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The Freedmen's Colony

Roanoke Island

Under the command of General Ambrose Burside, the Union Army defeated the Confederate forces stationed on Roanoke Island, and took complete control of North Carolina's valuable waterways in 1862. Soon thereafter, hundreds of freed and runaway slaves from the interior of the state began arriving on the island in search of aslyum. The "contrabands" journeyed to the island by any means available, by foot and boat. By the end of 1862, more than a thousand freedmen had settled on the island. There they established an independent community consisting of homes and educational institutions on seized lands occupied by federal authorities. As the war progressed, the Union Army began enlistments in the area during the summer of 1863. African American volunteers responded to the call, and immediately organized into the First and Second North Carolina Regiments. At the conclusion of the Civil War, the Union government returned all seized lands to their initial owners thus forcing the freedmen to disband the colony. While some of the freedmen left Roanoke Island for points inland, many of their descendants live on Roanoke Island to this day.