When three escaped slaves showed up at a Union position during the U.S. Civil War, the decision of how to handle the situation fell to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler. His actions led to a situation for which the government was simply not prepared.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Wherever you get your pride cast Wilkinson stuff, you must industry from our support, stuck a level and welcome to the contacts that hardly fry and I pray Tee Wilson and today we are talking about a topic that was requested on Twitter by Listener Carson and it is contraband camps, and we have spoken before about the term contraband being used to refer to escape or union freed slaves during the. U S, civil war, but we really have it spawn with any detail the contraband camps where many of these people were held both during the war and three reconstruction and, as is often the case with Often the story of Emancipation is story way more complicated, just way more strokes that are often used to describe. It is definitely not,
the Emancipation proclamation happened and voila. Everyone is free and everything is great. In fact, this transition was incredibly The cult and newly freed people often really struggled and some very bad things happen to them and we're going to talk some of the legal issues surrounding slaves escaping to freedom and then we're gonna get into the incident really catalyzed sort of accidentally the development of contraband camps and then will about the challenges that these camps posed both for those living in them and for the union army. Both Glad and sad that we're doing this episode because it such difficult topic, but also the idea of common and has come up so many times and so many past episodes that I'm really glad that we will have this one to refer folks to they went far more about that. Yeah fact about the fugitive slave acts before, but for the sake of context, we're going to do kind of a broad stroke overview of them here and there
seventeen hundreds. There was already a significant conflict brewing between the states that were pushing for abolition and the slave states. There were concerns that this ongoing disagreement was going to cause really big problems and fracturing for the fledgling nation so to try to find a compromise Congress past the fugitive slave ACT of nineteen ninety three and this act, built on the future slave clause that already existed in the U S constitution and that clause red quote no person to service or labour in one state under the laws thereof escaping into another, shall in consequence, of any law or regulation. Therein be discharged from service or labour, but shall be delivered. on claim of the party to whom such service or labour maybe do. So the sum that up, if you escaped to a free state that doesn't mean your free, so the faded
lay back of seventeen. Ninety three established of much more specific ways for that clause to be enacted. It made provisions for slaveowners and those taking or others hang on their behalf to search for escape slaves in free states they had to provide of ownership if they captured and escaped slave. But this requirement was actually pretty lacks. It could be, simple, as assigned affidavit, swearing that, yes, the captor owned the person they were holding while also specified a penalty of five hundred dollars to anyone who helped or hid and escaped slave written response. several states enacted personal liberty laws to circumvent the fugitives, lay back of seventeen. Ninety three in temper, its abuse, clause were designed to protect free men who might be captured and enslave through exploitation of those kind of slack proof requirements and also to provide escapes,
with a right to a jury trial. But these laws, Raven overturned in eighteen. Forty two, when the Supreme Court ruled in Prig versus Pennsylvania, that state laws intended to undermine the slave could not trump federal law. Even the fugitive slave active seventeen. Ninety three wasn't in force than a lot of areas and slave states were really angry at the number of people who were evil, we were able to escape into free states, but we do need make a major note here. We ve mentioned this before but it really bears repeating that it's not ever thousands and thousands of people were escaping from the slave states. Having was incredibly difficult and while you sometimes see numbers in the thousands, you have to consider that when you look at it in proportion to the number of well, who were escaping for bondage from bondage was a tiny, tiny fraction of the actual total number of enslaved people. Do too
growing discontent in slave states because of slaves running to free states. In eighteen, fifty Congress once again passed legislation. effort to smooth things over and prevents southern secession. This include revision to the fugitive slave act. The eighteen fifty update to this act made these much more serious for anyone aiding or hiding escaped slaves. Instead of that five hundred dollars it was a thousand dollars and there was also a six month. Jail sentence trials for slaves were also eliminated with this law and federal commissioners were given the power to oversee individual cases on me, twenty third of eighteen sixty one. So just about six weeks after the? U S. Civil war officially started on April twelfth three, he slaves managed to cross Virginias James River and make it the four Monroe since Military posts that was occupied by the union, though
Three men who were named Frank Baker, Shepherd Malloy and James Townsend had been forced into confederates by their owner working for the hundred and fifteen through junior militia, their primary was building and artillery emplacement across from Fort Monroe at Soules point. But when word reach that. Their owner Charles Mallory, intended to next send them to North Carolina. A move that would take them farther away from their homes men decided that they were going to risk and escaped by water in the dark of night and face the anew. reception they would get at the with the union forces when them and were brought before a major general. Benjamin Franklin Butler, who was not an especially kind or delightful person I'm on a number of points ranging from the identity of their master, to the reason why they had fled to the work that they have been doing for the confederates after
interview butler considered the situation and keep in mind that these men, who had run in and we're looking for help and sent away from this interview with no indication as to what was going to happen to them next, but is, but ruminated. He considered the fact that by law, slaves were supposed to be returned, but if he handed these men over to the enemy side. They would be used to continue building the artillery emplacement that was targeting his own forth and they and also given him some military intelligence in the course of their interview so Butler, was not himself an abolitionist. He wasn't particularly keen on sending Baker Shepard and Mallory back to the rebels. In them, time. An officer from the rebel camp. Major John Beethorpe Carry had arrived at the fort to collect these three escaped men and in this critical mode General Butler, tapped into his knowledge of law. He had been a practising a turn
for years before he found himself at Fort Monroe Virginia had succeeded less than a day before the three fugitives were brought before him. So when we met with your carry. He stated quite clearly that he was not going to turn over the three men and he told the major quote I am under no comes. You should know obligations to a foreign country which Virginia now claims to be. I know we are established that he's not a particularly kinder delightful person, but when I was reading this outlined for the first time I got to that point and I was kind of like well. I'm here there is there's more back and forth between the two of them you'll hear and it is sort of like. But you said we couldn't be afore country the union is in accepting our secession. These, like me, you're, saying you're seceding, and he does really turn on his law. I got a liar
yeah. So all we was also operating under the military law that it commander could seize property from his enemy. If that property was used with hostile intent and because the men had building and artillery and placement and were considered property by the confederacy. He felt tat he had all legal grounds to keep them yes there, while he maybe not an abolitionist. He was really really happy to kind of turn, he's confederates own words against them, and kind of you now is taken in the ribs with his long knowledge and well Butler did know that this decision was going to carry some important in that it was going to add a layer of complexities of the war what he might, realized was just exactly what he was catalyzing and how big it was going to become two days later, eight more escape slaves arrived at Fort Monroe and on the third day, the
forty seven more, and that was only the beginning as words Add more slaves made their way to the fore in the hopes of sanctuary and their ranks became are varied at first, it was just young men, but soon it included. Women and the elderly and Fort Monroe, soon earned the nickname Freedom Fort. That decision the part of General Butler really set up a situation that was kind of a conundrum for the government, and we will talk about that after a pause. For a brief word from one of our wonderful sponsor here's the thing saving money with Geico was almost better than playing pick up basketball because there's always that who joined your game He never passes the rock. He constantly Rex theories and who completely you and then put his hands up and say no foul, no foul with Geico. It's easy. switch and save on car insurance, no the vacant fake, an ankle sprain because you're absolutely exhausted. So
which in save with Geiger it's almost better than sports thirdly, about our story for President Lincoln. He was really sure what to do about alleys, putative slaves. He left the decision of a handle. This growing number of refugees after general, Butler with the reminder that the military commander was at Fort Monroe to fight a war not to emancipate people, some beer Eric suggestions were made by Cabinet Secretary, Montgomery Blair, including keeping the strong man to help at the fort and letting the rest go, and one paper this case through media attention, almost from the moment that it began suggested the key being thus waves until the end of the war and then following them back. to their former owners at that would reimburse the union for their care. You, everybody kind of, had an opinion on what to do
some of them were abhorrent. Some of them were horrifying. By early June load. The numbers of escape slaves at Fort Monroe numbered more than five hundred and the word contraband was being used almost universally in the press and in military at the time to refer to them and as we talked about leave, we ve mentioned that word. Many times is a reference to escape slaves on the pot gas, but there was a New York Times magazine article from twenty eleven that I came across written by Adam good Heart and beautifully explains why this word con so quickly, and he says, quote worthies blacks, people or proper free or slave. Such questions as yet unanswerable for answering them, would have raised a host of other questions that few white Americans were ready to address contraband. the speaker or writer off the hook by letting escapees. We all of those things at once.
Long before people were escaping and running to other union positions as well, and while some union officers followed butlers leave, they didn't all do that particularly The border states enslaved people were often returned to their masters by union forces, but this didn't stop people from trying to gain refuge at union encampments, fight, we in an effort to create some sort of consistency to how these things were being handled. The union issued the first confiscate act on August sixth of eighteen sixty one in this, justly should declared that the union have the right to see slaves. That was as part of a broader statement that confederate property of any kind could be taken by union troops. It also needed that slave holders had no right to ownership, but the wording of this act was really problematic in that it.
not make clear whether or not the slaves themselves were then going to be free. The day after the passing of the first Confiscation ACT, which was August seventh, confederate troops learned the town of Hampton Virginia, which sat across the water from Portman Room after the white citizens of the town, evacuated confederates didn't want union troops to seize Hampton for uses a winter quarters for one thing, but there Also, really uneasy at the growing numbers of enslaved people who were making their way to the area in search for freedom and so banks. We have created a unique opportunity, because in the abandoned areas adjacent to this burn city, the community, became known as the grand contraband camp formed. And they started as a community that was bound by the existing roads of the area that is, of expanded and refined its organizational structure. New streets, stab lists, and all of those were named for union generals.
But the first confiscation ACT was only one of several pieces of legislation and created to organise a more unified plan for handling escaped slaves. The ad prohibiting the return of slaves was passed in March. Eighteen sixty two and with this act Congress prevented the military from sending fugitive slaves back into slavery. in July. Eighteen sixty two Congress past the Second Compensation ACT, and this act further clarified. The union position that any slaves you sought refuge in union areas would be considered captives of war and would be freed with something of a prelude to the emancipation proclamation. While clearly stated that slaves would be freed, it only applied to people escaping who made their way to union occupied areas and all of this congressional maneuvering enslaved people-
continue to seek asylum with union forces and eventually, makeshift camps were set up for them. In addition to it was just the grand contraband camp, they were sort of throwing the other camps in a lot of different places, and they Girl came to be known as contraband camps and as news at each of these laws spread, the numbers in those camps swelled and they swelled again with the announcement of the preliminary Emancipation proclamation on September. Twenty second eighteen sixty two, which stated that quote this day of January all persons held as lives within any state or designated part of a state. The p Where I shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then thenceforward and forever free. but it wasn't as though any of the people that had already gone to union positions for help could then be told, go away until January first, this situation continued to grow in it an organization and order along them.
to be Valley, Ulysses, S, grant name the superintendent of contraband, so that was John Eaten, who was the chaplain of the twenty seventh Ohio infant initially even organized the refugees into groups and gave those who were capable of working work to do the union paid twelve and a half cents for every picked pound of cotton, their clothes. and board was deducted out of these earnings either more tapped for leadership positions and organizing contraband camps throughout additional reasons? For the most part, their works a similar model, in addition to picking cotton job such as downing, trees or clearing land and construction projects, were also assigned to the refugees capable of unwilling to do labour camp in current, Mississippi Friedman were tasked with the work that transition the camp from a makeshift tenth set up to an actual small town with something of an
restructure their were eventually cabins streets, school, a hospital, a church and the commissary, and it was all arranged into neighbourhood wards and at its most populated, the Corinth Camp was home to six thousand People as land was confiscated by the union and areas around camps, the task of fire, That land also fell to the camp residents this ETA as was quite successful, eventually turning regular profits and the proceeds of that went to the government, but in the case of the courts, as successful as it was in it in the region, that I was doing. It often gets references like this example of like a perfect execution of how to do this, but it was still never could A permanent solution in the eighteen sixty three thousand sixty four winter, all of the camps residents were moved to Memphis the abandoned village Then just left behind for confederate forces to take over, so I will
Talking about Fort Monroe in Corinth, there were also camps dotted throughout the occupied South and North Carolina ample. There were more than seventeen thousand people living in contraband camps by eighteen, sixty four and because overcrowding. came a very real problem in a lot of camps, the military relocated, some of these people to government farms and when black regiments, formed within the union army in the second half of the civil war, they recruited from contraband camps and in some cases, enlisted, with the understanding that, in a reciprocal, the Union army was going to take care of their families, though there agreements were not always honoured and this brings us to another important element of contraband camps, which was the incredibly poor treatment that many of the people who live there actually wound up receiving we'll talk about that in just a moment: First, we will take a quick, bring forward correspondence from the creator Control group comes a new scripted
gasped, the seventh daughter. They say the seventh daughter can read: mines, conjure voices from the green cars, spirits to rise and frolic, and then I'll do all that. So you shall it is the family trade. The seventh daughter, ought in episode available February. Third, is this really something should be involving a pandora? There's something you're, not telling me what. There is a man very powerful and doing his name is called night the black eyes. Why talks in the sudden have no right to put her in danger? The seventh daughter, listen on the eye heart, radio, apple pie, gas or wherever you get your by gas,
We have spoken We often on our show about how racism and contradictions you, how it's often depicted as not just a southern problem- and this was certainly case in regard to these contraband camps. in soldiers were often opposed to having camps filled with escape slaves adjacent to their own camps, even asthma. of the people living there were working and contributing to the war effort, and this, of course, was not an issue exclusive to the military either when black ready they made their way out of confederate territory into places such as Washington DC there necessarily greeted with open arms. White northerners could be very vocal about their disdain for the refugees. In some cases, the military actually intervened to move these people into contraband camps. That meant that people who have so hard to get to freedom, found themselves relocated to camps, sometimes back in union
deprived areas of the various states that they had fled and often in very poor conditions For one thing, many of the services that were set up in camps were predicated idea that the people living there were lazy and ship listen, even untrustworthy. A lot of Education was designed to teach escape slaves how to be more like white people and dressed people, as though they were simple terms Additionally, the wages that were being paid for the work that the refugees is doing was incurred. very, but there was a much more pressing issue at many of the camps. As members grew and the union continue to shovel people around, it was hard basic necessities of shelter, food clothing and medical care to be met for many of the camp residence in some camps, people literally starved to death, became ill and died simply because they couldn't get treatment. We
that the military suffered incredible losses due to illness such as malaria and smallpox during this time as well. So it makes sense that the same illnesses were hitting the camps that were growing right alongside the Union Army, often around camp residents who pleaded with military officials were help or Siena's nuisances, even though they were simply trying to secure basic survival needs for themselves and their families the Emancipation proclamation. was issued on January. First of eighteen, sixty three. Freeing all slaves and their rebelling staves. And while this wasn't it, one moment, as we mentioned it, getting this episode. It's not as those suddenly everything with super great for former slaves, aside from the fact that the war still going on health issues, made a significant and pressing problem, then that a lot of places that was not honoured either, so between eighteen, sixty three in eighteen, sixty six sixty bow
free. The slaves died of smallpox and after a total of one million of the four million freed slaves became sick many of them died from their illness. Is about data framed for a really long time as being there, out of an inherent lack of hygiene among the newly free, unfortunately, that This information was allowed to propagate for a great length of time due to some incredibly bigoted attitudes, including some people who felt that this high mortality rate somehow proved that black people couldn't survive outside the constructive slave. And things were so bad that there was a popular Super races theory that the black in the U S was going to go extinct because it simply couldn't handle freedom, but in fact, the last the resources and a lack of treatment options led to out why out. neglect when it came to dealing with the illnesses that became so common amongst free people,
Many of them were still in contraband camps and their environments, where overcrowded available options for care available to white people. Dealing with the same illnesses were mostly closed off to black people and the military had really become stretched. Beyond its limits, we spoke earlier of there being some infrastructure in the lives of escape slaves. But I'm gonna backtrack on that, little bit sort if there was to some degree a sort of community infrastructure to some of these camps in terms of well organ, neighbourhoods and social systems. but there was not at all and infrastructure that enabled the government to provide for the scores of sick and in, people in the military, let alone support the large numbers of newly freed people who were going through this massive each aims and needed assistance to get through that transition. Unfortunately, emancipation created a situation that the United States government was just not prepared to deal with.
There were serious challenges to the Friedman who found themselves suddenly outside the structure of their slavery, bound lives there wages of food, clothing and shelter for newly emancipated people continue to be a serious problem and a grave one survival a struggle in the best of circumstances Even after emancipation, there were still people being moved into contraband camps. There does work of options or places for emancipated slaves to go, there were also Friedman who were diligent in avoiding the camps as their reputations for their high. Poverty rates really started to spread. so as a sort of stop gap, an act of Congress created the. U S: Bureau of Refugees, Friedmann and abandoned lands more commonly known as the Friedman Bureau and they created it on March. Third of eighteen, sixty five that is a little less than two months after the thirteenth amendment to the constitution, formerly abolish slavery and two months,
for General Lee officially surrendered and ended the war, The bureau was part of the war Department and it was intended to last until the war ended plus one additional year to provide this in services to freed slave that it had been so lacking up until that point. But this is really not a magic facts. There, We have never had to create a welfare programme before and had never to provide for a large number of refugees. So there was a bit of guess work going on in all of this, and of course, there were plenty of people completely opposed to the Friedman Bureau even after the war ended. Many southern states were against it and President Andrew Johnson, who you will recall, took office after Lincoln was shot. vetoed and extension of the bureau's life and powers in eighteen. Sixty six com Over road that veto, but internal debate still raged overhead, a structural aid and assistance provided by the organization, the fragments bureau
do a lot of good work at built hospitals and provided medical aid. It helped farmers if with legal issues, including establishing marriages in the legal record which, as we have mentioned in past, episodes didn't really exist before it helped family members find each. You can actually find digitize copies of treatments, bureau records of people trying to find their family members who had been held elsewhere in bondage, and it advocates for black workers and labour disputes disputes and set up educational institutions. But as much as it was trying to do all these things as well as it could, it was woefully under funded and there was never enough staff to me schools, the most agents, as they were called, which were basically sort of akin to social workers that the Friedman sphere. ever had at one time was nine hundred, and that was nine hundred people to assist the approximately four million people who had been freed
Takes very little math knowledge to know that that is an overwhelming disparity of numbers and those agents that doing that work where working during reconstruction, when there was still a lot of bitterness and road blocking of their efforts. The bureau finally shut down in eighteen. Seventy two after the war ended. Many of the contraband camps that weren't dismantled slow the transition into basically a black neighbourhood, even as white residents, into the area the grand contraband camp, inhibited junior that we talked about earlier was one of those they turned out of the past and who had over the land where the camp began. Jefferson, Bonaparte Sinclair went Bankrupt and this opened the door, for the people who had settled there in the camp to purchase their homes after the court divided the land into parcels. These are some of the first instances of freed people buying property on wrecked and the Hampton can't continues to be a place of interest. Beginning
Fourteen and archaeological investigation of the site of the grand contraband camp started. The sight had been LT over, but the apartment that had been standing on the main site was demolished and the James River Institute of Archaeology started excavated in the area to try to learn more about the lives of the people who have lived in the camp. Yet there so an article and archaeology magazine online, where they talk about some of their early findings and that will be in our show notes, but the legacy health discrimination, which heads has its roots during this tumultuous and pivotal time. In? U s history, continues to be discussed by historians and social workers alike. You're interested in exploring that issue in far more depth. I highly recommend the book sick from freedom by Jim downs it is not an easy read. There are a lot of very difficult stories, said discover in that book, but it's really. I open in its an incredible exploration of the suffering that went on in many contraband camps in its important for people to know
stuff was happening, so I highly recommended there is also again it will be in our show, notes and excellent lecture that he gave at the? U S national archives a couple. Years ago, where he talks about both some of these issues is only an hour long lecture, so he doesn't go into all the details, but he talks not only about some of these issues, but the way that information has been bent and re framed and perceived by various special interest groups along the way and some people using this, the sort of information for their own ends. That is growth and racist, as well as people not always wanting to acknowledge how bad some of this went, because it makes it seem like a man's. A patient was a bad thing, but should obviously was not, but it was a challenging thing so that the scoop on contraband
thank you so much CASA for suggesting it. It had kind of been lurking for a while on my list and I think on Tracy's list as well, and it just simply time to tackle it. Finally, so D also, have them listener. Mail I in another pressing at all would start saved. The pressing is bad, that's important stuff, but I have two pieces of postcard male. I'm gonna keep it short since that episode ran a little bit long. The first one is from our listener. Hayden end Hayden went to New York City on a birthday trip and went to the tens, museum. One of the things that I mentioned is finally and historic home to tell the tale of the working class and not just to the wealthy elite, and so thank you so much hidden for thinking of Essen. Sending is that the tenement museum? You know we love. It is awesome. The people that work there are incredible. The second one, from our listener Lindsey and she went to the South Street Seaport Museum.
and got us a trade card by the singer sewing machine company which is kind of this. Wonderful combination, posting where it shows the great suspension bit bridge connecting New York in Brooklyn, but that it also has have you you're sewing machine on it. It's a kind of weird double bill for a postcard, but I love it. So. Thank you very very much. If you would like to write to us, you can do so at history pie cast at Helstone works dot com. You can reach out as it facebook com slash missed in history on twitter atmosphere, history, pinterest, dot, com, Slash missed in history at missed in history that tumblr dot com eminence Graham at missed in history. If he would like to research a little bit more about what we talked about today are almost anything else. You good or apparent site house of works, dot com taken something in the search bar and come up with Just don't worry of amazing users anytime, you do a search. You can also use it ass, a distant history that com
the vat catalogue of every episode of the progress that has ever happened, including way way way before Tracy, and I were only show here. We have shown for any of the episode said Tracy and Holly era of stephanus in history class, as well as occasional other giddy. So please tell us online and how the work is done, this freedom more on this and thousands of other topics that now some words how low bunnies MRS Ard Marine, you may know me from Chelsea lately or as Regina Sinclair on insatiable. I want to tell you, but my comedy podcast: will you accept this rose, which is new to the eye heart radio broadcasts network,
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