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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Confederate Slave/freemen workers

In 1861, fortifications at the very strategic city of Norfolk, Va. were being constructed with the labor of hired free Negroes from Mecklenburg and other Va. Counties ($125.00 per year and free railroad tickets to and from Norfolk). Some labored "voluntarily" and others were impressed and threatened into service, (from Mecklenburg County)by B.D. Cogbill of Boydton, Va. On May 21, he informed the Governor that he had "collected and will start tommorrow for Norfolk with about twenty three Negroes and Saturday with about fifty more." Many more free Negroes were impressed in to Confederate construction service. Some Mecklenburg citizens citizens protested to the Governor Letcher, that Cogbill was "pressing the free Negroes of this vicinity into service of the Commonwealth by the most violent means, seising & handcuffing or binding in some way every free colored man who will not consent to go to Norfolk to labor for the state". "Already about 150 have been sent off...torn from their families, in the most violent way, leaving their crops without a cultivator and their families to charity or starvation." In July, the Mecklenburg Justices passed an ordinance which ordered the Sheriff, Samuel G. Farrar, " cause to be enrolled all able bodied male free Negroes between the age of 18 and fifty" , who lived in Mecklenburg. (This was a draft)
They they later impressed slave labor to work on the construction of the fortifications in Richmond and Petersburg in October of 1861 and this practice of drafting slave labor continued through the remainder of the war, not always without opposition from the slave owners and other citizens.
The point is: There were thousands of slaves and free men of color who were impressed into working for the Confederate Army, through the entire war.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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