Contrabands Aid the Union

The contrabands assisted Union forces in and around Fortress Monroe, though they were still treated largely as slaves. Able-bodied men and women were put to work by the Union Army doing the same kinds of labor they had been doing for the Confederates. They didn't begin receiving pay for their efforts until October 1861. Still, they were dedicated workers, one newspaper reporter observing, "Their shovels and their other implements of labor, they handle and carry as soldiers do their guns."

black laborers for Union on James River loc

Image: Library of Congress

© Susan VanHecke 2016