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Tack's rebellion account Dorset history logo Funeral monument

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The preceding account clearly shows that the rebellion was a vicious affair on both sides.

Little evidence of mercy was shown to the captured the Negroes. In fact the account omits mention that many of the rebels were slow roasted to death in front of open fires. It all seems strangely at odds with the  humanity alluded to on John Gordon’s monument.

Tracing John Gordon is a tricky task, a bit like trying to trace a John Smith. There are a lot of them about (even well connected ones) and there was always a strong Scots presence on Jamaica. One tantalising fact was that a John Gordon, whose dates correspond with the John Gordon of Dorchester, was transported to slavery to a nearby Martinique for taking part in the battle of Culloden in 1745 ( as many Scots were) so could have well served his time and travelled to Jamaica by 1760..

They afterward seized what arms and ammunition were to be found, and went to a small fort at Port Maria, where there was only one white man and a Negro; they killed the white man, and took away three barrels of powder, and marched to another Estate, where the overseer was apprised of their intentions. There were five white men which he armed, shut the doors, and armed some of his own Negroes. He defended the house for an hour and a half, and the rebels were going away; upon which he opened the door, and wanted to bring them to their duty by speaking to them. Whilst he was doing so, one of his own Negroes shot him in the back.  The rest rushed in and killed all the white people except one, whom they mangled in the most awful manner, cutting off his nose, and leaving him for dead; but he still languishes and wishes for death.They cut off the overseer's head, put his blood in a calabath, mixed gunpowder with it, and eat their plantains dipped in it, as they did by every white man they killed. In short their savage barbarity can scarcely be paralleled.

Upon the first notice of it to the governor,he sounded the trumpet, and proclaimed martial law; upon which all business ceased, and every man was a soldier. The Regulars marched from Spanish Town, and the Troop of the Militia, and those with the force they had got together at St Mary's,obliged the Rebels to act upon the defensive.

After two skirmishes they had an engagement with the wild Negroes, who brought in seventeen pairs of ears, for which they received 17 doubloons directly. That broke their strength, some came in, many cut their throats, and now they reckon there are 60 all hemmed up in a cave, from whence they cannot escape. Their chief is not yet taken I believe.

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Memorial to Tacky’s Rebellion
Tack's rebellion monument


     he rebellion amongst the Negroes has been of bad       consequence to the whole island. Their plot was deep and cruel. Their design was to rise at Kingston and Spanish town, and to have set fire to these towns in several places at once, and to murder everybody in them. At the same time they were to have risen in St Mary's and Sixteen Mile Walk; but the Negroes in St Mary's began too soon. They commenced murdering all the white people on one estate; upon which the overseer's boy got his master's horse, and rode express to the Governor, to tell him of it, for which he is to receive his freedom.

...There are about 25 of them made prisoner, who are severally carried to Spanish Town and the places they committed their barbarities. Ion who had not been the rebellion actually was burnt alive for having sworn to cut his master's and mistress's heads off and make punch bowls of them. On Saturday i heard trials of four more, who were found guilty of being concerned in the murder of white people. Two were burnt alive the same day; two were hanged, their bodies burnt, and their heads stuck on poles. Two were tried at Kingston for the same offence. And found guilty. Their sentence was to be gibbeted alive 20 feet high. One of them lived nine days without a drop of water, hanging in an excessive hot place.

The first of the rebels Tacky, is since shot in the wood, and his head stuck on a pole.

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                     Attached to the wall of the church of St Peter in the centre of Dorchester is an                       eighteenth century marble memorial similar to a thousand others throughout the                       Great Britain. -But look more closely at the lines inscribed on it. It commemorates                        the death in 1774 of John Gordon Esquire aged 46 and a member the illustrious Clan Gordon. Reading further things take a sinister turn as the words give account vital contribution of Gordon to the quelling of a slave rebellion in Jamaica in 1760 and furthermore to the humanity he displayed to defeated rebels.

This slave rebellion known as Tacky’s Rebellion is commemorated to this day by a monument in Kingston. It was one of the most serious uprisings of the period and from accounts its outcome far from humane.

The instigator was Tacky, a Coromantee chief originally from the coast of Guinea who acted as an overseer. He and a group of fellow tribesmen attacked their British oppressors on Easter Sunday when most whites would have been attending church.

Here is what happened next, in the words of a contemporary witness: