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This marker commemorates the remarkable story of Wallace Turner, an African-American slave who managed to escape to freedom in July-early August, 1864. At this location once stood the home of Collier Minge, Wallace's last owner. Wallace tried to escape slavery four times before being successful on the fifth. He was driving his owner's carriage home when a harness broke, flipping the carriage over on its side. Wallace was nearly killed by a passing carriage. When he arrived at the home, Collier's wife scolded him. Wallace replied aggressively then ran off. He was discovered a week later, taken to a "whipping house" and whipped 95 times by Collier, who then told Wallace to walk home. However, Wallace did not and began his long journey to freedom. Eventually, he made his way to Fort Gaines, which was recently captured by Union forces, where he finally obtained his freedom (see below for details).


  • The marker is located on the sidewalk next to the Saenger Theatre Mobile.

Wallace was born in Snowhill, North Carolina in 1847. His slave mother was 15 years old but his father was the white owner (around a quarter of a million slaves were born to white fathers). He was sold to Hector Davis, of Richmond, Virginia in 1860. Hector owned a slave auction house and netted a fortune from the business. Wallace was then sold to James Chalmers from Alabama in 1863. That same year Wallace once again was sold, this time to Collier. Each time he tried to escape during these years he was beaten and whipped severely.

When he walked out of Mobile on that July day, so began his three week journey southward along the western shore of Mobile Bay (he tried to return to North Carolina on this previous attempts). Through alligator infested swamps, terrible weather, and prying eyes of Confederate troops and slave catchers, he walked for 25 miles undiscovered. At the bay, he managed to find a row boat which he then used to try to row to Fort Gaines (which he could see from the bay; he also heard the sounds from the Battle of Mobile Bay, which resulted in a Union victory led by Admiral Farragaut), over which flew the Union flag. As he was rowing a squall appeared and nearly sunk his boat before seeing another boat carrying Union soldiers. They brought Wallace to Fort Gaines, where he provided the Union with important information about Mobile. He was then given a choice to join a black regiment or become a cook for a white officer. Wallace chose the latter, and eventually entered Mobile with Union troops. After the war, he was able to go to North Carolina and gather his mother and half siblings; they then settled in New York. He worked as a poor general labor for the rest of his life, but nevertheless died a free man thanks to his sheer will power. 

Blight, David. "A Slave's Audacious Bid for Freedom." American Heritage, 58, no. 5. http://www.americanheritage.com/content/slave%E2%80%99s-audacious-bid-freedom.
 
" Wallace Turnage." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed January 9, 2017. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=86374.