A Community within a Community
Surrounding this slave plantation in the 1850s were other large properties that were also dependent on slave labor. Interwoven with these were smaller tracts of land where family members accomplished all the labor. 12 miles to the north-east was St. Louis, a diverse city with white residents, enslaved African-Americans, free African-Americans and many immigrants from primarily European countries.
~150 Years Ago—Contraband
During the Civil War as Union troops moved into communities where slave labor was used, many of the enslaved men, women and children fled the plantations for the Union lines. As slaves they were considered property and thus called contraband of war. The men often volunteered to assist the Union Army first as paid labor and later as soldiers.
During the Vicksburg campaign General Ulysses S. Grant's camp had so many African American men, women and children that he appointed John Eaton to be Superintendent of Contrabands. Grant gave directions to what the men and women could be assigned to do and according to Eaton he went on to say, "it would be very easy to put a musket in his hands and make a soldier out of him and if he fought well, eventually to put the ballot in his
hand and make him a citizen."