John Hope Franklin and Alfred Moss, Jr. give the following description of the slave patrols in their From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (8th edition, 2003):
One of the devices set up to enforce the Slave Codes and thereby maintain the institution of slavery was the patrol, which has been aptly described as an adaptation of the militia. Counties were usually divided into "beats," or areas of patrol, and free white men were called upon to serve for a stated period of time: one, three, or six months. These patrols were to apprehend slaves out of place and return them to their masters or commit them to jail, to visit slave quarters and search for various kinds of weapons that might be used in an uprising, and to visit assemblies of slaves where disorder might develop or where conspiracy might be planned. This system proved so inconvenient to some citizens that they regularly paid the fines that were imposed for dereliction of duty. A corrupted form of the patrols system was the vigilance committee, which came into existence during the emergencies created by uprisings or rumors of them. At such times it was not unusual for the committee to disregard all caution and prudence and kill any blacks whom they encountered in their search. Committees like these frequently ended up engaging in nothing except a lynching party.They don't elaborate on the point, but obviously those whites less able to afford the fines were inconvenienced at least as much as those who could. While some no doubt turned their resentment toward the white slaveowners for the inconvenience, others were more likely to channel their frustration toward the black population whose existence they blamed for the disruption of their lives involved in the slave patrols. And some portion just liked the chance to lord it over somebody, vicariously taking the position of slaveowners who they otherwise envied.
The Franklin and Moss text reproduces a portion of this drawing from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 07/11/1863:
Tags: confederate heritage month 2012, slave patrols, slavery, white racism