The following account of the Creole slave revolt is quoted from R. Edward Lee, "Madison Washington, Slave Mutineer," Blacfax, Winter/Spring 1998, Vol. 8 Issue 36, p. 8.

When the Creole left Hampton Roads on October 27, 1841, she carried hemp, tobacco, flax, 3 passengers and 135 slaves. [Madison Washington had escaped to Canada in 1840 at age 25 but was captured when he returned to Virginia in search of his wife Susan, and was sold in Richmond and put on board the Creole to be taken to Louisiana] Several of the slaves were women in a separate cabin. Unbeknown to Washington, his wife Susan was among the women slaves. Susan looked more White than Black -- something not altogether unusual among so-called African Americans. At one time Susan had been considered to be the faithful servant of her mistress, and traveled to places like White Sulphur Springs and Norfolk on vacations. She was sold because she was believed to have known where Madison was, and that he was lurking about. As a result, she was no longer trustworthy in spite of her charm, manners, and attractiveness. From the moment Madison Washington was put aboard, he was chained to the floor. From that moment he also chose a cohort by intuition. At night while the crew slept, the male slaves sawed and filed their chains with tiny blades.

By the ninth day at sea -- around November 5 -- at least 14 male slaves had freed themselves in the forward hold of the ship. They waited for the proper moment to spring into action. That moment came during rough seas on the same day. The unshackled slaves went to the quarter deck, picking up all sorts of makeshift weapons as they moved along. In a surprise attack the officers and crew were quickly subdued. The crew had little time to react before the angry slaves were upon them. During the desperate fight, Madison Washington was in his element and he "plunged into it without any care for his own preservation or safety." By some accounts, one slave was shot to death by an officer who was quickly clubbed to death by Washington with a capstan bar against his skull. Several slaves and crew members were wounded, and it is said that Washington dressed wounds with his own hands, while other slaves kept a steady eye on their captives.

From that point the slaves took command of the Creole (and guns) with Madison Washington as captain. He demanded that the ship be steered into British waters. Reluctantly, the helmsmen did as they were told with loaded muskets pointed at their heads. On the tenth day "Captain" Washington ordered the cook to "provide the best breakfast that the storeroom could furnish." When the women slaves entered to eat, Susan appeared with them. She did not know that Madison was aboard the Creole. A tearful and noisy scene took place with Madison and Susan embracing and weeping. Slaves cheered and whooped. Washington allowed as much freedom for the Whites as possible. After the big fight, he had insisted that the Whites be treated kindly. The act of kindness was misinterpreted. On that same evening Whites made a desperate and foolhardy attempt to re-take the vessel, and nearly lost their lives in the process. With a fury bordering on madness, the slaves drove the Whites to their cabins, threatening mayhem and death. Only Washington's intervention saved their lives. He said, "Stop, no more blood!" The slaves obeyed the order.

The Creole docked at New Providence in Nassau -- British soil. The then Secretary of State for the U.S., Daniel Webster demanded that the British return the slaves and the ship, and said that the slaves were murderers and pirates. The British refused to listen. Slavery had been outlawed in all of its possessions. The slaves were set free. The Creole was not returned to the United States. Eventually, the British government did pay $110,000 to the owners of the Creole. After all, it was their boat.