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.
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.