The Emancipation Proclamation

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In early 1861, Radical Republicans started for the push towards an instant and finalized abolishment of slavery. President Abraham Lincoln was vigilant in his actions as not to start another conflict with the “rebellious states”, and was very cautious just as the Conservatives were. However, seeing as most of the Republican’s competition had succeeded the Union, and there seemed to be little opposition and congress did in fact pass the Confiscation Act. This step towards Radical Republican ideals declared that all slaves forced to fight against the Union in the Confederate army were considered free. After this single act passed, the momentum of this notion continued to gain speed; Congress then passed the Second Confiscation Act in 1862. After the Union victory at the battle of Antietam on September 22, 1862, Lincoln made it known what his first official move would be. January 1, 1863, Lincoln formally presented the Emancipation Proclamation.
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The Emancipation Proclamation stated that all slaves in the confederacy were free. This did not include the border states (because they never technically succeeded from the Union), and areas under the Union’s control (Tennessee, Western Virginia, and Southern Louisiana). The immediate affect of the Emancipation Proclamation was restricted seeing as not all slavery was extinguished. The reason for this restriction is due to the fact that Abraham Lincoln did not have the authority to liberate the slaves and abolish slavery in areas governed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Constitution. (Another aspect of the Emancipation Proclamation that is overlooked is that it allowed for the southern “rebellious states” to rejoin the Union without giving up slavery.) The major importance of the Emancipation Proclamation is that is served as a powerful icon. The symbolism of the declared freedom showed that the Civil War was being fought not only to preserve the Union, but also to preserve the liberty of all those who live in the Union by eradicating slavery.

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As more and more troops began to occupy the South, larger numbers of African Americans were freed. With all of these events unfolding, the dominos continued to fall leading to a huge surge of Anti-Slavery support. At the end of the war slavery was abolished in Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The last piece of the puzzle to complete the vision originally started by the Emancipation Proclamation came in 1865 when Congress passed the 13th Amendment eradicated slavery completely in the United States of America.

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African Americans aided to overall success of the Civil War through their participation. Close to 200,000 African American soldiers were enlisted, and thanks to these overwhelming numbers, it turned the tables allowing the Union to emerge victorious. At first all enlisted African American soldiers (whether they were freed men, or if they were newly freed/escaped slaves) were discriminated against and excluded from most of the military. Segregated regiments of these men were created, but were established in Union occupied areas. In these defeated areas there was no combat for miles and miles and therefore no need for the African American regiments to fight, so the African American soldiers served as manual labor in the fields.

external image glory-DVDcover.jpg After Lincoln issuedexternal image 54th-regiment.jpg the Emancipation Proclamation, enlistment increased quickly. By the thousands, African Americans were taking up positions of soldiers and sailors in Union regiments throughout all country. The most famous of all the African American regiments was the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, lead by Robert Gould Shaw. Like all of the other regiments of the time, the African American soldiers were lead by a Caucasian commander. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry was noted for their valor in Charleston, South Carolina in the summer of 1863. Half of the regiment died in trying to take a Confederate fort, but in the end it was a Confederate victory. [If anyone is interested in further learning about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, there is a three time Oscar winning movie available titled
Glory directed by Edward Zwick, starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes, and Morgan Freeman.]

Even after the surge of enlistment, and larger participation in combat, the African American soldiers were isolated and treated unequally. A majority of the soldiers were still used for physical labor in tasks behind the lines of combat such as digging trenches or transporting water and food. They formed the “backbone” of the Union army by providing this support. African American soldiers were also paid one third less in wages in comparison to the wages of a Caucasian soldier. Also, if a Caucasian soldier was captured in the south, they would negotiate a trade with the north and swap prisoners, however if an African American soldier was caught they would be brutally put to death.

Another unequal factor between an African American soldier and a Caucasian soldier was the death rate. Even though the African American regiments had fewer casualties in combat compared to the other regiments, the African American soldiers had greater casualties due to diseases and exhaustion from the long work days they had.

Brinkley, Alan. American History: A Survey, 12th Edition (pages 376-377)
The Princeton Review: Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam 2010 Edition (pages 128-129)