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(SLAVERY AND ABOLITION.) Jasper L. Hall. Letter describing the defeat of slave catchers in a pitched battle with ten fugitives. Autograph Letter Signed as "J.L. Hall" to brother James E. Hall of Westerville, Franklin County, OH. 8 pages, 7 3/4 x 5 inches, on 2 folding sheets; folds, minor foxing. With original stamped hand-cancelled envelope. Helen, Barbour County, WV, 9 to 13 November 1858
This dramatic report of a successful mass escape was written by Jasper Loman Hall (1845-1883), a 13-year-old boy reporting on his own uncle's near death as one of the would-be captors.
"I told you bout Uncle Nedy Armstrong going after his negroes that ran away. He caught up with them and caught them. When they caught them, he had to shoot them to save his life. He shot three times. The first ball cut the skin of one of the negroes' forhead. The second ball went through his ear. The third ball missed and the negro stabed him. I am not certain whether he has got them all or not. Whether the stab that Mr. Armstrong got was considered dangerous or not, we have not heard." Two days later, he continued: "We heard some more of Mr. Armstrong's case. Him and five others went and caught them . . . all unarmed except Mr. Armstrong, and was taking hold of them, and they refused and commenced fighting, and Mr. Armstrong shot three times (as I stated), and they had him down, and would have killed him, only he called (to his negro) and said 'Dave, are you going to let them kill me!' and then Dave took them off. They did not get one of the negroes, but they got the horses. This happened 9 miles below Morgantown. Mr. Armstrong was taken to Morgantown and got his wounds dressed (he was very badly cut and bruised up). I do not know whether he is considered beond reach of recovery or not."
This dramatic story was reported in several newspapers, The escape featured 10 enslaved people--men, women and children--from 4 different masters in Pruntytown, WV. A 9-person search party caught up with them near Davistown, just over the state line in Pennsylvania, and met with armed resistance. Armstrong was nearly killed by an escapee named Harrison and stopped a death blow from a corn scythe with his bare hand; he was saved only by his own slave Dave, as described in the letter. The escapees were presumed to have reached Canada successfully. See the Spirit of Jefferson (Charles Town, WV), 16 November 1858. The letter has enough differences in the details to suggest that Hall had sources beyond the newspapers, as the central figure, Edward Jones Armstrong (1808-1877), seems to have been his uncle. Armstrong was married to Sophia Rightmire; Jasper's mother was Harriet Rightmire Hall. The dateline of "Helon" in Barbour County, VA (which soon became part of West Virginia) refers to a post office near Phillippi which is no longer in existence. Two Hall family members served as postmasters of Helen in the early 1850s.
Hall also described a series of religious revival meetings in his neighborhood, with participants including his own "Grandma Hall." He concludes the letter by outlining his plan to study law "and then I will be the President of the U. S. and then I will waken the black Abolitionists to there senses if they have any."
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