Escape to Freedom











History 312: Civil War and Reconstruction Student Web Sites



Throughout his childhood and early adulthood, Anthony Burns heard several elders speak of a land to the North were there were no slaves. In his own words, he said, "Until my tenth year I did not care what became of me; but soon after I began to learn that there is a Christ who came to make us free; I began to hear about a North, and to feel the necessity for freedom of soul and body." (See Anthony Burns Speaks) It was early in the year of 1854 that Burns began to plan his escape to find this freedom.

In the beginning of 1854, Burns had been hired out to Mr. Millspaugh, a druggist in Richmond. Millspaugh, however, soon found he didn’t have enough work to keep Burns busy. Although going against the laws of Virginia, Millspaugh suggested Burns seek odd jobs here and there. Part of the earned money would be used to pay off Suttle and the remaining money would be split between the two of them (von Frank 87). Burns eagerly agreed, seeing this as the chance for escape he had been waiting for.

Burns sought and found a job at the wharves. While working there he befriended a sailor to whom he would share his plan of escape. On the night he finally decided to go, he put on all of the clothes he owned—four outfits—and headed to the wharf. He stowed away on the vessel where his friend belonged. Burns lay for three weeks on one side. He received bread and water every three or four days from his sailor friend. He even lost the use of one arm for a period of time (Stevens 178-79). He endured seasickness, hunger, and uncomfort, but finally arrived on the shores of Boston. The first obstacle for freedom had been overcome.


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This page was last updated on 02/02/00