Camp Contraband was the name given to an encampment that existed on this site during the Civil War. The camp was a haven for a large number of refugees, most of whom were liberated slaves seeking safety within the Union lines. The former slaves were hired to do most of the manual labor for building the military buildings, military bridge, roads, railways, stockades, stables, etc. in Chattanooga during the war but were not allowed to live on the south side of the river. It was also where the Black troops (and there were many of them) were quartered. These Black soldiers had an excellent combat record. At the start of the war the population was about 2,500 people. By the end of the war there was more than twice that number of African American refugees in the camps.
Many residents of Camp Contraband gradually moved to higher ground away from the river, creating Hill City, one of the city's oldest post Civil War African American neighborhoods.