Land of Pharaohs Part Three
By: Mark Kodama

Big Mo and Joshua were at the Giles Reese farm. Big Mo was sitting amongst scattered logs in what was a rough cabin.

“This is where I grew up,” Big Mo said. “Used to hunt coons and possums here with my lil’ brother.”

“Noth’in left,” Joshua said.

“Jus’ ghosts,” Big Mo said. “And memories.”

“My daddy once baptized a white man in the river. He was a troubled but good man: an overseer on one of the plantations.

“When my daddy baptized him in the river all the people turned out. The back folk were there to cheer. The white folk were there to jeer.

***

Big Mo and Joshua were at a pond. Water oaks and cypresses grew from the water and the banks. Lily pads floated in the water. Flies buzzed.

“This is where it all started,” Big Mo said. “When my dad arrived, General Hark and

Nelson the conjurer were roasting a pig. Will the Executioner was sitting on his haunches. His ax was at his side. Henry, Sam and Jack were drinking apple brandy. All seems like

yesterday. There was so much hope. All seemed possible.”

***

It is August 21, 1831, Cabin Pond, Virginia. Nat Turner, 31, a small charismatic man arrives.

“The preacher is here,” said Nelson the conjurer.

“Brother Nat,” Hark said.

The men embraced.

Nat then embraced Nelson, Henry and Sam.

“All is ready,” Nat said. “Judgment Day is here.”

“God is with us,” Nelson said. “Since God is with us, who can

stand against us? I can see the future. I see success.”

“Who are you?” Nat said to Will.

“I am Will,” he said.

“He is a good man, Nat,” Hark said.

“How come you are here?” Nat asked Will.

“My life is worth no more than everyone else’s,” Will said. “I’m here to win our freedom or die.”

“Well, it is now time,” Nat said. “God has ordered us.”

“Amen, preacher,” Henry said.

“With God on our side, we cannot lose,” Nelson said.

“There is only seven of us,” Jack said. “This makes no sense. It will only lead to our deaths. And bring the full wrath of the white folk upon our heads. And how are we to murder innocent women and children?”

“More will join,” Hark said. “We must believe in ourselves. If the white folk treat us like animals we do not have to behave like men. This is a life and death struggles and our odds are long enough already.

“The militia is out of town. We will strike quickly without warning, “ Nat said. “Others will join us. We will be in Jerusalem before they can organize.

“How do you know?” Jack said.

“The way has been prepared,” Nat said. “The hand of the Lord is upon us. God will strengthen us. Are you questioning God? Did not the Lord say ‘Seek ye the kingdom of heaven and all things shall be added unto you.’ We shall slay our oppressors with their own weapons.”

“Don’t be afraid though briers and thorns are all around you and scorpions surround you.

“Jehovah commanded ‘The end is upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and I will repay you for all your detestable practices.

“I saw a vision of white spirits and black spirits in the fight to the death,” Nat said. “We must have faith. If we lose confidence in God and ourselves we are as good as dead.”

“Believe in the prophet,” Nelson said. “He sees the future. He controls the cloud. God speaks directly to him. God has commanded the prophet to lead his people in a great battle against slavery.”

“Didn’t you see the signs: the solar eclipse? Today, the sun turned green.”

“Believe in the prophet,” Henry repeated. “You do not need to reason. All you have to do is believe.”

“I sees what I sees,” Will said. “I hears what I hears. I touches what I touches. I believes in nothing else. You may control clouds. You may walk on water. I ain’t gonna believe in nothin’ I can’t see myself.

“I ain’t gonna believe in no God at leas’ here on earth,” he said. “On earth, we must take our own life in our own hands. You see mah ax? That’s what I believe in.

“I will win my freedom or die,” he said. “When I die I ‘spect no pearly gates; no singin’ angels. When I die, I ‘spect only death.

“While I live I want to breath free air,” he said. “I want to work when I want to work. I want to res’ when I want to res. And I want to enjoy the fruits of my own labor.”

“I want to judge for myself what is right and wrong,” he said. “I don’ want no one tellin’ me what is right and what is wrong.”

“White man starves you then whips you for steal’in his food. He sends you to the field ‘fore the sun rises and then sends you home to your rough cabin after dark.

“He sells your chil’ren the same as his cows, pigs and chickens. He treats his mules better than you.”

“God commands it,” Sam said. “I’m tired of waiting for someone to free us. Let’s free ourselves through our own courage. A slave who says yes to everything consents to his own suffering. Let my people go.”

“There is nothin’ we can do about it now anyways,” Henry said. “The die has been cast. Our fate is our fate.”

“Let the preachers pray and the philosophers think,” Hark said. “We are in the Land of the Pharaohs. All roads lead to death. I choose to die fighting for our freedom rather than to live in slavery.

“Whatever they can do, they cannot take away our right to choose. By fighting, I choose life.”

“A better day is coming,” Nat said.

The men began to sing together:

When Israel was in Egypt’s land:

Let my people go,

Oppress’d so hard they could not stand,

Let my People go.


Go down, Moses,

Way down in Egypt’s land,

Tell old Pharaoh,

Let my people go.

***

“We met Nat and the rebels in the yard of the Travis farm,” Big Mo said. “It was the farm where Nat worked. It was 2 a.m. and all was quiet. We proceeded to the cider press where all drank except Nat.”

“Now, it is time to make good all your valiant boasts,” Nat said. Nat and Will looked at each other in the eyes. Will raised his ax and then laughed. Nat looked away.

Hark lifted the ladder and set it against the chimney. Nat climbed the ladded to a second story window. He opened the window and silently entered the house. He then opened the front door and let us in.

“The work is now open to you,” Nat said to Will.

The men went to the master bedroom. Nat lifted his hatchet and hit his master Joseph Travis in the head with his hatchet, wounding him.

“Sally!” Travis called to his wife. Will moved Nat aside and killed Travis with his ax then killed Sally.

The rebels then killed the overseer and Sally’s son Putnam. Jack said he was too sick to continue. The rebels forced him to get up and follow them.

“Can’t we let him be?” Sam asked.

“Show no pity,” Hark said. “We must be strong.”

The men took all the weapons and horses. After they left, the men remembered that they forgot to kill the infant. Will and Henry returned to the house and killed the baby.

The rebels killed Sal Francis and then killed Piety Reese and her son William at their farm. They then killed Elizabeth Turner, her friend Mrs. Newsome and the overseer Hartwood Peebles. By the next day, they had killed 60 men, women and children.

Many slaves voluntarily joined the insurgency. Some that did not join were taken at gunpoint. They were also joined by free blacks. One slave who refused to join had his ankles cut so he could not walk.

“Davy, does not want to come,” Sam said.

“If he does not come, kill him” Nat said.

“We are already outnumbered,” Hark said. “We need every man we can get. It’s power versus power. And we are not only fighting for your lives we are fighting for the freedom of our people.”

***

By the time, the rebels reached the Whitehead Plantation, there were 15 men, nine on horseback. When they reached the plantation, Richard, a young Methodist preacher was in the field with his slaves.

“You, come here,” Nat said.

The insurgents surrounded him. They began to chant “Kill him!

Kill him!”

“Please,” Richard cried. “Why do you want to kill me?

“Ýe hypocrite,” Nat said.

Will began to chop Richard to pieces.

“Please,” Richard cried.

Will dragged Caty Whitehead, Richard’s mother from the house. “I don’t want to live since you murdered all my children,” she told Will.

She looked into the eyes of Old Hubbard her servant.

Will then cut her head off with his ax, her blood spattered all over his face and arms. Her adult daughter Margaret screams and in a panic runs in terror toward the woods.

Will looks at Nat and nods at him. Nat chased her down. He began to beat her with his blunt sword. He then picked up a wood fence post. He starts to beat her head with the heavy post. Her bloods and hair spatters all over his arm and face.

Old Hubbard, the family servant, said, there was no one left. In fact, he hid Harriett Whitehead and thereby saved her life. After the rebels left, Old Hubbard hid Harriett in the swamp.

At the Waller homestead, Waller’s wife and two daughters and a group of school children were slaughtered. Waller survived by hiding in the weeds. One child survived by hiding in the chimney.

Sam stood alone weeping while other rebels drank apple brandy.

When Nat saw him, he ordered him to get on his horse.

“We must be strong,” Nat said.

***

The rebels killed John Barrow in hand to hand combat. Theywrapped him in a quilt and left tobacco on his chest in respect for his valor.

“I’m sorry such a man had to die,” Nat said.

At one homestead, Nat held his men back. “Those people think themselves no better than negroes,” he said.

At the rebel army came upon new plantations and farm, many of them had been abandoned by their owners who now heard about the rebellion. When they came upon the Harris farm, only the slaves were there. By now, we had more than 40 men.

“You don’t stand a chance,” Aaron told Nat. “If you knew how many armed white folks were at Norfolk you would have thought twice about attacking them.”

“Do you want us to kill you?” Will asked.

“We are not afraid of you,” Aaron said. “Violence does not equal strength. A man of peace is more powerful than a man of war. Your tyranny is not any better than the tyranny you are trying to replace.”

“You should die many deaths,” Will said.

“Let them be,” Nat said.

At the Parker Plantation, the rebels and militia clashed. The fighting was inconclusive and several rebels were wounded. The rebels retreated after the militia was reinforced.

***

The rebels tried to march on Jerusalem, the county seat. But some of their numbers had deserted; others were too drunk to fight. In addition, some of their muskets were rusty and did not fire.

Meantime, the whites had organized and called for help. Reinforcements were arriving from Richmond, Norfolk and North Carolina.

Once they saw the bridges were well guarded, the rebels turned back.

The rebels camped that night at the Ridley Plantation. By dawn, half the rebels had deserted.

“What do you think will happen tomorrow?” asked Mo.

“We are all go’in to die,” Will said.

Before marching out, the survivors sang their death song:

Michael row de boat ashore, Hallelujah,

I wonder where my mudder deh there,

See my mudder in de rck gwine home,

On de rock gwine home in Jesus’s name,

Michael bot a music boat.

Gabriel blow de trumpet horn . . . .

In the morning, Nat and the rebels moved to the Blount plantation to recruit more men. To their surprise, both the owners and their slaves fought back.

Hark was shot and badly wounded and captured. Another rebel was killed and a third captured.

After the rebel force retreated, they were attacked by the Greensville cavalry who attacked and dispersed their forces.

The revolution was over. Nat, Hark, and Sam were caught, tried and hung. Jack and Big Mo were caught, tried and sold out of state as a slave.

Will was killed in the fighting. Henry was caught by vigilantes and summarily executed.

Act V

When they returned to the Delilah’s cabin, it was nightfall. There were a dozen white men waiting for them. They arrested Big Mo and took him to the jail in Jerusalem, the county seat.

“Are you Moses Turner?” asked the sheriff.

“That’d be me,” Big Mo said.

“You are wanted in North Carolina for murder,” the sheriff said.

Young Joshua escaped into the woods. He then returned to Golgotha and sought the help of Diotima.

***

“Give me your worst,” Big Mo told Magistrate Davis. “You can’t do anything to me that hasn’t been done to me before.”

“Castrate him,” Magistrate Davis ordered. “He’s an animal. And so he shall be treated like an animal.”

“What about my rights?” Big Mo said.

“Here in this room behind these closed doors you have no rights but the rights I grant you,” Magistrate Davis said.

“He’s already been castrated,” the guard said.

“Do you see this skull,” Magistrate Davis asked Big Mo. He handed him a skull that looked as much as a ram as a man. “This is the head of your Daddy.

“After we hung him, we skinned him, made grease of his flesh and his skin into a leather purse.

“Give him such a beating that he will never come back,” Magistrate Davis said.

***

The sheriff of Southampton County tried to deliver Big Mo to Sheriff Flay chained to the back of a wagon. But Big Mo escaped killing the driver and the guard. The driver was found with a broken neck. The guard had his throat cut.

Sheriff Flay found Bog Mo and Joshua was staying with Diotima. He tried to arrest them but they refused to surrender.

When they arrived at Diotima’s cabin, Sheriff Flay had a dozen men surrounding the cabin.

Big Mo, Diotima and Joshua armed with rifles held out for five days.

***

“We’ve got to break out tonight,” Big Mo said. “We’re almost out of food. If we are captured we are as good as dead.”

Diotima nods. “There is no moon tonight.”

“Jus’ follow me,” Big Mo said. “We’ll head for the woods and then cut to the river.

If we get separated make for the river.”

A gun fight broke out. They made it to the river but Diotima was shot and was bleeding badly.

“Let me be,” Diotima told them. “Go on. I’m dying anyways. I’m slowing you down.”

***

“Kill her,” Flay shouted.

“She’s a woman,” Mersault said.

“She’s a niggah,” Flay said. “Finish her off.”

“You can kill me but you can never destroy me,” Diotima said.

Diotima closed her eyes. Mersault put a pistol to the back of her head. Suddenly there was a crack of gunfire. Mersault fell dead. The pistol falls in front of Diotima. She picks up the pistol.

Flay ducks behind a tree and his remaining men lay on the ground.

“Big Mo, I know that’s you, “ Flay said. “Surrender. You and the boy have no chance.”

Flay motioned his men to move forward toward the river. Another crack. Another one of Flay’s men fell dead.

Another man ran toward the trees. Another crack. He was hit in the shoulder.

Another man runs. Another crack. This time Big Mo misses.

Flay shoots Big Mo as he fires, wounding him badly in the torso. Flay then ducks again behind the tree. He turns and sees Diotima with her pistol aimed at his head. “Oh, Lord,” he said.

Diotima shoots him in the head, killing him. She then dies.

Flay’s men rushed Big Mo. Big Mo shoots one man dead. The rest of the men dive for cover.

Big Mo is mortally wounded. “You need to run,” he rasps.

“I can’t leave you,” Joshua said.

“I’m a dad man,” Big Mo said. “Everybody dies. There is no choice there. However, I choose to die with dignity. Now go.”

By the time, the remaining deputies come upon Big Mo. He was already dead.

Meanwhile, Joshua escaped across the river and turned north.

The End

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