Confederate Slave Payrolls

Today’s Washington Post has an informative article by Michael E. Ruane, “During the Civil War, the enslaved were given an especially odious job. The pay went to their owners.”  This article discusses the Confederate Slave Payrolls in the National Archives, which have all been digitized and are available online. These records show:

  • Names (first names) of slaves.
  • Name of the person from whom the enslaved person was hired (not necessarily their own slave owner).
  • Location at which employed.
  • Name of Confederate officer under whom the slave was employed.
  • When employed (month and year, and number of days).
  • Rate of pay and total pay.
  • Signature (or mark) of the owner or the owner’s agent (designated “Atty” due to their power of attorney) to acknowledge receipt of pay.
  • Some payrolls include the power of attorney given by a slave owner to authorize another person to collect payment on their behalf. The owner would execute a power of attorney if he or she was unable to go personally to the Confederate officer.
  • There are also records of free blacks who were impressed (forced to serve) and a few payroll records for white Quartermaster Department employees.

More information about these important records is given in my 2019 article, “Civil War Confederate Slave Payroll Records” as well as in the Confederate Slave Payrolls Scope and Content Note.

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Image: Side 2 of Slave Payroll 519 that shows six slaves and one free black man hired out of Greene County, Virginia, during January-March 1863, to work on the intermediate line of the defenses of Richmond, Virginia, under the command of 1st Lieutenant John B. Stanard.

The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America – Thursday, March 16, 2017, 7 p.m.

On the eve of the Civil War, 1.6 million Irish-born people were living in the United States, most in the major industrialized cities of the North. For The Forgotten Irish, Damian Shiels researched Civil War pension records to craft the stories of 35 Irish families whose lives portray the nature of the Irish emigrant experience. This will be the book’s U.S. launch.

Michael Hussey, a National Archives archivist and historian, and David T. Gleeson, Professor of American History at Northumbria University and author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America, will co-moderate the discussion and audience Q&A. A book signing will follow the program.

You can view it live from the comfort of your home on YouTube or see it in person by reserving a seat in the William G. McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC.

These authors’ research shows the truly international value and importance of records in the U.S. National Archives. You can subscribe to the National Archives Event Newsletter to receive timely information about future programs.

Damian Shiels blogs at Irish in the American Civil War and David T. Gleeson blogs at The Atlantic Irish.