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 51 - 100 of 209

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

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 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
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

On Saturday night, September 30, 1854, around six enslaved people escaped on horseback from Pendleton county, Virginia. Some were claimed by slaveholder and general James Boggs, a resident of Pendleton county. The freedom seekers' fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 30, 1854
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Throughout the fall of 1854, reports emerged detailing "the stampede" of enslaved Texans headed south to Mexico. They were purportedly "tempted thither by wandering tribes of women, wandering about like gypsies."

Start Date:
Sunday, October 1, 1854
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, October 21, 1854, "another stampede" occurred from Bourbon county, Kentucky, in which around 15 enslaved people took flight. One freedom seeker was subsequently captured near Fairview, Kentucky, and two others were sighted, but not recaptured, days later near Mays Lick. The fate of the remaining freedom seekers remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 21, 1854
Numbers:
15
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

On Sunday night, October 22, 1854, a group of 15-20 enslaved Missourians escaped from St. Louis via boat and disembarked at Keokuk, Iowa, making their way across Wisconsin and reportedly to Canada.  A month later, another large group escaped from the city and also liberated themselves.  By December 1854, there was a sense of crisis among St. Louis slaveholders over "slave stampedes" and what they perceived as the escalating challenges to their tyranny over the enslaved.

Start Date:
Sunday, October 22, 1854
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Friday night, November 24, 1854, ten enslaved people escaped from St. Louis. Their names were Lunsford Johnson, 26 years old, Emily (or Adeline), aged roughly 20 years, and her three children, 4-year-old Ellen, 2-and-a-half-year-old Belle, and one-year-old Edmund. They were joined by a 26-year-old man named Spencer, a 27-year-old man named David and perhaps three others. They reached Chicago at the same time as four freedom seekers from St. Charles and three more from Ste.

Start Date:
Friday, November 24, 1854
Numbers:
17
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Sunday evening, November 26, 1854, eight enslaved people--five men and three women--escaped from bondage in Bourbon county, Kentucky. Crossing the Ohio river aboard two skiffs, they reportedly passed through Cincinnati en route for Canada. Their enslaver, James Hatfield, pursued them to Cincinnati on Tuesday, November 28, but returned to Kentucky after learning that the freedom seekers were long since gone. 

Start Date:
Sunday, November 26, 1854
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Saturday night, January 27, 1855, a "serious stampede" rocked Richmond, Virginia. Five enslaved people, among them Bob, Joe, and Linsey, escaped for "parts unknown," armed with $1,500 in cash taken from one of their slaveholders. Indeed, Bob, the enslaved man who fled from the slave trading firm of Jones & Slater had "enjoyed their fullest confidence," and was entrusted with making regular bank deposits for the slave traders.

Start Date:
Saturday, January 27, 1855
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

On Tuesday, February 20, 1855, two enslaved people escaped from Richmond, Virginia, on the heels of another "stampede" of five freedom seekers the previous month. Their fate is unknown. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, February 20, 1855
Numbers:
2
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Sunday evening, May 21, 1855, around eight enslaved Missourians escaped via boat from St. Louis, with the aid of Mary Meachum, a prominent free African American in the city. However, authorities were waiting on the opposite shore, and five of the escapees were recaptured. Meachum and two other free blacks were later charged with assisting the escapees to flee.

Start Date:
Sunday, May 20, 1855
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Mixed

On Wednesday night, June 6, 1855, a group of enslaved people escaped from the Byrnes plantation in Bourbon county, Kentucky. When the slaveholder, Byrnes, attempted to stop the escape, a violent confrontation ensued, where the enslaver was "severely handled" and left unconscious on the ground. The number of freedom seekers, or their names, were not recorded, but they reportedly crossed the Ohio river "about ten miles below" Cincinnati.

Start Date:
Wednesday, June 6, 1855
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Freedom

On Saturday night, June 16, 1855, five enslaved people escaped from Norfolk, Virginia. Attempting to escape aboard a northern-bound ship, they were betrayed and turned over to local authorities. Then on Sunday morning, June 24, another group of 15 freedom seekers escaped by boat from Norfolk. Their fate is unknown, but later in September several freedom seekers from Norfolk appeared in Syracuse, New York. They may have been from this second group of runaways. 

Start Date:
Saturday, June 16, 1855
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Unknown

On Sunday, August 19, 1855, six freedom seekers, who were not named, escaped from Piedmont, Virginia. They fled from enslavers Isaac Parsons, G.W. Blue, G.W. Washington, William Donaldson, and Isaac Baker. Their fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, August 19, 1855
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

During the late summer and early autumn of 1855, there were numerous "stampedes" from Trimble county, Kentucky. A Madison, Indiana newspaper reported that there were "almost daily" escapes, and noted the escape of two freedom seekers held by Dr. William Ely of Milton, Kentucky. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 1, 1855
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In the span of about two weeks in early September, around 15 to 20 enslaved people escaped from Loudon county, Virginia, in what a local paper called a "wholesale stampede." The names of the freedom seekers were not recorded, but four individuals escaped from slaveholder John M. Harrison, three from a man named Skinner, three from a slaveholder named Stevenson, two from Joseph Lodge, and one from Cornelius Vandoventer, one from Joseph Meade, one from C. R. Dowell, one from Dr. F.

Start Date:
Saturday, September 1, 1855
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Saturday night, September 15, 1855, a group of freedom seekers escaped from near Chestertown, Maryland, traveling via three horses and a carriage. Accounts vary about the size of the group, alternating between 10 and 21 people.The freedom seekers passed through Rochester, New York, where Frederick Douglass announced in his newspaper that he had "the pleasure of shaking seven of them by the hand," before the freedom seekers reportedly journeyed on to Canada.

Start Date:
Saturday, September 15, 1855
Numbers:
21
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

Between Friday night, September 21 to Tuesday September 25, the Louisville Courier tallied seven enslaved people who had escaped from near Louisville, Kentucky. The ultimate fate of the seven freedom seekers remains unknown, but the "regular and constant stampede" clearly unnerved Louisville's slaveholding class. 

Start Date:
Friday, September 21, 1855
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in early October 1855, 11 enslaved people escaped from Ouachita county, Arkansas. A "general stampede among the negroes" was feared, and slaveholders feared "a concert of action" among local enslaved people. The fate of the 11 freedom seekers, however, remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Monday, October 1, 1855
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In October 1855, a correspondent to the Vicksburg, Mississippi Whig mentioned a "general stampede" of "some ten or fifteen" enslaved people from near Raymond, Mississippi. The enslaved people had apparently been hired out ("or rented") by slaveholders in Raymond, and the "stampede" may have been connected to a fever outbreak. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 20, 1855
Numbers:
15
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, October 27, 1855, seven enslaved people broke open a locked door and escaped from the slave pen of Jones & Slater in Richmond, Virginia. Three of the freedom seekers had been arrested previously, after attempting to escape from Bath county, Virginia. They were slated to be sold south.

Start Date:
Saturday, October 27, 1855
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in November 1855, a group of freedom seekers escaped from Union in Monroe county, Virginia. The number of runaways was not specified, nor were their names recorded, but reports did specify that the slaveholder, J.L. Hutchinson, lost $2,000 in human "property."

Start Date:
Thursday, November 1, 1855
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Saturday night, November 3, 1855, six enslaved people, heavily armed, mounted horses near Fairmont, Virginia and galloped northwards towards freedom. One man was recaptured, but the remainder apparently eluded re-enslavement, despite their enslavers offering a $1,000 reward for their recapture. 

Start Date:
Saturday, November 3, 1855
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Freedom, Mixed

Sometime in mid-November 1855, some 18 enslaved people--both men and women--escaped from Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia. Their fate remains unknown, but the escape did prompt concerned slaveholders to contemplate forming a squadron of slave patrolling vessels. 

Start Date:
Tuesday, November 20, 1855
Numbers:
18
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, November 24, 1855, six freedom seekers, who were not identified by name, escaped from Richmond, Virginia. Their destination is unknown, but Richmond journalists suspected that they had traveled along the "underground railroad, and are now, no doubt, on their way to the North."

Start Date:
Saturday, November 24, 1855
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday, December 1, 1855, some 11 enslaved people--seven men and four women--escaped from Richmond, Virginia. Their fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, December 1, 1855
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in December 1855, some 40 enslaved people escaped in a "stampede" from Natchez, Mississippi. According to the Memphis, Tennessee Appeal, suspicions ran high that the freedom seekers "were carried off by some up-river boat, in the hands of Abolitionists of negro thieves." But the mode of escape, or ultimate fate of the freedom seekers remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, December 15, 1855
Numbers:
40
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Sunday night, December 16, 1855, seven enslaved people escaped in a "splendid carriage" from Millersburg in Bourbon county, Kentucky. But on attempting to cross the Ohio river near Maysville, their skiff leaked and filled with water, tragically drowning a woman and her three children. The survivors were re-enslaved. 

Start Date:
Sunday, December 16, 1855
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Christmas Eve 1855, six enslaved people--four men and two women--escaped from Middleburg in Loudon county, Virginia. Traveling on horseback and in a carriage, and heavily armed, the freedom seekers passed near Hood's Mill (near Eldersburg), Maryland the following day, where white residents sounded the alarm and started in pursuit. They shot and wounded one of the freedom seekers, and recaptured him, and later recaptured another of the men, who was named Joe.

Start Date:
Monday, December 24, 1855
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

In one of the most famous and tragic episodes of the fugitive slave crisis, a group of 16 freedom seekers escaped from Boone county, Kentucky on Sunday, January 27, 1856. After crossing the Ohio river, eight members of the Garner family were overtaken by a posse of slave catchers and federal officers. Forced to surrender, freedom seeking mother Margaret Garner killed her young child, rather than see the child be returned to the horrors of slavery.

Start Date:
Sunday, January 27, 1856
Numbers:
16
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Legal Action, Violence, Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

Throughout late January and early February 1856, enslaved people launched a startling series of "stampedes" from Boone county, Kentucky and the surrounding counties. The Ohio river had frozen, temporarily forming an icy "bridge," and enslaved Kentuckians seized the moment for a mass exodus from bondage. Some estimates place the number of freedom seekers as high as 200 during this period.

Start Date:
Friday, February 1, 1856
Numbers:
200
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Freedom, Mixed

On Friday night, February 1, 1856, six enslaved Kentuckians were "taken with a sudden leaving" and escaped into Ohio. They likely crossed the river by way of the "icy bridge" that frigid winter conditions had created, near California, Kentucky. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Friday, February 1, 1856
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in mid-April 1856, 30 enslaved people escaped from Asheville, North Carolina, bound for "parts unknown." They were claimed by slaveholder Samuel S. Simmons. An Asheville journalist remarked on this "stampede," noting: "This is 'running away' by the wholesale."

Start Date:
Thursday, April 10, 1856
Numbers:
30
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown