Black History Month – Corinth Contraband Camp

As Federal forces occupied significant portions of the South, enslaved people escaped from farms and plantations and fled to safety behind Union lines. The number of freedom seekers increased considerably in Union-occupied Corinth after President Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued in September 1862.

The Corinth Contraband Camp was established by Union General Grenville M. Dodge to help these refugees. The camp included homes, a church, a school, and a hospital. The freedmen cultivated and sold cotton and vegetables in a progressive cooperative farm program. By May 1863, the camp was making a profit of $4,000 to $5,000 from its operations. By August, over 1,000 Black children and adults learned to read through the efforts of various benevolent organizations. Although the camp had a modest beginning, it became a model camp and permitted approximately 6,000 former slaves to establish their own identities.

Once the Emancipation Proclamation was implemented, nearly 2,000 newly freed men at the Corinth Contraband Camp had their first opportunity to protect their way of life and they formed a new regiment in the Union army. Since most of the men came from Alabama, the unit was named the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment of African Descent, which was later re-designated to the 55th United States Colored Troops.

In December 1863, the camp was moved to Memphis and the freedmen lived in a more traditional refugee facility for the remainder of the war. The Corinth Contraband Camp was the first step on the road to freedom and the struggle for equality for thousands of former slaves.

Today a portion of the historic Corinth Contraband Camp is preserved to commemorate those who began their journey to freedom there in 1862-1863. This land now hosts a quarter-mile walkway that exhibits six life-size bronze sculptures depicting the men, women, and children who inhabited the camp.

The following images from the site illustrate the interest and desire that the emancipated Blacks had to learn to read and write.

Please see the Corinth Contraband Camp for more information on this historic site.

About Allen Mesch

Allen is an author, educator, and historian. He has written six books: The Analyst; Teacher of Civil War Generals; Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith; Charles A. Marvin - "One Year. Six Months, and Eleven Days", Preparing for Disunion, and Ebenezer Allen - Statesman, Entrepreneur, and Spy. He taught classes on the American Civil War at Collin College. He has visited more than 130 Civil War sites and given presentations at Civil War Roundtables.
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1 Response to Black History Month – Corinth Contraband Camp

  1. Carolyn Geary says:

    Thank you, General M. Dodge, for establishing the Corinth Contraband Camp, and thank you, Allen for sharing an important history lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

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