TACKY, honored at last!
Jamaica has just declared April 8 as National Chief Tacky day! Now, Tacky is one of the most ignored Jamaican rebellious slave. He lived in the 18th century and he actually led the most formidable slave insurrection ever! It was in 1760. Here's what we wrote about it in our book HISTORY OF JAMAICA:
« The most important insurrection took place in 1760. It was orchestrated by the Coromantyns, these untamed and dreadful enemies of servitude. Every author underlines their physical and mental vigour, including Edward Long, who admits their being superior to all other Africans (...).The insurrection broke out on the Frontier plantation, in St. Mary’s parish, belonging to the late Ballard Beckford, and the adjoining estate of Trinity, the property of my deceased relations and benefactor Zachary Bailey, details Edwards. In the morning, 50 slaves followed Tacky to Port Maria, where they murdered a sentinel and stole 50 rifles. Bailey, reputed for treating his slaves humanly, galloped towards them, convinced he could bring them to their senses. A shower of bullets hailed him, so he turned back, and rod round to all the different plantations in the neighbourhood, giving them notice of their danger. Joined by 50 more rebels, Tacky and his men marched to Heywood Hall to plunder it, setting the cane fields on fire and slaughtering all the Whites—they literary drank their blood mixed with rum, laments Edwards. Then the rebellious troop went to Esher, William Beckford’s estate. En route, they came across a poor white man, who was travelling on foot, (Long) and murdered him. At Esher, they besieged a dozen of Whites, garrisoned inside the house. But the latter ran out of ammunitions, and were soon swarmed but the furious attackers. One of the Whites was a Doctor, and he was mutilated (Long), dragged by a foot and thrown on a pile of corpses. Betrayed by his breathing, he was shot 5 times in the back—but he miraculously survived to tell his story. “In one morning, they murdered between thirty and forty Whites and Mulattoes, not sparing even infants at the breast,” deplores Edwards. Back to Ballard’s Valley, the rebels—now around 400—having a good magazine of hogs, poultry, rum, and other plunder of the like kind, they chose out a convenient spot, surrounded with trees, and a little retired from the road (...), and began to carouze (sic), explains Long. Baily and 80 men from the militia soon rushed them. They retreated into the woods, and the skirmishes went on for several days (...).The colonists grew confident as they were gaining ground. In St Mary, Tacky’s troops were now in a tough position. The English got organized, using the frigate of Admiral Holmes as a floating jail in Port Maria. Thus, the militia was discharged of all prisoners, and concentrated on the rebels’ entrenchment. The violent assaults of the Maroons finally overthrew the rebels, who fled into the woods. “Tacky (...) having separated from the rest,” tells Long, “was closely pursued by lieut. Davy of the Marons (sic), who fired at him whilst they were both running a full speed, and shot him dead.” What a shot!—if this relation is true. Indeed, Edwards, who never spares an occasion to express his disdain for the Maroons, gives another version of Tacky’s death. “This unfortunate man, having seen most of his companions slaughtered, was discovered wandering in the woods without arms or clothing, and was immediately pursued by the Maroons, in full cry. The chase was of no long duration; he was shot through the head.” As usual, the Maroons severed the head of their victim and handed it to the English, who proudly exposed it on a pike in Spanish Town. But the slaves soon deprived the arrogant winners of their trophy, which they stole and concealed. What Long does not speak about, and what Edwards asserts as certain—he says he learnt it from the Maroons themselves—, is what the Maroons did with the rest of Tacky’s body. They, he says, roasted and actually devoured the heart and entrails of the wretched victim! Long draws a necessarily suspicious portrait of Tacky: “He was a young man of good stature, and well made; his countenance handsome, but rather of an effeminate than manly cast. (...) He did not appear to be a man of any extraordinary genius, and probably was chosen general, from his similitude in person to some favourite leader of their nation in Africa.” Desperate and cornered, the rebellious Negroes sought refuge into a nearby cave, where they were soon discovered by the Maroons, and slaughtered. »
TACKY is never quoted in reggae songs, contrary to Paul Bogle or William Gordon yet he's a key figure of the black revolts in Jamaica.
Two slaves who partook in Tacky's rebellion were captured. Their names were Fortune and Kingston. And they died with such fortitude under the hands of the White colonists that it's almost unbelievable... Find more about them in our book. ;)