Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Downtown Hampton in Hampton, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Grand Contraband Camp

"Freedom's Fortress"

 

— Explore Hampton 2010: From the Sea to the Stars —

 
Grand Contraband Camp Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, February 6, 2021
1. Grand Contraband Camp Marker
Inscription.  
On the night of May 23, 1861, just days after Virginia seceded from the Union, three enslaved men working on a Confederate fortification in Norfolk carried out an audacious plan, appearing at the gates of Fort Monroe and asking for sanctuary. The next day, when a southern officer demanded their return under the Fugitive Slave Act, Gen. Benjamin Butler refused, calling them "contrabands of war." This decision set in motion of one of the great refugee floods in history.

At first a handful, then dozens, then hundreds of slaves from plantations along the James River and as far south as North Carolina streamed across Union lines to "Freedom's Fortress." By the time it was over, some 25,000 contrabands crowded the Peninsula, 7,000 of them in the village of Hampton. This remarkable act of people seizing their own freedom is regarded as the beginning of the end of slavery.

The area north and west of Queen Street was crisscrossed by streets of contrabands named Lincoln, Grant, and Union, which retain those names today. The area was officially called the Grand Contraband Camp, but was known as "Slabtown," as was an area near what is now

Black Business and Grand Contraband Camp Markers image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, February 6, 2021
2. Black Business and Grand Contraband Camp Markers
Phoebeus. The term "slab" comes from discarded bark-covered first cuts of logs. Initially the contrabands used the slabs, along with other materials such as shutters and timbers scavenged from the ruins that remained after Confederate troops burned the town. Their shanties were sometimes built next to the hulks of chimneys, but most were placed outside the old village. Later, General Butler built a sawmill nearby to give contrabands better, more regular lumber.
 
Erected 2010 by Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansForts and CastlesSettlements & SettlersWar, US Civil.
 
Location. 37° 1.66′ N, 76° 20.974′ W. Marker is in Downtown Hampton in Hampton, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Lincoln Street and North Armistead Avenue (Virginia Route 134), on the right when traveling east on Lincoln Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 204 Lincoln St, Hampton VA 23669, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Black Business (here, next to this marker); Historic St. John's Episcopal Church (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Virginia Laydon (approx. 0.2 miles away); St. John's Church (approx. 0.2 miles away);
Paid Advertisement
Click on the ad for more information.
Please report objectionable advertising to the Editor.
Hampton Confederate Monument (approx. 0.2 miles away); Elizabeth City Parish (approx. 0.2 miles away); a different marker also named St. John's Church (approx. 0.2 miles away); Founders And Patriots Buried In This Cemetery (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Downtown Hampton.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 7, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 7, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 38 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on February 7, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.
Paid Advertisement
Feb. 25, 2021