March 17, 1864

Dr. Jacob de Silva Solis Cohen Certifies the 1864 Death of a “Contraband” in Philadelphia

Document Signed
1 page
SMC 1132
Here J. Solis Cohen certifies the death of a former slave in Philadelphia, identifying him as a “Contraband”: a legally complicated and politically fraught designation indicating a “self-emancipated” human chattel who, as the Union armies moved in the South, rushed toward the advancing troops, there to join the ranks of their liberators. These “contrabands of war” could not, by terms of The Act Prohibiting the Return of Slaves, passed by Congress in March of 1862, be returned to their owners, but for most of the contrabands, true emancipation did not come until the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery was ratified in late 1865.
 
David Harkless, the “Contraband of War” whose death is recorded here, was about 57 years old; married, but his family was in (presumably Confederate) Virginia; his death was due to unknown causes.
Document Signed (J. Solis Cohen); partially printed and accomplished in manuscript, 1 page, quarto, Philadelphia, March 17, 1864.
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