Runaway Slaves in Virginia
 
From: bernhard1848@att.net
 
According to the author below, Virginia slave owners averaged a loss of only about 60 slaves per year between 1800 and 1830, an insignificant number given a total slave population of nearly 470,000 by the latter year. He also notes that “there is little evidence to support the view that the average runaway was motivated by a desire for freedom in the abstract sense. Frequently he wanted to get back to his family, friends, and the place he was reared.”
 
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
www.cfhi.net  
 
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Runaway Slaves in Virginia:
 
“The average age of a runaway slave was about twenty-seven years, but their ages ranged from ten to sixty. To run away and remain at large for an extended period of time required considerably agility, ingenuity and bravery. Many times the runaway was forced to “lay up” during the day and move about at night. Unless aid was forthcoming from friends, the fugitive had to rely entirely on his own wits to obtain food and shelter. This helps explain why so few slave women attempted to escape. Because of the danger and the rigor of such an existence, slave women were reluctant to run away.
 
The misery of many slaves did not begin until after they had escaped. They had to continually be on the lookout for slave patrols…and being returned to his master, if he had one, or sold to pay the jail fees. Jailers were required by law to provide adequate clothing and other basic necessities when needed, but some of the jailers were negligent and their prisoners suffered terribly, particularly in winter. One such instance of neglect occurred in King William County. The slave brought charges against the sheriff and the latter was fined $400.
 
The fate of at least twelve runaways, who managed to escape to Wilmington, Delaware, is worth noting. Two Negro couples operated what proved to be a very unprofitable business there. While their husbands were in Maryland and Virginia decoying runaway slaves into the State of Delaware, the wives were enticing into their web certain runaways who were promptly sold. The two women were finally arrested, and at their trial it was revealed that they had sold more than a dozen fugitive slaves back into slavery.”
 
(Runaway Slaves in Virginia, 1800-1830, Major Stanley W. Campbell, Rockbridge Historical Society, Volume Six of the Proceedings, J.P. Bell Company, 1966, pp. 58-61)