Lewis had not only held Edward in bondage, but had actually sold him, with two of his brothers, only the Saturday before his escape, to a Georgia trader, named Durant, who was to start south with them on the subsequent Monday. Moved almost to desperation at their master’s course in thus selling them, the three brothers, after reflection, determined to save themselves if possible, and without any definite knowledge of the journey, they turned their eyes towards the North Star, and under the cover of night they started for Pennsylvania, not knowing whether they would ever see the goodly land of freedom. After wandering for about two weeks, having been lost often and compelled to lie out in all weathers, a party of pursuers suddenly came upon them. Both parties were armed; the fugitives therefore resolved to give their enemies battle, before surrendering. Edward felt certain that one of the pursuers received a cut from his knife, but the extent of the injury was unknown to him. For a time the struggle was of a very serious character; by using his weapons skillfully, however, Edward managed to keep the hand-cuff off of himself, but was at this point separated from his two brothers. No further knowledge of them did he possess; nevertheless, he trusted that they succeeded in fighting their way through to freedom. How any were successful in making their escape under such discouraging circumstances is a marvel.
Edward took occasion to review his master’s conduct, and said that he “could not recommend him,” as he would “drink and gamble,” both of which, were enough to condemn him, in Edward’s estimation, even though he were passable in other respects. But he held him doubly guilty for the way that he acted in selling him and his brothers.
So privately had his master transacted business with the trader, that they were within a hair’s breadth of being hand-cuffed, ere they knew that they were sold. Probably no outrage will be remembered with feelings of greater bitterness, than this proceeding on the part of the master; yet, when he reflected that he was thereby prompted to strike for freedom, Edward was disposed to rejoice at the good which had come out of the evil.
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This passenger brought rare intelligence respecting the manner in which he had been treated in Slavery. He had been owned by a lady named Judith Burton, who resided in Petersburg, and was a member of the Baptist Church. She was the owner of five other slaves. James said that she had been “the same as a mother” to him; and on the score of how he came to escape, he said: “I left for no other cause than simply to get my liberty.” This was an exceptional case, yet he had too much sense to continue in such a life in preference to freedom. When he fled he was only twenty-four years of age. Had he remained, therefore, he might have seen hard times before he reached old age; this fact he had well considered, as he was an intelligent young man.