What was happening in America that would cause the President of the United States to buy enslaved people? He feared that if he didn’t, the Union might lose the Civil War. Thus began …
The Slave Claims Commission
What is this?
In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln paid enslavers in the border states $300 to free and enlist men into the Union Army. They had to show proof of ownership, loyalty to the government, as well as proof of manumission. The cost was for the loss of property. The border states included Maryland Delaware Missouri Kentucky Tennessee and West Virginia. When the Emancipation Proclamation was issued it only freed the enslaved in the states in rebellion.
Confirmation of award To enslaver Andasia Robbins from the Slave Claims Commission for James Robbins, who enlisted with the surname of Robinson
Why is this important?
This is important because it provides evidence of enslavement. The paperwork includes the soldier’s name, the enslaver’s name, the deed of manumission, and proof of ownership. Sometimes the proof of ownership was the deed of purchase. This would provide not only the current enslaver but the previous one as well. With this information, researchers can now direct their attention to probate and other County records to uncover their family history during the antebellum.
Deed of manumission and release of service of James Robbins
How do I access it?
These records can be found in the compiled military service record of the soldier. They are available on Fold3. The Textural records can be found at the National Archives. Michael Hait, a Certified Genealogist, has also published indexes for a few of the commissions.
- Great details on the Slave Claims Commission can be found on the St Louis County Library’s American Civil War page.
- The FamilySearch Wiki also provides information
Watch the Show
James Robinson, Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served With the United States Colored Troops, 2nd through 7th Colored Infantry including 3d Tennessee Volunteers (African Descent), 6th Louisiana Infantry (African Descent), and 7th Louisiana Infantry (African Descent). Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, M1820, roll 104 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives).