@Book{ winters1963,
	author = {John D. Winters},
	title = {The Civil War in Louisiana},
	address = {Baton Rouge},
	publisher = {Louisiana State University Press},
	year = 1963,

Chapter 8: Vicksburg, Act One

p. 106–107: During the construction of Grant’s Canal outside of Vicksburg in summer of 1862, Winters reports that Brig. Gen. Thomas Williams “rounded up” 1200 slaves from “nearby plantations” to work on the ditch. “The Negroes laughed and shouted at their work, thinking they were earning their freedom.” Meanwhile, some planters near Vicksburg began to move to Bayou Macon or send their slaves

into the interior, some taking them as far away as Texas. Press gangs sent out by General Williams ranged up and down the river, stripping the plantations of all able-bodied Negro men to work on the canal. The Negro men, lured by promises of freedom, gladly left their wives, children, homes, and masters for a life of hard labor and short rations, with only the trees for shelter at night.1

After the canal failed, however …

Williams reneged on his promise of freedom and deserted his Negro laborers. On July 24 Farragut’s fleet, accompanied by Williams’ fleet and men, departed for the lower river. The abandoned Negroes gathered on the levee; their shrieks of woe rang out over the water as the boats moved away.2

Williams later shot at the Battle of Baton Rouge, after which “Negroes were set to work burying bloated, blackened bodies” and building fortifications around the city.

Chapter 10: Rule of the Beast

pp. 143–46 discusses Butler’s policies regarding the enlistment of “contraband.” Training of black regiments under General Phelps and General Neal Dow (at Fort Jackson) was underway by June/July 1862, but “by August nearly 500 Negroes were employed as laborers in strengthening the two forts” (144). Butler, contra Phelps, believed in putting “Negro troops” to work on fortifications and felling trees. But by end of August Butler, fearing a Confederate attack on New Orleans, issued an order that the Native Guard would be allowed to enlist in the army, leading quickly to the raising of three regiments made up mostly of fugitive slaves.

p. 145: “President Lincoln, in his Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 24, gave support to some of the measures Butler had already pursued or planned to follow regarding the Negroes.” But many black laborers continued to be put to work on fortifications, and “loyal” planters were permitted to “hire Negro laborers to work every day but Sunday.”

Butler replaced in December by Nathaniel P. Banks.

Chapter 11: Skirmishes, Secessia, and Expeditions

p. 150: Drawing on OR 15, 450–57, Winters reports that a small group of Union soldiers operating “since early May [1862] … on the west side of the river from New Orleans,” had engaged in large-scale arrests of citizens in Houma, adding that “Negroes began to desert their masters and to flock to the protection fo the troops.”

p. 158: Discusses refugeeing of slaves:

Planters who could, attempted to move their Negroes beyond the temptation and reach of the Union forces. Many of the Negroes seemed delighted to go with their masters and set out bright and happy for Texas, but some of the slaveowners soon discovered that this joy was only a ruse. Each night groups of the male slaves would disappear until few were left. Many of the discouraged planters returned home, hoping that their remaining slaves would stay with them. A few of the luckier planters, although beset by hardships, did succeed in reaching Texas with many of their slaves and resumed their farming activities on rented lands.3

He also notes General Weitzel’s unease about using “colored regiments” in the Teche District, and also his desire to appease local fears of “servile insurrection” on which see OR 15:164ff for a great response from headquarters in New Orleans, and 15:170, which mentions a group of 400 “negroes” left behind by retreating Confederates around Berwick Bay who are now with Weitzel’s army. On ppp. 163ff Winters notes the continued flight of slaves to points held by Federal troops like Thibodaux: “If the owners tried to restrain them, some of the Negroes openly rebelled, tied up their overseers and masters, and left anyway.”

Chapter 12: Canals and Stalemates

p. 173: Before Battle of Milliken Bend, a raid by 2,000 Union soldiers managed “to destroy several cotton gins, railroad depots, railroad bridges, and Negro quarters of a plantation, and to take three hundred head of cattle, two hundred horses and mules, and seventy-five Negro slaves.”

p. 175: Mentions Grant’s Canal work near Vicksburg in early 1863:

Grant continued to push the work on the canal, using as many as four thousand men at a time on the project. Captain F. E. Prime of the Army Engineers was in charge of the construction. Negroes were rounded up around Lake Providence and transported to Young’s Point to join the labor forces.4

Negroes were not only brought from upriver, but contrabands swarmed in from the back country, bringing with them horses, mules, carts, household goods, and every imaginable accoutrement. Racial prejudice ran strong, especially among the Western men. One of Sherman’s men reports, ‘The men in our camp treat them [the Negroes] worse than brutes and when they come into camp cries of ’Kill him’ etc. are heard on every hand.“5

p. 180: Again mentions that “thousands of Negroes came to Lake Providence,” and many were put to work on the canal or clearing trees. Cites OR 24, pt. 3:96 and others.

Chapter in general describes the arduous process of digging Grant’s system of canals and ultimate success, paving way for an overland route to Vicksburg. Includes citations to the published war diaries of many Union troops from Western states like Iowa, and notes their opposition to arming of black troops.

Chapter 13: Vicksburg, Act Two

pp. 200–201: Discusses Milliken Bend. Warns against taking McCulloch’s report about black troops at the battle at face value, given that he was trying to exculpate his own failure in the operation.

Chapter 14: Time of Indecision

p. 207ff: Moving back to New Orleans, Winters discusses the situation of the contraband camps at Camp Parapet. General points:

  • some military details sent upriver periodically “to collect Negroes on abandoned plantations”
  • contraband camps initially lightly guarded and black laborers allowed to leave them after a day of labor, but later white sentries were ordered to shoot “any Negro who tried to leave without a pass” (p. 207)
  • laborers divided into gangs of 125 laborers each; sometimes “mock drilled” by enlisted men
  • eventually Banks decided an end to impressment of laborers and ordered those in contraband camps (except in engineers’ camp) returned to plantations, where they would enter yearly contract for a small fixed wage or share of yearly profits; soldiers would be used to ensure plantation discipline

Cites Hepworth’s Whip, Hoe, and Sword, pp. 25ff, which contains some striking comments about mortality in the contraband camps: “They are free; but, alas! freedom only means the power to die” (30).

p. 208–209: Banks was initially “timorous” about enlisting black soldiers or using those he had, but began to change his policy in February/March 1863; “when the Federal forces opened up the Teche in April, a large number of colored recruits had been secured, and on May 1 Banks announced that he planned to raise eighteen Negro regiments of infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Before the war ended, more than twenty-four thousand Negro soldiers had been enrolled. Louisiana furnished more colored troops to the Union army than any state” (p. 209)

In attempt to keep Banks from making more incursions into the interior, the Confederate state legislature (which had to move to Shreveport as Banks moved up the Teche) passed several acts at this time, including (in January 1863), an act which “empowered the governor to conscript slave labor to build military defenses. For each male slave between the ages of eighteen and fifty so employed, the owner would be paid one dollar per day per slave.” Meanwhile, the legislature had to deal with an ever-increasing stream of refugees:

With refugees from the river parishes and lower Louisiana streaming into the interior, to Monroe, to Shreveport, to the hill country, and into Texas with what slaves, clothing, food, household goods, and treasures they could carry, it was necessary not only for the state, but also for inland towns, to aid the less fortunate refugees. To assist soldiers, their families, and displaced persons, various charity affairs were promoted in Shreveport and vicinity. At the end of December, 1862, the “Confederate minstrels” gave two performances in Shreveport to raise money for patriotic purposes. A tableu presented in Mansfield on New Year’s night added $295 to the funds. (p. 211)

See Shreveport Semi-Weekly News for reports on these sorts of events.

  1. Cited sources include OR, vol. 15; G. Mott Williams, “Letters of General Thomas Williams,”; Butler’s Private and Official Correspondence, I, 595–596.

  2. Cites ORN, XVIII, 595; XXIII, 235, 237, 239, 240f; Bacon, Among the Cotton Thieves, p. 16–which mentions the “hundreds of fugitive slaves who, having long been at work on the ditch, and standing on the shore, holding the hands of wives and children, sent up a shriek of woe when they were barred by the General’s bayonets from entering empty steamers of the retreating expedition, and left to be made examples to terrify all who would afterwards aid the North.” It seems clear that Bacon, who it later becomes clear is “under arrest” by the general for mutiny, has an axe to grind against Williams, though, whom he thinks has many “rebel friends.” He also later reports that Williams released General Orders, No. 46, from Baton Rouge forbidding Union soldiers to harbor fugitives.

  3. Cites George R. Smith; Arthur W. Hyatt Papers; Irwin, History of the Nineteenth Amry Corps; Alexander F. Pugh and Family Collection.

  4. Cites OR 24, pt. 1: 14, and pt. 3: 4-7, 9-10, 17, but none of these mention the slaves being used. Other sources cited include Records of the War Dept., Dept. of Tennessee, Letters Sent, I, 264, 267–268, War Records Division, National Archives.

  5. Cites Throne, ed., The Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd, 118.