Sunday, September 25, 2011

Contrabands Enlist In The U. S. Navy

This entry commemorates the first time African Americans were officially allowed to serve in the U. S. military, in the Navy.  It would still be some some time before they were allowed to serve in other branches of the military.  It comes from the Official Records of the Union and Confederates Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 12, published in 1894, an order of the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, to Flag Officer Du Pont dated September 25, 1861.
Sir: The Department finds it necessary to adopt a regulation with respect to the large and increasing number of persons of color, commonly known as "contraband," now subsisted at the navy yards and on board of ships of war. They can neither be expelled from the service to which they have resorted nor can they be maintained unemployed; and it is not proper that they should be compelled to render necessary and regular services without a stated compensation. You are therefore authorized, when their services can be made useful, to enlist them for the naval service under the same forms and regulations as apply to other enlistments. They will be allowed, however, no higher rating than boys, at a compensation of $10 per month and one ration a day.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant, Gideon Welles.

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