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Union General Benjamin Butler declares slaves as "contraband of war"

Benjamin Franklin Butler, detail
05/26/1861
Commanding Fort Monroe, Virginia, General Benjamin Butler learned slaves were being used to construct gun emplacements surrounding the fort.  When his patrols brought in three black laborers, he declared them confiscated "contraband of war" or property the enemy could use against him.  When their owner arrived to reclaim them, Butler informed him that since Virginia had seceded, the Fugitive Slave Law no longer applied there.  This declaration precipitated numerous slave escapes into Union lines. (By John Osborne) 
Source Citation: 
William K. Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, 1861-1865 (New York: Penguin, 2002), 114. 

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