Retreat of British Military during Slave Insurrection, Demerara (British Guiana), 1823

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Image Reference

Joshua Bryant, Account of an insurrection of the negro slaves in the colony of Demerara, which broke out on the 18th of August, 1823 (Georgetown, Demerara, 1824), plate 2, foldout between pp. 24-25. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University; also, British Library)

Bryant titles this engraving, “Retreat of Lieutenant Brady.” It is a wide angle view of Clonbrook plantation showing the retreat on the south dam of the Mahaica Canal. Hundreds of slaves armed with a variety of weapons (e.g., rifles, pikes, swords/cutlasses) are depicted beating back a British military contingent, led by Lt. Brady of the 21st Fusiliers. On the right, on a small drawbridge crossing a canal Brady is shown with his small band of soldiers while “the ring leader, Prince, with a black flag, is rallying on the Insurgents to proceed up the North-dam, for the purpose of cutting off the retreat of the military.” The author notes that he based the drawing on a description of the event by Brady and the accuracy of the illustration was attested by a British military officer who was also present. This incident is described in detail in the text (pp. 22-26), and the engraving is described at length on pp. 117-118. During the retreat, the author reports (p. 25), “the female slaves in the hospital of the estate were seen waving their handkerchiefs, and huzzaing the rebels, saying ‘Neger make Buckra run to-day’.” The thirteen engravings in this book (a list with their descriptions is on pp. 115-120) and the drawings on which they are based, were made by the author; he had been living in Demerara for 15 years at the time of publication. Copies of this work in the John Carter Brown Library and the British Library contain these illustrations (but with different paginations), but the illustrations are lacking in the Boston Athaneum and Library of Congress copies. See also image reference BRLIB-1 and JCB_05684-9.