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)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The U.S. is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

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

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

Just In