Who was Patty Cannon? She was the woman who ran a reverse-Underground Railroad. And what did the reverse-Underground Railroad do? Well, before the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves, the Underground Railroad – led in part by Harriet Tubman – helped hundreds of slaves reach freedom. The reverse-Underground Railroad did exactly the opposite – it allowed for the kidnapping of free black men and women from the northern areas of the United States and the selling of them back into slavery in the south.
The people who participated in this scheme – Patty Cannon being one of the ringleaders – profited greatly off of the deals that they made. Cannon also robbed slave catchers and committed a number of murders during her involvement with the Cannon-Johnson gang of Maryland. Patty Cannon’s underground-dealings eventually led to her arrest in 1829; however, she reportedly killed herself in jail before she could actually be put on trial for her crimes.
A big part of Patty Cannon’s “business” enterprise involved capturing free black men and women and selling them into slavery. One of the ways that she did this was with the help of her own slave, a boy named Cyrus James. She reportedly raised him and taught him to follow her exact orders – no matter how dubious. James and her other conspirators would tell the freed men that they had work for them, and would then lead them to a ship moored on a local dock. However, once the freed men got onboard the ship, they were officially captives and would be trapped below the deck until they could be secretly stashed away at Cannon’s house and, ultimately, sold at one of the many slave auctions in the south