How The Civil War Became A War To Free The Slaves

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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 Lincoln’s 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... ... middle of paper ... ...vil 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. Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation Calling Militia and Convening Congress. April 15, 1861 Ira Berlin, Free at Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War. p.3 Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation. September 22, 1862
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