Mrs. Keckley, “Contraband” and The Lincolns

Presidential History Blog

The Civil War brought out great bitterness. It also brought out great generosity.


contraband Shortly after the Civil war began, runaway slaves were give a unique new name: “Contraband of War.”

Fortress Monroe, near Norfolk, VA, was a crucial center for the Union, since it commanded the Chesapeake Bay, its trade, commerce and defensive position. General Benjamin Butler, a “political” general and Massachusetts lawyer, was in command of Union forces in that area, which was a magnet for the runaways. Technically, they “could not” be freed and “should” be returned to their masters, but Butler, an abolitionist, was not about to permit it. He declared the runaways as “contraband” of war”, giving quasi immunity and a sense of growing pride and importance to the once-enslaved.

The Sanitary Commission

Early in the war, the Sanitary Commission was formed in the North. As a precursor to the Red Cross, the…

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