Of all the years of the Civil War, 1862 is the most portentous in terms of events leading to freedom for the slaves. Most famously, it would see Abraham Lincoln issue the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September and have it go into effect permanently at year’s end. But many other significant events relevant to emancipation also occurred in 1862. Here is a lists of highlights, taken from the website of the Freedmen and Southern Society Project at the University of Maryland, College Park.
3 General David Hunter, Union commander in the South Carolina Sea Islands, requests permission to arm black men for military service; receiving no response, he begins recruiting on his own authority in early May, but the War Department refuses to pay or equip the regiment and Hunter is therefore compelled to disband it
10 At Lincoln’s request, Congress pledges financial aid to any state that undertakes gradual emancipation with compensation to owners
16 Congress abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia, with compensation to loyal owners, and appropriates money for the voluntary removal (“colonization”) of former slaves to Haiti, Liberia, or other countries
9 General David Hunter declares free all slaves in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida
19 President Lincoln issues a proclamation nullifying General Hunter’s emancipation edict and urging the border states (Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware) to embrace gradual, compensated emancipation.
7 Congress adopts legislation enforcing the Direct Tax Act of 1861 in the seceded states; it provides for forfeiture to the government of land whose owners failed to pay the tax and for its subsequent lease or sale
19 Congress prohibits slavery in the territories
12 President Lincoln appeals to congressmen from the border states to support gradual, compensated emancipation, with colonization of freed slaves outside the United States, warning that if they do not act soon, slavery in their states “will be extinguished by mere friction and abrasion – by the mere incidents of the war”; two days later, a majority of the congressmen reject Lincoln’s appeal
17 Second Confiscation Act frees the slaves of persons engaged in or assisting the rebellion and provides for the seizure and sale of other property owned by disloyal citizens; it also forbids army and navy personnel to decide on the validity of any fugitive slave’s claim to freedom or to surrender any fugitive to any claimant, and authorizes the president to employ “persons of African descent” in any capacity to suppress the rebellion
17 Militia Act provides for the employment of “persons of African descent” in “any military or naval service for which they may be found competent,” granting freedom to slaves so employed (and to their families if they belong to disloyal owners)
22 President Lincoln announces to his cabinet his intention to issue a proclamation freeing slaves in the rebel states, but agrees to postpone it until after a suitable military victory
22 In New Orleans, General Benjamin F. Butler incorporates into Union forces several “Native Guard” units composed of free-black soldiers; soon thereafter he begins recruiting both free-black and ex-slave men for additional regiments
25 After having withheld its permission for months, the War Department authorizes recruitment of black soldiers in the South Carolina Sea Islands
17 Confederate invasion of Maryland repulsed at Antietam
22 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln; it announces that all slaves in those states or portions of states still in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, will be declared free, pledges monetary aid for slave states not in rebellion that adopt either immediate or gradual emancipation, and reiterates support for the colonization of freed slaves outside the United States
23 Confederate President Davis issues proclamation ordering that black Union soldiers and their officers captured by Confederate troops are not to be treated as prisoners of war; instead, they are to be remanded to Confederate state authorities
This list, of course, while extensive does not list every single event in 1862 relevant to emancipation. Civil War Emancipation will explore as many of them as possible during 2012. I hope you enjoy it. I know I will. Happy New Year!