15. July 2013 09:49
Corinth is a significant location in the state’s American Civil War history and heritage. Its proximity to Shiloh National Military Park and the area’s pivotal role during the war offer the ideal backdrop as the state commemorates the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War now through 2015.
While many might be aware of the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, Brice’s Crossroads and other sites, the Corinth Contraband Camp is another part of the state’s heritage that might not be as familiar to some visitors.
During the war, many African Americans who fled Southern plantations and farms seeking freedom and protection found Union-occupied Corinth to be a secure location. The Corinth Contraband Camp was established by Union General Grenville M. Dodge to accommodate these refugees.
The Corinth camp resembled a small town, complete with a church, commissary, hospital, frame and log homes, and a street grid with named streets and numbered houses. An American Missionary Association School operated where over 1,000 African American children and adults learned to read through the efforts of various benevolent organizations.
In December 1863, the camp was moved to Memphis and the freedmen resided in a more traditional refugee facility for the remainder of the war. The Corinth Contraband Camp was the first step on the road to freedom and the struggle for equality for thousands of former slaves. A plaque near the entrance fittingly reads, “Here a newly free people took their unswerving first steps on the long road to full citizenship.”
Today, a portion of the historic Corinth Contraband Camp is preserved to commemorate those who began their journey to freedom there in 1862-1863. This land now hosts a quarter-mile walkway, which exhibits six life-size bronze sculptures depicting the men, women and children who inhabited the camp.