Contraband Camp at Harpers Ferry: A Reenactment

One chapter in history that I'd like to see more of in film is that of the contraband camps of the American Civil War. Below is a brief history lesson on "contraband" and the camps they lived in.

The effects of the proclamaition – freed Negroes coming into our lines at 
Newbern, North Carolina.' Harper's Weekly, Feb. 21, 1863.
"Contraband was a term commonly used in the United States military during the American Civil War to describe a new status for certain escaped slaves or those who affiliated with Union forces. The Army (and the United States Congress) determined that the US would not return escaped slaves who went to Union lines and classified them as contraband. They used many as laborers to support Union efforts and soon began to pay them wages. The former slaves set up camps near Union forces, and the Army helped support and educate both adults and children among the refugees. Thousands of men from these camps enlisted in the United States Colored Troops when recruitment started in 1863. At war's end, more than 100 contraband camps existed in the South, including the Freedmen's Colony of Roanoke Island, where 3500 former slaves worked to develop a self-sufficient community." (source)

A contraband camp, formerly used as a female seminary, circa 1863

With that said I have enjoyed the two behind the scene reenactment videos from my favorite black american history reenactor Cheyney McKnight aka Not Your Mommas History. These videos are from the Sons and Daughters of Ham Contraband Camp reenactments from 2016 and 2017. Enjoy!


From Cheyney: This past weekend the Sons and Daughters of Ham portrayed contraband at Harpers Ferry. These runaway slaves lived in Contraband Camps and worked as cooks, nurses, woodsmen, launderers, trench and fortification builders for the Federals during the Civil War. Everyone put their all into this weekend and it paid off. I saw amazing impressions from Liberty Rifles, Clinton Rifles and Saul Goode Sutler as usual.

The Sons and Daughters of Ham once again brought the Contraband Camp at Harpers Ferry to life. Documentation of Harpers Ferry Contraband Camp  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/stereo.1s04358/

I would like to see stories of the escaped slaves that lived, learned, and loved in these camps. What were they doing before they lived in these camps? Where did they go afterwards? This period in time is ripe for the picking in terms of story telling possibilities.  

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