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Great Dismal Swamp and Runaway slaves

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by donna, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. donna

    donna Colonel Forum Host

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    There was interesting article in our paper on this subject. It was a haven for runaway slaves. It said that thousands of people lived here and for the most part their lives were unrecorded. They lived in small communities of wooden buildings on high ground.

    The Great Swamp straddles the line between North Carolina and Virginia. Today it covers over 112,000 acres. Before the Civil War, it was much larger. The site was long known as a havens for escapees. There were actually advertisements in newspapers seeking the return of slaves from the Swamp.

    Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote book on the Swamp. It is "Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp". It was her second novel and was published in 1856. Dred is an escaped slave. He lives in the Great Dismal Swamp, preaching angry and violent retribution for the evils of slavery and rescuing escapees from slavecatchers.

    The novel is interesting in the historical context of runaway slave communities surviving for a long time in swamp areas. The swamps were places where runaways could hide and became a taboo subject for the South to discuss.

    There is suppose to be a permanent exhibit this Fall by the National Park Service about the Swamp and runaways and their communities.
     

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  3. jpeter

    jpeter 1st Lieutenant Retired Moderator

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    Very interesting.

    I believe that swamp was also a haven for some Native Americans and creole communities... although I suspect slaves took the most advantage of it, just as they did in the Florida swamps.
     
  4. donna

    donna Colonel Forum Host

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    The History of the Swamp is very interesting. Scientists believe it was created when the continental shelf made its last big shift. It consists mainly of peat and water. The origin of Lake Drummond. one of only two natural lakes in Virginia, is not clear. Scientists believe the lake resulted from the impact of a meteorite. Native Americans tell of a giant "firebird" that made a nest of fire in the swamp and later the nest filled with rain water.

    There is evidence that people lived in swamp over 13,000 years ago. In 1650 there were native Americans in the Great Dismal Swamp. In 1665, William Drummond, first governor of N.C., discovered the lake. It was named for him. It is said that William Byrd II after surveying the area named it the Dismal Swamp. In 1763, George Washington visited the area and he and others founded the Dismal Swamp Company.

    The Dismal Swamp Canal was authorized by Virginia in 1787 and by North Carolina in 1790. It was completed in 1805. A railroad was constructed through part of swamp in 1830. The canal deteriorated. In 1929 the U.S. Government bought the Dismal Swamp Canal and began to improve it. It is now the oldest operating artificial waterway in the Country.

    The Swamp was the home to runaway slaves. As I mentioned in previous post this was reflected in Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, "Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp".
     

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