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Records of the Slave Claims Commissions, 1864-1867

E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant General, issued General Order 329, by order of the President, on 3 October 1863. The Orders began, “Whereas, the exigencies of the war require that colored troops should be recruited in the States of Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee,” and further ordered that recruiting stations should be established within these three states for recruitment under certain provisions. Among these provisions were the following:

4. Free persons, and slaves with the written consent of their owners, and slaves belonging to those who have been engaged in or given aid and comfort to the rebellion, may be now enlisted, the owners who have not been engaged in or given aid to the rebellion being entitled to receive compensation, as hereafter provided. ...

6. Any citizen of said States who shall offer his or her slave for enlistment into the military service shall, if such slave be accepted, receive from the recruiting officer a certificate thereof and become entitled to compensation for the service or labor of said slave, not exceeding the sum of $300, upon filing a valid deed of manumission and of release and making satisfactory proof of the title. And the recruiting officer shall furnish to any claimant a descriptive list of any person enlisted and claimed, under oath, to be his or her slave, and allow any one claiming, under oath, that his or her slave has been enlisted without his or her consent, the privilege of inspecting the enlisted men for the purpose of identification.

7. A board of three persons shall be appointed by the President, to whom the rolls and recruiting lists shall be furnished for public information, and, on demand, exhibited to any person claiming that his or her slave has been enlisted against his or her will.[1]

These three provisions, in effect, authorized the establishment of “slave claims commissions” in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee, to review claims for compensation by loyal slave owners.

Slavery had been gradually abolished in the northern states since the Revolutionary War.When South Carolina voted to secede from the Union shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, nearly all of the other remaining slave-holding states followed suit, with but a few exceptions:Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri.The western counties of Virginia voted to secede from Virginia and return to the Union, creating the new state of West Virginia.Tennessee, which had actually seceded from the United States to join the Confederacy at the start of the War, had by this time come back under the control of the Union Army.These six states—Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia, and Tennessee—thus became the only Union-controlled slave states, and benefitted from General Order 329.

In order to claim compensation for a slave enlisted in the U. S. Colored Troops, a slave-owner had to furnish proof of enlistment of the slave, proof of ownership of the slave, proof of their own loyalty, and a deed of manumission freeing the slave. ...

The Records of the Slave Claims Commissions are held in their original form at the National Archives and Records Administration Building in Washington, D. C. These records have not been microfilmed or digitized. The series is identified as “Entry 348” in PI17: “Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (RG 94).” The records consist of fourteen total items: ten loose volumes, and four boxes containing additional volumes.


Volume One: Register of Claims of Delaware Commission

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The Register of Claims of Delaware Commission contains 114 claims entered before the Delaware Slave Claims Commission in 1864 and 1865.Each claim provides at least the name of the claimant/slave-owner and the name of the slave, providing direct evidence of the final slave-owner of each of the slaves thus claimed.Each entry may include additional information including date and place of enlistment of the slave, events in the processing of the claim, and the amount of award, if any.For rejected claims, one might learn that the claimant was considered disloyal, for example, or that the slave being claimed was not a chattel slave but a free black apprentice.Other information may also be found among the claims.

This 40-page book is available for $14.99 paperback and $6.99 downloadable PDF e-book.

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Read a review of this book by David Paterson, on AfriGeneas.com


Volume Two: Register of Claims of the Kentucky Commission

The Register of Claims of Kentucky Commission contains 2,475 claims entered before the Kentucky Slave Claims Commission between 26 November 1866 and 6 April 1867.The claims were recorded in a tabular register which has been reproduced in this volume, with the following column headers:

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The claims in this volume have been indexed by the names of the claimants and by the names of the slaves being claimed.

This 316-page book is available for $19.99 paperback and $15.99 downloadable PDF e-book.

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Read a mention of this book by professional genealogist Arlene Eakle, in her Tennessee Genealogy Blog"


Volume Three: Journal of the First Maryland Commission

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The Journal of the First Maryland Commissionz is designated the third of these volumes. Unlike the two previous volumes in this series of published records, the Journal of the First Maryland Commission is not a register of claims, but a journal of the proceedings of the “Board of Claims,” as the original Maryland Slave Claims Commission was called. The proceedings do contain the names of many individual claimants, and many of the slaves for which these claims were made. In addition to these names, however, this Journal also provides insight into the operations of the “Board of Claims,” and the development of the policies by which claims were awarded.

The Journal begins on 2 December 1863, with the last entry bearing date 4 June 1864.

This 111-page book is available for $16.99 paperback and $12.99 downloadable PDF e-book.

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