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Catalog Number 2015.11.0
Title Grand Contraband Camp excavation, 44HT0119
Collection Grand Contraband Camp Excavation
Object Type Fonds
Description/Scope & Content This collection contains materials excavated by James River Institute for Archaeology from May to July 2014 from part of Hampton's Grand Contraband Camp, site 44HT0119. The site excavated is located northeast of the intersection of Armistead Avenue and Lincoln Street, on property owned by the Hampton Redevelopment and Housing Authority (HRHA). Artifacts recovered include animal bone, ceramics, glass, building materials, and personal items. Concentrations of bone and building materials are heaviest.

In May 1861, three slaves escaped from Confederate Hampton to Federally controlled Fort Monroe and petitioned its commander, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, for asylum. Since Butler was not authorized to emancipate slaves, he declared the three fugitives "contraband of war," or property who could be seized as part of the war effort. During the Civil War, thousands of fugitive slaves arrived at Fort Monroe, and although not technically free, the "Contrabands" were protected by the U.S. government and not returned to their enslavers. One of the largest camps of Contrabands was in Hampton, constructed from rubble on the ruins of the town after it burned in August 1861, and on adjacent farmland. After the Civil War, much of the former farmland occupied by Grand Contraband Camp was divided into lots and sold to former slaves.

The bulk of the excavation area corresponds with the lot purchased by Merritt Thomas in 1872. According to family tradition, Thomas was a Contraband who had arrived in Hampton during the Civil War. The property remained in the Thomas family until the late 1960s, when it and the other nearby lots were acquired through eminent domain by HRHA for redevelopment as the Harbor Square apartment complex, which was demolished in 2012.
Extent of Description 2 boxes of bagged artifacts
1 folder of field notes
1 bound report
Creator James River Institute for Archaeology
People Thomas, Merritt
Topics Contrabands/Freedpeople
African-American History
Place Names District08--Downtown
Site--Grand Contraband Camp
Site--Contraband Excavation
System of arrangement Materials not arranged into series. Artifacts cataloged at the bag level (i.e. by context and object type). Artifacts cataloged in the order given in the inventory created by James River Institute for Archaeology (JRIA); see report (2015.11.1) for this inventory. For objects assigned an artifact ID number by JRIA, this number appears in the "Other#" field in the corresponding HHM catalog record. Physical labelling of either catalog or context information is at bag level; no artifacts are individually labeled. Artifacts and features appear to have been labeled twice by JRIA. Several bags contain pull or other slips with old or outdated identification information. Some feature numbers in field notes do not correspond to numbers given in report.
Notes View all artifact records from the Grand Contraband Camp Excavation.
Media/Interactives To view above Place Names on map, open map in new window and click on place name in the list at left.
Child Records 2015.11.1