September 22, 1862 – 2012

That on the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free;  and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will  recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom. – Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

[Image: President Obama views Emancipation Proclamation in Oval Office]

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14 comments… add one
  • Dudley Bokoski Sep 28, 2012 @ 13:02

    James, I agree with you about the options Lincoln faced. It is almost painful to read the Official Records in the days after Antietam because of McClellan’s complete disinterest in anything beyond the defense of Washington. Conversely, if not McClellan (who still enjoyed the confidence of his troops) then whom? If I had been in Lincoln’s place I would have forced Halleck to go to the field and personally give McClellan the option of advancing on Lee or yielding command to Halleck himself.

  • Dudley Bokoski Sep 27, 2012 @ 16:38

    Along the many 150th anniversaries I noticed two days after the Emancipation Lincoln suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus to a wider degree than up to that point. Is there any connection between Event A and Event B? Did Lincoln anticipate dissent growing out of the Proclamation which would have required a wider use of the suspension of the writ? Haven’t run across anything which explains whether the two events were related or not, or for that matter what consideration Lincoln had given to the reaction of the Army.

    On the same day the writ was suspended the military version of the Proclamation went out as General Orders 139 and included a restatement of the March 13 Confiscation Act. The wording of General Orders 139 is interesting for how, by using the language of the Confiscation Act, it clearly defines a linkage between what is to come on January 1, 1863 and how the Army will conduct itself towards slaves it encounters in the interim.

    It’s interesting how many wars within the war were going on over such issues. Perhaps the reason Lincoln did not fire McClellan after Antietam (which any reasonable commander-in-chief would given his total lack of will to reengage Lee) was that if he fired McClellan first and then issued the Proclamation it would have had uncertain effects on the Army of the Potomac.

    • James Harrigan Sep 28, 2012 @ 1:21

      Dudley, of course Lincoln DID fire McClellan after Antietam, though not immediately. I think a simpler explanation for any hesitation in firing McClellan is that there was nobody who could plausibly take over the job. Burnside quite rightly felt himself not up to the job, and was tragically proven right at Fredericksburg. Numerous commanders had already failed, and Grant was otherwise engaged out West. It must have been agonizing for Lincoln to have such a powerful Army, but being unable to find somebody competent to lead it.

  • Matt McKeon Sep 23, 2012 @ 15:36

    I think one look at Obama and Romney’s faces will give them all the information they need to make their decision this November, regardless of the candidates actions vis a vis the Confederate flag or monuments.

  • John B. Sep 22, 2012 @ 16:07

    I notice he included a token white man in the photograph.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 22, 2012 @ 16:30

      I am sorry to hear that you are having trouble with the photograph.

    • Andy Hall Sep 23, 2012 @ 9:43

      The True Southrons have a terrible problem this election season — whether to vote for a candidate who’s publicly rejected the Confederate flag as a symbol, or a sitting president who has (figuratively, at least) given Ed Sebesta the finger and continues to send a wreath every year to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington. Decision, decisions. . . .

  • Bob Huddleston Sep 22, 2012 @ 14:18

    The Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in areas considered to be in rebellion, many of which were controlled by the United States on January 1, 1863.

    The Declaration of Independence did not make the US a “free and independent nation.” That took seven more years to accomplish. And, had the British prevailed, the Declaration would be of interest only to students of failed revolutions. All of the slaves in the areas delineated were free de facto with thirty months of the Emancipation Proclamation and a large number were freed immediately. The Emancipation Proclamation was prospective, i.e., it would free slaves as the United States Army marched south, and they were on the advance.

    Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, and comparing the areas included and excluded, shows that the immediate effect of the Emancipation Proclamation was to free a large number of slaves, in areas under United States’ control, but still considered to be in rebellion. The Emancipation Proclamation preserved slavery only those areas *not in rebellion,* not those areas under United States’ control on January 1, 1863. And that is a huge difference.

    Note that in Louisiana the excluded areas are New Orleans, the Mississippi Delta and the area immediately west of the Delta (county lines were a little different in 1863 than now, but close enough to use Rand-McNally). However, the US Army had occupied more of the state to the North, heading, as they were, towards Port Hudson. So all of those slaves were freed.

    The excluded areas of Virginia included West Virginia (small slave population anyway), and Berkeley County, which is the start of the strip of West Virginia which today takes in both Berkeley and Jefferson (Harpers Ferry) counties. But Jefferson County was not excluded. (Trivia point: obviously the boundaries of the new state of West Virginia were still in a bit of a state of flux. I believe [which means I do not know enough West Virginia history to say one way or another] the inclusion of the lower Shenandoah Valley into West Virginia was a political stroke to make certain that if there was a peace treaty between the US and the CS, the B&O Railroad would all be in the United States).

    The only other parts of Virginia excluded were the Eastern Shore (the peninsula that stretches South from Eastern Maryland towards Cape Charles), and the area around Norfolk-Hampton-Fortress Monroe.

    However, the United States controlled *all* of Virginia north of the Rappahannock, including, obviously, Alexandria County, which then consisted of Arlington and Alexandria. They also had a presence in the Shenandoah. Now “control” is a relative word: John Mosby would have disputed the above paragraph! But, nevertheless, the Confederacy did not control most of Northern Virginia. So there are two big areas, and, in the case of Virginia, important areas, where the slaves *were* freed on January 1, 1863.

    In addition, the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Arkansas, Georgia and the Carolinas. On Emancipation Day, the United States controlled much of tidewater and the barrier islands of Georgia and North and South Carolina. The Union also controlled the Ozarks of Arkansas (not many slaves) but also the heavily slave areas of the extreme northeastern counties of Arkansas. The blue coats were in possession of major portions of North Mississippi and Alabama, and they would, within a few months, liberate the densely slave occupied areas of the Mississippi black belt between the Mississippi and the Yazoo.

    Quite a large number – probably hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million or more, of the slaves *were* freed – and freed immediately – by the Emancipation Proclamation.

    And the balance of the four million would be de facto free within thirty months.

  • Keith Muchowski Sep 22, 2012 @ 13:32

    We’re going to see Lincoln’s handwritten EP tomorrow at the Schomburg in Harlem. It is only there for four days before moving on to other locations in New York State. The event is free but ticketed. I got ours a few weeks ago because I think the turnout is going to be big. Really looking forward to it.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 22, 2012 @ 13:33

      Have a great time. I’ve been reading about it over the past few days. Sounds like a fascinating exhibit.

  • James Harrigan Sep 22, 2012 @ 10:18

    What Pat Young said. Today should be a national holiday. At my dinner table tonight, we toasted President Lincoln, as well as the Armies of the United Sates that implemented the Proclamation wherever they fought from January 1863 to April 1865.

  • Pat Young Sep 22, 2012 @ 6:19

    One of the most important days in our history.

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