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 101 - 150 of 209

On Friday night, May 16, 1856, eight freedom seekers--six men and two women--escaped from a Romney, Virginia jail. Heading northward, the freedom seekers were overtaken and re-enslaved on Sunday, May 18, after a "desperate fight," in which two of the runaways were badly wounded. 

Start Date:
Friday, May 16, 1856
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Unknown

Around July 10, 1856, three enslaved people escaped from the residence of prominent St. Louis citizen John O'Fallon. Apparently never recaptured, their escape may have been linked to the flight of eight enslaved people from slaveholder Robert Wash just days later. On Monday night, July 14, 1856, an enslaved family--a husband and wife, their three sons, two daughters and the wife's sister, escaped from slaveholder Robert Wash near St. Louis.

Start Date:
Thursday, July 10, 1856
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Sunday night, August 10, 1856, seven enslaved people escaped from Parkersburg, Virginia. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, August 10, 1856
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Sunday night, August 31, 1856, a group of freedom seekers escaped from multiple slaveholders in Hopkins county, Kentucky. There were anywhere from 15 to 20 freedom seekers involved in the "stampede." One enslaved man from Tennessee was captured while attempting to join the group, but the fate of the others remains unknown. 

 

Start Date:
Sunday, August 31, 1856
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

On Sunday, August 31, 1856, five enslaved people, whose names were not recorded, escaped from Jamestown, Kentucky into Ohio. Their fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, August 31, 1856
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in mid-September 1856, an enslaved railroad worker commandeered an engine near Sommerville, Tennessee. With "seven or eight other" enslaved people on board, they attempted to escape. Newspapers treated it with satire, labelling it a "novel negro stampede," but for the freedom seekers it meant the difference between a life of liberty or bondage. The group abandoned the engine some 12 miles outside of Sommerville, and fled to the woods.

Start Date:
Wednesday, September 10, 1856
Numbers:
9
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Mixed

On Sunday night, September 14, 1856, eleven enslaved people--eight adults and three children--escaped from Loudon county, Virginia. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, September 14, 1856
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in the fall of 1856, a "proposed negro stampede" was thwarted in Hallettsville, in Lavaca county, Texas. Several white men "of doubtful character" were alleged to have been involved in planning and aiding the escape plot. Placed on trial, a local jury returned a verdict of not guilty, but nonetheless required the men to leave the county in 48 hours. The number of enslaved Texans who attempted to escape was not specified. 

Start Date:
Wednesday, October 15, 1856
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Sunday night, October 19, 1856, a free African American preacher named Isaac McDaniel rescued from slavery his wife, Mary, their five-year-old son Daniel, and another family enslaved by Hannibal slaveholder John Bush: 32-year-old Anthony, his wife, 34-year-old Eliza, and their children, eight-year-old Margaret and six-year-old Lewis. Taking Bush's horse and carriage, McDaniel led the two families of freedom seekers out of slavery.

Start Date:
Sunday, October 19, 1856
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in early November 1856, two groups of freedom seekers, numbering 26 enslaved people, escaped from northern Kentucky. Fourteen freedom seekers left Kenton county, while another 12 escaped from near Maysville, Kentucky. Their ultimate fate remains unknown.  

Start Date:
Wednesday, November 5, 1856
Numbers:
26
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Reports described a stampede of free African Americans from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Local whites had become angered by free Blacks' "pernicious influence among the slave population."

Start Date:
Sunday, November 30, 1856
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, January 10, 1857, eleven enslaved people escaped from a Richmond slave pen. Authorities expressed confidence they could recapture the freedom seekers, but their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Saturday, January 10, 1857
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In early February 1857, the frozen Ohio river provided a natural conduit to freedom for many enslaved Kentuckians. A family of six escaped from Covington, Kentucky during the first week of February, though a Cincinnati journalist noted that "numerous other stampedes have taken place along the line of the river." 

Start Date:
Sunday, February 1, 1857
Numbers:
20
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday, April 11, 1857, five enslaved people escaped from the vicinity of Frederick, Maryland. Two freedom seekers fled from enslaver Abdiel Unkefer in Libertytown, Marlyand, and another three people escaped from slaveholding lawyer Dawson Hammond near the town of New Market. Their fate remains unknown. 

 

Start Date:
Saturday, April 11, 1857
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday, May 30, 1857, five enslaved people escaped from Hagerstown, Maryland via horse, carriage, and buggy. They traveled to Chambersburg, where they apparently boarded the trains of the Cumberland Valley Railroad for Harrisburg. Although an initial report suggested the freedom seekers had been captured at Chambersburg, subsequent news items clarified that only the horses and carriages had been found. 

Start Date:
Saturday, May 30, 1857
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Throughout May 1857, some 31 enslaved people escaped from the vicinity of Fort Adams, Mississippi. Their names, or mode of escape, were not recorded. It remains unclear if any of the freedom seekers were recaptured. 

Start Date:
Monday, June 1, 1857
Numbers:
31
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday, August 22, 1857, around 15 enslaved people in the nation's capital clambered into a wagon, having received permission from their enslavers to attend a religious camp meeting. Instead they seized the opportunity to escape, and headed for Pennsylvania. Nine were reportedly recaptured by a Baltimore slave catcher, but the fate of the remaining freedom seekers is unclear. 

Start Date:
Saturday, August 22, 1857
Numbers:
17
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

Late August 1857 saw a "general stampede" of enslaved people from Dover, Delaware. Although their names were not recorded, reports indicate that a number of enslaved people escaped from multiple slaveholders.

Start Date:
Monday, August 31, 1857
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In early September 1857, some 12 enslaved people escaped from Norfolk, Virginia. Their names were not recorded, though multiple newspapers across the country reported on yet "another negro stampede." 

Start Date:
Tuesday, September 1, 1857
Numbers:
12
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in early September 1857, an attempted "stampede" was thwarted by local authorities in Petersburg, Virginia. A Philadelphia-bound ship was "suspected of having bargained for the wrong sort of cargo" after authorities got word that several enslaved people were planning to escape from bondage on the boat. The boat was searched at City Point, and the escape was apparently scuttled. 

Start Date:
Saturday, September 5, 1857
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

On Sunday, September 6, 1857, eight enslaved people escaped from multiple slaveholders in Loudon county, Virginia. Their ultimate destination and fate remain unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, September 6, 1857
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Sunday night, September 20, 1857, a group of 17 enslaved people escaped from Washington, near Maysville, Kentucky. Slave catchers set out in pursuit, and managed to overtake one of the freedom seekers. However, he "battled" his captors bravely, and managed to badly wound two slave catchers before being overcome and hauled off to the Maysville jail. The remainder of the freedom seekers "made their sailing clear," and apparently eluded recapture. 

Start Date:
Sunday, September 20, 1857
Numbers:
17
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death, Freedom, Mixed

On the night of Thursday, October 1, 1857, five enslaved people escaped in a horse-drawn wagon from the Bourbon county, Kentucky farm of slaveholder Daniel S. Dillon. The five freedom seekers--three men and two women--made their way to the Ohio river, where they abandoned the horse and wagon and evidently crossed the river by skiff. Dillon set out in pursuit, only to find his wagon and horse abandoned near the river.

Start Date:
Thursday, October 1, 1857
Numbers:
5
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

Sometime in early October 1857, eleven enslaved people escaped from Carroll county, Maryland. The freedom seekers passed through Carlisle, Pennsylvania on their way to freedom, though they were pursued by a posse of white Marylanders. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Thursday, October 1, 1857
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Sunday night, October 18, 1857, ten enslaved people escaped from Norfolk, Virginia. Their ultimate fate remains unknown. 

Start Date:
Sunday, October 18, 1857
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Throughout late October 1857, some 44 enslaved people escaped from the vicinity of Cambridge, Maryland. That number included a large group of 30, who escaped together on Saturday night, October 24. Slaveholders offered a $3,100 reward for their recapture, but the freedom seekers managed to elude slave catchers. 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 24, 1857
Numbers:
44
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Sunday night, November 8, 1857, a family of seven enslaved people--a father, mother, and their five children--escaped from Preston county, Virginia and headed towards Pennsylvania. They were recaptured near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where despite making a "desperate resistance, fighting with knives, hatchets, &c." the freedom seekers were overpowered. 

Start Date:
Sunday, November 8, 1857
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death

On the night of February 6, 1858,  there was a "stampede" of 15 freedom seekers who escaped from Key West, Florida by boat.  Local newspapers speculated that the group was heading toward Nassau in the Bahamas.

Start Date:
Saturday, February 6, 1858
Numbers:
15
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

According to the Baltimore Sun, there was an Easter "stampede of slaves" on Sunday, April 4, 1858, involving at least seven from the Mason plantation in Loudon County (near Point of Rocks) and two more from Berkeley County, Virginia.  

Start Date:
Sunday, April 4, 1858
Numbers:
15
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In early May 1858, the Louisville Courier reported on "an extraordinary stampede of the slaves" from Kentucky, claiming that they were fleeing "one, two, three, or a dozen at a time."  The pro-slavery newspaper naturally blamed outside agitators, claiming "black republicans are as thick in these parts as wolves on a prairie."  Multiple newspapers then reprinted and commented on this story.

Start Date:
Saturday, May 1, 1858
Numbers:
50
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, June 19, 1858, at least 15 freedom seekers fled Lovettesville, Virginia in a "negro stampede," heading "for parts unknown."

Start Date:
Saturday, June 19, 1858
Numbers:
15
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday night, July 24, 1858, four Black men escaped from Moorefield, Virginia, allegedly heading toward Pennsylvania.  The Richmond Enquirer first reported this story, which was then reprinted in the Charleston SC Courier, under the headline:  "Slave Stampede." 

Start Date:
Saturday, July 24, 1858
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In mid-July 1858, there was a reported "slave stampede" from Dorchester County, Maryland, involving six enslaved Blacks from three different owners: Dr. Tubman, Mrs. Dixon and R.L. Phillips. 

Start Date:
Saturday, July 24, 1858
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

Sometime in late July or early August 1858, there was a reported "stampede" from Virginia counties along the Maryland border that resulted in at least two of the freedom seekers getting arrested in Cumberland, Maryland and returned to their slaveholders.

Start Date:
Saturday, July 31, 1858
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Mixed, Unknown

On Saturday night, August 14, 1858, four Black men escaped from Hampshire County, Virginia in a reported "stampede."  A local newspaper noted that the men had stolen four horses, which were eventually found near Cresaptown, Maryland.

Start Date:
Saturday, August 14, 1858
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Saturday, August 14, 1858, six enslaved African Americans escaped from Barbour County, Virginia in a reported "slave stampede."  Another four freedom seekers from Taylor County joined them on the same night. 

Start Date:
Saturday, August 14, 1858
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

On Tuesday, August 31, 1858, ten freedom seekers attempted an escape from West River near Annapolis, Maryland.  Two were quickly recaptured but the rest of their group pursued them and after a "bold rush" and a "desperate fight," managed to liberate them temporarily.  But according to news accounts, the fight left two Black men in the group "dangerously wounded," which "seemed to frighten and deter the negroes, because they as speedily as possible returned home to their master."  The Annapoli

Start Date:
Tuesday, August 31, 1858
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Recapture/Death

Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois was married twice.  His first wife Martha, who died in 1853, left him ownership of a large cotton plantation in Mississippi.  This meant that Douglas, a powerful Democratic senator from a free state, was also a slaveholder in 1858, the year he campaigned against Republican Abraham Lincoln for reelection to the U.S. senate.

Start Date:
Wednesday, September 1, 1858
Numbers:
2
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Around Thursday, September 23, 1858, seven freedom seekers from Charlestown, Virginia (now West Virginia) were captured near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  They were returned to their slaveholders and soon, according to news reports, sold to "purchasers from abroad."

Start Date:
Thursday, September 23, 1858
Numbers:
7
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Around Saturday, October 30, 1858, six freedom seekers ("valued at $7,500") escaped from around Parkersburg, Virginia (now West Virginia) and remained at large.  Local newspapers blamed the "stampede," on "free negroes, who are fast getting to be an intolerable nuisance." 

Start Date:
Saturday, October 30, 1858
Numbers:
6
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death

Sometime in late October, ten freedom seekers, including five men, three women and two children, escaped from Prunytown, Virginia (now West Virginia) with "seven other chattels in the shape of horses."  According to news reports, "They left the horses after the night ride and steered for the North Star on foot," until they were confronted by slave catchers in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.  The group then engaged in "a desperate fight for freedom" and ultimately escaped.   They succeeded in wo

Start Date:
Sunday, October 31, 1858
Numbers:
10
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Violence, Unknown

On December 20, 1858, abolitionist John Brown and a group of armed activists led a raid into Vernon county, Missouri, at the behest of enslaved Missourian Jim Daniels who was owned by James Lawrence. The raid freed Daniels, his family and several other enslaved people, 11 in total (12 following the birth of John Brown Daniels), escaping westward through Kansas.

Start Date:
Monday, December 20, 1858
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

Around Saturday, January 1, 1859, five freedom seekers fled Fairmont, Virginia (now West Virginia) heading toward western Pennsylvania.  A local newspaper report labeled this a "Negro Stampede" while observing that the five runways "took a fine horse" from one of their slaveholders.  This escape from what was then known as the "Virginia Panhandle" was only one of many stampedes during the period.  Another newspaper noted:  Our 'Mountain county' exchanges bring us frequent reports of stampedes

Start Date:
Saturday, January 1, 1859
Numbers:
100
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On January 25, 1859, abolitionist John Doy, two free African Americans Wilson Hays and Charles Smith, attempted to lead 11 freedom seekers from various locations across western Missouri to freedom in Iowa. They were recaptured near Lawrence, Kansas. Doy was later rescued from prison to great fanfare, while Smith and one of the freedom seekers, Bill Riley, also managed to escape Missouri authorities. The others, however, were not so fortunate, and apparently sold down to the Deep South.

Start Date:
Tuesday, January 25, 1859
Numbers:
11
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Mixed

Sometime in February 1859, there was a report that 23 freedom seekers escaped from the Virginia panhandle (now West Virginia), passing through Waynesburg, PA on their way toward Canada.  According to a newspaper report, the runaways "were hotly pursued, but contrived to make good their escape."  The report added, "A number more were piloted over the underground railroad some days before, in the same county."

Start Date:
Sunday, February 20, 1859
Numbers:
35
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

After U.S. authorities arrested alleged runaway Daniel Webster in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in early April 1859, reports described a "stampede" of fugitive slaves who had been residing in the city. 

Start Date:
Monday, April 4, 1859
Numbers:
8
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Unknown

In early May 1859, the Detroit Advertiser reported that 75 freedom seekers "from the interior of Tennessee" had passed through their city by train on their way toward Canada.  "This is probably the largest that ever escaped in one company," claimed the newspaper.  But the newspaper also claimed that just a week earlier there other escapees, coming through Detroit in groups of seven and five, "making ninety-four in all," during the early part of the month, and "worth at the present ma

Start Date:
Sunday, May 1, 1859
Numbers:
94
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom

On Saturday, May 21, 1859, four Black men from Cynthiana, Kentucky "made a break" for the Ohio River.  Two of them succeeded by crossing near Augusta, Kentucky, but the other two were caught.  Local newspapers described this effort as a "stampede of slaves."

Start Date:
Saturday, May 21, 1859
Numbers:
4
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Recapture/Death, Freedom, Mixed

On Saturday, July 23, 1859 there was "a stampede of slaves" from Washington, DC according to the Washington Evening Star.  "From the number that is missing," observed the newspaper, "it is thought that they were taken away in some northern vessel."

Start Date:
Saturday, July 23, 1859
Numbers:
20
Outcomes:
Unknown

An antislavery vigilance operative in Detroit publicly boasted on September 28 that "quite a stampede" of more than fifteen freedom seekers had just passed safely through the city. 

Start Date:
Thursday, September 1, 1859
Numbers:
15
Starting Point:
Outcomes:
Freedom