These incredible photos show another side to the Civil War: the daily waiting, the abandoned farms, and the lookouts watching through telescopes. If you are a Civil War history enthusiast then you probably already know what a contraband or a Zouave uniform is (hint: it has roots in the Algerian costumefrom the Georgian period).
But, for most folks these subjects (and these photographs) open up new insights into one of the most divisive events in our nation’s history.
From the lowest soldiers to the highest generals to the people in towns near battles, there was no denying that everyone was affected by the Civil War. Sleepy towns became overrun with soldiers, and newly-escaped slaves for the first time their lives worked for money, though not without risk to themselves. As bleak as it sounds to us today, at the start of the war escaped slaves were often returned to their masters when found by Union troops. It wasn’t until the Confiscation Acts were passed in 1861 that “fugitive” slaves could be legally employed by the Union Army. Or rather, they were technically considered property. However, unlike the chatel slavery system they had wages and some amount of freedom.
Wages for contrabands were extremely low at first, rising to $1 per day by 1863 (the same year the Emancipation Proclamation was issued). For reference in 1862, a colonel made between $95 and $110 per month with stipends for food, clothing, horses, and paid servants.