This timeline of "slave stampedes" from across the nation includes nearly 200 distinct group escapes specifically documented by newspapers from the first use of the metaphor describing a "grand stampede" from Kentucky in 1847 until its final use (also in Kentucky) in 1865. The timeline covers stampedes from Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Virginia as well as several other Southern states. And depending on the reliability of contemporary newspaper estimates, these "stampedes" may have involved nearly 12,000 freedom seekers. While outcomes are hard to come by from these newspaper reports --and though many of these stampedes were not successful-- it is still clear that thousands of people escaped to freedom while "stampeding," especially during the wartime period. Finally, there are also some antebellum "slave stampedes" listed here from Northern states --these typically describe accounts of alleged fugitive slaves fleeing Northern cities to avoid rendition under the Fugitive Slave Law.

View All Stampedes, 1847-1865 // 1840s // 1850s // 1860s

Displaying 1 - 50 of 208

On either Friday or Saturday night, May 7-8, 1847, between 20 to 25 enslaved people escaped from different plantations in Kenton county, Kentucky. Their enslavers offered a $4,000 reward for their recapture. 

Start Date:
Friday, May 7, 1847
Numbers:
25
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In mid-May 1847, five to six enslaved people fled from Maysville, Kentucky across the Ohio River to free soil. The Covington, Kentucky Register pointed the finger at members of the Northern Methodist Church. A "distinguished preacher of that denomination" was reportedly seen at the very house where five enslaved people escaped, and around the same time.

Start Date:
Thursday, May 20, 1847
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown
On April 15, 1848, 77 freedom seekers fled Washington, D.C. with the assistance of two white abolitionists. The boat they were traveling in, The Pearl, was overtaken by slaveholders and the whole party recaptured  and brought back to Washington on April 18, 1848. Although it was not referred to as a "stampede" at the time, four years later, when President Millard Fillmore pardoned the two abolitionists involved in the escape, a Georgia editor proclaimed it "the great slave stampede."
Start Date:
Saturday, April 15, 1848
Numbers:
77
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Saturday night, August 5, 1848, a group ranging in number from 50 to 80 enslaved people fled from near Lexington, Kentucky. Accompanying the group was a white man named Patrick Doyle. The freedom seekers were overtaken and recaptured after a violent confrontation. Reports later emerged suggesting that Doyle had instigated the escape with the plan to betray the freedom seekers and pocket the reward.

Start Date:
Saturday, August 5, 1848
Numbers:
80
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Legal Action, Violence, Recapture/Death

On Tuesday night, September 5, 1848, a group of 12 to 20 enslaved people fled from two slaveholders in Baltimore county, Maryland. Six were claimed by slaveholder J.T.H. Worthington. According to reports, the group succeeded in crossing into Pennsylvania, despite being pursued by white Marylanders.

Start Date:
Tuesday, September 5, 1848
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Armed with free passes, "about forty" enslaved people were planning a stampede from Woodford county, Kentucky on Saturday night, October 7, 1848. But the plot was discovered when one enslaved person confessed, and the escape "frustrated" before it could begin. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 7, 1848
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Throughout late October 1848, multiple "stampedes" occurred from near Maysville, Kentucky. One "stampede" saw "some four or five" enslaved people escape, evidently heading for Ripley, Ohio, and "several others" were also missing. Meanwhile, three enslaved people from neighboring Montgomery county were captured near Ripley before they were able to cross the Ohio river. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 28, 1848
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In mid-November 1848, a group of seven freedom seekers passed through Cleveland en route to Canada. Reports do not specify where the escapees originated from, though they likely escaped from Kentucky.

Start Date:
Wednesday, November 1, 1848
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, December 16, 1848, two enslaved people, a man and a woman, escaped from their enslaver in Maysville, Kentucky. Reports suspected that "several others have left the city and county."

Start Date:
Saturday, December 16, 1848
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Around the beginning of September 1849, a group of freedom seekers, heavily armed "with bowie-knives, dirks, &c.," fled from Jefferson county, Virginia, heading north towards Pennsylvania. Two miles north of Wolfsville, Maryland, the group was overtaken by slave catchers. A violent confrontation ensued, and it "required a strong force" to re-enslave the freedom seekers. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 1, 1849
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death

On Sunday, September 9, 1849, a group of eight freedom seekers attempted to cross the Ohio river on a skiff. But the small boat capsized, and four of the freedom seekers were tragically drowned. The other four cried for help, were brought ashore by a passer-by, who ushered them to jail and back into slavery. 

Start Date:
Sunday, September 9, 1849
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Around the weekend of September 8-9, 1849, multiple escapes occurred throughout Hardin county, Kentucky, in what reports called a "stampede." Two enslaved people escaped from a camp meeting near Rough Creek, and it is unclear if they were recaptured. Then on Sunday, September 9, four freedom seekers escaped from three different slaveholders, but were eventually recaptured.

Start Date:
Sunday, September 9, 1849
Numbers:
9
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Mixed

On Saturday night, September 15, 1849, around 10 to 12 enslaved people escaped from multiple slaveholders near Winchester, Virginia. After a violent encounter, six were recaptured, while the fate of the remaining freedom seekers is unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 15, 1849
Numbers:
12
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Mixed

On Saturday, October 14, 1849, around six enslaved people escaped from Centreville, Maryland, heading southeast across Caroline county to Delaware, and from there to New Jersey. 

Start Date:
Sunday, October 14, 1849
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In October 1848, the Underground Railroad through Delaware was as busy as ever. Reports of numerous "stampedes" indicated that upwards of 100 freedom seekers may have escaped from Maryland, through Delaware, in their pursuit of freedom during the span of a few weeks. A Wilmington, Delaware paper noted the escape of 16 freedom seekers (eight from Maryland, and eight from Kent county, Delaware), who crossed the Wilmington bridge to Delaware.

Start Date:
Monday, October 15, 1849
Numbers:
100
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown
On Saturday night, October 27, 1849, a group of six enslaved people escaped from St. Louis for "parts unknown," according to the local newspaper. The flight came in the wake of a series of recent group escapes, leading many in the city to suspect "that they have been stampeded." This appears to be the very first newspaper reference to a slave stampede from Missouri.
Start Date:
Saturday, October 27, 1849
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Mixed
In early November 1849, somewhere between 35 and 50 enslaved people around Canton in Lewis County, Missouri, led by a woman named Lin and a man known as Miller's John, planned a stampede for freedom but were betrayed and cornered before they could cross the Mississippi River.  There was a violent shootout that left at least one dead and resulted in dozens of newspaper articles across the nation.
Start Date:
Friday, November 2, 1849
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Friday night, November 23, 1849, eight enslaved people escaped from Jefferson county, Virginia. The next night, six freedom seekers left the farms and residences of four different enslavers near Martinsburg, Virginia. 

Start Date:
Friday, November 23, 1849
Numbers:
14
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in early December 1849, five freedom seekers escaped from Talbot county, Maryland. 

Start Date:
Saturday, December 1, 1849
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Up to 14 freedom seekers escaped from St. Louis and passed through Springfield, Illinois in January 1850, where they received help from Jameson Jenkins, a free black neighbor of Abraham Lincoln's.

Start Date:
Tuesday, January 1, 1850
Numbers:
14
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Mixed

In late May 1850, a correspondent described a "stampede" of about 20 enslaved people from Washington, D.C. One group of three people escaped from the home of South Carolina congressman William Colcock on Tuesday night, May 28.

Start Date:
Tuesday, May 28, 1850
Numbers:
20
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in June 1850, a group of 16 enslaved people fled from Baltimore county, Maryland, journeying to Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania. But slaveholders offered a hefty $2,000 reward for the freedom seekers' recapture, and they were discovered hiding in the outhouse of a farm near Shrewsbury. The freedom seekers were re-enslaved and taken back to Maryland. 

Start Date:
Saturday, June 1, 1850
Numbers:
16
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Saturday night, July 27, 1850, a group of freedom seekers escaped from Washington, D.C. with the aid of abolitionist William Chaplin. Among them were several enslaved people claimed by Georgia congressmen Robert Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens. However, Washington police had gotten wind of the plot, and ambushed the wagon in which the freedom seekers and Chaplin were traveling, ending their quest for freedom. 

Start Date:
Saturday, July 27, 1850
Numbers:
5
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Freedom, Mixed

Sometime in late July 1850, a group of eight freedom seekers were seen crossing the mountains west of Clearspring, Maryland. Reports suggested that they were claimed by slaveholders from "southern Virginia."

Start Date:
Wednesday, July 31, 1850
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in early August 1850, seven freedom seekers escaped in concert from Baltimore, Calvert, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties. On Wednesday, August 7, a group of Pennsylvanians observed the freedom seekers at the home of a free black man near Shrewsbury, who was not identified by name, and attempted to trick the runaways with promises of help.

Start Date:
Thursday, August 1, 1850
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Mixed

On Sunday night, August 18, 1850, a sizable group ranging in number from 30 to 40 freedom seekers escaped from Prince George's county, Maryland. Their ultimate fate remains unknown.

Start Date:
Sunday, August 18, 1850
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Soon after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, reports described the flight of fugitive slaves from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most contemporaries believed that these individuals had long since escaped from bondage in the Upper South, and now took flight to avoid re-enslavement under the new federal code. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 21, 1850
Numbers:
140
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in late 1850, accounts described the mass escape of between 150 to 200 enslaved people held by Seminole and Creek Nations. The escapees were reportedly headed south towards Mexico. 

Start Date:
Saturday, November 30, 1850
Numbers:
200
Outcomes:
Unknown

Throughout late April 1851, a number of "stampedes" were launched from Mason and Nicholas counties, Kentucky. On Sunday night, April 27 alone, more than 14 freedom seekers escaped from around Maysville, while "several" others left Nicholas county during the same week. 

Start Date:
Sunday, April 27, 1851
Numbers:
22
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Around May 1, 1851, a "stampede" of roughly 20 freedom seekers took place from Lewis county, Kentucky. Among the group was an enslaved mother and her seven children, ranging in age from 25 to 12. However, after crossing the Ohio river the group was recaptured, with a sizable $4,000 reward doled out to the captors. Following their recapture, the mother and her seven children were sold by a Lewis county slaveholder named Fagan for $4,200. 

Start Date:
Thursday, May 1, 1851
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Sometime in May or June 1851, a group of "several" enslaved people near LaGrange, Texas made a plan to escape to Mexico. However, one of the prospective escapees set out early, was recaptured, and confessed the whole plot, thwarting the escape.

Start Date:
Sunday, June 1, 1851
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Three freedom seekers, and a man named B. Thompson who had been sentenced to 10 years in the state penitentiary for "negro stealing," escaped from the Lauderdale county jail in what contemporaries called a "stampede." Along with them was a man named Thomas Boyd, imprisoned for assault and battery. 

Start Date:
Saturday, March 27, 1852
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Reports that a U.S. deputy marshal was in Rochester with warrants under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act prompted the flight of at least three individuals fearing recapture. According to contemporary accounts, it was believed that these three individuals--and possibly more--had previously escaped from slavery and taken refuge in New York. 

Start Date:
Thursday, May 13, 1852
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Tuesday, July 13, 1852, four enslaved people escaped from St. Louis: 23-year-old George (or William Johnson), who had a free wife in St. Louis, 36-year-old John, 20-year-old Henry, and 16-year-old Isaac. Their enslaver, John Mattingly, advertised a $400 reward for their recapture.

Start Date:
Tuesday, July 13, 1852
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Wednesday night, July 28, 1852, six enslaved people, who were not identified by name, escaped from Pendleton county, Virginia. Three were held by a local attorney and slaveholder named Z. Dyer, two by another attorney, Cyrus Hopkins, and another claimed by Elijah Stonestreet. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, July 28, 1852
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, August 7, 1852, some 14 enslaved people, both men and women, escaped from Washington county, Maryland. All were claimed by a slaveholder identified as Mrs. Pendleton of Hagerstown, Maryland, who had hired out (or rented) the enslaved people to work throughout surrounding Washington county. Pendleton offered a sizable $1,400 reward for their recapture. Days later, the freedom seekers were captured at Harrisburg.

Start Date:
Saturday, August 7, 1852
Numbers:
14
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Tuesday night, August 24, 1852, seven heavily-manacled men escaped from the infamous Arterburn slave pen in Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Courier described it as a "stampede," and suspected the seven freedom seekers were "lying out" in cornfields near the city, a common resistance tactic adopted by enslaved southerners. Their ultimate fate is unknown. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, August 24, 1852
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown
On Saturday night, September 4, 1852, eight enslaved workers from the Valle mines coordinated a stampede through Ste. Genevieve.  Three of the enslaved men --Isaac, Joseph and Bill-- escaped from Valle Lead Mines in Jefferson county, some 30 miles west. Their escape was coordinated with five other freedom seekers from the town of Ste. Genevieve where the Valle family lived.  These young men (all named in a runaway advertisement) included Bernard, Edmund, Henry, Joseph and Theodore.  The freedom seekers from Ste. Genevieve also probably worked at the mines (at least occasionally).  All eight of the men were ultimately recaptured in Illinois, in Alton and near Jerseyville.   
Start Date:
Saturday, September 4, 1852
Numbers:
8
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Tuesday night, September 7, 1852, eight enslaved people--five men, a woman, and two children--escaped from Mason county, Kentucky apparently "in concert," in what the Maysville Eagle termed a "stampede." Although the fate of the eight freedom seekers is unknown, the group escape prompted calls for slaveholders to ramp up their patrols. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, September 7, 1852
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, September 25, 1852, seven enslaved people, who were not identified by name, escaped from Wood county, Virginia for "parts unknown." Six of the freedom seekers were claimed by slaveholding lawyer William Spencer, while the seventh escapee was held by the estate of the deceased enslaver George W. Kincheloe. The freedom seekers' ultimate fate remains unknown, though the Baltimore Sun commented that "stampedes have been very frequent this season in that vicinity."

Start Date:
Saturday, September 25, 1852
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Sunday night, September 26, 1852, a group of 31 freedom seekers escaped from August and Dover, Kentucky. Slaveholders pursued the freedom seekers to Ripley, Ohio, where they found some of the escapees' belongings and managed to recapture three. But African American residents of Ripley threatened to resist the slaveholders' efforts with violence if necessary, and local authorities refused to cooperate with the white Kentuckians.

Start Date:
Sunday, September 26, 1852
Numbers:
31
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Freedom, Mixed

On Saturday, October 16, 1852, a group of 16 enslaved people escaped from near Hagerstown, Maryland. Fifteen of the freedom seekers were claimed by slaveholding lawyer Elias Cheney, and another person held by lawyer Alexander Mitchell. A $1000 reward was offered for their recapture. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 16, 1852
Numbers:
16
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Wednesday, October 20, 1852, a group of 10 freedom seekers--six men and four women--escaped from "an interior county of Kentucky" and crossed the Ohio river below Louisville. According to one account, two of the men had heard rumors that they were to be sold to Louisiana, and set off with their wives in order to keep their families intact. Reports indicated that they eluded re-enslavement and successfully gained their freedom. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, October 20, 1852
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Sunday, October 31, 1852, approximately 25 enslaved people escaped from Bourbon county, Kentucky on horseback. Some of the freedom seekers were recaptured near Blue Licks, Kentucky, while others were believed to have crossed the Ohio river. Several Kentucky slave catchers visited Cincinnati days later, but apparently without success. The fate of the remainder of the freedom seekers is unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, October 31, 1852
Numbers:
25
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

Two enslaved men and a woman board a train and escaped from south of West Liberty, Kentucky. But on the train a former local judge, Don Piatt, recognized the three freedom seekers, who belonged to a relative. Piatt persuaded the three freedom seekers to disembark with him at West Liberty, with promises that he would pay them for their labor. Antislavery activists, however, doubted the sincerity of Piatt's motives and freed the three freedom seekers through a writ of habeas corpus.

Start Date:
Monday, November 15, 1852
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

Reports circulated in early 1853 that twenty enslaved people and an overseer had left the plantation of slaveholder Berry Hodge in a "stampede." The group reportedly reached Mexico and freedom. 

Start Date:
Saturday, January 1, 1853
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Saturday night, January 15, 1853, nine freedom seekers escaped from Cumberland, Maryland in a "stampede." Eight of the escapees were claimed by J.G. Lynn, a slaveholding attorney, and the ninth person by another attorney, Joseph Dilley. The nine freedom seekers charted a course some 25 miles into Bedford county, Pennsylvania, where they were overtaken by slave catchers. The eight freedom seekers claimed by Lynn were all recaptured.

Start Date:
Saturday, January 15, 1853
Numbers:
9
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

On Saturday night, April 2, 1853, 25 enslaved people escaped from Boone county, Kentucky. Reports suggest they may have travelled north, through Cincinnati to Preble county, Ohio, where Underground Railroad activists reported that "twenty-four Fugitives passed through." This account may have been referencing the same group of freedom seekers.

Start Date:
Saturday, April 2, 1853
Numbers:
29
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In mid-May 1853, a group of 15 enslaved people escaped in a "stampede" from Ray county, Missouri, bound for Iowa. "Several" were recaptured in Grundy county, but "the larger number" successfully escaped. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, May 11, 1853
Numbers:
15
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Mixed

Three enslaved people escaped from slaveholder R. Meek in Weston, Missouri. A report noted that the freedom seekers were "making for the Plains." However, two were later recaptured. Contemporary reports described the escape of these three bond people as part of a wave of recent "slave stampedes" unsettling the institution throughout western Missouri. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, May 18, 1853
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Mixed