Frederick Douglass -- Escape Plan
At times we were almost disposed to give up, and try to content ourselves with our wretched lot; at others, we were firm and unbending in our determination to go. Whenever we suggested any plan, there was shrinking—the odds were fearful. Our path was beset with the greatest obstacles. … We knew nothing about
. Our knowledge of the north did not extend farther
than New York; and to go there, and be forever harassed with the frightful
liability of being returned to slavery—with the certainty of being treated
tenfold worse than before—the thought was truly a horrible one … [W]hen we
permitted ourselves to survey the road [to freedom], we were frequently appalled.
Upon either side we saw grim death, assuming the most horrid
shapes. Now it was starvation, causing
us to eat our own flesh; --now we were contending with the waves, and were
drowned;--now we were overtaken, and torn to pieces by the fangs of the
terrible bloodhound. We were stung by
scorpions, chased by wild beasts, bitten by snakes, and finally, after having
nearly reached the desired spot,--after swimming rivers, encountering wild
beasts, sleeping in the woods, suffering hunger and nakedness,--we were
overtaken by our pursuers, and, in our resistance, we were shot dead upon the
spot (Douglass 92-93)! Canada
They would travel most of the way, seventy or eighty miles, by water. None of them knew how to sail, so they decided they would steal William Hambleton’s large oyster-gathering canoe the night previous to Easter Sunday and row their way northward close to the Eastern Shore’s many-fingered coast, always within swimming distance should their canoe capsize.
We were less liable to be suspected as runaways; we hoped to be regarded as fishermen; whereas, if we should take the land route, we should be subjected to interruptions of almost every kind. Any one having a white face, and being so disposed, could stop us, and subject us to examination.
The week before our intended start, I wrote several protections, one for each of us. As well as I can remember, they were in the following words, to wit:--
“This is to certify that I, the undersigned, have given the bearer, my servant, full liberty to go to
and spend the Easter holidays. Written
with mine own hand, &c., 1836. Baltimore
Near St. Michael’s, in
” Talbot County, Maryland
We were not going to
Baltimore; but, in going up the bay, we went toward , and these
protections were only intended to protect us while on the bay (Douglass
Near the town of
which Frederick understood was on the canal that
linked Chesapeake Bay to the Delaware River, they planned to abandon the canoe
and by foot, unseen, reach . Pennsylvania
Unlike the others, Sandy Jenkins was influenced by superstition. One morning he told
, “I dreamed, last
night, that I was roused from sleep, by strange noises, like the voices of a
swarm of angry birds that caused a roar as they passed. … I saw you, Frederick, in the claws of a
huge bird, surrounded by a large number of birds, of all colors and sizes. These were all picking at you, while you,
with your arms, seemed to be trying to protect your eyes.” Frederick Sandy told to take his dream
as a warning. Frederick
of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
New York, Penguin Books USA inc., 1968.
McFeely, William S. Frederick Douglass.
, W. W. Norton & Company, 1991. Print. New