5.1 LINCOLN’S PRELIMINARY EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION, SEPTEMBER 22, 1862
In the wake of the Union victory at Antietam Creek, President Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a preview of the order he promised to issue on January 1, 1863. Lincoln first repeated what he had been saying from the outset: that the purpose of the war was to restore the Union and that he would continue to recommend that Congress offer monetary aid to any loyal state that voluntarily adopted emancipation and colonization. He then announced that as soon as he signed this order at the beginning of January, all slaves then residing in rebellious states would be “forever free.” Many Democrats ridiculed the proclamation for claiming to free slaves in states Lincoln had no control over. However, the proclamation provided important guarantees to fugitive slaves escaping the Confederacy that their freedom would be permanent and that the army would protect that freedom.
By the President of the United States of America.
I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States, and each of the States, and the people thereof, in which States that relation is, or may be, suspended or disturbed.
That it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave States, so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States and which States may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits; and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent, with their consent, upon this continent, or elsewhere, with the previously obtained consent of the Governments existing there, will be continued.
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.
That the executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States, and part of States, if any, in which the people thereof respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof shall, on that day be, in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto, at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.
That attention is hereby called to an Act of Congress entitled “An Act to make an additional Article of War” approved March 13, 1862, and which act is in the words and figure following:
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That hereafter the following shall be promulgated as an additional article of war for the government of the army of the United States, and shall be obeyed and observed as such:
“Article—All officers or persons in the military or naval service of the United States are prohibited from employing any of the forces under their respective commands for the purpose of returning fugitives from service or labor, who may have escaped from any persons to whom such service or labor is claimed to be due, and any officer who shall be found guilty by a court martial of violating this article shall be dismissed from the service.
“Sec.2. And be it further enacted, That this act shall take effect from and after its passage.”
Also to the ninth and tenth sections of an act entitled “An Act to suppress Insurrection, to punish Treason and Rebellion, to seize and confiscate property of rebels, and for other purposes,” approved July 17, 1862, and which sections are in the words and figures following:
“Sec.9. And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such persons found on (or) being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude and not again held as slaves.
“Sec.10. And be it further enacted, That no slave escaping into any State, Territory, or the District of Columbia, from any other State, shall be delivered up, or in any way impeded or hindered of his liberty, except for crime, or some offence against the laws, unless the person claiming said fugitive shall first make oath that the person to whom the labor or service of such fugitive is alleged to be due is his lawful owner, and has not borne arms against the United States in the present rebellion, nor in any way given aid and comfort thereto; and no person engaged in the military or naval service of the United States shall, under any pretence whatever, assume to decide on the validity of the claim of any person to the service or labor of any other person, or surrender up any such person to the claimant, on pain of being dismissed from the service.”
And I do hereby enjoin upon and order all persons engaged in the military and naval service of the United States to observe, obey, and enforce, within their respective spheres of service, the act, and sections above recited.
And the executive will in due time recommend that all citizens of the United States who shall have remained loyal thereto throughout the rebellion, shall (upon the restoration of the constitutional relation between the United States, and their respective States, and people, if that relation shall have been suspended or disturbed) be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
[Signed:] ABRAHAM LINCOLN
By the President
[Signed:] WILLIAM H. SEWARD
Secretary of State
- The Emancipation Proclamation is most famous for promising freedom to millions of enslaved people, but Lincoln first affirms the Union as the goal of the war and promises future aid to cooperating loyal slaveholders. What was Lincoln’s purpose in reiterating these points for his readers?
- Although the Emancipation Proclamation was announced in September, it did not take effect until the following January. Why might Lincoln have announced his proclamation three months early?
5.2 REVEREND HENRY MCNEAL TURNER COMMENTS ON LINCOLN’S PRELIMINARY EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION (CHRISTIAN RECORDER, NOVEMBER 15, 1862)
A prominent minister and missionary in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Henry McNeal Turner (1834–1915), sent a series of letters on the Union war effort and emancipation policy to the AME organ, the Christian Recorder. Born in South Carolina to free black parents, Turner moved with his family to Missouri in 1858, where he was ordained as an AME minister; he then presided over pastorates in Baltimore and Washington, DC, and became pastor of Israel Bethel AME Church, the largest AME congregation in the District, in 1862. Turner was initially critical of Lincoln’s slowness to embrace emancipation, but in the aftermath of Lincoln’s September 1862 decree, Turner joined the chorus of abolitionists praising the president. Turner would lobby Lincoln to enlist black men as soldiers and he would then go on to serve as a chaplain for the 1st US Colored Troops regiment, as the Union army’s first black chaplain. After the war, Turner was active in Georgia politics and became the first Southerner elected as bishop of the AME Church.
Mr. Editor—Among the most interesting occurrences that have taken place since you last heard from your correspondent, is the removal of Gen. McClellan, that man who was Napoleonized through the papers, and crowned by negro chattel-makers, monarch of America. It was thought by many here, as it was thought of John C. Calhoun in South Carolina, that if McClellan would die the world would end, but he is dead, “and it moves nevertheless.”
Though I am informed that a few military epaulet straps, became strangulated at the idea, and resigned; but with that exception I believe every body thinks it was done through military necessity.
Abraham Lincoln will yet write his name upon the pages of History, so indelibly, that time’s indefatigable cycles shall never be able to efface it. Not only has he proved himself above the fledges of partyism, by killing Gen. Fremont on the one side, and Gen. McClellan on the other, but that proclamation, over which the triumphant notes of heaven rolled along the confines of bliss, with evidences of higher ecstasies, than customarily, reverberated in overpowering rapture, across the boundaries of light and felicity, will tell upon the annals of eternity in character, of such splendor, as shall gild the name of Abraham Lincoln forever. Would that Milton’s poetic notes could unthread the maze of his virtues, and they were engraven in the rock of ages. But his acts will stand emblazoned in colors of glaring glory, amid the retinue of the world honored, till the sun of time shall set no more to rise.
The choir of Israel church assisted by some of the celebrated vocalists of Union Bethel, and 15th Street Presbyterian churches, gave a grand concert for the benefit of said church, on last Monday and Tuesday nights. The concert was conducted by Prof. J. F. Wilkerson, whose acquaintance with musical science none will question. I deem it inexpedient to deal in personalities in this matter, as so many would be entitled to a panegyrical notice, that adequate remarks might be an intrusion upon your columns. But the pieces were well selected and judiciously executed. The singing, however, was much better the second than it was the first night. This grew out of the fact, that they neglected, on the first night, to ventilate the church, and the crowd being so dense, the oxygen of the air was soon exhausted or absorbed, and the house became so impregnated with carbonized matter, that a harsh hoarseness soon followed, which materially disturbed the symphony of the music. But that annoyance was arrested the second night by a more philosophical discretion. And thus nature and art were brought into harmony, with such a glorious success, that the rhapsodical modulations which poured wave after wave through the ravished audience, held them enchantingly till the spell was broken by its finis, and then laudatory acclamations burst forth, i.e., shouts, whistles, hand claps and feet stamps, in every part of the house. The concert upon the whole was a grand affair, and not unproductive of a moral lesson.
Several distinguished ladies, belonging to said church, have been holding what they call a festival in the new lecture room for the past week. The names are too numerous to give in detail, but Mrs. Casandra Dent, a lady of unflinching nerve, was the prime mover of it.
The several colored churches in the city were notified last Sabbath to send five delegates on Friday night to Union Bethel church, as business of importance would demand their attention. In accordance with said notice they met, at which time they temporarily organized themselves into a meeting, by electing Mr. William Slade as chairman and secretary pro. tem., &c. The object of the meeting was then stated, to be for the purpose of organizing upon some systematic basis, a plan by which the contrabands in our city could be cared for, and the commiseration of the various churches could be converged into Union Relief Associations, and stop that too long practised fraud, which has been going on by parties assuming to be friends, when their acts prove them inveterate enemies to our people. They, however, adjourned without doing more than laying out the plan of operation. I will give a fuller account in my next.
This afternoon a terrible explosion took place in the hospital lot, near Seventh Street bridge. It appears they had some powder condemned by the Government, to which they set fire, and the powder proved to be a great deal better than they anticipated. And thus it made the most terrific report ever heard by any in this city. It appeared that the very foundations of the earth gave way, and not only did hands shake and tremble, but the very air vibrations were so dreadfully intensified, that for whole squares it shivered every glass window to atoms. In many places it not only broke the glass, but knocked out the entire , split doors and silenced clocks. I was told that the excitement would likely injure some persons considerably.
The first Baptist church have granted their pastor, Rev. Mr. Leonard, a furlough for six months, for the purpose of visiting Liberia. Rev. Mr. Maddan, recently from the Allegheny Institute, is employed to fill his place till his return.
A venerable sister many years a member of Israel church, viz.: Sylvia Wilson, died yesterday, Nov. 14th, at 6 o’clock, p.m., after a week’s sickness. She will be remembered by several ministers, as her house was always the receptacle for that class of care-burdened travellers.
President Lincoln has been for several days refusing to see any one, however high their position. He is either preparing his message, or don’t intend to be swerved from his principles.
H.M.T. Washington, Nov. 15th, 1862.
- Why does Turner mention Frémont and McClellan as he praises Lincoln for rising above partisanship?
- What does this letter reveal about the black community in the nation’s capital at this juncture of the war?
5.3 BRAXTON BRAGG, “TO THE PEOPLE OF THE NORTHWEST,” SEPTEMBER 26, 1862
In September 1862, Confederate General Braxton Bragg launched an invasion of Kentucky in an effort to “liberate” the loyal border slave state from the Union. From Bardstown, a small town in central Kentucky, he issued this proclamation seeking to explain his army’s presence to Kentuckians and other Americans living in the Northwest (roughly equivalent to what modern Americans consider the Midwest). Bragg used his message to try to sow dissent among the people of the Northwest by offering them free navigation of the Mississippi and blaming Easterners for causing the war. He also denied that the Confederacy sought to conquer any territory, assuming that once Kentuckians were given the opportunity to throw off their federal oppressors, they would choose to join the Confederacy of their own free will. Bragg was disappointed, however; he received little local support and was eventually forced to retreat from Kentucky after running out of supplies. Over the course of the war, far more Kentuckians would wear blue uniforms than gray.
To the People of the Northwest:
On approaching your borders at the head of a Confederate army, it is proper to announce to you the motives and the purposes of my presence. I therefore make known to you.
- That the Confederate Government is waging this war solely for self-defense; that it has no designs of conquest, nor any other purpose than to secure peace and the abandonment by the United States of its pretensions to govern a people who never have been their subjects, and who prefer self-government to a union with them.
- That the Confederate Government and people, deprecating civil strife from the beginning, and anxious for a peaceful adjustment of all differences growing out of a political separation, which they deemed essential to their happiness and well-being, at the moment of its inauguration sent Commissioners to Washington to treat for these objects, but that their Commissioners were not received or even allowed to communicate the object of their mission; and that on a subsequent occasion a communication from the President of the Confederate States to President LINCOLN remitted without answer, although a reply was promised by General Scott, into whose hands the communication was delivered.
- That among the pretests urged for the continuance of the war, is the assertion that the Confederate Government desires to deprive the United States of the free navigation of the Western rivers, although the truth is that the Confederate Congress, by public act, prior to the commencement of the war, enacted that “the peaceful navigation of the Mississippi River is hereby declared free to the citizens of any of the States upon the borders of its tributaries,” a declaration to which our Government has always been and is still ready to adhere.
From these declarations, people of the Northwest, it is made manifest that, by the invasion of our territories by land and from sea, we have been unwillingly forced into a war for self-defense, and to vindicate a great principle, once dear to all Americans, to wit; that no people can be rightly governed except by their own consent. We desire peace now. We desire to see a stop put to a useless and cruel effusion of blood, and that waste of national wealth rapidly leading to, and sure to end in national bankruptcy. We are therefore now, as ever, ready to treat with the United States, or any one or more of them, upon terms of mutual justice and liberality. And at this juncture, when our arms have been successful on many hard-fought fields, when our people have exhibited a constancy, a fortitude and a courage worthy of the boon of self-government, we restrict ourselves to the same moderate demands that we made at the darkest period of our reverse— the demand that the people of the United States cease to war upon us, and permit us in peace to pursue our path to happiness while they in peace pursue theirs. We are, however, debarred from the renewal of former proposals for peace, because the relentless spirit that actuates the Government at Washington leaves us no reason to expect that they would be received with the respect naturally due by nations in their intercourse, whether in peace or war.
It is under these circumstances that we are driven to protect our own country by transferring the seat of war to that of an enemy who pursues us with an implacable and apparently aimless hostility. If the war must continue, its theatre must be changed, and with it the policy that has heretofore kept us on the defensive on our own soil. So far it is only our fields that have been laid waste, our people killed, our homes made desolate and our frontiers ravaged by rapine and murder. The sacred right of self-defence demands that henceforth some of the consequences of the war shall fall upon those who persist in their refusal to make peace. With the people of the Northwest rests the power to put an end to the invasion of their homes; for, if unable to prevail upon the Gevernment of the United States to conclude a general peace, their own State Governments, in the exercise of their sovereignty, can secure immunity from the desolating effects of warfare on their soil, by a separate treaty of peace, which our Government will be ready to conclude on the most just and liberal basis.
The responsibility, then, rests with you, the people of the Northwest, of continuing an unjust and aggressive warfare upon the people of the Confederate States. And in the name of reason and humanity, I call upon you to pause and reflect what cause of quarrel so bloody have you against these States, and what are you to gain by it? Nature has set her seal upon those States, and marked them out to be your friends and allies. She has bound them to you by all the ties of geographical contiguity and conformation, and the great mutual interests of commerce and productions. When the passions of this unnatural war shall have subsided, and reason resumes her sway, a community of interest will force a commercial and social coalition between the great grain and stock growing States of the Northwest and the cotton, tobacco and sugar regions of the South. The Mississippi River is a grand artery of their mutual National lives which men cannot sever, and which never ought to have been suffered to be disturbed by the antagonisms, the cupidity and the bigotry of New-England and the East. It is from the East that have come the germs of this bloody and most unnatural strife. It is from the meddlesome, grasping and fanatical disposition of the same people who have imposed upon you and us alike those tariffs, internal improvement, and fishing bounty laws, whereby we have been taxed for their aggrandizement. It is from the East that will come the tax gatherer to collect from you the mighty debt which is being amassed mountain high for the purpose of ruining your best customers and natural friends. When this war ends the same antagonisms of interest, policy and feeling which have been pressed upon us by the East and forced us from a political union, where we had ceased to find safety for our interests or respect for our rights, will bear down upon you and separate you from a people whose traditional policy it is to live by their wits upon the labor of their neighbors. Meantime, you are used by them to fight the battle of emancipation—a battle which, if successful, destroys our prosperity and with it your best markets to buy and sell. Our mutual dependence is the work of the Creator. With our peculiar productions, convertible into gold, we should, in a state of peace, draw from you largely the products of your labor. In us of the South you would find rich and willing customers; in the East you must confront rivals in productions and trade, and the tax-gatherer in all the forms of partial legislation. You are blindly following abolitionism to this end, whilst they are nicely calculating the gain of obtaining your trade on terms that would impoverish your country. You say you are fighting for the free navigation of the Mississippi. It is yours freely, and has always been without striking a blow. You say you are fighting to maintain the Union. That Union is a thing of the past. A union of consent was the only union ever worth a drop of blood. When force came to be substituted for consent, the casket was broken and the constitutional jewel of your patriotic adoration was forever gone.
I come then to you with the olive branch of peace, and offer it to your acceptance, in the name of the memories of the past and the ties of the present and future. With you remains the responsibility and the option of continuing a cruel and wasting war, which can only end after still greater sacrifices in such treaty of peace as we now offer; or of preserving the blessings of peace by the simple abandonment of the design of subjugating a people over whom no right of dominion has been conferred on you by God or man. BRAXTON BRAGG, Gen. C.S. Army.
- How does Bragg play up regional tensions in America, not only between North and South, but also between East and West?
- Bragg is anxious to portray the Confederacy as acting only in self-defense. How does he square this with the fact that he is in the midst of leading his army on an invasion?
5.4 REFUGEES FROM FREDERICKSBURG (1862)
Many of the approximately five thousand civilians who lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, evacuated when Union and then Confederate armies arrived in late autumn of 1862. Confederate sharpshooters occupied abandoned buildings and Union General Burnside eventually resorted to firing shells into the town to attempt to drive them off. After taking the town, Union soldiers looted much of what had been left behind. This painting depicts a family forced to flee Fredericksburg; having stopped for the night, they take shelter around a fire, under a lean-to. Though their clothes indicate wealth, their only possessions now seem to be the bundle and bag in the foreground. To the right, a young man in a soldier’s hat and coat prepares to leave his family members and return to the Confederate army. This painting by Confederate Lieutenant David English Henderson (1832– 1887) makes use of several tropes of Confederate nationalism by displaying the consequences of Northerners’ hard-war tactics and emphasizing the commitment of Southern soldiers to the cause. The Union army suffered a massive defeat in the battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862.
- What can you tell about the refugees based on their age, gender, or class? How does the artist use these characteristics to evoke sympathy for the refugees?
- What seems to be the emotional state of the refugees? What might the artist be conveying through this portrayal of Confederate civilians?
5.5 “WAITING FOR THE HOUR”: ANTICIPATING THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION, DECEMBER 31, 1862
Tapping the spiritual tradition of “watch nights,” or nighttime prayer services, abolitionists sponsored watch night meetings on December 31, 1862, in anticipation of the promulgation, on January 1, 1863, of the Emancipation Proclamation. Based on a painting by William T. Carlton (1816–1888) of Boston, this carte-de-visite shows a group of enslaved blacks (and one sympathetic white woman), with the figure holding the watch counting down the seconds at their center, awaiting the dawn of emancipation. The original Carlton painting was gifted by William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionists to the president as a tribute to his freedom decree.
- Why might Carlton have chosen to include one white figure in the scene? Who might she represent? And why is the American flag featured on the figure in the doorway?
- Does the image suggest that African Americans felt anxiousness or confident about whether Lincoln would make good on his promise of freedom?
Source: Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, September 22, 1862. National Archives and Records Administration. Washington, D.C.
Source: Christian Recorder, Nov. 15, 1862.
Source: OR, series 1, volume 52, Part 2 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1898), 363–65.
Source: David English Henderson, “Return to Fredericksburg after Bombardment” (1862).
Gettysburg National Military Park.
Source: “Watch meeting, Dec. 31, 1862—Waiting for the hour,” (Boston: Heard & Moseley, c. 1863).
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.