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Archive for December, 2012

Emancipation Proclamation: A Letter Home

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Envelop containing a letter from Samuel Cabble to his wife and mother, 06/1863; Compiled Military Service Record of Samuel Cabble of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, ca. 1861–ca. 1865; Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, 1890–1912; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94 (National Archives Identifier 5757351)

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation brought freedom to the slaves in the Confederacy. By the war’s end, the U.S. Colored Troops Bureau had recruited hundreds of thousands of black soldiers, who fought for both their own and others’ freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation meant that their military victories resulted in the liberation of others.

Samuel Cabble served in the Massachusetts 55th Infantry. In a letter to his mother and his wife, Leah, Cabble expressed his desire to see his wife freed from slavery:

…though great is the present national difficulties yet I look foward to a brighter day When i shall have the opertunity of seeing you in the full enjoyment of freedom I would like to no if you are still in slavery if you are it will not be long before we shall have crushed the system that now opreses you for in the course of three months

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Emancipation Proclamation: Creation of the United States Colored Troops

Image: Page 1 of War Department General Order 143 Ordering the Creation of the U.S. Colored Troops, 05/22/1863; Orders and Circulars, 1797–1910; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94; National Archives (National Archives Identifier 4662603)

The issues of freedom for the slaves and military service were intertwined from the beginning of the Civil War. News from Fort Sumter had set off a rush by free black men to enlist in military units. They were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred them from bearing arms for the U.S. Army (although they had served in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812).

The Lincoln administration thought about authorizing the recruitment of black troops before the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, but they were worried that doing so would prompt the border states to secede.

Nevertheless, the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1, 1863, did include mention of military service, although Lincoln did not call slaves and free blacks to serve as combatant troops in the war. Lincoln wrote, ”And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable conditions, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.”

This statement directly applied to slaves in … [ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: “It is my Desire to be Free”

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Image: Letter from Annie Davis to Abraham Lincoln, 08/25/1864; Letters Received, 1863–1888; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94; National Archives (National Archives Identifier 4662543)

Only 100 days after promising in the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that slaves in the Confederacy would soon be freed, Lincoln fulfilled that promise by signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This proclamation changed the character of the war, adding moral force to the Union cause and strengthening the Union both militarily and politically while the rebellion was still in full force.

Despite the expansive wording of the proclamation, which stated ”that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious areas ”are, and henceforward shall be free,” the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union and it excused parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most importantly of all, the freedom it promised depended upon a Union military victory.

The Emancipation Proclamation also failed to apply to the slave-holding border states that had remained loyal to the Union, such as Maryland. On April 25, 1864, Annie Davis, an enslaved woman living in Maryland, wrote a brief but touching letter to President Abraham Lincoln, asking if she was free.

Mr.

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The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Throughout the Civil War, when President Lincoln needed to concentrate—when he faced a task that required his focused and undivided attention—he would leave the White House, cross the street to the War Department, and take over the desk of Thomas T. Eckert, chief of the military telegraph staff.

The hub of the Union’s military communication center had become an unlikely refuge for the President. Anxiously awaiting the latest reports from the front, hovering over the shoulder of an operator, he would enjoy the easy banter of the telegraph staff and, somehow, find relief from the strain of his office.

In early July of 1862, President Lincoln asked the telegraph chief for some paper, explaining that he had something ”special” to write. Slowly, putting down just one or two lines at a time, Lincoln began to work.

Only when a draft was finished did Lincoln reveal that he had composed an order ”giving freedom to the slaves in the South, for the purpose of hastening the end of the war.”

Page 1 of Presidential Proclamation 93 (Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation); Presidential Proclamation 93 (vault), Box 2; General Records of the U.S. Government, Record Group 11; National Archives.

This Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation indicated Lincoln’s intention of issuing the final proclamation in the near future:

That on

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Emancipation Proclamation: A Certificate of Freedom

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the Federal Government took steps to begin the process of freeing the slaves. In July 1862—acting on Lincoln’s warning that freeing slaves in parts of the South occupied by Union troops might ”become a necessity” and in hopes of crippling the Confederacy—the Congress passed the Second Confiscation and Militia Act.

This act gave the military the power to seize and confiscate the property of the Confederate people—to seize their slave ”property” in occupied areas. As a result, the progress of Union troops meant the promise of freedom for many. Troops successfully freed slaves belonging to members of the Confederate military or Confederate sympathizers in those areas.

Image: Order Granting Freedom to Wally Caruz and Family, 08/15/1862; General James R. Chalmers' Papers, 1874–1899; War Department Collection of Confederate Records, 1825–1927, Record Group 109; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. (National Archives Identifier 3854715)

The Army issued this pass to Wally Caruz and his family. The pass amounted to a certificate of freedom and declared them ”forever emancipated.” The order says that:

Wally Caruz family a colored . . . formerly Slaves having by direction of their owner been engaged in the rebel service, are hereby confiscated as being contraband of war, and not being

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