Friday, August 9, 2013

Contraband Camps in Mississippi and Arkansas

By Special Order of the Gen. Superintendent of Freedmen John Eaton, the Rev. Joseph Warren, D.D. was charged with publishing extracts from documents from the Department in answer to the interests of "friends of the Government and of the Freed People." The Second Series published by Warren contains many references to contraband camps in the Mississippi Valley. I will be updating the Last Road to Freedom website, based on the references. For now, I'd like to provide a list of camps mentioned.

The following is based on a report by Dr. T.J. Wright, Surgeon of the 64th United States Colored Infantry (dated Feb. 20, 1864)

  •  Birney's Plantation in Mississippi ("on the west bank of the river, about two miles below Vicksburg): 600 inhabitants estimated.
  • Blake's Plantations: "the first of these...about eight miles from the city on the valley road"; two other places located on the south bank of the Yazoo. 800 estimated inhabitants.
  • Brownsville, Arkansas: "a small camp for the reception of freedmen." 
  • Davis' [sic] Bend (about thirty miles below Vicksburg). Several plantations are mentioned: Lovel's (200 inhabitants estimated), The Lake Plantation, "three miles from the Lovel Place" (100 estimated." Wright comments that most on the Lovel Plantation are advanced in years, some even in their nineties; The Banks Plantation (100 estimated inhabitants); The Mill Plantation ("one of the Joe. Davis places" about five miles from The Banks Plantation. An estimated 150 living on at the Mill Plantation. The Joe. Davis Plantation (also known as the Hurricane Plantation): 200 estimated inhabitants; the Jeff. Davis or Brierfield Plantation: 200 estimated inhabitants. The Woods Plantation: freepeople here according to Wright were moved between Vicksburg, Goodrich's Landing, and the Bend. Therefore, the estimated number of inhabitants fluctuates from 200 to more than 1,000.
  • DuVall's Bluff: "a small collection of freedmen." Wright reports that most of them have come into the lines within the last two months [late 1863 or early 1864]. Estimated inhabitants: 300.
  • Goodrich's Landing: 1,500 estimated inhabitants on plantations.
  • Little Rock, Arkansas: Wright reports that there are many freedmen in Little Rock, the end of the terminus for the railroad from Memphis. He comments that few freedmen here rely on the government for care. He estimated that 150 were in camp and dependent on the government while thousands more earned a living.
  • Millikin's [sic] Bend: 200 estimated inhabitants (some contraband "in the Van Buren charge")
  • Mouth of White River (Arkansas): Wright reports that a population of about 300 live in poor cabins are are overcharged for food and other needs. Most work as woodchoppers for steamers along the river.
  • Omega Landing (seven miles above Paw Paw Island). At one point in 1864, there were as many as 1,000 here, but 800 were moved to plantations.
  • On the Bluff: this camp was considered a "reception" or temporary camp. It contained an estimated 200 people.
  • Paw Paw Island: 1,000 inhabitants estimated.
  • Pine Bluff, Arkansas: "a very large collection of freedmen." Wright comments that he has seen more sick people here than elsewhere.
  • Van Buren Plantation (including the Burns Plantation). Van Buren Plantation estimate: 800; Burns Plantation: 200.
  • Young's Point, Mississippi ("on the west bank of the river, six miles above Vicksburg.") 1,000 inhabitants estimated. In addition to the camp, blacks were also housed on plantations two to four miles from the river. Dr. Wright estimates that there are on each plantation 100 to 200 blacks.

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