How the civil war became a war to free the slaves essay

When President Lincoln first called for troops to put down the confederate rebellion, he made no connection between this action and an attempt to end slavery. In fact, he explicitly stated the utmost care will be observed to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property… At this point, slavery was not yet integral to the struggle, it was much more important for the Union to air on the side of political prudence and avoid angering loyal boarder states.

However, despite this lack of political dialogue, many abolitionists, slaves, and free blacks felt the war to preserve the union could also be a war to end slavery. In the end, they were right, as military need overwhelmed potential political dangers, slaves and the institution of slavery became a central issue in the civil war. In congruence with President Lincolns statements regarding the differentiation between fighting the confederates and ending slavery, Union officers upheld slaveholders constitutionally guaranteed right to own slaves. They continually reassured slave holders in loyal boarder states that the Union would not be fighting against the institution of slavery and any runaway slaves would be returned. This policy was strictly followed by most generals and many runaway slaves were returned to their masters to face punishment or death.

Despite this danger, slaves continued to run away and enter Union lines. As this persisted, many Union officers were forced to reconsider the official policy of their superiors. General Benjamin F.

Butler was one of the first to break the trend, providing food and shelter to slaves who had previously worked for the Confederacy, and ultimately putting the able-bodied men to work. He justified his actions partially through a rhetorical question, Shall [the confederates] be allowed the use of this property against the United States, and we not be allowed its use in aid of the United States! He further argued that he wasin great need of labor and the Union might make use of slaves without violating its promise to loyal slaveholders. This rationale was ultimately accepted by the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron. Who acknowledged that no Federal obligations outweighed the suppression of armed rebellion. These arguments were even more persuasive following the Unions defeat at the battle of Bull Run.

As Congress began to realize victory may be years away, and every available resource had to be utilized, they passed the First Confiscation Act. This act declared that any piece of property, including slaves, used against the Union may be subject of prize and capture wherever found. Although this gave officers legal justification for employing runaway slave labor, and emboldened many slaves to flee, there still had to be a balance between the interests of the Union army and the interests of loyal slaveholders. The First Confiscation Act only allowed for the requisition of slaves employed for the Confederate cause, so officers had to remind soldiers not to encourage insubordination among the colored servants in the neighborhood of their camps, as it was, in direct violation of the laws of the United States. This, however, was difficult to enforce as Even commanders who cared nothing about runaways aspirations and worried that harboring them would alienate border-state slaveholders found fugitive slaves militarily useful. In spite of this advantage, many officers and soldiers continued to follow the law, returning all slaves that were unable to prove they had been employed by the Confederate army. Although this placated some loyalist slaveholders, abolitionists were outraged at the Union armys apparent complacency towards the institution of slavery. The governor of Massachusetts, John A.

Andrew, expressed these feeling in a letter to Secretary of War Simon Cameron. He wrote Massachusetts does not send her citizens forth to become the hunters of men or to engage in the seizure and return to captivity of persons claimed to be fugitive slaves. In addition to the concerns of abolitionists, some worried that by returning fugitive slaves, all slaves may become alienated from the Union cause. Despite these misgivings, the Union policy of returning slaves who had not been employed by the Confederacy continued as the army moved through the boarder states. When they began to move deeper south, however, this policy became much more difficult to enforce. General Ambrose E.

Burnside found this to be true after invading coastal North Carolina and finding virtually no loyal slaveholders but many slaves who seemed to be wild with excitement and delight. This, combined with ever increasing recognition of fugitive slave labors importance to the Union war effort, led Congress to declare in March 1892 that Union soldiers were forbidden to return fugitive slaves to their owners. Even with this change in policy, the federal government continued to overrule emancipation efforts as they attempted to retain the loyalty of slaveholding boarder states. When General David Hunter proclaimed freedom for all slaves in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, he was quickly overruled by President Lincoln. However, while Lincoln clearly stuck down General Hunters proclamation, he also offered aid to the boarder states so they may adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery.

Despite this set back, Hunter continued to work for the emancipation of slaves, and went so far as to enlist ex-slaves as soldiers without any authorization to do so. Although his actions may have been considered insubordinate, his rationale for the decision was widely accepted by abolitionists nation wide. Furthermore, although Congress was not yet willing to allow blacks to serve as soldiers, they had become convinced of their importance as military laborers and passed the Second Confiscation Act. This new act declared freedom not only for any slave that escaped a Confederate master and fled to Union lines, but also for any slave captured in enemy territory. With the passage of the Second Confiscation Act, and an increasing awareness of black contributions to the Union cause, many Northerners began to call for the employment of blacks as soldiers not simply laborers.

As Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood of Iowa wrote, There are enough soldiers on extra duty in the army to take Richmond or any other rebel city if they were in the ranks instead of doing negro work. He also felt that as the cause of this war has become increasingly intertwined with the struggle for black emancipation, the tremendous loss of life should be shared by white and black alike. These feelings were shared among many, even those who were against emancipation but recognized the military importance of including blacks in the Union ranks. These feelings ultimately found some political justification through the argument of General William T. Sherman that although the U. S Constitution protects the right to slavery, by seceding, the confederates had forfeited this right.

With this conclusion, the decision to fight against slavery in the south had gained both political and military justification. This led up to Abraham Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation speech on January 1, 1863. In this statement President Lincoln declared That on the 1st day of January, A. D 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free. With this statement, President Lincoln freed all slaves in the rebellious states, while avoiding any encroachment on the boarder states rights. More importantly, this speech forever joined the cause of maintaining the Union with a fight to end the institution of slavery. In the end, slavery became a central issue of the Civil war largely due to necessity. The Union was fighting a costly war in both lives and labor, it is of no surprise then that they were desperate for both.

Slaves provided a solution, cheap, dedicated labor, and soldiers willing to die for their cause. Furthermore, when this necessity was combined with eagerness on the part of the slaves to contribute and the desires of abolitionists to end slavery on moral grounds, including slaves in the struggle became more important than avoiding a delicate subject. Ultimately, the need for soldiers and laborers simply overwhelmed any desire or necessity to maintain political prudence.