RECORDS OF THE SLAVE CLAIMS COMMISSIONS, 1864-1867 - Volume Three: Journal of the First Maryland Commission

New Book Available:

Volume Three: Journal of the First Maryland Commission

From the Introduction:
Throughout the U. S. Civil War, from its beginning in 1861 through the end in 1865, the United States government attempted to end slavery as a way of weakening the Confederacy and ending the War. Among other options, President Abraham Lincoln supported the idea of “compensated emancipation,” whereby the federal government would pay slave owners for each slave that was freed.
E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant General, issued General Order 329, by order of the President, on 3 October 1863. The Orders began, “Whereas, the exigencies of the war require that colored troops should be recruited in the States of Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee,” and further ordered that recruiting stations should be established within these three states for recruitment under certain provisions. Among these provisions were the following:
4. Free persons, and slaves with the written consent of their owners, and slaves belonging to those who have been engaged in or given aid and comfort to the rebellion, may be now enlisted, the owners who have not been engaged in or given aid to the rebellion being entitled to receive compensation, as hereafter provided. ... 
6. Any citizen of said States who shall offer his or her slave for enlistment into the military service shall, if such slave be accepted, receive from the recruiting officer a certificate thereof and become entitled to compensation for the service or labor of said slave, not exceeding the sum of $300, upon filing a valid deed of manumission and of release and making satisfactory proof of the title. And the recruiting officer shall furnish to any claimant a descriptive list of any person enlisted and claimed, under oath, to be his or her slave, and allow any one claiming, under oath, that his or her slave has been enlisted without his or her consent, the privilege of inspecting the enlisted men for the purpose of identification.
7. A board of three persons shall be appointed by the President, to whom the rolls and recruiting lists shall be furnished for public information, and, on demand, exhibited to any person claiming that his or her slave has been enlisted against his or her will. [The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation go the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series III, Volume III (Washington: Govt. Printing Office, 1899), pp. 860–861.]
These three provisions, in effect, authorized the establishment of “slave claims commissions” in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee, to review claims for compensation by loyal slave owners.


The Records of the Slave Claims Commissions are held in their original form at the National Archives and Records Administration Building in Washington, D. C. These records have not been microfilmed or digitized. The series is identified as “Entry 348” in PI17: “Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (RG 94).” The records consist of fourteen total items: ten loose volumes, and four boxes containing additional volumes. The Journal of the First Maryland Commission is designated the third of these volumes.

Unlike the two previous volumes in this series of published records, the Journal of the First Maryland Commission is not a register of claims, but a journal of the proceedings of the “Board of Claims,” as the original Maryland Slave Claims Commission was called. The proceedings do contain the names of many individual claimants, and many of the slaves for which these claims were made. In addition to these names, however, this Journal also provides insight into the operations of the “Board of Claims,” and the development of the policies by which claims were awarded.

The Journal begins on 2 December 1863, with the last entry bearing date 4 June 1864.

This book is 112 pages, and is available in paperback edition, for $16.99, and as a downloadable e-book, for $12.99. The names of both claimants and slaves are fully indexed, separately.

For purchasing information, visit

Michael Hait