The Stono Rebellion sometimes called Cato’s Conspiracy or Cato’ Rebellion was one of the largest slave uprising in Britain’s mainland of South Carolina, prior to the American Revolution.
On Sunday September 9, 1739, Jemmy (referred to in some reports as “Cato“, and probably belonging to the Cato, or Cater family who lived just off the Ashley River, North of the Stono River), was a literate slave who led 20 other enslaved and recruited nearly 60 other enslaved.
The group of Africans marched down the road with a banner that read “Liberty!”, and chanted the same word in unison. They attacked Hutchinson warehouse located near Stono River, killing two white guards Mr. Bathurst and Mr. Gibbs, and seizing guns, ammunition, and knives. After leaving the warehouse and now armed they proceeded south toward Spanish Florida. During the trip down they recruited more enslaved Africans and kill twenty-one white men, women, children, and destroyed a significant amount of property as they made their way towards freedom. The freedom-fighters were spotted by Lieutenant- Governor William Bull who immediately spread the alarm and alerted the local militia.
The next day, September 10, 1739 the well armed militia , numbering 50-100 men, caught up to the freedom-fighters at the Edisto River. The freedom fighters fought valiantly, 20 whites and 44 slaves were killed. While the slaves lost, they killed proportionately more whites than in later rebellions. At the same time many slaves fled when the fighting began.
After colonist mounted the severed heads of the freedom fighters on stakes along major roadways to serve as a warning for other slaves who might consider a revolt.
The lieutenant governor hired Chickasaw and Catawba Indians and other slaves to track down and capture the Africans who had escaped from the battle. One week later the colonist captured and executed most of the rebellious slaves and sold the other slaves off to the markets of the West Indies.
In response to the rebellion, the South Carolina Legislature passed the “Negro Act of 1740” restricting slave assembly, education, and movements.