Category Archives: Contrabands

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

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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

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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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December 28, 1861: Black “apprentices” to grow cotton in Illinois?

The Illinois State Register ran an editorial first quoting at length from the Chicago Tribune, then taking the Trib to task for proposing to bring black “apprentices” into southern Illinois to grow cotton. As the Register points out, such “apprentices” … Continue reading

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December 14, 1861: More on arming ex-slaves

The Illinois Daily State Journal published an editorial discussing the issue of arming former slaves in some depth. The Journal excerpts a previous editorial from Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, and adds its local view. First, the Tribune states a … Continue reading

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December 13, 1861: Arming the slaves

Contrabands Early in the war, there was considerable debate about what to do with the growing population of runaway slaves in the North – “contrabands” of war, as they were called. Should they be armed so they could fight their … Continue reading

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October 27, 1861: Contrabands invade the south

From the New York Times: Fugitive Slaves Going South. The Naval Expedition about setting sail from Hampton Roads to some point on the Southern coast, will be accompanied by one thousand negroes, able-bodied men, being a part of the number … Continue reading

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