Records of enslaved people and their work for the confederacy

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Interesting article with National Archive links about the rolls (and roles) of enslaved people and their service to the confederacy as well as their owner's compensation for said service

This is a great resource! I've used these kinds of records for my research on Raleigh during the ACW.

Roy B.
 

19thGeorgia

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
"Where the necessities of service require it the forced labor of citizens, slaves and even prisoners of war may be employed in the construction of military defenses" -Gen. Henry Halleck, Department of the Missouri, December 4, 1861

"Go at once to Nashville and select sites and give plans and instructions for redoubts to protect the city....The commanding officer will call in slave labor on it." -Gen. Don Carlos Buell, Huntsville, AL, August 6, 1862

"All able-bodied negroes who apply for work at Fort Pickering will be received and put to work by the engineer in charge...the names of owners and slaves registered....no wages will be paid until the courts determine whether the negro be slave or free....loyal masters will recover their slaves and the wages they have earned during their temporary use by the military authorities."
-Gen. William T. Sherman, Memphis, TN, August 8, 1862

"we draft slaves for labor continually" -Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, June 27, 1863
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
"Where the necessities of service require it the forced labor of citizens, slaves and even prisoners of war may be employed in the construction of military defenses" -Gen. Henry Halleck, Department of the Missouri, December 4, 1861

"Go at once to Nashville and select sites and give plans and instructions for redoubts to protect the city....The commanding officer will call in slave labor on it." -Gen. Don Carlos Buell, Huntsville, AL, August 6, 1862

"All able-bodied negroes who apply for work at Fort Pickering will be received and put to work by the engineer in charge...the names of owners and slaves registered....no wages will be paid until the courts determine whether the negro be slave or free....loyal masters will recover their slaves and the wages they have earned during their temporary use by the military authorities."
-Gen. William T. Sherman, Memphis, TN, August 8, 1862

"we draft slaves for labor continually" -Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, June 27, 1863

During the war, an ongoing debate occurred with the Northern military and government as to how slaves should be treated. It was not known if the war would end slavery. Decisions were being made on the ground by local commanders while debate raged in Congress and the White House. In 1861, generals pushed for emancipation and Lincoln counteracted them. In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, etc.

The evolving policy is thoroughly and fascinatingly examined in Part II of Troubled Refuge by Chandra Manning. Here is an excerpt. For context, Benjamin Butler is trying to figure out what to do with the women, children, sick, and elderly who came to Union lines but could not provide any labor for the Union war effort. Butler had been accepting them into Union lines but wanted further guidance:

Secretary of War Simon Cameron responded to Butler's plea for direction in a May 30 [1861] letter "approv[ing]" Butler's "action in respect to the negroes who came within your lines from the service of the rebels." At the same time, Cameron's response buttressed preexisting structural assumptions concerning civil authority and direct relationships between government and individuals. "Persons held to service under the laws of any state" were still held to service under those laws if the state was loyal, and the Fugitive Slave Law was still the law of the land, Cameron affirmed. What was different was that "armed combinations" in select places within the Union, including Virginia, where Butler happened to find himself, made the setting aside of civil authority necessary, but only temporarily. Butler was to keep strict "account of the labor by [fugitive slaves] performed, the value of it, and the expense of their maintenance." That way, the "question of their final disposition" could be worked out later with owners, once the unnatural state of rebellion was no longer disrupting the ordinary relations "between the U.S. government and white slave owners. It was not that Cameron or Butler secretly wanted to keep black people slaves. Cameron in particular was all for military emancipation, but neither he nor Butler was yet prepared to overturn presumptions of civil over military authority, or of the U.S. government's direct relationship to white property owners rather than black men, women, and children held as slaves.

New developments arose in Washington with the passage of the First Confiscation Act on August 6, 1861, and War Department instructions for the act's implementation, issued August 8. Section 4 of the act mandated that any slave owner who "employed" a slave "in any military or naval service whatsoever, against the Government and lawful authority of the United States…shall forfeit his claim" to the slave so employed. Within two days, the War Department tried to explain to commanders in the field exactly what all of that meant. Because the legal question of whether slaves were or were not being used in the Confederate war effort was a matter for courts and not for military personnel, Union officers should not try to determine which fugitive slaves had and which had not been used in the Confederate war effort. Rather, they should accept all fugitive slaves within Union lines, employ them where possible, and keep careful records of the names of slaves and their owners so that after the war loyal owners could be compensated for their property loss minus the cost of food and other maintenance provided to slaves in camp. At the same time, Union forces were not to actively entice slaves away from owners. The August 8 instructions, like the First Confiscation Act and like Butler's contraband policy, liberated certain slaves from certain owners while still recognizing the primacy of civil over military authority and while maintaining a direct relationship between the U.S. government and white people rather than black people.


This is just a piece of the ongoing story, and is meant to provide context to the above quotes. Union policy evolved continuously through the war in fits and starts, sometimes forward, sometimes backwards.
 

tmorr

Private
Joined
Sep 4, 2020
With all due respect… I posted the link to the article which takes you to national archives links for research purposes because I figured there were some folks on here who might be doing research and didn’t know of the national archives information availability. There was no other intent of my post. There are plenty of other threads to debate who used who, how and for what.
 
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