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See also, Index to Civil War Slave Compensation Claims in Compiled Military Records of U.S. Colored Troops elsewhere on this website.
What was a Slave Compensation Claim?
During the Civil War, two acts of Congress--one passed in 1864 (13 Stat. 11) and one in 1866 (14 Stat. 321)--allowed loyal slave owners whose slaves enlisted or were drafted into the U.S. military to file a claim against the Federal government for loss of the slave's services. The law allowed for up to $300 compensation for slaves who enlisted, and up $100 for slaves who were drafted. Although a third act of Congress passed in 1867 (15 Stat. 29) suspended the claims process, paperwork created by this claims process has survived.
Filing a Claim
The slave owner filing a slave compensation claim had to prove his or her
Importance of Enlistment for Border-State Slaves
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed the slaves in the states which were in rebellion, but in border-states which were loyal to the Union--slavery continued to be legal. The law authorizing the formation of the USCT stated that no man was to fight as a slave, so for slaves in the border-states, enlistment meant freedom. If owners would not give permission to enlist, then slaves had to run away in order to join the army. In some cases, flight from slavery led to enlistment in the state where the slave resided, but other times it led to enlistment in a neighboring state. If a slave's former owner found out where and when he joined--and the owner was loyal to the Union--then he or she could file a slave compensation claim.
A slave compensation claim provides information about the soldier/former slave as well as his former owner. The quantity and quality of information varies based on the amount of information submitted by the former slave owner.
About the soldier/slave
If claimant owned soldier/slave at time of birth
If claimant did not own soldier/slave at time of birth
About the owner
If owner acquired slave through inheritance, claim may include
If slave was acquired from an estate, whether by inheritance or by purchase, claim may include
Location of Claims
Entries 348 and 350 of the Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Preliminary Inventory 17) [Record Group 94] describe registers recording claims made by loyal slave owners from the states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Those records are in Record Group 94 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C and are not microfilmed.
However, since each slave compensation claim was based on the service of a specific soldier, a copy of the claim's paperwork was placed in that soldier's compiled military service record. The U.S. Colored Troops having the highest number of these claims are the regiments formed in the border-states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, or in neighboring states such as Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, or Tennessee.
Accessing USCT Compiled Service Records
Compiled Service Records of United States Colored Troops have been digitized and can be searched on the Fold3 database. Fold3 can be used for free at any St. Louis County LIbrary location and remotely with a valid St. Louis County Library card. Digitzed images on Fold3 were created from the National Archives microfilm publications listed below.
Regiments organized predominantly from Missouri men include the 18th, 60th, 62nd, 65th, 67th (later consolidated with the 65th), and 68th infantry.
Listed below are the microfilmed USCT Compiled Service Records and their National Archives microfilm publication number:
For Further Reading