canal - Rafting Excursion to
Canada - Farming - The Violin - Cooking - Removal to Saratoga - Parker
and Perry - Slaves and Slavery - The Children - The Beginning of
Sorrow, 17


CHAPTER II.

The two Strangers - The Circus Company - Departure from
Saratoga - Ventriloquism and Legerdemain - Journey to New-York - Free
Papers - Brown and Hamilton - The haste to reach the Circus - Arrival
in Washington - Funeral of Harrison - The Sudden Sickness - The
Torment of Thirst - The Receding Light - Insensibility - Chains and
Darkness, 28


CHAPTER III.

Painful Meditations - James H. Burch - Williams' Slave Pen in
Washington - The Lackey, Radburn - Assert my Freedom - The Anger of
the Trader - The Paddle and Cat-o'-nine-tails - The Whipping - New
Acquaintances - Ray, Williams, and Randall - Arrival of Little Emily
and her Mother in the Pen - Maternal Sorrows - The Story of Eliza,
40


CHAPTER IV.

Eliza's Sorrows - Preparation to Embark - Driven Through the Streets
of Washington - Hail, Columbia - The Tomb of Washington - Clem
Ray - The Breakfast on the Steamer - The happy Birds - Aquia
Creek - Fredericksburgh - Arrival in Richmond - Goodin and his
Slave Pen - Robert, of Cincinnati - David and his Wife - Mary and
Lethe - Clem's Return - His subsequent Escape to Canada - The Brig
Orleans - James H. Burch, 54


CHAPTER V.

Arrival at Norfolk - Frederick and Maria - Arthur, the
Freeman - Appointed Steward - Jim, Cuffee, and Jenny - The
Storm - Bahama Banks - The Calm - The Conspiracy - The Long Boat - The
Small-Pox - Death of Robert - Manning, the Sailor - The Meeting in
the Forecastle - The Letter - Arrival at New-Orleans - Arthur's
Rescue - Theophilus Freeman, the Consignee - Platt - First Night in
the New-Orleans Slave Pen, 65


CHAPTER VI.

Freeman's Industry - Cleanliness and Clothes - Exercising
in the Show Room - The Dance - Bob, the Fiddler - Arrival of
Customers - Slaves Examined - The Old Gentleman of New-Orleans - Sale
of David, Caroline, and Lethe - Parting of Randall and
Eliza - Small-Pox - The Hospital - Recovery and Return to Freeman's
Slave Pen - The Purchaser of Eliza, Harry, and Platt - Eliza's Agony
on Parting from Little Emily, 78


CHAPTER VII.

The Steamboat Rodolph - Departure from New-Orleans - William
Ford - Arrival at Alexandria, on Red River - Resolutions - The Great
Pine Woods - Wild Cattle - Martin's Summer Residence - The Texas
Road - Arrival at Master Ford's - Rose - Mistress Ford - Sally and
her Children - John, the Cook - Walter, Sam, and Antony - The Mills
on Indian Creek - Sabbath Days - Sam's Conversion - The Profit of
Kindness - Rafting - Adam Taydem, the Little White Man - Cascalla
and his Tribe - The Indian Ball - John M. Tibeats - The Storm
approaching, 89


CHAPTER VIII.

Ford's Embarrassments - The Sale to Tibeats - The Chattel
Mortgage - Mistress Ford's Plantation on Bayou Boeuf - Description
of the Latter - Ford's Brother-in-law, Peter Tanner - Meeting
with Eliza - She still Mourns for her Children - Ford's Overseer,
Chapin - Tibeats' Abuse - The Keg of Nails - The First Fight with
Tibeats - His Discomfiture and Castigation - The attempt to Hang
me - Chapin's Interference and Speech - Unhappy Reflections - Abrupt
Departure of Tibeats, Cook, and Ramsey - Lawson and the Brown
Mule - Message to the Pine Woods, 105


CHAPTER IX.

The Hot Sun - Yet bound - The Cords sink into my Flesh - Chapin's
Uneasiness - Speculation - Rachel, and her Cup of Water - Suffering
increases - The Happiness of Slavery - Arrival of Ford - He cuts the
Cords which bind me, and takes the Rope from my Neck - Misery - The
gathering of the Slaves in Eliza's Cabin - Their Kindness - Rachel
Repeats the Occurrences of the Day - Lawson entertains his
Companions with an Account of his Ride - Chapin's apprehensions
of Tibeats - Hired to Peter Tanner - Peter expounds the
Scriptures - Description of the Stocks, 118


CHAPTER X.

Return to Tibeats - Impossibility of pleasing him - He attacks me
with a Hatchet - The Struggle over the Broad Axe - The Temptation
to Murder him - Escape across the Plantation - Observations from
the Fence - Tibeats approaches, followed by the Hounds - They take
my Track - Their loud Yells - They almost overtake me - I reach the
Water - The Hounds confused - Moccasin Snakes - Alligators - Night
in the "Great Pacoudrie Swamp" - The Sounds of Life - North-West
Course - Emerge into the Pine Woods - Slave and his Young
Master - Arrival at Ford's - Food and Rest, 131


CHAPTER XI.

The Mistress' Garden - The Crimson and Golden Fruit - Orange and
Pomegranate Trees - Return to Bayou Boeuf - Master Ford's Remarks on
the way - The Meeting-with Tibeats - His Account of the Chase - Ford
censures his Brutality - Arrival at the Plantation - Astonishment
of the Slaves on seeing me - The anticipated Flogging - Kentucky
John - Mr. Eldret, the Planter - Eldret's Sam - Trip to the
"Big Cane Brake" - The Tradition of "Sutton's Field" - Forest
Trees - Gnats and Mosquitoes - The Arrival of Black Women in the Big
Cane - Lumber Women - Sudden Appearance of Tibeats - His Provoking
Treatment - Visit to Bayou Boeuf - The Slave Pass - Southern
Hospitality - The Last of Eliza - Sale to Edwin Epps, 146


CHAPTER XII.

Personal Appearance of Epps - Epps, Drunk and Sober - A Glimpse
of his History - Cotton Growing - The Mode of Ploughing and
Preparing Ground - Of Planting, of Hoeing, of Picking, of
Treating Raw Hands - The difference in Cotton Pickers - Patsey
a remarkable one - Tasked according to Ability - Beauty of a
Cotton Field - The Slave's Labors - Fear of Approaching the
Gin-House - Weighing - "Chores" - Cabin Life - The Corn Mill - The Uses
of the Gourd - Fear of Oversleeping - Fear continually - Mode of
Cultivating Corn - Sweet Potatoes - Fertility of the Soil - Fattening
Hogs - Preserving Bacon - Raising Cattle - Shooting-Matches - Garden
Products - Flowers and Verdure, 162


CHAPTER XIII.

The Curious Axe-Helve - Symptoms of approaching Illness - Continue
to decline - The Whip ineffectual - Confined to the Cabin - Visit by
Dr. Wines - Partial Recovery - Failure at Cotton Picking - What may
be heard on Epps' Plantation - Lashes Graduated - Epps in a Whipping
Mood - Epps in a Dancing Mood - Description of the Dance - Loss of
Rest no Excuse - Epps' Characteristics - Jim Burns - Removal from
Huff Power to Bayou Boeuf - Description of Uncle Abram; of Wiley;
of Aunt Phebe; of Bob, Henry, and Edward; of Patsey; with a
Genealogical Account of each - Something of their Past History, and
Peculiar Characteristics - Jealousy and Lust - Patsey, the Victim,
176


CHAPTER XIV.

Destruction of the Cotton Crop in 1845 - Demand for Laborers
in St. Mary's Parish - Sent thither in a Drove - The Order
of the March - The Grand Coteau - Hired to Judge Turner on
Bayou Salle - Appointed Driver in his Sugar House - Sunday
Services - Slave Furniture; how obtained - The Party at Yarney's,
in Centreville - Good Fortune - The Captain of the Steamer - His
Refusal to Secrete me - Return to Bayou Boeuf - Sight of
Tibeats - Patsey's Sorrows - Tumult and Contention - Hunting the
Coon and Opossum - The Cunning of the latter - The Lean Condition
of the Slave - Description of the Fish Trap - The Murder of the
Man from Natchez - Epps Challenged by Marshall - The Influence of
Slavery - The Love of Freedom, 191


CHAPTER XV.

Labors on Sugar Plantations - The Mode of Planting Cane - of
Hoeing Cane - Cane Ricks - Cutting Cane - Description of the Cane
Knife - Winrowing - Preparing for Succeeding Crops - Description of
Hawkins' Sugar Mill on Bayou Boeuf - The Christmas Holidays - The
Carnival Season of the Children of Bondage - The Christmas
Supper - Red, the Favorite Color - The Violin, and the Consolation
it afforded - The Christmas Dance - Lively, the Coquette - Sam
Roberts, and his Rivals - Slave Songs - Southern Life as it
is - Three Days in the Year - The System of Marriage - Uncle Abram's
Contempt of Matrimony, 208


CHAPTER XVI.

Overseers - How they are Armed and Accompanied - The Homicide - His
Execution at Marksville - Slave Drivers - Appointed Driver
on removing to Bayou Boeuf - Practice makes perfect - Epps's
Attempt to Cut Platt's Throat - The Escape from him - Protected
by the Mistress - Forbids Reading and Writing - Obtain a Sheet
of Paper after Nine Years' Effort - The Letter - Armsby, the
Mean White - Partially confide in him - His Treachery - Epps'
Suspicions - How they were quieted - Burning the Letter - Armsby
leaves the Bayou - Disappointment and Despair, 223


CHAPTER XVII.

Wiley disregards the counsels of Aunt Phebe and Uncle Abram,
and is caught by the Patrollers - The Organization and Duties of
the latter - Wiley Runs Away - Speculations in regard to him - His
Unexpected Return - His Capture on the Red River, and Confinement
in Alexandria Jail - Discovered by Joseph B. Roberts - Subduing
Dogs in anticipation of Escape - The Fugitives in the Great Pine
Woods - Captured by Adam Taydem and the Indians - Augustus killed
by Dogs - Nelly, Eldret's Slave Woman - The Story of Celeste - The
Concerted Movement - Lew Cheney, the Traitor - The Idea of
Insurrection, 236


CHAPTER XVIII.

O'Niel, the Tanner - Conversation with Aunt Phebe overheard - Epps
in the Tanning Business - Stabbing of Uncle Abram - The Ugly
Wound - Epps is Jealous - Patsey is Missing - Her Return from
Shaw's - Harriet, Shaw's Black Wife - Epps Enraged - Patsey
denies his Charges - She is Tied Down Naked to Four Stakes - The
Inhuman Flogging - Flaying of Patsey - The Beauty of the Day - The
Bucket of Salt Water - The Dress stiff with Blood - Patsey
grows Melancholy - Her Idea of God and Eternity - Of Heaven and
Freedom - The Effect of Slave-Whipping - Epps' Oldest Son - "The
Child is Father to the Man," 250


CHAPTER XIX.

Avery, on Bayou Rouge - Peculiarity of Dwellings - Epps builds
a New House - Bass, the Carpenter - His Noble Qualities - His
Personal Appearance and Eccentricities - Bass and Epps discuss
the Question of Slavery - Epps' Opinion of Bass - I make myself
known to him - Our Conversation - His Surprise - The Midnight
Meeting on the Bayou Bank - Bass' Assurances - Declares War
against Slavery - Why I did not Disclose my History - Bass writes
Letters - Copy of his Letter to Messrs. Parker and Perry - The Fever
of Suspense - Disappointments - Bass endeavors to cheer me - My Faith
in him, 263


CHAPTER XX.

Bass faithful to his word - His Arrival on Christmas Eve - The
Difficulty of Obtaining an Interview - The Meeting in the
Cabin - Non-arrival of the Letter - Bass announces his Intention
to proceed North - Christmas - Conversation between Epps and
Bass - Young Mistress McCoy, the Beauty of Bayou Boeuf - The "Ne
plus ultra" of Dinners - Music and Dancing - Presence of the
Mistress - Her Exceeding Beauty - The Last Slave Dance - William
Pierce - Oversleep myself - The Last Whipping - Despondency - Cold
Morning - Epps' Threats - The Passing Carriage - Strangers
approaching through the Cotton-Field - Last Hour on Bayou Boeuf, 279


CHAPTER XXI.

The Letter reaches Saratoga - Is forwarded to Anne - Is laid
before Henry B. Northup - The Statute of May 14, 1840 - Its
Provisions - Anne's Memorial to the Governor - The affidavits
Accompanying it - Senator Soule's Letter - Departure of the Agent
appointed by the Governor - Arrival at Marksville - The Hon. John
P. Waddill - The Conversation on New-York Politics - It suggests
a Fortunate Idea - The Meeting with Bass - The Secret out - Legal
Proceedings instituted - Departure of Northup and the Sheriff
from Marksville for Bayou Boeuf - Arrangements on the Way - Reach
Epps' Plantation - Discover his Slaves in the Cotton-Field - The
Meeting - The Farewell, 289


CHAPTER XXII.

Arrival in New-Orleans - Glimpse of Freeman - Genois, the
Recorder - His Description of Solomon - Reach Charleston Interrupted
by Custom House Officers - Pass through Richmond - Arrival
in Washington - Burch Arrested - Shekels and Thorn - Their
Testimony - Burch Acquitted - Arrest of Solomon - Burch withdraws the
Complaint - The Higher Tribunal - Departure from Washington - Arrival
at Sandy Hill - Old Friends and Familiar Scenes - Proceed to Glens
Falls - Meeting with Anne, Margaret, and Elizabeth - Solomon Northup
Staunton - Incidents - Conclusion, 310


APPENDIX, 323




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


PORTRAIT OF SOLOMON IN HIS PLANTATION SUIT,

SCENE IN THE SLAVE PEN AT WASHINGTON,

SEPARATION OF ELIZA AND HER LAST CHILD,

CHAPIN RESCUES SOLOMON FROM HANGING,

THE STAKING OUT AND FLOGGING OF THE GIRL PATSEY,

SCENE IN THE COTTON FIELD, AND SOLOMON'S DELIVERY,

ARRIVAL HOME, AND FIRST MEETING WITH HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN,




EDITOR'S PREFACE.


When the editor commenced the preparation of the following narrative,
he did not suppose it would reach the size of this volume. In order,
however, to present all the facts which have been communicated to him,
it has seemed necessary to extend it to its present length.

Many of the statements contained in the following pages are
corroborated by abundant evidence - others rest entirely upon Solomon's
assertion. That he has adhered strictly to the truth, the editor, at
least, who has had an opportunity of detecting any contradiction or
discrepancy in his statements, is well satisfied. He has invariably
repeated the same story without deviating in the slightest particular,
and has also carefully perused the manuscript, dictating an alteration
wherever the most trivial inaccuracy has appeared.

It was Solomon's fortune, during his captivity, to be owned by
several masters. The treatment he received while at the "Pine
Woods" shows that among slaveholders there are men of humanity as
well as of cruelty. Some of them are spoken of with emotions of
gratitude - others in a spirit of bitterness. It is believed that the
following account of his experience on Bayou Boeuf presents a correct
picture of Slavery, in all its lights and shadows, as it now exists
in that locality. Unbiased, as he conceives, by any prepossessions or
prejudices, the only object of the editor has been to give a faithful
history of Solomon Northup's life, as he received it from his lips.

In the accomplishment of that object, he trusts he has succeeded,
notwithstanding the numerous faults of style and of expression it may
be found to contain.

DAVID WILSON.
WHITEHALL, N. Y., May, 1853.




NARRATIVE OF SOLOMON NORTHUP.




CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY - ANCESTRY - THE NORTHUP FAMILY - BIRTH AND
PARENTAGE - MINTUS NORTHUP - MARRIAGE WITH ANNE HAMPTON - GOOD
RESOLUTIONS - CHAMPLAIN CANAL - RAFTING EXCURSION TO
CANADA - FARMING - THE VIOLIN - COOKING - REMOVAL TO SARATOGA - PARKER AND
PERRY - SLAVES AND SLAVERY - THE CHILDREN - THE BEGINNING OF SORROW.


Having been born a freeman, and for more than thirty years enjoyed
the blessings of liberty in a free State - and having at the end of
that time been kidnapped and sold into Slavery, where I remained,
until happily rescued in the month of January, 1853, after a bondage
of twelve years - it has been suggested that an account of my life and
fortunes would not be uninteresting to the public.

Since my return to liberty, I have not failed to perceive the
increasing interest throughout the Northern States, in regard to
the subject of Slavery. Works of fiction, professing to portray
its features in their more pleasing as well as more repugnant
aspects, have been circulated to an extent unprecedented, and, as I
understand, have created a fruitful topic of comment and discussion.

I can speak of Slavery only so far as it came under my own
observation - only so far as I have known and experienced it in my
own person. My object is, to give a candid and truthful statement of
facts: to repeat the story of my life, without exaggeration, leaving
it for others to determine, whether even the pages of fiction present
a picture of more cruel wrong or a severer bondage.

As far back as I have been able to ascertain, my ancestors on the
paternal side were slaves in Rhode Island. They belonged to a family
by the name of Northup, one of whom, removing to the State of
New-York, settled at Hoosic, in Rensselaer county. He brought with him
Mintus Northup, my father. On the death of this gentleman, which must
have occurred some fifty years ago, my father became free, having been
emancipated by a direction in his will.

Henry B. Northup, Esq., of Sandy Hill, a distinguished counselor at
law, and the man to whom, under Providence, I am indebted for my
present liberty, and my return to the society of my wife and children,
is a relative of the family in which my forefathers were thus held to
service, and from which they took the name I bear. To this fact may be
attributed the persevering interest he has taken in my behalf.

Sometime after my father's liberation, he removed to the town of
Minerva, Essex county, N. Y., where I was born, in the month of July,
1808. How long he remained in the latter place I have not the means
of definitely ascertaining. From thence he removed to Granville,
Washington county, near a place known as Slyborough, where, for some
years, he labored on the farm of Clark Northup, also a relative of his
old master; from thence he removed to the Alden farm, at Moss Street,
a short distance north of the village of Sandy Hill; and from thence
to the farm now owned by Russel Pratt, situated on the road leading
from Fort Edward to Argyle, where he continued to reside until his
death, which took place on the 22d day of November, 1829. He left a
widow and two children - myself, and Joseph, an elder brother. The
latter is still living in the county of Oswego, near the city of that
name; my mother died during the period of my captivity.

Though born a slave, and laboring under the disadvantages to which
my unfortunate race is subjected, my father was a man respected for
his industry and integrity, as many now living, who well remember
him, are ready to testify. His whole life was passed in the peaceful
pursuits of agriculture, never seeking employment in those more menial
positions, which seem to be especially allotted to the children of
Africa. Besides giving us an education surpassing that ordinarily
bestowed upon children in our condition, he acquired, by his diligence
and economy, a sufficient property qualification to entitle him to
the right of suffrage. He was accustomed to speak to us of his early
life; and although at all times cherishing the warmest emotions of
kindness, and even of affection towards the family, in whose house
he had been a bondsman, he nevertheless comprehended the system of
Slavery, and dwelt with sorrow on the degradation of his race. He
endeavored to imbue our minds with sentiments of morality, and to
teach us to place our trust and confidence in Him who regards the
humblest as well as the highest of his creatures. How often since
that time has the recollection of his paternal counsels occurred to
me, while lying in a slave hut in the distant and sickly regions of
Louisiana, smarting with the undeserved wounds which an inhuman master
had inflicted, and longing only for the grave which had covered him,
to shield me also from the lash of the oppressor. In the church-yard
at Sandy Hill, an humble stone marks the spot where he reposes, after
having worthily performed the duties appertaining to the lowly sphere
wherein God had appointed him to walk.

Up to this period I had been principally engaged with my father in the
labors of the farm. The leisure hours allowed me were generally either
employed over my books, or playing on the violin - an amusement which
was the ruling passion of my youth. It has also been the source of
consolation since, affording pleasure to the simple beings with whom
my lot was cast, and beguiling my own thoughts, for many hours, from
the painful contemplation of my fate.

On Christmas day, 1829, I was married to Anne Hampton, a colored
girl then living in the vicinity of our residence. The ceremony was
performed at Fort Edward, by Timothy Eddy, Esq., a magistrate of that
town, and still a prominent citizen of the place. She had resided
a long time at Sandy Hill, with Mr. Baird, proprietor of the Eagle
Tavern, and also in the family of Rev. Alexander Proudfit, of Salem.
This gentleman for many years had presided over the Presbyterian
society at the latter place, and was widely distinguished for his
learning and piety. Anne still holds in grateful remembrance the
exceeding kindness and the excellent counsels of that good man. She
is not able to determine the exact line of her descent, but the blood
of three races mingles in her veins. It is difficult to tell whether
the red, white, or black predominates. The union of them all, however,
in her origin, has given her a singular but pleasing expression, such
as is rarely to be seen. Though somewhat resembling, yet she cannot
properly be styled a quadroon, a class to which, I have omitted to
mention, my mother belonged.

I had just now passed the period of my minority, having reached the
age of twenty-one years in the month of July previous. Deprived of
the advice and assistance of my father, with a wife dependent upon
me for support, I resolved to enter upon a life of industry; and


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