Newly-Digitized Confederate Slave Payrolls Shed Light on Lives of 19th Century African American Families

From the (U.S.) National Archives News:

“For all of March 1862, a man named Ben cooked for the Confederate military stationed at Pinners Point, VA, earning 60 cents a day that would go to his owner.

“A few months later and 65 miles away, Godfrey, Willis, and Anthony worked on ‘obstructions of the Appomattox River’ at Fort Clifton.

“Then there were Grace, Silvia, and Bella, among several women listed as laborers at South Carolina’s Ashley Ferry Nitre Works in April 1864, near the names of children like Sarah, Eugenia and Sampson.

“They are single lines, often with no last name, on paper yellowed but legible after 155 years, among thousands scrawled in loping letters that make up nearly 6,000 Confederate Slave Payroll records, a trove of Civil War documents digitized for the first time by National Archives staff in a multiyear project that concluded in January.

For years, the Confederate Army required owners to loan their slaves to the military. From Virginia to Florida, the enslaved conscripts were forced to dig trenches and work at ordnance factories and arsenals, mine potassium nitrate to create gunpowder, or shore up forts.

“The Confederate Quartermaster Department created the payrolls for slave labor on Confederate military defenses. After the end of the Civil War, the Federal War Records Office arranged, indexed, and numbered the documents.”

You can read a lot more in a article by Victoria Macchi in the National Archives News at: https://www.archives.gov/news/articles/confederate-slave-payrolls-digitized

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