"Draws on slave narratives, diaries, and letters in a study of fugitive slaves, known as contraband of war, who found work in the U.S. Navy."―Chronicle Review
"Barbara Brooks Tomblin's meticulously researched, deftly organized and cogently written study illuminates the critical but often overlooked role played in the U.S. Navy in transforming and redefining the lives of thousands of previously enslaved persons. . . . [Tomblin] has recounted the courageous service of these black men with the enthusiasm and dignity they deserve."―Gordon Berg, Washington Times
"Bluejackets and Contrabands is a well conceived and executed study outlining an important chapter in the history of the contribution of blacks to the success of the Union cause during the Civil War."―cwba.blogspot.com
""Barbara Brooks Tomblin's meticulously researched, deftly organized and cogently written study illuminates the critical but often overlooked role played by the U.S. Navy in transforming and redefining the lives of thousands of previously enslaved persons."―The Washington Post"―The Washington Times
""[Tomblin] . . . conveys the often intricate stories in an easy style, letting the primary sources speak for themselves and fully conveying the complex and often tragic stories of the African Americans' role in the war."―Book News, Inc."―Book News, Inc.
""This splendid study of interaction between the Union navy and escaped slaves along the South Atlantic coast during the Civil War provides a wealth of new information and insights."―James M. McPherson, George Henry Davis Professor Emeritus of American History at Princeton University, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era"―James M. McPherson, George Henry Davis Professor Emeritus of American History at Princeton University, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
""Illuminates a critical but long-overlooked aspect of Civil War history: the crucial role played by U.S. naval forces operating along the southern Atlantic coast that helped transform and redefine the role and status of previously enslaved persons."―Craig L. Symonds, author of Lincoln and His Admirals"―Craig L. Symonds, author of Lincoln and His Admirals
""In recent years, a number of books have appeared that have added significantly to our knowledge of the naval side of the Civil War. On is Barbara Brooks Tomblin's study of African Americans who escaped slavery in the South by means of the Union navy and their subsequent role in the war. While there is no way to accurately measure either the number of contrabands or their precise contribution to the Union war effort, we may conclude that both were considerable.... Thanks to Tomblin we at least have their stories and a sense of their contribution."―Spencer C. Tucker,Journal of American History"―Spencer C. Tucker, Journal of American History
""In this wide-ranging, well researched and carefully documented study, . . . focuses on many of the aspects of the interaction between the Navy and the Blacks they encountered, as they fought to put down the great rebellion."―Journal of America's Military Past"―Journal of America's Military Past
""An essential read for anyone interested in the end of American slavery and the experience of the freedman, as well as the naval service during the Civil War, and the war as a whole."―Book Reviews"―Book Reviews
"". . . The fresh approach to Civil War history makes this book one of the most innovative works in recent years and an important addition to the historiograohy on African Americans in the Civil War."―The Journal of African American History"―
""Bluejackets and Contrabands is a great example of combining military and social history into a highly readable form."―Steven J Ramold, Journal of Southern History"―
""Tomblin's argument expands on a critical but long-overlooked aspect of the Civil War by examining the contributions the United States' Navy made not only to the Union war effort, but also to the freedom brough to previously enslaved persons along the South Atlantic Coast."―Southern Historian"―
""Tomblin has done an admirable job revealing a crucial but little-known aspect of United States naval history during the Civil War. Her work will be enlightening for both scholarly and general audiences."―American Studies"―
From the Inside Flap
Bluejackets and ContrabandsAfrican Americans and the Union NavyBarbara Brooks Tomblin
Despite the wealth of information published on the Civil War, the role played by escaped slaves in the Union blockade along the Atlantic coast has been largely overlooked. In Bluejackets and Contrabands, Barbara Brooks Tomblin reveals how African American refugees seeking freedom in the North joined the Union forces, serving in a variety of capacities.
The Civil War provided a unique opportunity for African American refugees seeking avenues of escape to the North. Some were liberated by joint army-navy operations in the South, while others fled to Union Navy blockade vessels off the coast or to the Union lines. Due to their sheer numbers, the refugees who reached Union forces created problems for the military by consuming food, water, and other resources, and by crowding naval vessels. Regarded as contraband of war, former slaves became known as contrabands after the passage of the First Confiscation Act of 1861, which permitted the seizure of property used in the Confederate war effort, including slaves. The Union Navy placed some contrabands in colonies and enlisted the able-bodied men as sailors. Others were employed as river pilots, mechanics, laundresses, cooks, hospital attendants, and even spies.
Drawing from the official records and firsthand accounts such as slave narratives, diaries, and letters, Tomblin presents a vivid description of the events that redefined the Union Navy and the newly emancipated slaves. Bluejackets and Contrabands adds new depth to our understanding of the vital contributions of contrabands to the Union war effort. Barbara Brooks Tomblin is the author of With Utmost Spirit: Allied Naval Operations in the Mediterranean, 1942--1945 and G.I. Nightingales: The Army Nurse Corps in World War II.