As I'm sitting here working on the Nat Turner rebellion, I realize that I have a picture of the grave of John Hampden Pleasants, who was editor of the Richmond Whig. This is from Richmond's fabulous Shockoe Hill Cemetery -- a new favorite haunt of mine.
Pleasants was critical of the vigilante action in the wake of the rebellion -- and also argued (in opposition to many people) that the rebellion was limited in scope. Where many thought that Turner was only a small part of a vast conspiracy, Pleasants argued there was little evidence that the rebellion extended further.
I recall a lecture by Peter Wood some years ago where he said in essence, "who knows. Maybe there was a vast conspiracy." I think we'll never know, but I'm skeptical of those who think that enslaved people could co-ordinate a rebellion across broad spaces. Though a lot of people sure thought that the churches and the press were ways of organizing and spreading the spirit of rebellion.