Category Archives: Contrabands

April 11, 1863: Encourage blacks to come in the Union lines

Grant orders Gen. Steele to stay in Greenville, 80 miles north of Vicksburg and just disrupt things for the rebels. Especially to collect all the slaves in the area who want to become free. Official Records: MILLIKEN’S BEND, La., April … Continue reading

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December 11, 1862: Freed slaves won’t work

The Richmond Daily Dispatch opines that there’s no worry that freed slaves will compete with whites for jobs, because black people won’t work unless forced to. Competition of negro with White labor. In his late miserable Message Lincoln declares that … Continue reading

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November 16, 1862: What to do with all these contrabands?

As Grant moves south from Memphis, he finds that he’s got more freed slaves than he knows what to do with. Halleck tells him to put them to work for the Union, and take food for them from the rebels. … Continue reading

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November 14, 1862: Contrabands were better off slaves?

The Richmond Daily Dispatch indulges in a little schadenfreude over the condition of the poor contrabands, who of course were better off as slaves. The correspondent in Cairo seems to find it perverse that the freedmen he talks to don’t … Continue reading

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July 19, 1862: Sherman says infantry don’t get horses. Or servants.

Sherman was coming into contact with a phenomenon that would become familiar later in the war. His troops, passing through enemy territory, were acquiring their own transportation in the form of stolen horses and mules. Here he orders contraband steeds … Continue reading

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May 25, 1862: What to do with the “Negroes”?

Ben Butler was the originator of the term “contrabands” as applied to escaped slaves, and of the legal theory that, as property of insurrectionists that would be otherwise put to use against the Union, they should be confiscated. Once he … Continue reading

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April 29, 1862: Is not the Negro a man?

A letter from the Kingston Argus, dated April 29, 1862, from a Union correspondent at Fredericksburg. One of the “contrabands” described here would have been John Washington, who crossed Rappanhannock to freedom in the to the Union lines on April … Continue reading

Posted in Abolitionism, Contrabands, Slavery, Virginia | 1 Comment

March 21, 1862: Burnside overrun with escaped slaves

Government policy on the treatment of escaped slaves was evolving slowly; too slowly for General Burnside, who was at a loss as to what to do with the large numbers of “contrabands” under his control. OR Ser 2, Vol 1, … Continue reading

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March 6, 1862: Buell returns escaped slaves

Don Carlos Buell Union policy on escaped slaves was in flux, and varied according to circumstances. Grant issued orders at Fort Donelson that denied owners the opportunity to come to the Union camps to look for escaped slaves, and declared … Continue reading

Posted in Contrabands, Don Carlos Buell, Slavery | 1 Comment

January 12, 1862: Letter from escaped slave to his wife

Escaped slaves fled to the camps of the Union army, trusting that they would find freedom there. One such slave wrote a letter on January 12, 1862: Maryland Fugitive Slave to His Wife Upton Hill [Va.]  January the 12 1862 My … Continue reading

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