As the Civil War drew to a close and during the nascent stages of emancipation, those who had been thrust into slavery and putatively freed held a precarious place outside the society of their enslavement. Thus, ‘legitimately’ freed individuals and ‘escapees,’ alike, were captured and held in ‘contraband camps’ — so named because, as commodities, they were considered contraband by Union troops who had no qualms about perpetuating slavery for their own benefit. Three such camps existed in the Devil’s Punchbowl area of Natchez.
Historians’ descriptions of Devil’s Punchbowl have been loosely anecdotally backed by locals, who describe human skeletons occasionally washing free from the location in times of heavy rains and flooding.
Wild peach trees now dot the basin where human beings, who believed they’d finally won freedom from slavery, sweated through work for different captors until death granted the ultimate reprieve — but Mississippians know better than to taste the bitter fruit fertilized with the blood of atrocity.
Like so much about the history of the United States, sadistic acts perpetrated by officials acting on behalf of the government have been criminally downplayed to lessen shame and facilitate collective memory loss. But there can be no doubt — whether unintentionally or by design — thousands succumbed to inhumane conditions at these camps, under added duress of lacking the freedom so basic, it’s called the cornerstone of the nation.
Whatever the full truth about Devil’s Punchbowl, it’s a veritable guarantee no history book will be honest or thorough enough to shed light on the excruciating conditions akin to Nazi concentration camps — or even that forced, slave labor continued while America readjusted its crooked and tarnished halo after the Civil War.
Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/devils-punchbowl-slaves-mississippi/#xlkGdTYwd108rfLF.99