We were captured on a quiet Sabbath morning, about ten o’clock, when the sun was smiling brightly, and leaves were rustling with their forest music. While the good people of the land were on their way to God’s house to pray for all mankind, here were two poor wayfarers shot down deliberately, by permission of the laws of this very land. Our captors tied our hands so tight with hitching straps, that we were fain to cry out in our great agony, but knowing it would be of no avail, and only gratify the malice of our captors we bore it all in silence. They had a large wagon close by, and in this we were driven to King George county jail. Before reaching there my wrists swelled up so that they covered the hitching strap that I was tied with, and I asked Mullen to loosen it a little so as to relieve my misery. He refused with oaths, saying, “You shall never get away from us; we wont give you a chance,” and they struck me repeatedly in the face and kicked each of us. On reaching the jail the sheriff, whose name was Dr. Hunter, came up and looked at us. I then had twenty-nine shot in my right arm and forty in my right leg. The doctor counted the holes in the flesh and said as he gazed at the mangled members, “If they were my niggers I would rather have them shot dead than wounded this way.” He abused them roundly for their bad usage of us, not perhaps so much on the grounds of humanity, as because we had depreciated in value, being not so marketable, and the doctor hated to see good property destroyed. Mullen, Bryant and White dared say nothing in reply to him, for he was rich and they were poor, but they cringed and fawned around him like the curs they were. The doctor then had us removed to a comfortable place, and dressed our wounds himself; he was a skillful man, and soon
had us on our feet again. We were put in the dungeon or cell where men condemned to be hung were kept, not a very cheerful place to be sure, but I could not help wishing I should meet that fate rather than be a slave again. I thought of the many sad, desperate men this cell had held, and wondered what their inmost secret feelings were with death staring them in the face, and life’s moments ebbing swiftly away.
Doctor James, the slave dealer who had bought me from Ayler, was at this time away, further south in Georgia, with a large gang of slaves he had taken there to sell. Knowing this fact the sheriff telegraphed to James’ partner in Richmond, and he came on at once, but when he saw how crippled we were he refused to pay the six hundred dollars reward offered for us both, and told Sheriff Hunter to keep us in the jail until James came back. We were well treated while there, which was about twenty-eight days, and during that time my thoughts were directed to Him whom I never knew before. I felt that without His help I would never be free, and I prayed to my Great Father above to be with me in this time of trouble, and in His wisdom I relied. I felt a consciousness of His near presence and it seemed as though some unseen power personally addressed me.
It was impossible to escape from the cell we were confined in. As before stated it was the one in which condemned murderers and those convicted of the most heinous offences were incarcerated. It was very strong and constantly guarded; but Providence seemed to be helping us, for after being in it for about ten days Banks was taken very ill with malarial fever, owing a good deal to the damp walls, and we were removed to a roomier and pleasanter cell up-stairs. It had two windows, one of which faced the jailor’s house, and the other was on the opposite side. We had more light than in the dungeon, and altogether it was a vast improvement for us. Nothing could arouse me, however, from the despondent feeling, which weighed me down like a heavy cloud. Promptly as the sun arose I would greet him with a good morning, and as he sank in the west in all his scarlet splendor I would say farewell, hoping I would not live to see him again,
for I longed to die and be out of a world that stifled all of my best feelings, and in which on every side I met with only curses and blows.
Shortly after being put in this upper cell I commenced to look around for a means of escape. I pulled off one of the legs of a stove that was stored in a corner of our room, and with this I pried off a board on the side of our cell and found a small strip of iron about a foot long in one corner, which I managed to rip off, and then I put back the board so that everything would look undisturbed. With this iron strip I worked unceasingly on the east window, when I could do so unobserved, but all my efforts seemed in vain; it was too strong for me. The last day we were to be in our prison had come. It was Thursday. How well do I remember it and the sinking feeling that oppressed my heart when the jailor informed us that our master, Dr. James, had returned from Georgia and was now in Fredericksburg, expecting to be at the jail next morning. All hope seemed to leave me and I fully expected to spend my future days in slavery. After a while I grew more composed over the bad news of master’s return, and repeated with a calm sort of desperation that I would rather die than see the man that bought me. I then prayed to God that if I was to be captured again not to let me escape out of there, but if I could get away for Him to show me in His wisdom what to do. I had prayed both night and day up to this time and now began to think God had given me up. I got up and walked to the window, saying: “Window, I will never try you again unless in God’s name I am told to do so.” I turned away and started right across the floor to the opposite side to try and break the other window open. I knew it was the last day I had any chance and I felt desperate. Just at that moment I heard a voice say distinctly to me: “Go back to the window you have left. Since you have declared to do what is ordered in My name I will be with you.” I stood still and dared not move either back or forward. The mysterious voice was still ringing in my ears and I felt as one dazed; I feared to go back until my mind became impressed with the idea that it really was
the voice of the Great Master I had heard. He had taken pity on me in my extremity and would now help me. Something seemed to say, “Whose name did you invoke?” and I cried aloud, “God’s name.” I then went right back to the window and an unseen power directed me just what to do. Remember, I had been at work at this window for many weary days and nights and only a few minutes previously had exerted all my strength to burst it open, but in vain. Now, after leaving it and then coming back again in obedience to the mysterious mandate, I was not five minutes in splitting the bottom sill, in which the grates were fastened. While taking out the sash I accidentally broke two of the panes of glass, and this I felt would betray me and lead to discovery of our plans. Now that I knew that all things were ready for us to escape at night this one accident spoiled it all. The guard had to come in twice before nightfall and see if everything was right, and I felt he could not help but notice the broken panes. I put in the sash, broke off the fragment of glass left, put all the pieces in the stove, and listened for the footfall of our jailor. Our fate hung on a very slender thread, for if he saw anything was wrong all was lost, and as the broken glass was so plain before him it seemed almost impossible not to perceive it. At last a heavy tramp was heard and I tried to hold my breath as he came in. How eagerly we both noticed his every movement. The door grated harshly on the rusty hinges and he entered quickly, giving us a searching glance. Then, seeing we were quietly resting, he passed on and deliberately walked up to the broken window and looked out. We thought we were lost, but no; God seemed to blind his mind, and though he saw with his eyes he did not realize that anything was amiss; and finally, after looking for several moments turned unconcernedly on his heel and left us. Then I fell on my knees and said, “Surely, Lord, Thou art with us,” and something seemed to murmur in reply, “all will yet be well.” But we had still another ordeal to go through, for after supper he would return to see if everything was safe for the night. The minutes were like hours. Our fate seemed to hang on the turn of a die, and we ardently longed for
the moments to fly quicker. “Hope deferred truly maketh the heart sick,” and I fairly yearned to be out in the fresh air once more. Would the long, long day never go by, dragging along slowly, so slowly? We heard the heavy metalic pendulum with its steady tick, and from time to time the clock would sonorously strike the hour. I prayed that God would blind the jailor’s eyes and mind as before, so that he would not see or realize what had been done. Thus silently and prayerfully we awaited his coming. The slanting rays of the sun told us that night was coming on and soon her dark mantle began to fold around our prison home. Under her friendly veil we would make one last desperate effort to free ourselves again. At last the tread of our jailor was heard, and for a moment I wished the earth would open and swallow me, so fearful had I become of discovery. I, who knew not the meaning of nerves, felt completely unstrung, and I quivered and shook with fear. Banks lay close by me, and I said to him: “Remember Daniel was saved even when in the lion’s den, and we will yet be saved from these human tigers.” As if to verify what I had said, the guard gave but a casual glance around, staid only a few moments, and left. To paint the relief we felt were impossible. I clasped Banks and he me, and looking into each other’s eyes we both breathed one mighty prayer of thankfulnes to the great overruling power that we felt had saved us.
He also states regarding their religious beliefs as slaves the below:
The worthy ministers who performed the services were pretty actively employed in the obituary line of business, at this time, but they were fully equal to the occasion and had great command of language. Many of them could not read or write, but they would express themselves in their own peculiar phraseology, and, as they burned with a fiery zeal, it made up for defects of education. Taking into consideration the uncultured state of their hearers, these worthy men gave good satisfaction. Having great powers of imagery and felicity of expression, they would often astonish their educated white hearers, by the fluent, eloquent language used, and the many quaint expressions and original
interpretations of Scripture made by these earnest souls often showed a vein of thought of a high order.
We had our regular Wednesday night prayer meetings at each other’s houses, but they were held at the discretion of our master, and if the edict went forth that we could have none, we were obliged to hold them by stealth, like the Covenanters of old in Scotland. If we had a local minister he would preside, otherwise we would manage among ourselves. There would seldom be silence in our meetings, waiting for each other to speak, as I am told there is often in a white man’s prayer meeting. We were always ready, that is the religious ones, to testify, and felt much better for doing so. Some of the ministers were not allowed to preach if the master was arbitrary or down on them for something, as was frequently the case
three days and then when I said farewell, he replied: “You will never see me any more on earth; let us try and meet above.”
I have often seen Africans not long out who could not speak English. They were chiefly Zulus, and were tatooed across the chest with stars. After a time they would begin to pick up some of our language, and then they would want us to be friendly and social with them. I remember them using these words, “You dem all come over and visit we dem all and we uns will go over and see you uns.” I heard of some that believed in voodouism and fetishism, but never saw any of their religious rites performed, though I believe that further south they practiced many superstitious observances.