Going Back to Virginia











History 312: Civil War and Reconstruction Student Web Sites



Anthony Burns’ future had been decided—he was being sent back to Virginia. His freedom was short-lived--he once again found himself a slave. He would be escorted the 1/3 mile to the wharf by federal officers. The president, Franklin Pierce, wishing to see the Fugitive Slave Law enforced, ordered marine and artillery to assist in escorting Burns to the ship. In addition to this, a federal ship was sent to return Burns to his owner (PBS—Anthony Burns Captured). Stevens describes it as "the first time that the armed power of the United States had ever been arrayed against the people of Massachusetts" (143).

The number of Boston citizens that lined the streets to watch Burns walk to the wharf was approximately 50,000 people (PBS--Rendition of Anthony Burns). He was surrounded by federal troops with Massachusetts groups at the front and back of the line. Observers along the way did various things to show their disappointment. Some draped their window in mourning. One man displayed a black coffin. One merchant even displayed the American flag, draped in mourning. When accused by another of disgracing the American flag, the merchant replied, "I am an American, and a native of this city and I declare that my country is eternally disgraced by this city and I declare that my country is eternally disgraced by this day’s proceeding." In addition to these signs of disapproval, some citizens in the front were pushed into the middle of the street by curious onlookers trying to see what was happening. The military mistaking this as an assault on them, charged on the crowd. This did result in serious injury for some citizens (Stevens 147-48). Finally, however, Burns did make it to the wharf. At 3:20, the steamer left the wharf with Anthony Burns on board, taking him back to Virginia (Stevens 150).


This page was created by Karen Livingood


This page was last updated on 02/02/00