I've been talking about how the Nat Turner rebellion stretched into the North Carolina counties neighboring Southampton, Virginia -- and especially the beheading of a slave who had the misfortune to wander through Murfreesboro.
The rebellion's ripples stretched to Chapel Hill. Students formed a voluntary guard, then petitioned Governor Stokes for muskets. They wrote that the "truly alarming attitude of a few . . . of our black population has reached our ears, and as you may well suppose has created no little excitement amongst us." While the students did not believe "we need apprehend danger in this quarter from insurrection," they realized that such a "thing is possible." And they pleaded that "in the event of an attack, we should in our present situation, destitute of weapons, be wholly unprepared to resist them." That was the wind-up to a big ask of the Governor: send us guns.
From these considerations we feel the imperious necessity of taking some step to equip ourselves with arms. We therefore have thought it expedient to request your Excellency to furnish us with sixty stand of arms, or more if practicable.
That is, the students were asking for as many guns as the Governor would send; it won't surprise you to hear that Governor Stokes' papers in Raleigh are littered with similar requests. And just to drive home that the Governor should send guns to the University, UNC's President Joseph Caldwell separately wrote to promise the governor that “measures will be taken agreeably to any directions that may be given . . . to inspect the muskets once a day, and deposit them when not in use, in a place of safe keeping, so that they may be preserved free from damage...."
I've crossed paths with President Caldwell a few times before -- as a graduation orator and as a character in an obscure Caroline Hentz novel (thanks to a paper by Susannah Loumiet). People who trek across UNC's campus will be familiar with the Caldwell monument. But I'm partial to a more obscure monument on our campus and I use it as an illustration of this post. It's the monument to Caldwell's slaves, which is in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.