Believing himself chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, Nat Turner launches the largest ever insurrection by enslaved people in the United States. Turner, an enslaved man and educated minister, planned to capture Virginia's Southampton county armory and then march 30 miles to Dismal Swamp, where his rebels would be able to elude their pursuers. With seven followers, he killed Joseph Travis, his owner, and Travis’ family, and then set off across the countryside, hoping to rally hundreds of enslaved people to his insurrection en route to the armory.
During the next two days and nights, Turner and his rebels attacked homes throughout Southampton County and killed some 60 white men, women and children. Local white residents resisted the rebels, and then the state militia—consisting of some 3,000 men—crushed the rebellion. Only a few miles from Jerusalem, Turner and all his followers were dispersed, captured, or killed.
In the aftermath of the rebellion, scores of enslaved people were lynched, though many of them had never participated in the revolt. Turner himself was not captured until the end of October, and after confessing without regret to his role in the bloodshed, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. On November 11, he was hanged in Jerusalem.
Turner’s rebellion was the largest and most sustained rebellion of enslaved people in U.S. history and led to a new wave of oppressive legislation prohibiting the movement, assembly and education of enslaved people.