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 137

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
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.

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 Augusta 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

On Saturday night, August 13, 1853, 11 freedom seekers, who were not identified by name, escaped from a series of plantations "sixty miles back" of the Ohio river. Five managed to cross the river near Cincinnati, eluding slave catchers. The remaining six people were apparently recaptured. 

Start Date:
Saturday, August 13, 1853
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Freedom, Mixed

On Sunday night, August 14, 1853, four enslaved people escaped from the Henderson, Kentucky residence of slaveholder Jackson McClain. Weeks earlier, an enslaved woman had attempted to set fire to McClain's house, and now the other enslaved people he claimed were openly resisting through what local papers called a "stampede." Then on Monday night, August 15, reports circulated that "five or six more" enslaved people had escaped from McClain.

Start Date:
Sunday, August 14, 1853
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Wednesday night, September 14, 1853, five enslaved people--including three young women--escaped from near Maysville, Kentucky. They crossed the Ohio river near Ripley, Ohio, and managed to elude slave catchers. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, September 14, 1853
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

Sometime in October 1853, eight enslaved people escaped from Mason county, Virginia. They were claimed by slaveholders named Beale, Bateman, Capehart, and Mrs. Lewis. The freedom seekers' ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 15, 1853
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On October 29, 1853, around 11 enslaved people escaped in what was described as a "stampede" from Palmyra, Missouri. Later in February 1854, a local paper reported that over $15,000 in human "property" had been lost as a result of the enslaved Missourians' mass flight from bondage.

Start Date:
Saturday, October 29, 1853
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Monday night, December 12, 1853, nine enslaved people escaped from Covington, Kentucky. Five of the freedom seekers were claimed by Covington mayor Bushrod W. Foley. They apparently traveled near Cincinnati, passing through Cumminsville, Ohio on their way north, reportedly continuing on to Canada.

Start Date:
Monday, December 12, 1853
Numbers:
9
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

Sometime in early 1854, an enslaved family in Henry county, Kentucky attempted to escape.

Start Date:
Wednesday, February 1, 1854
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Sometime in late March or early April 1854, two enslaved men escaped from Virginia. Although their names were not recorded, nor any details about the precise location of their escape, they reached St. Albans, Vermont in early April. The two freedom seekers were "hotly pursued," but according to abolitionist John W. Lewis, the pair eluded slave catchers and proceeded safely to Canada. 

Start Date:
Saturday, April 1, 1854
Numbers:
2
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

Sometime in April 1854, a "stampede" of enslaved people occurred from Richmond, Virginia. The freedom seekers apparently escaped by water, prompting the Richmond Dispatch to propose a fleet of slave patrol ships, composed of "one or more fast-sailing vessels," to monitor for freedom seekers. 

Start Date:
Saturday, April 15, 1854
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Saturday night, May 28, 1854, around 20 enslaved people escaped from near Falmouth, Kentucky. Ten were claimed by slaveholder A. Robins, another six held by enslaver Charles A. Aulick, and "several others" by other slaveholding Kentuckians. The freedom seekers were "immediately pursued," though their ultimate fate remains unknown.  

Start Date:
Sunday, May 28, 1854
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, June 10, 1854, three freedom seekers escaped from near Richmond in Madison county, Kentucky for "parts unknown." One was claimed by slaveholder Colonel D. Irvine, and two by enslaver Samuel Stone. Their ultimate fate remains unknown.

Start Date:
Saturday, June 10, 1854
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Sunday, June 11, 1854, a group of 40 enslaved railroad workers escaped while constructing the Clarksville and Ridgeway Railroad, near Lynnesville, North Carolina. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, June 11, 1854
Numbers:
40
Outcomes:
Unknown

Around Sunday, June 11, 1854, a group of nine freedom seekers escaped from Boone county, Kentucky to Ohio. Once on Ohio soil, however, they were recaptured, brought before U.S. Commissioner John Pendery in Cincinnati, and remanded to slavery. 

Start Date:
Sunday, June 11, 1854
Numbers:
9
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Legal Action, Recapture/Death

On Tuesday night, June 13, 1854, 23 freedom seekers escaped from "Grant and adjoining counties." Journeying to the Licking River, the freedom seekers "lashed together" a series of canoes, and rowed to the Ohio River, charting a "circuitous route" to northern Cincinnati. Reports suggested that the next day, they were "off on the route to Canada by the underground railroad."

Start Date:
Tuesday, June 13, 1854
Numbers:
23
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom
A report from the LaGrange, MO Bulletin noted that sometime in early July 1854, four enslaved people escaped from Howard county, and were recaptured near LaGrange. Slaveholders blamed this escape on abolitionists from Quincy. The newspaper in Quincy responded by commenting: "We are getting a little tired of this disposition of our Missouri friends to lose their equilibrium, and charge that every slave stampede that takes place originates in this city."
Start Date:
Saturday, July 1, 1854
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Sometime in late June or early July 1854, a group of seven freedom seekers escaped from Maysville, Kentucky. Their fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, July 1, 1854
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown
A report from the LaGrange, MO Bulletin detailed the escape of four enslaved people, who were not identified by name, and accused "the sympathetic Abolitionists of Quincy" of "enticing" the bond people away. The Quincy Whig responded by ruminating that their Missouri neighbors "charge that every slave stampede that takes place originates in this city." According to reports, the group's escape was successful. 
Start Date:
Saturday, July 15, 1854
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Sunday, September 3, 1854, nine freedom seekers escaped from Boone county, Kentucky. Reports suggested that they were taking refuge in Cincinnati, but their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, September 3, 1854
Numbers:
9
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In late September 1854, the Lafayette, MO Express reported a "stampede" of enslaved African Americans from the town of Dover, Missouri. Suspicion immediately fell upon several Jewish men, who had allegedly "tampered with" local enslaved people. A meeting of local slaveholders ordered the Jewish men to leave town. Then around early October, a group of the freedom seekers, enslaved by S.W.

Start Date:
Sunday, September 24, 1854
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Unknown