August Tompkins to Governor William Branch Giles, 18 July 1829.
Mathews Ct. House 18th July 1829
His Excellency William B. Giles
As rumours may be spread abroad calculated to misrepresent the facts existing here of a suspected insurrection among the slaves, & unnecessarily to disturb the publick tranquility, I have deemed my duty to communicate to you such circumstances as are of any importance. About ten days ago information was communicated confidentially by a negro woman to a widow woman that it was expected generally among the slaves, that they were to be free in a few weeks.- the first of August, Seemed to be the time agreed on as the period. It was not deemed at the time of such importance as to take any notice of it.- but a conversation in a Black Smiths shop between several Negro's being overheard by two white apprentice boys who had secreted themselves behind it confessedly in relation to the subject of general emancipation of the slaves.- an investigation was made into it, & a great numbers taken up.- the evidence given in, & the confessions, generally deemed to concur in the general belief among the blacks which had been for some time entertained that the late convention election had exclusively for its object the liberation of the blacks.- & thus the question had been decided by the result of the convention election, & that it had been kept secret from them.- & that their free papers had been withheld improperly.- but were to be delivered at August court. The tenor of the evidence given in before the Magistrates was that they were to be free at the period above mentioned. This does not seem however to have been the only Idea entertained of it by two of the slaves in custody who were remanded to jail to take their trial, one of them is the Black Smith in whose Shop the conversation was carried on; & the other a negro fellow who was heard to use expressions in that conversation of a character declaratory of a purpose to rise this year or the next.- the trial of these slaves was commenced to day, but the court remanded them to jail & adjourned to friday next for the purpose of ferreting out more evidence. To what extent this delusion has gone among the blacks it not exactly knowne.- the Negro's who have been examined on the subject as witnesses say that it is the general belief among the slaves that they are emancipated. those among them who have entertained thoughts of asserting their freedom by insurrection are probably few.- but that there are some of the latter description there is very little doubt.
The Militia of this County are almost entirely destitute of arms.- 55 muskets fit for service and all by the last returns.- It [ ] be desirable under the circumstances that [ ] should be more arms in the hands of the [ ] of this county, 120 or 150 Muskets more would arm about half the effective force of the County, & also about 25 Cavalry swords & as many pair of Pistols with a small proportion of ammunition for both infantry & Cavalry to accompany the arms.- if you think with me, you will order this supply as soon as possible & I will see the arms placed in such hands as will take good care of them, & use them when required, with great respect I am very truly
Your obedt. Servt.
August. Tompkins Col. 61 Regt.
Governor's Office, Letters Received, William Branch Giles, Record Group 3, Library of Virginia.