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Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Since the 17th century, historians, surveyors, and newspaper ads have identified the swamp and canal as a refuge and a route to freedom for thousands of runaway enslaved Africans. For some, the swamp offered a means to purchase their freedom, through work on the Swamp Canal and in cedar and cypress shingle and timber production. Others found refuge deep within the swamp, living off the land and what they could steal. These 'outlyers' established maroon communities on the higher points of the swamp. Many lived here, raised families, and died here. For others, the swamp was a 'stopping point' to get to Norfolk or Portsmouth, VA, or to the Albemarle Sound and Elizabeth City, NC, where they could secure passage on a ship traveling north. Despite the method or living conditions, the swamp provided the means of freedom which so many sought. During the Civil War, Union regiments of the United States Colored Troops under the leadership of Brigadier General Augustus E. Wild successfully marched down the Swamp Canal bank to liberate and recruit enslaved Africans in NC.

Visitor Information: Currently open to public.

Location: PO Box 349, 3100 Desert Road, Suffolk, 23439-0349

National Park Unit: No

Ownership: Lloyd Culp

Location Type: Site