Tacky's War

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Tacky's War
Part of North American slave revolts
Date7 April – July, 1760
Result Slave defeat
Kingdom of Great Britain Great Britain
Flag of Jamaica (1957–1962).svg Colony of Jamaica
Maroon allies
Ashanti, Fante and Akyem Slaves
Commanders and leaders
Tacky wacky  
Casualties and losses
60 whites, 60 free PoC 400 black slaves ,
500 recaptured and resold
North American slave revolts

Tacky's War, or Tacky's Rebellion, was an uprising of Akan (then referred to as Coromantee) slaves that occurred in Jamaica from May to July 1760. It was the most significant slave rebellion in the Caribbean between the 1733 slave insurrection on St. John and the 1791 Haitian Revolution. According to Professor Trevor Burnard: "In terms of its shock to the imperial system, only the American Revolution surpassed Tacky's War in the eighteenth century." It was the most dangerous slave rebellion in the British Empire until the Baptist War of Samuel Sharpe in 1831–32, which also occurred in the Colony of Jamaica.[1]


The leader of the rebellion, Tacky (Akan spelling: Takyi), was originally from the Fante ethnic group in West Africa and had been a paramount chief in Fante land (in the Central region of present-day Ghana) before being enslaved. He and his lieutenants planned to take over Jamaica from the British, and to create a separate black country.[2] The uprising was inspired by the successful resistance of the Asante Queen Nanny and the Jamaican Maroons during the First Maroon War of the 1730s.

Before being a slave, he was a king of his village. He himself recalled selling his rivals of the Ashanti, Nzema and Ahanta, off into slavery as spoils of war to the British. But ironically, he would become a slave himself when a rival state defeated his army in battle and sold him into slavery, and he ended up in Jamaica. According to J.A. Jones, who claimed to have met him while being held captive by Tacky while trying to get an interview with him, in his memoirs he wrote that Tacky spoke very fluent English (which was indeed common for the ruling class of Fantes at the time).[3]

Also according to Jones, he was discovered in a cave a year before the rebellion took place, planning with his comrades: Quaw (twi Yaw), Sang, Sobadou(twi Sobadu), Fula Jati and Quantee(twi Kwarteng). All except Fula Jati being of Akan descent.[3]

The slave revolt was a coordinated island-wide conspiracy, led by a secret network of Akan (Coromantee) slaves.[4]


Sometime before daybreak on Easter Monday, 7 April 1760, Tacky and his followers began the revolt and easily took over the Frontier and Trinity plantations while killing their masters. Bolstered by their easy success, they made their way to the storeroom at Fort Haldane where the munitions to defend the town of Port Maria were kept. After killing the storekeeper, Tacky and his men stole nearly 4 barrels of gunpowder and 40 firearms with shot, before marching on to overrun the plantations at Heywood Hall and Esher.[2][5]

By dawn, hundreds of other slaves had joined Tacky and his followers. At Ballard's Valley, the rebels stopped to rejoice in their success. One slave from Esher decided to slip away and sound the alarm.[2] Obeahmen (Caribbean witch doctors) quickly circulated around the camp dispensing a powder that they claimed would protect the men from injury in battle and loudly proclaimed that an Obeahman could not be killed. Confidence was high.[2][3]

Soon there were 70 to 80 mounted militia on their way along with some Maroons from Moore Town, Charles Town, Jamaica and Scott's Hall (Jamaica), who were bound by treaty to suppress such rebellions. The Maroon contingents were commanded by Moore Town's white superintendent Charles Swigle, and the Maroon officers reporting to him were Clash and Sambo from Moore Town, Quaco and Cain from Charles Town, and Cudjo and Davy the Maroon from Scott's Hall.[6]

When the militia learned of the Obeahman's boast of not being able to be killed, an Obeahman was captured, killed and hung with his mask, ornaments of teeth and bone and feather trimmings at a prominent place visible from the encampment of rebels. Many of the rebels, confidence shaken, returned to their plantations. Tacky and 25 or so men decided to fight on.[2]

Tacky and his men went running through the woods being chased by the Maroons and their legendary marksman, Davy. While running at full speed, Davy shot Tacky and cut off his head as evidence of his feat, for which he would be richly rewarded. Tacky's head was later displayed on a pole in Spanish Town until a follower took it down in the middle of the night. The rest of Tacky's men were found in a cave near Tacky Falls, having committed suicide rather than going back to slavery.[2][7][8]

Akua, "Queen of Kingston"[edit]

In June 1760, similar plots had been discovered in Manchester Parish, and the now-defunct parishes of St John, St Dorothy and St Thomas-ye-Vale. It was also discovered that slaves in Kingston had elected a female Ashanti slave named Cubah (a British misnomer of the Akan day name "Akua") the rank of 'Queen of Kingston'. Cubah (Akua) sat in state under a canopy at their meetings, wearing a robe and a crown.[9]

It is unknown whether there was any direct communication between Cubah's people and Tacky's but when discovered, she was ordered to be transported from the island for conspiracy to rebel.[10] Whilst at sea, she bribed the captain of the ship to put her ashore in western Jamaica where she joined the leeward rebels and remained at large for months. On being recaptured, she was executed.[5]

Western Revolt[edit]

The rebellion didn't end there, as other rebellions broke out all over Jamaica, many of which were rightly or wrongly attributed to Tacky's cunning and strategy. Other slaves learned of Tacky's revolt, which inspired unrest and disorder throughout the island. Rebels numbering about 1,200 regrouped in the unsettled mountainous forests in western Jamaica. They attacked eight slave plantations in Westmoreland Parish and two in Hanover Parish, killing a number of whites.[11]

Refugees, both white and black, fled the Westmoreland capital of Savanna-la-Mar and on May 29, an attempt by the Westmoreland militia to storm the rebels' barricaded encampment was soundly defeated and repelled. On June 2, however, bolstered by militias from two more western parishes, a detachment of British soldiers and sailors, and the skilled Maroon warriors of Accompong Town, the colonial forces successfully stormed the barricade and drove the slave rebels out following a two-hour battle, killing and capturing scores of rebels.[12]

On June 10, on the outskirts of the estate of Mesopotamia, owned by Joseph Foster Barham I, a detachment of soldiers and militia defeated a band of rebel slaves, killing about 40 and capturing another 50.[13]

The rebel slaves continued fighting for the rest of the year in western Jamaica, forcing the governor, Sir Henry Moore, 1st Baronet, to continue imposing martial law in Westmoreland and surrounding areas.[14]

By late 1761, Governor Moore declared that the main western revolt was over. However, some remaining rebels then scattered in small bands, and operating from the forested interior of the Cockpit Country, they conducted a campaign of guerrilla warfare for the rest of the decade, staging raids on plantations within their reach.[15][16]

In 1766, another rebellion took place in Westmoreland, also inspired by Tacky's Revolt. About 33 Akan slaves rose up in revolt, and killed 19 whites, before it was brutally suppressed.[17]

Most of the remaining rebels then moved to the south-western Saint Elizabeth Parish, where they operated out of the mountainous forests of Nassau Mountain.[18]


It took months and even years for order to be restored, depending on which parish the rebels operated from. Over 60 white people had lost their lives, as well as a similar number of free people of colour, in addition to 400 or so black slaves, including two ringleaders who were burned alive, and two others who were hung in iron cages at the Kingston Parade, until they starved to death. More than 500 rebel slaves were "transported", or re-sold as slaves to new owners in the British colony in the Bay of Honduras. It is estimated that the destruction caused by Tacky's Revolt, and other spin-off rebellions, cost the Colony of Jamaica over £100,000, which is many millions in today's currency.[2][19]

The colonial Assembly passed a number of draconian laws to regulate the slaves in the aftermath of Tacky's Revolt. In addition, they banned the West African religious practices of obeah.[20]

Tacky Monument in Claude Stuart Park can be visited in Port Maria, St Mary. Tacky Falls is accessible by the sea but the overland route is considered by locals to be too tough to travel. The waterfalls have diminished over the years and mainly eroded rocks mark the course. The exact location of the cave where the remains of Tacky's men were found is not known.[2]

Tacky's Rebellion was, like many other Atlantic slave revolts, put down quickly and mercilessly by colonial officials. Planters severely punished rebel slaves.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brown, Vincent (2020). Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. ISBN 978-0674737570.
  • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. (2006), Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion., Westport, CT: Greenwood
  • Burnard, Trevor (2004), Mastery, Tyranny and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, pp. 170–72, ISBN 0-8078-5525-1
  • Brown, Vincent (2013), Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760–1761: A Cartographic Narrative, Axis Maps


  1. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, p. 138.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Jamaican Culture". Jamaicans.com. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  3. ^ a b c Jones, James Athearn (1831), Haverill, or memoirs of an officer in the army of Wolfe (J.J & Harper), p. 199. ISBN 978-1-1595-9493-0
  4. ^ Richard Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014), p. 333.
  5. ^ a b Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, pp. 129–30.
  6. ^ Michael Siva, After the Treaties: A Social, Economic and Demographic History of Maroon Society in Jamaica, 1739–1842, PhD Dissertation (Southampton: Southampton University, 2018), pp. 71–73, 93–99.
  7. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, pp. 136–37.
  8. ^ Siva, After the Treaties, pp. 98–99.
  9. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, p. 132
  10. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains, p. 360
  11. ^ Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations, pp. 333–34.
  12. ^ Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations, p. 334.
  13. ^ Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations, pp. 334–36.
  14. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, pp. 137–38.
  15. ^ Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations, pp. 334–37.
  16. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, pp. 138–39.
  17. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, p. 140.
  18. ^ Dunn, A Tale of Two Plantations, pp. 334–36.
  19. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, pp. 136–39.
  20. ^ Craton, Michael. Testing the Chains. Cornell University Press, 1982, p. 139.