Contraband camp at Harpers Ferry.

Together with the Sons and Daughters of Ham, the Liberty Rifles will be co-hosting a living history weekend at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, focusing on the contraband camps that had sprung up all over occupied Virginia, and particularly Harpers Ferry in 1862.

This will be a multi-faceted event, with a recreated contraband camp, which will be occupied by the Sons and Daughters of Ham.  The Liberty Rifles will be portraying the 10th Maine Infantry amidst the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam as they recovered at Harpers Ferry, and the Liberty Rifles civilian contingent will portray a variety of roles that would have been familiar sights in Harpers Ferry in the late summer of 1862, including US Christian and Sanitary Commission, abolitionists, sutlers, merchants, etc.  The event will be heavily focused around the contraband camp, and the living conditions, daily life, interactions, and politics of occupied Virginia in late summer of 1862.

When and Where

September 22-24 at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park - living history participation at this event is INVITE ONLY. 


Food will be issued to the infantry company and covered by a $10 registration fee.  Civilians will prepare their own rations utilizing a $10 registration fee as well.

Impression info for the 10th Maine Infantry

Command Structure for 10th Maine Infantry, Company H:

Capt. Rickard, Fred
1st Lt. Clarke, Michael
2nd Lt. Hermann, Marc

The 10th Maine was well equipped in the summer of 1862.  Thanks to John Meade Gould's diary, there is substantial detailed information on what the regiment looked like.  After the Battle of Antietam, the 10th Maine was reduced to 205 men in the regiment.  According to Gould they were dirty and worn, but not trashed.  We should present a well campaigned, seasoned look, but not in shambles.  Light marching order.  The men wore "blouses lined for winter service."  Enlisted men should wear a forage cap, lined blouse, issue shirt, sky blue trousers, bootees or boots, US issue accoutrements, including a knapsack and a shelter half.

In regards to arms, much to the chagrin of the 10th Maine, they were issued Enfields, which Gould describes as follows: "'But look at these Enfield muskets, with their blued barrels and wood that no man can name!'  For a while we kept them blued, then orders were issued to rub them bright and we kept them so ever after."  If you do not have an Enfield, a Springfield Rifle Musket would be the second option. ***All arms and bayonets must be in excellent working condition, clean and serviceable***

Lastly, we will be setting up a company street and each man must bring a shelter half.  Between you and your tent mate, you will need a set of poles as well.

Impression info for Contrabands

The contraband impression seeks to interpret all perspectives of the lives of African Americans in and around the contraband camps of Harper's Ferry.  Impressions will include the lives of those who were recently emancipated and sought refuge in Harper's Ferry.  To break this down further, the Sons and Daughters of Ham will portray newly emancipated field workers as well as newly emancipated house servants.  The role of free African American tradesmen and women will be portrayed as well. Accordingly, we will depict a vast range of skills, clothing, diet, speech and education.  The common thread will be a quest for the improvement of the lot of the people of color who found habitation in Harper's Ferry in 1862.

Impression info for Civilians

Work impressions would be most appropriate for an event like this. If you are desperately wanting to wear your new sheer that is fine. However, a sacque and petticoat or work dresses would be best. Slat bonnets or corded bonnets are a good thing to have. Please feel free to bring an activity to interpret as well- knitting, sewing. We will be doing our best to have some cooking and laundry demos running throughout the day. It should still be quite warm, so men, if you've been working on a linen sack coat or sack suit now is the time to break it out.  We have the wonderful opportunity to be working with the Sons and Daughters of Ham, who will interpret all aspects of the lives of the African Americans living in the contraband camps around Harper’s Ferry. These impressions include newly emancipated slaves who sought the refuge of Harper’s Ferry. They plan on staging a few really interesting demos including a freedmen school and a fully functioning laundry set up. We’d like to assist them in any way that we can.

Views of Federal Soldiers Regarding on Slavery and Race in 1862

Collected in 'What This Cruel War Was Over', a book by Chandra Manning (2007).

 "Illinoisian Amos Hostetter...admitted that he and many of his fellow soldiers 'like the Negro no better now than we did then but we hate his master worse and I tell you when Old Abe carries out his Proclamation he kills this Rebellion and not before. I am henceforth an Abolitionist and I intend to practice what I preach.'"

"Ohio private Chauncey Welton...fumed to his father, 'I can tell you we don't think much of [the Emancipation Proclamation] hear in the army for we did not enlist to fight for the negro and I can tell you that we neer shall...'"

"Pvt. Constant Hanks believed that the cases he witnessed 'would wring the tears out of anyone's eyes.' Hanks met an elderly slave grandmother running away with her three-year-old granddaughter because the little girl's mother had been sold, and the grandmother was about to be. The story of the feeble old woman...'started the apple sauce out of my eyes,' admitted Hanks. How could anyone who missed his own family help but ask himself, 'suppose that was your mother and little one, instead of poor miserable n[egroes]?'"

"A Pennsylvanian who had little patience with radical abolitionism before the war now assured his brother that anyone who saw the things he had seen in Virginia 'will be more of an Abolishnest than any person could make him believe to be posible.'"

"'Some of us were led to take up arms in the contest on the grounds that we were going to fight for the restoration and maintenance of republican institutions, menaced by slaveholding aristocracy in open rebellion,' one soldier began. Unless direct action against slavery came soon, the Union Army 'had better disband at once, and go home,' he advised, because there was no point in trying to win the war without attacking 'the manifest and acknowledged cause of the rebellion.'"

"One Pennsylvania corporal personally opposed slavery, but worried that the proclamation violated constitutional guarantees for the institution, which mattered in a war fought in defense of the Constitution."

Marylander John Babb: "It really seems to me that we are not fighting for our country, but for the freedom of the negroes."

"Reassuring his parents that he was no 'n[egro] worshiper,' David Nichol affirmed his own racial prejudice even as he praised the proclamation for striking 'at the root of the Evil,' and helping to 'end this war.'"

Additional Research papers


Sign up via the link below. MILITARY and CIVILIAN registration is $10 to cover rations.  CONTRABAND registration is free.

Send a Paypal payment "to a friend" (to avoid fees) to, or send a check or concealed cash to Michael Clarke, 1155 Irishtown Rd., New Oxford, PA 17350.