State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Gallow's Ball XI - "After the Dance of Death"

Where in we first come across the name of this series . . .


 . . .
The strangest circumstance connected with the execution in New Kent yesterday has been heard or here to day. For want of a better name it may be called a "gallows ball." So it was. Hundreds of negroes remained around the place after the execution had taken place and when the shades of night set in they had a grand ball in honer of the occasion. The ball took place in an old barn near by, the music being furnished by three banjos and a fiddle. The place was lit up by pine knot torches, and the dance was begun to the wild notes of that grand old Ethiopian melody, "The Mississippi Sawyer." Virginia has furnished the greatest men of the United States, and now being tired of this sort of thing and aiming to do something original, she strikes out on a now track and caps the climax with a gallows ball after the dance of death. A gallows ball! Ha! ha! what strange visions rise at the words? What shadowy forms and horribly contorting figures come in view phantom-like and disgusting. After the poor devils swing off by a hempen rope the darkey fiddler yells out "swing corners," and the ball commences. After the two murderers are lead up to the gibbet, the musician yells out amid trilling banjos and shrieking fiddle, "lead up four," and the dance goes on. The darkies of New Kent take the lead now. The ball was kept up until a late hour, and Pat. Smith, whose body lay in a shallow grave near by, must have slept soundly or else he would have been shaken out by the moving feet of the crowd dancing around him.

-Alexandria Gazette, March 27, 1879

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