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James Anderson’s Son
A Short Defiant Life
Author's Note
This account from 1828 might seem out of place here. But for me ancient combat is really a matter of technology. Frank and his companions used the very same weapons and faced similarly formidable enemies as Spartacus and other servile rebels of the Roman Period. In fact, if all I had was a scythe blade and loin cloth, I think I'd rather be dealing with black powder hunters with bloodhounds than velites and hasati with armored war dogs.
Defiant Frank
Frank Anderson was born a mulatto slave to a wealthy white man of Wilmington North Carolina about 1810. He was noted for having much of his ‘father’s blood’ in him, and being defiant. He never permitted himself to be whipped without a fight. It would take a gang of men—mostly fellow slaves—to overpower him. Then he would be whipped. His back was so striped from the whip that he had ridges of raised scars on his back like the ridges on a washboard.
Frank had been whipped chiefly for being proud and spirited and for coming home late after the Saturday dances. In 1927 or 28 he ran off into the countryside. The area had numerous canebrakes and swamps for concealment, and had a lot of agricultural land to plunder for supplies. The first thing Frank did was break off a scythe blade and put a straight handle on it. He made a wooden scabbard and attached it to his twine belt. On numerous occasions he managed to elude or fight off negro hunters and their hounds. [While out foraging it is likely that Frank smeared onions on his feet to throw off the bloodhounds.]
The area was rich with larger game, such as deer and bear. But the slave’s only took prey between the size of raccoons and chickens with the few small caliber guns they had. In the area that Frank travelled through on his way to a secret hideaway a local black bear was seen making off with arm loads of corn, dropping the corn over a fence, and then climbing the fence and picking up the corn before continuing on its way. The wild canebrakes and swamps about Wilmington and Cape Fear were not vast enough for a true resistance community with women, who could build dwellings and hunt large game like the Seminole’s down in Florida. The bears were feared. But nothing was feared more than the white man’s negro hunting patrols.
The Hiding Place
Fortunately, the inveterate laziness of the whites prevented them from finding the small band of escaped slaves that Frank took up with. They lived in a rocky outcropping in the midst of a swamp, behind a thick canebrake. The whites were not active or physically fit enough to negotiate the canebrake. Frank had been free for eleven months and had a price of $100 on his head.
One day a young boy made his way to the hideout and was accepted by Uncle Amos, their prophet, who star-gazed and had dreams that came true. The night after the boy joined them Amos had a dream that they must leave or one of them would be killed. They spent the day getting their weapons ready and foraging in the countryside. They bedded down with the intention of scattering and meeting at a place 14 miles away in the morning. During the night the boy said he heard something in the canebrake. Uncle Amos did not believe him.
While eating breakfast the men were surprised by negro hunters with shotguns and drawn revolvers, and a dog to each one. A gang of slaves had cleared a path through the canebrake by night. Amos instructed them to march over together and each one of them attack and cut a man and his dog. The negro hunters were wary though, and ordered them to wade through the swamp single file.
As Frank was known to be trouble one of the hunters said to him, “If you run I’ll blow your brains out.”
Frank, who was known to run ‘like a deer’, bounded off and was shot dead. This broke the spirit of the band and they were marched across the swamp one at a time and shackled to each other, and marched off to the road, where a mule cart waited for Frank’s body. His body was carried to the cart by slaves. For thirteen miles back to Wilmington Frank’s blood stained the sandy road, as his father, James Anderson, rode behind his son’s draining body on his horse, having ordered his murder.
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