"Contraband" or Fugitive Slaves, Cumberland County, Virginia, 1862

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Image Reference

Stereograph by James Gibson (b. 1828) in Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (LC-B8171-0383).

Fugitive slaves from the South who escaped to Union lines were called "contraband," that is, confiscated enemy property. They were held in camps while the military authorities decided how to maintain and employ them. The people in this photograph, taken at "Foller's house" in Cumberland Landing (Central Virginia), would have posed a particular dilemma for the authorities because they were largely women and children and could not be used, as were able-bodied males, for hard military labor or soldiering. By 1862, when this photograph was taken, women and children would be moved to "contraband camps," meaning confiscated southern plantations, which were used to grow food for the Union army. (Thanks to William Freehling for his assistance in interpreting this photograph.)