FULL TITLE: Daddy Sharpe: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Samuel Sharpe, A West Indian Slave Written by Himself, 1832
PRICE: Hardback US$39.95
Daddy Sharpe: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Samuel Sharpe, A West Indian Slave Written by Himself, 1832 is a unique work of Caribbean fiction. It is the result of five years of historical research, details of which have been used to recreate a narrative of the life of one of Jamaica’s National Heroes, Samuel Sharpe. Locked in prison, awaiting a sentence of certain execution, Samuel Sharpe retells the story of his life in the first person narrative, beginning with his boyhood days at Cooper’s Hill in St James and ending with his surrender to the authorities after his defeat in the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831.These flashbacks are interwoven with present time musings while he is in prison. The reader becomes immediately engaged in the character of the hero and his struggles for spiritual and physical freedom but is also fascinated by the descriptions and historical details of life in Jamaica in the early nineteenth century.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Fred Kennedy has worked as an educator for over 30 years, teaching in Jamaica and Canada, and held the post of Principal at St George’s College in Kingston from 2004–06. He has a great passion for Caribbean literature and history and is now researching his second novel, which deals with Spanish settlement in Jamaica in the sixteenth Century. He, his wife and three daughters reside in Ontario, Canada.
Excerpt from Daddy Sharpe
December 28th, 1831
At cockcrow, everything was quiet, but with the dawn of light, the battle cries began.
We received word of troops gathering over by Shettlewood. In order to clear a passage through the northern parts of the parish, Gardner thought it necessary to go up against the militia forces. The core of his military was the Black Regiment under the command of newly named Colonel Johnson of Retrieve and Colonel Charles Campbell of York Estate. Both men were warrior-like, Coromantees, with strong physiques and a deep passion for the cause of freedom. They commanded a group of about 150 men with only about 50 guns among them. I was concerned that Little Breeches was going to be too strong for them. The slaves were not trained in the use of firearms and they were afraid to use them. Besides, the weapons were old pieces which they had stolen from their masters: muskets and fowling-pieces, carbines and pistols. Johnson and Campbell were my friends and I did not want to see them hurt.
Gardner set up a ranking of slaves in charge of his unit. They called me General, the one who was to give all the orders. I was the Daddy and Teacher turned Ruler and General. The next-in-command was Gardner, with the rank of colonel, and below him Dove, lieutenant colonel. Many of the stronger leaders he made captains of bands: M’Cail from Prospect
Plantation, Campbell and Johnson. He also had lieutenants and ensigns: James Fine, Thomas Simpson, and some freed Brown men, M’Intosh and Largie, and a female named Wilma
Gardner looked like a real military man dressed in his red jacket, cocked hat and feather, riding back and forth on a white steed which he had taken from Greenwich Estate. His uniform had black sleeves with red stripes up the seams and his pantaloons were blue. Some uniforms had been stolen from estate houses but others were made by women who stayed back at camp during the day.
I remained at Greenwich for part of the day to organize groups that went out under the command of captains. Scouts returned at intervals to report on operations. Bands went out through the countryside encouraging slaves to abandon the estates so they could set fire to the trash houses and empty and destroy the great houses. Large cane fields, yellow with the ripened sugar cane, were set ablaze.
The head drivers and skilled slaves were mostly on the side of the rebellion but many field slaves did not want to harm massa’s belongings. On estates where there was no driver, the slaves became confused and frightened. They formed their own groups to block out the rioters. Others became afraid and fled to the bush. The looting and the burning of estates continued all that day, mainly in the south, Cambridge, Richmond Hill, Catadupa through to the main road to St Elizabeth. Fires were also set close to the troops at York, Hazelymph and Belvidere in the hopes of scaring them off.
Jamaica, a land once green and fertile, was being burnt. I was fearful and could not help thinking of the words of Job, that ‘they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.’
We must have frightened away the planters, because there were no White people to be seen on the estates except for the odd busha who stayed back to try to restore order. Some owners came back up from the Bay to try to put out the fires, but by that time, the destruction was too far gone. It seemed that the buckra were afraid to come out on the roads because of our ambushes, and especially at night they remained in their houses, for the dews always made them sick. We knew the bush so much better than they, all the pathways, rivers, gullies and hills. And of course, the Black man always has an advantage in the night because of the colour of his skin. No wonder they were scared of us.
December 29th, 1831
I met up with a large group on the road between Hazelymph and Cambridge. They were armed with guns, machetes, lances and sticks, but I was carrying no weapon that day. I commanded the company moving south along the road to Ginger Hill, riding on a horse in the middle of the line with fifty or more men marching front and back, forming columns, two by two.
The scouts, who were posted on the hilltops through the region, sent us word that the militia were arriving from St Elizabeth and heading towards Ginger Hill. The White men had collected together farther south to wait for the right time to approach. A group of slaves from Retrieve, Richmond Hill and Belvidere had captured Ginger Hill the day before. We needed to offer some help to our brothers at Ginger Hill now that we had learned the militia were approaching. We positioned ourselves along the road where they would pass, to make an ambush. But they never showed. We learned they had turned off the road to Ipswich.
Buchannan, the head driver up at Ginger Hill, had shown the overseer, Mr Annand, to the home of a freed Black man in the area, warning him that it would be too dangerous for him to stay in his house. Buchannan told the busha that the slaves had refused to go out to work the day before because Jamaica was now free and all the estates between Ginger Hill and Montego Bay were burned down. When the White man tried to reason with Buchannan, he was told it would be useless to resist because ‘it was not the work of man alone, but that they had assistance from God.’* The rebels emptied out his house and set fire to the buildings the same night we came up.
I paid a visit to Mr Annand that evening. I told him to swear that he would never stand between us and our rights. The man looked frightened, sitting in a chair in the middle of a small room with about five or six Black men around him holding machetes and guns.
‘I do not wish to take the life of anybody, Mr Annand. I will not take the life of anybody who does not stand between me and my rights. I know that freedom is our God-given right, Sir, and freedom is what we will have. Letters have long ago been sent out from England to this effect but the people of Jamaica have kept us as slaves without any authority for doing so.* Do not be frightened, for these men will not harm you. The scriptures tell us, Sir, that no man can serve two masters. We are believers in this Christian faith, and all those who believe in Christ shall be saved. If the Son of Man therefore shall make us free, then we shall be free indeed.’
I sent a few men on to Ipswich to warn our brothers that the militia were diverted there, but it started to rain and so they turned back. I went the other way, down to Content to stay the night with Nyame.
We suffered terrible losses at Montpelier that evening. Gardner explained that he put Colonels Campbell and Johnson in charge of about 200 men. They commanded the company with great courage and passion. Just after nightfall, they approached the estate in four columns of fifty men.
Gardner told the story of the battle of Montpelier, ‘We manage first fi burn de trash house at New Montpelier before de militia run us. A couple of de men got wounded in de fight. Then, Haughton, de head driver at Shettlewood gather up a whole heap of rebels fi help we. Him line dem up, slaves from Ramble, from Alexandria, from Silver Grove, from all bout. Him line dem up all in a row and mek dem swear pon de Bible that as long as there was any one White man left in de country, dem shoulda fight fi dem freedom. De men joined ours, so our numbers increase quite a bit.
‘It was about an hour after dark. One group was under de command of Johnson, who led his company to de Negro houses as ambush. Three other division come up by de main road. Dem call it de King Road. As we come close, me hear one of de colonel dem give de signal to halt and then run. We start fi dash all bout in de bush and some of de men get confuse. Me was surprise for me couldn’t hear no shots from either side.
We was too Black fi dem fi see we inna de night. Then some of our men start fi mek noise, blow horn and shell and cause a racket inna de place. Suddenly we get de order fi shoot from behind de stone wall by de cane piece. De musket dem blast out inna de night and then me catch sight of de militia. Me don’t think we kill too many still. But nothing could stop we now. We march through de gate and keep firing at them. A party of about twelve men get scared and start fi run back. Dem fire pon we but miss wid every shot. Me tell you, Sam, de bullet dem fly past we and nebba trouble one of we. Me swear to you. Me don’t know what happen to Dove. Him was supposed to be in command but de men sey dem did see him go a hide behind de stone wall. We charge straight through to de still house and Johnson group was meking an attack by de trash house. There was some man-to-man fighting and one
Brown man get chop up wid a machete.
‘Then we mek a mistake. Me tink it was Blacka, one of Johnson lieutenant, who break weh and move towards de trash house carrying a torch. Whoosh! Just like dat. Me tell you, Sam, de whole building go up in flame. Me tell you, Sam, me tink me was going dead right then and there. We come to be in full view of de enemy. Then dem start fi shoot and, Sam, what a tribulation, fi we men start fi drop, one by one. Dem shoot dung bout forty of we, including brothers Johnson and Campbell. Dis set up one panic. De command was lost. Some lie dung dem head inna de dirt, other man tek de chance fi jump de wall, but dem too met wid death. Dove and me try fi call for an orderly retreat but it was too late. De only ting we could do was fi keep up fire to cover some who manage fi get weh.
‘And dat was de end of de battle. Is a funny thing, me nebba see not even one White man shoot a gun, only de Black man dem. De White militia line demself up in a square and de
Coloured men did all de shooting. Campbell did hurt bad but we move him and tek him weh wid us. Johnson did too close to where de militia was standing. So we had to leave him dead
body deh pon de battleground.’
‘How many dead in all?’
‘Ten men. Two of them was from Montpelier, James Richards and Giles Miller. James did marry to a young female named Jenny Ellis. You shoulda hear her bawl when she get de news. She was so proud of James. Him did belong to de first gang and him did work hard like an ox. Him did own a cow, two hogs and four chicken and him have two acre of provision ground where him grow plantain, cocoa, yam and corn. But everyting mash up now, she sey, cause of de rebellion.’
‘We have gone mad, Gardner. There is blood on our hands. This was not the plan.’ I felt saddened by the slaughter of Johnson and the other men.
‘One thing me know for sure, Sam, is that we kyaan turn back.We haffi go wid de battle and tek charge. Otherwise, it’s slavery time again. You know me see yuh mama at
‘You never mention nothing bout that.’
‘Me swear it was she. She was wid de slave Haughton round up from Shettlewood.’
‘But she supposed to be in Accompong.’
‘Me know it was she, yelling and shouting “fire” just like de others. You should a see her fighting, man.’
‘God bless Mama.’
Later I prayed in private a version of the 54th psalm of
Save us, O God, by thy name, and judge us by thy strength.
For strangers are risen up against us and oppressors seek after our soul. . .
Behold, God is our helper. . .
He shall reward evil unto mine enemies: cut them off in thy truth.
I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name,
for it is good.
But the night brought little comfort with its sounds of pillage