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 53

Sometimes in early January 1860, newspapers reported that a "large stampede of negroes" had attempted unsuccessfully to flee from Cherokee lands in Indian Territory toward Mexico, before they were betrayed by "a faithful negro" and recaptured.

Start Date:
Sunday, January 1, 1860
Numbers:
25
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Monday, May 28, 1860, "some eight or ten slaves," according to newspaper reports, "absconded in a body" and thus conducted a "stampede" out of Frederick, Maryland. These enslaved and unnamed individuals belonged to several slaveholders, including women Caroline E. Brengle and Mary Hammond, as well as men named John Smith, Ezra Hock, and Christian Thomas. 

Start Date:
Monday, May 28, 1860
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In late August 1860, five enslaved people, a mother, two sons, a daughter and a young child "closely related to them," escaped from slaveholder Edward Bredell's property about six miles outside of St. Louis along the Clayton road. Bredell "was on a visit to the East," and the family of five left under the pretense of visiting nearby African Americans, and used the opportunity to escape. 

Start Date:
Friday, August 24, 1860
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Saturday night, September 22, 1860, there was "Quite a stampede" in Fleming Kentucky, involving at least four freedom seekers.  The local newspaper mocked these runaways as "would be Free Soilers," but named most them:  Jake (owned by Thomas R.

Start Date:
Saturday, September 22, 1860
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

In November 1860, a widely reprinted newspaper article described the fight of free blacks in South Carolina as a "stampede."  The article was referring to Black families departing the state after the passage of a new law restricting free blacks.

Start Date:
Thursday, November 1, 1860
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In early February 1860, Cleveland newspapers reported on alleged stampedes of fugitive slaves from the city heading toward Canada.

Start Date:
Friday, February 1, 1861
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In early February 1861, newspapers described how a fugitive slave case in Cleveland scared former runaways in Toledo, Ohio to "stampede" toward Canada.

Start Date:
Friday, February 1, 1861
Numbers:
25
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in March 1861, a family of four--"Onesimus" Harris, his wife Ann and children George and Charles--escaped from St. Ferdinand township, on the northern outskirts of St. Louis. The family was recaptured by U.S. officers in April 1861, and remanded by U.S. Commissioner Stephen Corneau to bondage. The arrest of the Harris family set off what Chicago newspapers described as a "stampede" of other runaway slaves and free black residents in Chicago.

 

Start Date:
Friday, March 1, 1861
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death
On Tuesday evening, March 5, 1861, just the day after Abraham Lincoln's inauguration as president, there was a reported "stampede" of "nearly a hundred negroes" from a plantation about 60 or 65 miles west of Charleston, South Carolina.  A Philadelphia newspaper correspondent noted wryly:   "Their masters were down here breaking the laws, and the negroes took the opportunity to follow their example."  The correspondent for the New York Tribune made reference to the same large escape, but also observed:  "I firmly believe that these are taking place without any aide or advice from white men."
Start Date:
Tuesday, March 5, 1861
Numbers:
100
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Near the end of April 1861, a correspondent for the New York Herald reported from Harrisburg that there had been an "attack" by a Marylander slaveholder across the border into southern Pennsylvania occasioned by the "stampede" of enslaved families from Maryland over the previous month.  "Reliable accounts say that whole families are crossing into Adams, York, and Franklin counties," read the "midnight" dispatch, estimating that upwards of 500 had fled "since the troubles began."  

Start Date:
Monday, April 1, 1861
Numbers:
500
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Unknown

Sometime in March 1861, a family of four--"Onesimus" Harris, his wife Ann and children George and Charles--escaped from St. Ferdinand township, on the northern outskirts of St. Louis. The family was recaptured by U.S. officers in April 1861, and remanded by U.S. Commissioner Stephen Corneau to bondage. The arrest of the Harris family set off what Chicago newspapers described as a "stampede" of other runaway slaves and free black residents in Chicago

Start Date:
Friday, April 5, 1861
Numbers:
100
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom
In late May, 1861, northern newspapers began reporting on the arrival of freedom seekers at Union-controlled Fort Monroe on the Virginia peninsula. "STAMPEDE OF FUGITIVES TO FT. MONROE" read one of the earliest headlines. The stories of these "contrabands" fleeing from secessionist slaveholders on the peninsula continued throughout the summer of 1861 and became a major national news story and the impetus for the First Confiscation Act (August 6, 1861).
Start Date:
Sunday, May 26, 1861
Numbers:
1000
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In early June, a newspaper reported that over one hundred Virginia freedom seekers had arrived in Harrisburg, PA.

Start Date:
Saturday, June 1, 1861
Numbers:
100
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On September 16, 1861, a group of 14 runaways from the estate of Commodore Jones in Lewinsville made it to Washington, DC.

Start Date:
Monday, September 16, 1861
Numbers:
14
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In October 1861, multiple newspapers describe "several stampedes of slaves" from Worcester County, Maryland. One Northern correspondent noted, "The negroes begin to understand that they can make hay while the sun shines, and are running away as fast as their legs can carry them."

Start Date:
Saturday, October 12, 1861
Numbers:
70
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Sunday night, November 3, 1861, there was a mass escape "of a party of some forty negroes or more" from several different slaveholders around White Point in Westmoreland County, Virginia.  Newspapers in the state blamed "military authorities" for not doing more to protect slave property.

Start Date:
Sunday, November 3, 1861
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On November 8, 1861, more than 150 enslaved Missourians escaped into the camp of Brig. Gen. Joseph H. Lane's Kansas Brigade. Although Lane allowed slaveholders to search his camp, a reporter for the New York Herald attested that not a single freedom seeker had been recaptured. The 150 freedom seekers from new Springfield and others from elsewhere in western Missouri followed Lane's brigade back into Kansas, arriving on free soil on November 13.

Start Date:
Friday, November 8, 1861
Numbers:
150
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom
Around November 20, 1861, not long after the joint operations of Union army and naval forces had secured control of Hilton Head, Port Royal and Beaufort, South Carolina (October 29-November 7, 1861), there was a reported "general stampede" of enslaved families from neighboring plantations in an area known as Bluffton (southwest of Hilton Head) toward Gen. Thomas Sherman's camp.  Northern newspapers reported that many of the freedom seekers had been shot by their masters for refusing to vacate the area with them.  One female correspondent claimed in late November, "that the stampede of the negroes at Bluffton has ended, and that many of them were returning to work on the plantations, under the belief that they would be paid for their labor by the Government."
Start Date:
Wednesday, November 20, 1861
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Freedom

Around December 10, 1861, about 18 freedom seekers were apprehended trying to escape from the Norfolk area to Union-controlled Fort Monroe.  According to newspaper reports, "The negroes were gathered here preparatory to embarking for Fortress Monroe in a row-boat, the oars of which were carefully muffled, so as to pass our fortifications on the river without arresting the attention of the guards."  The same reports claimed that the runaways were "each armed with a Colt's revolver and a bowie

Start Date:
Tuesday, December 10, 1861
Numbers:
18
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

In early 1862, a Richmond newspaper warned that the Union invasion of Accomac and Northampton counties along the Delmarva peninsula had provoked "An almost general stampede of slaves on the eastern shore." 

Start Date:
Wednesday, January 1, 1862
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In early February 1862, a Richmond newspaper reported there had been "a stampede of negroes from the vicinity of Chuckatuck" in Isle of Wright County --which was not far from Union-occupied positions around Hampton, Norfolk and Fort Monroe on the Virginia peninsula.  The newspaper used the story of the stampedes to underscore the need for drafting more local white men into the militia, claiming that the stampede "has made the necessity of these drafts even more apparent than before."

Start Date:
Saturday, February 1, 1862
Numbers:
20
Outcomes:
Unknown
In late January and early February 1862, there were a series of escapes totaling seven people from St. Joseph and dubbed a "stampede" by a local newspaper after it reported mocking coverage of the episode from a Leavenworth, Kansas newspaper.  Two enslaved people, Dan and Sina, escaped from Rev. M.E. Lard near St. Joseph, Missouri. Their enslaver, Lard, offered a $200 reward for their recapture. An enslaved girl named Fanny, aged 14-15, escaped from Col. Howard, who offered a $100 reward for Fanny's re-enslavement.  Four enslaved men––Jason, Charles, Peter, and Shelby––escaped from the farms of slaveholders Pullin, Elder, and Stamper near St. Joseph. The three enslavers advertised a joint reward of $500 for the recapture of the four escapees. According to a report in the Leavenworth, KS Times, the four men reached safety in the neighboring state.  The Kansas newspaper noted that people were gossiping that one of the enslavers was Fanny's father.
Start Date:
Saturday, February 1, 1862
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In February 1862, between thirty to forty enslaved Missourians escaped from the eastern Missouri counties of Boone, Callaway, St. Charles, and Montgomery. The St. Louis Republican reported on this "stampede of slaves," adding that city police had already been apprised of the names and descriptions of the freedom seekers. 

Start Date:
Saturday, February 15, 1862
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown
On Friday, May 16, the New York Tribune reported that "a few days ago" there had been a "stampede" of about a thousand enslaved Blacks, seeking freedom "as if by a preconcerted movement."  The anti-slavery Tribune noted sarcastically that these freedom seekers had "simultaneously left kind masters and happy homes in Prince George's County, Md."  According to the report, the refugees went straight to Washington, DC where they received protection.  Again, the Tribune correspondent observed with cold disdain:  "Marylanders complain that the inconveniences growing out of this emigration to the whites of the country are great, free labor––in many cases now necessarily performed by persons entirely unaccustomed to help themselves––being the only kind to be had."  This story made a great stir across the North.  One Republican newspaper in the midwest observed:  "The recent stampede of over one thousand from a single county to the free District of Columbia, is a pretty strong pocket emancipation argument."
Start Date:
Monday, May 12, 1862
Numbers:
1000
Outcomes:
Freedom

Around June 19, 1862, a reported 150 freedom seekers crossed the northern shore of the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Virginia. A Boston newspaper reported, "They are going, going, and will soon be gone. What do secession orators say now? Why don’t they make speeches, delineating the beauties, glories, and excellence of secession? Where is the immovable foundation on which African slavery is based?"

Start Date:
Thursday, June 19, 1862
Numbers:
150
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In mid-June, the Cecil Whig, a leading eastern Maryland newspaper, shared a brief, but very provocative report from Arkansas.  "A slave revolt and stampede is anticipated in Crittenden county, Arkansas, opposite Memphis," claimed the Whig, "and many of the white are fleeing to Memphis for safety."  There was no other information provided. 

Start Date:
Saturday, June 21, 1862
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In late July 1862, the Richmond Examiner reported under the headline, "YANKEE DEPREDATIONS IN EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA," that during the previous month, there had been several mass escapes and outbreaks of violence.  "The stampede of negroes from Eastern North Carolina is so great," claimed that newspaper, "that unless strong guerrilla parties are immediately formed and sent thither, it is thought that the country will be entirely drained of its slave population in a short time."  Arou

Start Date:
Tuesday, July 1, 1862
Numbers:
200
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

The New Orleans Delta reported that early in the morning on Monday, August 4, 1862, policemen in their city battled with a group of 25 or 30 runaway slaves along St. Ferdinand Street.

Start Date:
Monday, August 4, 1862
Numbers:
150
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Mixed

Multiple reports citing a Ste. Genevieve newspaper noted a "stampede of negroes" from throughout Ste. Genevieve county during the fall of 1862. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, October 1, 1862
Numbers:
50
Outcomes:
Unknown

In November 1862, a group of enslaved people escaped from Loutre Island and escaped across the Missouri river into Hermann, and made their way behind Union lines. Slaveholders managed to re-arrest four of the freedom seekers, who were later freed by Union authorities.

Start Date:
Saturday, November 15, 1862
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Mixed

According to the war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, there was a "stampede" that began around New Year's Eve in 1862 with " hundreds of negroes are nightly lessening the slave power of those few counties of Eastern Virginia" where he was then stationed with the Army of the Potomac.  The reporter claimed that "At least two-fifths of the slaves escaped when our army was here last year, and about one-half of the remainder were sold to the far South, immediately after; leaving abo

Start Date:
Thursday, January 1, 1863
Numbers:
400
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In February 1863, a correspondent of the New York Times traveling with Gen. McPherson's 17th Corps in Louisiana during Grant's Vicksburg campaign reported encountering hundreds of runaway slaves.  The Massachusetts newspaper which excerpted his account in mid-March, then labeled it "a complete stampede of negroes, old and young, from the Bayou Macon region," and claimed that "the remaining slaves are a source of more anxiety to the rebels than even the Yankees."

Start Date:
Sunday, February 1, 1863
Numbers:
200
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In late March 1863, Wash Minter and 20-25 enslaved Missourians escaped from Hannibal, Missouri into Quincy, Illinois.

Start Date:
Friday, March 20, 1863
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Saturday night, April 11, 1863, three enslaved people, Jerry, Louis, and Nathan, escaped from slaveholder Olly Williams's farm on the St. Charles Rock road outside St. Louis. The three freedom seekers left in Williams's wagon, guided by two mules and packed full with "other property" of their slaveholder. 

Start Date:
Saturday, April 11, 1863
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Friday night, April 24, 1863, a group of around 50 enslaved Missourians escaped from Lafayette county, Missouri, bringing with them six wagons, 18 horses and a carriage. Lexington papers reported that the group was among the "not less than three hundred slaves" who had escaped from the county over the preceding three weeks. "These slaves all go to Kansas," a report added. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, April 15, 1863
Numbers:
375
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

Around the beginning of June 1863, a correspondent for the New York Herald reported from Walnut Hills, near Vicksburg, that  "Hundreds of negroes stampeded at the approach of our troops, and followed them into our lines."

Start Date:
Monday, June 1, 1863
Numbers:
100
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In early June, newspaper reports claimed 60 freedom seekers had fled from multiple slaveholders in Annapolis, Maryland in what they termed "a wholesale stampede." Some of the named slaveholders included Charles Hammond, William Anderson Randolph, and Abraham Woodward. Newspapers reported that the runaways were "supposed to have gone to Washington, D.C."

Start Date:
Tuesday, June 2, 1863
Numbers:
60
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom
According to Kansas City newspapers, in August 1863, there was "a perfect stampede" of enslaved families in Platte County.  The accounts estimated that "the negroes are leaving at the rate of thirty or forty a day, and only a few hundred remain."  "The same process is going on all along the border," claimed a report that was soon reprinted in the St. Louis Missouri Democrat,  "and Missouri will soon be rid of her slaves, in fact, if not in name."  The journalist blamed all of this on the "Emancipation Ordinance" because Blacks in Missouri (who were exempt from the proclamation) "cannot draw nice distinctions."   The conclusion was especially telling:  "The barriers which fence in the slave systems in this State are crumbling daily, and while our politicians are talking the negro is quietly acting without any reference to statue books or ordinance."  Another newspaper account from St. Joseph, Missouri, specifically identified Platte County sheriff W.T. "Wash" Woods as the source for the information on the high rate of escaping slaves.
Start Date:
Saturday, August 1, 1863
Numbers:
400
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In early September, the Knoxville Register reported on "a large number of slaves" who had "absconded from different parts of this country our own neighborhood contributing to some extent, to the exodus."  The newspaper glumly concluded: "At the rate at which this thing has been going on for some time past, our country must soon be drained of this species of population."  A Milwaukee newspaper reprinted this story along with the tale of the simultaneous stampede of enslaved Blacks in

Start Date:
Tuesday, September 1, 1863
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In mid September 1863, there were reports that earlier in the month there had been a number of stampeding slaves from around Pikesville, Maryland.  One newspaper noted, "there seems to be a general exodus of them in that portion of the county," adding, "If this state of things continue, and it undoubtedly will, in short time there will not be an able bodied slave in that section of the country."

Start Date:
Tuesday, September 1, 1863
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Monday, September 7, 1863, a reported group of 50 enslaved people "undertook a stampede" from slaveholders in both Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, Maryland.  The group was reportedly heading toward Washington until they were cornered by a local slave patrol.  According to newspaper accounts, "The inferior quality of the stampeders' fire-arms enabled the citizens to capture them after having wounded a number."

Start Date:
Monday, September 7, 1863
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death

On Sunday, September 13, 1863, there were reports that at least 15 enslaved African Americans, including "men, women, and children," from Cedar Point Neck in Charles county, Maryland had escaped.  According to the news account, which was reprinted nationally, the group stole "a large flat-bottomed boat" from a barn, "which they carried to the creek, and thus made their escape."  A Port Tobacco, Maryland newspaper reported that  "not less than fifty negroes from this vicinity have run off" wit

Start Date:
Sunday, September 13, 1863
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In early October 1863, newspapers claimed that the "black stampede" was getting "worse and worse in the South."  "Slaves have begun to skedaddle from Texas to Mexico."

Start Date:
Thursday, October 1, 1863
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

During the first few weeks of October, a Kentucky slaveholder claimed to some reporters that "a change seems to have come over the spirit of the negroes’ dreams in the Southern counties of that State, and large numbers of them are running off."  The slaveholder then provided a specific illustration of his claim.  "He says that over one hundred and fifty have escaped from one county, and the trouble is increasing."

Start Date:
Thursday, October 1, 1863
Numbers:
150
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Around Sunday or Monday, October 11-12, 1863, there was a "stampede of slaves" in Port Tobacco, Maryland that received attention as far away as Charleston, South Carolina.  The local newspaper originally reported that there was "an exodus of forty or fifty from the neighborhood of Pomonket," adding glumly, "At this rate our county is likely to be entirely drained of available working labor in a very short time."

Start Date:
Sunday, October 11, 1863
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Around Sunday, November 29, 1863, three enslaved men escaped from the farm of Col. Chiles, near Lexington, Missouri, taking with them "three horses and a wagon and left for Kansas." The Lexington Union reported their escape as part of a wave of "negro stampeding" during the winter of 1863-1864. The three men were reportedly halted by U.S. authorities and placed "in the U.S. service."

Start Date:
Sunday, November 29, 1863
Numbers:
3
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In Ray county, Missouri, thirty enslaved people formed a "stampede" to the U.S. recruiting offices and enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops.

Start Date:
Tuesday, December 15, 1863
Numbers:
30
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

In early February, about 150 freedom seekers from around Huntsville, Alabama passed through Stevenson in the northern part of the state on their way toward Nashville, Tennessee.

Start Date:
Monday, February 1, 1864
Numbers:
150
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In May 1864, various newspapers began reporting on the influx of enslaved families at military recruiting centers across Kentucky.  One Cincinnati newspaper wrote:  "Within a few days the negroes of Kentucky have become impressed with the idea that the road to freedom lies through military service, and there has been a stampede from the farms to the recruiting offices."  By April 1865, the Louisville Journal was writing that "Hundreds and thousands of negroes have been received into

Start Date:
Sunday, May 1, 1864
Numbers:
2000
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Near the end of December 1864, there was a rush of freedom seekers from Richmond, Virginia toward Union lines near the city.  Richmond newspapers reported on the flight and attributed it to rumors that enslaved Black men were about to be impressed into the Confederate army.  The Sentinel wrote:  "A regular panic and stampede has taken place among the negroes of this city.

Start Date:
Saturday, December 17, 1864
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown