As the glowing sun set over the bloody fields of Antietem, the Civil War became a different War. Five days after the battle at Antietem was won, armed with pen and paper, Abraham Lincoln changed the war when he issued, one of the most important and controversial documents in America history, the Emancipation Proclamation. Congress was urging emancipation. Escaped slaves were fleeing to the Union army as it advanced in the South, complicating military operations.Issued on September 22, 1862, Lincoln’s preliminary proclamation declared that on New Year’s, 1863, slaves in areas then “in rebellion against the United States shall be then, henceforward, and foreverfree.” The final Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863, authorized the recruitment of blacks into the Union Army, which abolitionist leaders such as Frederick Douglass had been urging since the beginning of armed conflict. By the end of the war, almost 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had fought for the Union and freedom.The Emancipation Proclamation opposed discrimination.
It allowed black slaves to serve in the army and get other jobs, or continue to work on plantations, as employees making money. However it was limited in many ways. It did not apply to slaves in border states fighting on the Union Side. It didn’t even affect slaves in southern areas already under Union control.
Without a doubt, the states in rebellion did not act on Lincoln’s order. But the proclamation did show Americans that the Civil War was now being fought to end slavery.This great document helped shatter the issue of slavery. Slavery was completly crushed with the 13TH Amendment. Black soldiers lead a celebration among South Carolina slaves for the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. For decades after the Civil War, African-Americans made it a folkway to celebrate Emancipation Day.The decision to use the blacks as soldiers was by no means universally popular and was also selfishly motivated.
During the war, many whites believed that blacks would make poor soldiers. Some whites stated that they would run at the first sign of danger! The blacks were not allowed to fight until needed. They were offered the same rights as the white soldiers, but discrimination always interfered.Most black soldiers did not receive equal pay and benefits. Even whites who supported the idea of blacks in army were harassed. The Confederacy objected strongly to the North’s use of black soldiers because they grew fearful of losing slaves to the Union armies.
The Confederate government threatened to kill or enslave any captured officers or enlisted men of black regiments. The 1st Kansas, the first black regiment to be formed, held the center of the Union line, while fighting the Confederate force under General Douglas Cooper. They advanced to within fifty paces of the Confederate line and exchanged fire for some twenty minutes until the Confederates broke and ran. General Blunt, their general, wrote after the battle, “I never saw such fighting as was done by the Negro regiment. The question if Negroes will fight is settled. They make better soldiers in every respect than any other troops I have ever had under my command.” After this battle, black soldiers began to receive some respect.
The Emancipation Proclamation added moral force to the Union cause and strengthened theUnion both militarily and politically. As a milestone along the road to slavery’s final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation had assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom. The nightmare of slavery was over but a new one was to begin. One that still exists today.
One that does not shrink but rather grows. Racism was and is upon us. With the arrival of the 20TH century, tens of thousands of African Americans left the farms of the South to travel north in search of justice, economic independence and hopeful of a new beginning, found themselves crowded into the poorest sections of cities, facing poverty, hatred, intolerance and indifference.