Sunday, September 23, 2012

September 22, 1862

September 22, 1862: The Emancipation Proclamation - On this day, Pres. Abraham Lincoln does the single most renowned deed of his time in office: He issues the Emancipation Proclamation.  As he shares it with his Cabinet, he tells them that he is keeping a promise he made to “myself and to my Maker” that he would reveal this document if the Rebels were driven back across the Potomac.  It is a strange document, in many ways: It freed only the slaves behind Confederate lines but not in any of the occupied South (such as southern Louisiana, the coastal islands of South Carolina, western Tennessee, coastal North Carolina, and so forth), nor in any of the slave states that were loyal to the Union: Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware.  Also, this proclamation would not become law until January 1, 1863—giving the Rebel states time to consider their options.  The Proclamation states.

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; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Lincoln argues that this is a military measure, and therefore under his authority as commander-in-chief.  The Proclamation will be released to the public on the morrow.

—General Lee issues an order that reveals the shocking degree that lawless behavior and morale have declined considerably during the break-neck pace of operations by the Army of Northern Virginia during the summer, as well as the scarcity of rations and other supplies, which has led to Confederate soldiers engaged in foraging and looting:

The depredations committed by this army, its daily diminution by straggling, and the loss of arms thrown aside as too burdensome by stragglers, make it necessary for preservation itself, aside from considerations of disgrace and injury to our cause arising form such outrages committed upon our citizens, that greater efforts be made by our officers to correct this growing evil.

---Near Yellow Medicine, Minnesota, Col. Sibley of the U.S. Army and his command were attacked by over 300 Dakota warriors.  After a two-hour battle, the Federal troops drove off the attackers, suffering only 4 men dead and about 30 wounded.  By best count, the Dakota suffered nearly 10 times that many casualties.

---Union army surgeon Alfred L. Castleman records with fine sarcasm his scorn for McClellan’s timidity in pursuing the retreating Rebels:

Monday, 22nd.—A beautiful morning and all quiet, except that the officers are pitching tents and fixing up tables, as if for a stay. But that is no indication of what is in store for us; even before night we may be ordered to pull up and move again. But this would be very cruel. Our poor, worn out enemy, having fought and been driven for seven days, and now being entirely without provisions, must be exhausted and need rest. How cruel it would be to pursue him, under these circumstances. The kind heart of our Commander can entertain no such idea.

---Sec. of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his journal of his thoughts and reaction to Lincoln presenting to the Cabinet the Emancipation Proclamation:

While, however, these dark clouds are above and around us, I cannot see how the subject can be avoided. Perhaps it is not desirable it should be. It is, however, an arbitrary and despotic measure in the cause of freedom.


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