The Great Contaband Camp

  • American Civil War
  • 1 min

By Crusader1307

As previously discussed, the term ''Contraband'' was applied to those escaped or liberated Slaves, who were placed into custody of The Federal Army – during the early years of The American Civil War (1861-1865). Without any regulations or directives to go by, many Federal Officers had no idea of what to to with them. Feeding and maintaining them put a strain on the supply services of The Union Army in the field. By 1862, many Area Commanders had devised a form of enlistment for them, thus using them as mainly guard troops and labor Corps. In some limited cases, these ''Contraband'' Soldiers were used as ''Shock'' Troops in combat against The Confederacy.


One of the largest concentrations of such Contraband Forces was located in Elizabeth City County, Virginia. Known as The ''Great Contraband Camp'', as many as 1,000 to 1,500 such ''soldiers'' were based there. Conditions were less than acceptable by most. The entirety of the ''Camp'' was a collection of ''rude built shanties of wood, with no flooring and leaky roofs''. Thick mud in winter and oppressive heat in summer, bred disease. The American Missionary Society tried to improve much of The Camp (with varying degrees of both success and failure). With then US President Abraham Lincoln's decree to formally enlist freed Black men as Union Soldiers (1863), most of The Contraband Forces were either merged into created Units or outright disbanded. The Contraband Camp would be dismantled in 1865.