Many enslaved workers from nearby plantations came
into the Union lines for shelter, food, and protection after the 1862 victory.
How to deal with these refugees, still
considered property by the slave owners and individual state laws, presented a
problem for both the Union army and the Lincoln administration. In 1862 Grant
chose to protect the slaves and put them to work for the army.
Eventually freedmen camps were set up across
Tennessee, and an estimated 300 slaves wintered at Fort Donelson in 1864. The
army employed men as laborers and teamsters. Women commonly served as cooks and
laundresses. In 1863 the Union army also began recruiting free blacks from
Tennessee and Kentucky.