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Slavery During the Civil War

Slavery in America

The American civil war had a profound effect on the lives of slaves. It ultimately resulted in the abolition of slavery. Slaves first arrived in America in Virginia in 1619. The Underground Railway was a way by which slaves could find freedom. This was a method for northerners to help escaped slaves to find a place to live in free states or Canada. Free black Americans were usually the ones to plan and helped with the Underground Railroad. It is believed about 50,000 to 100,000 people used the Underground Railroad to escape to their freedom. The Underground Railroad was used mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

The Civil War was fought partly over the issue of slavery. The people that lived in the North opposed slavery move than the people in the South. The people in the North did not need slavery as much as the South did. The people living in the North owned, operated, and worked in factories and mills. The South required slavery. In the South they grew cotton and needed a lot of people to work in the farms for extremely little or no money.

Slavery during the Civil War

Slavery was not the single cause of the Civil war. The many differences arising from the slavery issue provoked the Southern States to secede. Abraham Lincoln was elected as president of the United States in 1860. Not a single Southern State had voted for him. Lincoln and his Republican party had the goal of only stopping the expansion of slavery not abolishing it. White Southerners were not convinced by Lincoln’s promise to protect slavery where it existed. South Carolina had declared it would secede from the Union if Abraham Lincoln was elected, and it did so in December 1861. It was followed shortly by the other lower South states of Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida. In February 1861, a month before Lincoln was inaugurated, these states formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. After Lincoln’s call for volunteers to suppress the rebellion and the firing on Fort Sumter, the other slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy. The border slave states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained in the Union (not entirely voluntarily).

The main cause of secession for the White South was the right to preserve African American slavery within their borders. But in retrospect its decision to secede proved to be the worst possible choice it could have made in order to preserve that right. There was huge antislavery sentiment in the North, but such sentiment was also strongly anti-Black. White Northerners did not want slavery to expand into new areas of the nation, which they believed should be preserved for white non-slave-holding settlers.

The North went to war to preserve the American Union, and the White South went to war for independence so that it might protect slavery. Initially the Northern goal in the war was the speedy restoration of the Union under the Constitution and the laws of 1861, all of which recognized slavery as legitimate. Opposing slavery would make reunion more difficult. Accordingly, Union generals like George B McClellan in Virginia and Henry W Halleck in the West were ordered not only to defeat the Southern armies but also to prevent slave rebellions. In the beginning months of the war, slaves who escaped to Union lines were returned to their masters in conformity with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

The White South used slaves in the war effort. They were used to build fortifications, dig latrines, and haul supplies. Because of the possibility of escape through Union lines, slaves at the front were watched more closely than on their home farms. The slave owners were reluctant to send their slaves to the front for two reasons. First, they risked the loss of their most valuable property, and, second, because the men were overworked and mistreated, they frequently returned to their homes in very poor physical condition. Thus, the owners often contrived to send only their most unmanageable slaves to the army. The shortage of white manpower left the South with no choice but to put slaves to work in its factories and mines. The use of slaves in industry and on the battlefield enabled the South to fight on longer than would have been possible otherwise. In the final days of the war, the Confederacy even considered using blacks as soldiers, offering freedom as a reward.

Slave resistance on the plantations

When given the choice, slaves made it very clear that they wanted emancipation. The overwhelming majority of slaves, however, remained on their plantations in the countryside. Even then these slaves in the Southern interior found ways to demonstrate their desire for freedom. They did not stop working, but they did considerably less work than they had before the war.

The Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln detested slavery, but he doubted whether blacks and whites could ever live in America in a condition of equality. The slaves ran way in massive numbers during the spring and summer of 1862, freeing themselves. Abolitionists who insisted that the war should be one for the freedom of the slaves confronted Lincoln at home. The Emancipation proclamation in January 1863 did not legally free a single slave. Through the proclamation Lincoln silenced his abolitionist critics in the North, defused interventionist sentiment abroad, and invigorated black slave resisters to continue their efforts in the South.

Ex-slaves working in the Union army

In the fall of 1862, with Union victory still not inevitable and the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation already announced, Lincoln yielded to pressure and authorized the formation of the first black army units. African Americans were offered a step toward emancipation not because the white North wanted them. It was because the North needed them badly. Black American troops distinguished themselves and were instrumental in the North’s victory. Overall, about 180,000 African-Americans served in the Union army, and another 20,000 in the Union navy. Combined, they made up about 15 percent of all Northern forces in the war. Of all the Union troops, the African American soldier was fighting for the most significant of causes–freedom for themselves and their people. In September 1862 Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made ending slavery in the South a war goal, which complicated the Confederacy’s manpower shortages.

End of the war

In the East, Confederate commander Robert Lee won successive victories over Union armies, but Lee’s loss at Gettysburg in early July, 1863 proved to be the turning point. The capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson completed Union control of the Mississippi River. Grant fought bloody battles with Lee in 1864, forcing Lee to defend the Confederate capital at Richmond. Union general William Sherman captured Atlanta, Georgia. Confederate resistance collapsed after Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865.

Freedom of the slaves

The slaves of the Confederacy were free because of the Emancipation Proclamation. When the thirteenth Amendment banned slavery in the United States. The Thirteenth Amendment said that neither slavery nor involuntary bondage should exist in the United States.

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