"Contraband" Resistance to White Authority in the Civil War
Flanagan, Ian P.
MetadataShow full item record
The term “contraband” seems better suited to describe goods than people. But during the Civil War, Union military officials brought a new meaning of “contraband” into popular usage: escaped slaves. Many studies have engaged with the minority of contrabands who enlisted in the military but few have engaged with the experiences of contrabands who stayed behind Union lines throughout the war, primarily women, children, the elderly, and the disabled. Fewer still have studied how and why contrabands resisted federal authority behind Union lines during the war, a considerable oversight given the extensive explorations of slave resistance now available. Using archival collections from several states and rarely accessed sets of federal records, this study demonstrates that running from slave masters was only contrabands’ first act of resistance to white authority during the Civil War. Contrabands sought protection with Union military forces, but they did not simply accept conditions imposed on them in exchange for protection. Few contrabands found exactly what they were looking for behind Union lines and fewer still took what was given to them without question. Armed resistance by contrabands against Union forces was rare, but contrabands employed diverse non-violent strategies for resisting conditions they encountered behind Union lines.With honors.