There are two terrific websites I want to tell you about, very appropriate for this year’s 150th celebration of the start of the Civil War.
The first is Last Road to Freedom. The site creator and founder Alisea McLeod has put together this website as a resource about Contraband Camps. This is a sometimes-mentioned, but rarely well-understood topic and it is central to the African-American experience during the Civil War since so many enslaved persons took their own freedom by escaping behind Union lines. Ms. McLeod provides a wealth of information here, but the icing on the cake is her downloadable register of the over 3,000 people who lived at one of the camps in Memphis, Tennessee. What initially blew my mind was the column containing the name of the former slaveholder! As genealogists researching African-Americans, this information is critical to getting to our ancestors before 1865 (if they were still enslaved). Ms. McLeod contacted me because individuals with one of my surnames (Harbor) showed up on the register, as well as more than 20 people from one of my primary research areas (Hardin County, Tennessee). The register also notes where the individuals had come from, and so you can see counties from Northern Alabama and Mississippi as well as other central and western Tennessee counties–gives you a good sense of from where the enslaved had fled. The hope is that other registers exist and may be found and transcribed.
The 2nd website I want to highlight is a blog called Civil War Memory that is done by historian and teacher Kevin Levin. I found this site by googling something one day and subsequently spent hours reading his various posts. He has a special interest in the topic of “Black Confederates” and I suggest you poke around when you have some time. He has done a tremendous amount of work not only gathering resources but also pointing out and battling present day sources of mis-information in this area. The vast majority of blacks who were given pensions by the Confederate Army (actually the individual states gave the pensions) were either impressed as laborers, or served as personal servants to their masters. They were allowed pensions because of this. They were not considered “soldiers”—only a very small number at the very end of the war were considered soldiers. But read his posts on the subject as he says it much better than I could. He’s got so much good information on this blog, I try to catch up on a few old posts every day. He also did an interesting post recently on Lionel Ritchie’s segment on the show “Who Do You Think You Are?” Here are a few more posts I enjoyed, but there are lots more:
- How Many Black Confederates were there?
- Where were all the Black Confederate Soldiers?
- USCT’s in the Public Mind
- A Book We Should All Read: Soldiers and Slavery
- Show Don’t Tell: Black Confederates
- Melvin Ely Debating Sons of Confederate Veterans
I hope you enjoy these sites as much as I did and spread the word