The Corinth Contraband Camp is the location where many runaway slaves found freedom and safety. The Corinth area was controlled by Union forces under the leadership of General Granville Dodge. When the runaway slaves would arrive at this location General Dodge started to make them teamsters, cooks, and workers. He also armed and used the male refugees to guard the new camp here.
When Union forces gained control of several areas of the
South, several slaves ran away from the farms and plantations to Union lines to escape and find protection. After
President Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was declared
in September 1862 the number of runaway slaves escaping to Union controlled Corinth rose noticeably. The camp provided homes, a church, a school, and a hospital for the escaped slaves. The runaways grew and sold cotton and
vegetables in what was an advanced collective farm program.
In May of 1863 it was discovered that the camp was
gaining $4,000 to $5,000 from this economic strategy. In August, more than 1,000 African American
kids and adults learned how to read thanks to the help of many charitable
organizations. Even though the camp had
a slow start, it soon turned into a model camp. It gave around 6,000 former slaves the opportunity to create their own
When the Emancipation Proclamation was passed, close to
2,000 of the former male slaves at the camp got their first chance to defend
themselves and created a new regiment in the Union army. Because the majority of the men were from
Alabama, the regiment was called the 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment
of African Descent. This regiment was
later called the 55th United States Colored Troops. In December 1863, the Corinth Contraband Camp
was transferred to Memphis and the former slaves lived in a more typical
refugee facility for the rest of the war. This camp was a pioneer on the road to freedom and the long fight for
equality for several newly freed people. Presently part of the historic Corinth Contraband Camp has been
maintained to remember the people who started their quest to freedom at the
camp between 1862 and 1863. This area
now has a quarter mile trail that displays 6 life-size bronze statues that
represent the men, women, and children who lived at the camp.