Chapter

Contributing to Victory

Barbara Brooks Tomblin

in Bluejackets and Contrabands

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780813125541
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813135311 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5810/kentucky/9780813125541.003.0006
Contributing to Victory

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The growing number of contrabands presented Union officials with a difficult challenge. Able-bodied male contrabands were often enlisted as crew on navy ships or worked for wages as stevedores, mule drivers, servants, or military laborers. Initially, however, the army and navy had less use for women, children, and elderly runaways. Union naval commanders also sent dozens of contrabands to Union military posts or navy yards to be employed as laborers. Contrabands with specific skills, such as machinists, caulkers, carpenters, and mechanics, readily found work in Union Navy machine shops and repair facilities. Initially, the principal contribution of refugee slaves to the Union war effort was their labor. Although most contrabands did not work directly on Union Navy projects, their work at wharves unloading supplies, clearing rebel areas for entrenchments along rivers and creeks, and building gun emplacements and other defenses at vital points along waterways benefited Union gunboats and other vessels.

Keywords: contrabands; army; navy; laborers; Union Navy; refugee slaves

Chapter.  16496 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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