Sometimes they creep furtively out of the woods and sometimes they walk boldly down the road; sometimes they come in groups and sometimes singly; but they all have the hunted look of men and women trying to get away from something.
They are runaway slaves, and the men in the Union army have a word for them: “contrabands.”
Despite Southerners’ claims of how well they treat slaves, slaves have been escaping northward for decades. Within weeks after the fall of
Escaped slaves are showing up at many Union army camps, where they get differing welcomes. Sometimes Union officers return slaves to their owners, trying to dampen secessionism. Many other officers, however, are unable to stomach slavery and harbor the runaways.
With slightly less than full confidence in what he is doing, Hayes opines that the family is “entitled to freedom, as I understand the rule adopted by our government. The rule is, I believe that slaves coming to our lines, especially if owned by Rebels, are free.” Hayes is probably referring to the “Confiscation Act” passed by Congress on August 6, the first in a series of steps freeing certain slaves that will lead to
ELSWHERE: Apart from a skirmish in