What America Looked Like: Escaped Slaves, 'Contrabands,' in the Union Navy

More
In 1862, during the height of the Civil War, New Hampshire photographer Henry P. Moore trekked to South Carolina with a large-format camera. There, he focused his lens on the daily lives of soldiers, sailors, and plantations workers of the Carolina islands. 

Moore took the following photo aboard the USS Virginia off the coast of Charleston. It depicts a group of "contrabands" -- conscripted former slaves who had escaped the Confederacy. In defiance of the 1850 Fugitive slave act, the Confiscation Act of 1861 made it Union policy not to return escaped slaves to their masters. Once seized by the Union, the slaves were set free. 

However, at first it wasn't a perfect freedom. In the early days, the contrabands were not paid for their conscription in the military. But in 1861, the Secretary of the Navy ordered that contrabands in service be paid $10 per day.

contraband- aa02010v - body.jpg

Collection of the New York Historical Society, Neg. #aa02010

This image has been digitally enhanced for easier viewing.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Brian Resnick is a staff correspondent at National Journal and a former producer of The Atlantic's National channel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

Just In