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1861 - 1865

Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency, with slavery and states’ rights as the major campaign issues, caused South Carolina, on December 20, 1860, to declare, "the union now existing between South Carolina and other States under the name of the United States of America is hereby dissolved."  

The War between the States began when the first hostile shot was fired on January 9, 1861, and ended formally, with the surrender of the South, on April 9, 1865. The combined armies of both sides lost over 600,000 soldiers, white and black, who died from battle wounds or disease. The Union and the anti-slavery cause lost one president, Abraham Lincoln, the emancipator.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Negroes were not wanted in the battle to save the Union and abolish slavery. According to the 1898 'Negro in America', "when the question was first broached of enlisting Negro soldiers there was a very strong prejudice against it among both officers and men. The general opinion seemed to be that slaves were disqualified for efficient service as soldiers by reason of their ignorance and the servile spirit begotten by bondage. They could not be expected to be brave, it was said, especially when brought face to face with former masters whom they had been taught to respect, reverence and obey."

Lincoln’s overriding concern at the beginning of the Civil War was the preservation of the Union. As late as the latter part of 1862 he said, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that."

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Abraham Lincoln

His personal conflict, and that of the nation, in balancing his interpretation of the rational blacksoldier.gif (11181 bytes)and irrational elements that provoked the war and his humanitarianism for those in bondage ceased in 1862 when the preservation of the Union and the abolishment of slavery became forever inseparable. During that same year, Lincoln ordered the army to stop returning runaway slaves to southern territory, basically annulling the Fugitive Slave Laws, and contravening the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott case that slaves were beings without the rights of citizenship and were simply property that must legally be returned to their owners, without exception.

On January 1, 1863, Lincoln reinforced the nation’s resolve to abolish slavery in the states, after announcing his intentions earlier, by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. It was one of America’s greatest documents, conferring freedom on all slaves within the confines of the areas in rebellion against the United States. With the enactment of the 13th amendment (in effect 1865) to the U.S. Constitution, slavery came to an end, and would be forever illegal, in the United States.

Also during 1863, Congress passed the new Militia Act, allowing the president to use "as many persons of African descent" as needed "for suppression of the rebellion." It also repealed earlier legislation (1792) than forbade "persons of color" from serving in the militia. Free blacks and former slaves could now be recruited, however, their pay was set at $10 per month less clothing allowance (whites were paid $13 plus clothing allowance), and they were required to have white officers. All men now had the opportunity to serve their country in its time of need.

'Black History' segment written in June, 1998 by David Lodge

 

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