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“Nat Turner;” or The “Old Red” Gone to His Last Earth

“Nat Turner;” or the “Old Red” gone to his last earth

In a letter to the editor signed simply “B” from King William County, Virginia, the author gives an account of the hunt for a red fox referred to both as Nat Turner and, more affectionately, “Old Nat.” As his name would suggest, “Old Nat” was a particularly cunning fox who narrowly escaped capture several times. During the hunt, the fox “according to custom, had swam the river,” reminiscent of the swamps that Turner supposedly hid in following his rebellion. In this particular hunt, the “far-famed and often victorious” Turner is finally captured:

He made but a feeble struggle before he was put to earth, in the same cave to which he has been several times forced by Mr. Pollard’s pack. After giving him some time to rest, he was dug and turned loose…he was taken in about five or ten minutes. Thus fell the renowned Nat Turner.

The editor of the Turf Register asks, “Was it fair or sportsmanlike, to bag the gallant old red? No; if he could not be fairly run down and killed in the open field, he should have been left to run another day.” He suggests that the fox’s name had caused his captors to be cruel: “Give him a bad name, and hang him…they called him Nat Turner, and then no fate was too severe for him!”

The tale of “Old Nat” seems to have stayed in the minds of American Turf Register readers, as ten years after this account was published, the Spirit of the Times printed an article entitled “Fishing in Kentucky: A Second ‘Nat Turner,’ and New Mode of Angling.” The article references “Old Nat,” writing “we have a Nat Turner in this neighborhood—not a fox, but a fish—who has hitherto baffled all attempts to take him.” Unlike his predecessor, this cunning animal had not yet been caught.

The complete article is available here.

“‘Nat Turner’; or, The ‘Old Red’ Gone to His Last Earth,” American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine. From the collection of the American Antiquarian Society.