Audio lesson. Chapter 39. THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION. Chapter 40. THE YEAR 1863

A Short History of the United States

Author: Edward Channing


402. The Blockade.–On the fall of Fort Sumter President Lincoln ordered a blockade of the Confederate seaports. There were few manufacturing industries in the South. Cotton and tobacco were the great staples of export. If her ports were blockaded the South could neither bring in arms and military supplies from Europe, nor send cotton and tobacco to Europe to be sold for money. So her power of resisting the Union armies would be greatly lessened. The Union government bought all kinds of vessels, even harbor ferryboats, armed them, and stationed them off the blockaded harbors. In a surprisingly short time the blockade was established. The Union forces also began to occupy the Southern seacoast, and thus the region that had to be blockaded steadily grew less.

403. Effects of the Blockade.–As months and years went by, and the blockade became stricter and stricter, the sufferings of the Southern people became ever greater. As they could not send their products to Europe to exchange for goods, they had to pay gold and silver for whatever the blockade runners brought in. Soon there was no more gold and silver in the Confederacy, and paper money took its place. Then the supplies of manufactured goods, as clothing and paper, of things not produced in the South, as coffee and salt, gave out. Toward the end of the war there were absolutely no medicines for the Southern soldiers, and guns were so scarce that it was proposed to arm one regiment with pikes. Nothing did more to break down Southern resistance than the blockade.

404. The Confederacy, Great Britain, and France.–From the beginning of the contest the Confederate leaders believed that the British and the French would interfere to aid them. “Cotton is king,” they said. Unless there were a regular supply of cotton, the mills of England and of France must stop. Thousands of mill hands–men, women, and children–would soon be starving. The French and the British governments would raise the blockade. Perhaps they would even force the United States to acknowledge the independence of the Confederate states. There was a good deal of truth in this belief. For the British and French governments dreaded the growing power of the American republic and would gladly have seen it broken to pieces. But events fell out far otherwise than the Southern leaders had calculated. Before the supply of American cotton in England was used up, new supplies began to come in from India and from Egypt. The Union armies occupied portions of the cotton belt early in 1862, and American cotton was again exported. But more than all else, the English mill operatives, in all their hardships, would not ask their government to interfere. They saw clearly enough that the North was fighting for the rights of free labor. At times it seemed, however, as if Great Britain or France would interfere.

405. The Trent Affair, 1861.–As soon as the blockade was established, the British and French governments gave the Confederates the same rights in their ports as the United States had. The Southerners then sent two agents, Mason and Slidell, to Europe to ask the foreign governments to recognize the independence of the Confederate states. Captain Wilkes of the United States ship San Jacinto took these agents from the British steamer Trent. But Lincoln at once said that Wilkes had done to the British the very thing which we had fought the War of 1812 to prevent the British doing to us. “We must stick to American principles,” said the President, “and restore the prisoners.” They were given up. But the British government, without waiting to see what Lincoln would do, had gone actively to work to prepare for war. This seemed so little friendly that the people of the United States were greatly irritated.

406. Lincoln and Slavery.–It will be remembered that the Republican party had denied again and again that it had any intention to interfere with slavery in the states. As long as peace lasted the Federal government could not interfere with slavery in the states. But when war broke out, the President, as commander-in-chief, could do anything to distress and weaken the enemy. If freeing the slaves in the seceded states would injure the secessionists, he had a perfect right to do it. But Lincoln knew that public opinion in the North would not approve this action. He would follow Northern sentiment in this matter, and not force it.

407. Contrabands of War.–he war had scarcely begun before slaves escaped into the Union lines. One day a Confederate officer came to Fortress Monroe and demanded his runaway slaves under the Fugitive Slave Act (p. 281). General Butler refused to give them up on the ground that they were “contraband of war.” By that phrase he meant that their restoration would be illegal as their services would be useful to the enemy. President Lincoln approved this decision of General Butler, and escaping slaves soon came to be called “Contrabands.”

408. First Steps toward Emancipation, 1862.–Lincoln and the Republican party thought that Congress could not interfere with slavery in the states. It might, however, buy slaves and set them free or help the states to do this. So Congress passed a law offering aid to any state which should abolish slavery within its borders. Congress itself abolished slavery in the District of Columbia with compensation to the owners. It abolished slavery in the territories without compensation. Lincoln had gladly helped to make these laws. Moreover, by August, 1862, he had made up his mind that to free the slaves in the seceded states would help “to save the Union” and would therefore be right as a “war measure.” For every negro taken away from forced labor would weaken the producing power of the South and so make the conquest of the South easier.

409. The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863.–On September 23, 1862, Lincoln issued a proclamation stating that on the first day of the new year he would declare free all slaves in any portion of the United States then in rebellion. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This proclamation could be enforced only in those portions of the seceded states which were held by the Union armies. It did not free slaves in loyal states and did not abolish the institution of slavery anywhere. Slavery was abolished by the states of West Virginia, Missouri, and Maryland between 1862 and 1864. Finally, in 1865, it was abolished throughout the United States by the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment (p. 361).

410. Northern Opposition to the War.–Many persons in the North thought that the Southerners had a perfect right to secede if they wished. Some of these persons sympathized so strongly with the Southerners that they gave them important information and did all they could to prevent the success of the Union forces. It was hard to prove anything against these Southern sympathizers, but it was dangerous to leave them at liberty. So Lincoln ordered many of them to be arrested and locked up. Now the Constitution provides that every citizen shall have a speedy trial. This is brought about by the issuing a writ of habeas corpus, compelling the jailer to bring his prisoner into court and show cause why he should not be set at liberty. Lincoln now suspended the operation of the writ of habeas corpus. This action angered many persons who were quite willing that the Southerners should be compelled to obey the law, but did not like to have their neighbors arrested and locked up without trial.

411. The Draft Riots.–At the outset both armies were made up of volunteers; soon there were not enough volunteers. Both governments then drafted men for their armies; that is, they picked out by lot certain men and compelled them to become soldiers. The draft was bitterly resisted in some parts of the North, especially in New York City.


412. Position of the Armies, January, 1863.–The Army of the Potomac, now under Hooker, and the Army of Northern Virginia were face to face at Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock. In the West Rosecrans was at Murfreesboro’, and Bragg on the way back to Chattanooga. In the Mississippi Valley Grant and Sherman had already begun the Vicksburg campaign. But as yet they had had no success.

413. Beginnings of the Vicksburg Campaign.–Vicksburg stood on the top of a high bluff directly on the river. Batteries erected at the northern end of the town commanded the river, which at that point ran directly toward the bluff. The best way to attack this formidable place was to proceed overland from Corinth. This Grant tried to do. But the Confederates forced him back.

414. Fall of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863.–Grant now carried his whole army down the Mississippi. For months he tried plan after plan, and every time he failed. Finally he marched his army down on the western side of the river, crossed the river below Vicksburg, and approached the fortress from the south and east. In this movement he was greatly aided by the Union fleet under Porter, which protected the army while crossing the river. Pemberton, the Confederate commander, at once came out from Vicksburg. But Grant drove him back and began the siege of the town from the land side. The Confederates made a gallant defense. But slowly and surely they were starved into submission. On July 4, 1863, Pemberton surrendered the fortress and thirty-seven thousand men.

415. Opening of the Mississippi.–Port Hudson, between Vicksburg and New Orleans, was now the only important Confederate position on the Mississippi. On July 8 it surrendered. A few days later the freight steamer Imperial from St. Louis reached New Orleans. The Mississippi at last “flowed unvexed to the sea.” The Confederacy was cut in twain.

416. Lee’s Second Invasion, 1863.–“Fighting Joe Hooker” was now in command of the Army of the Potomac. Outwitting Lee, he gained the rear of the Confederate lines on Marye’s Heights, But Lee fiercely attacked him at Chancellorsville and drove him back across the Rappahannock. Then Lee again crossed the Potomac and invaded the North. This time he penetrated to the heart of Pennsylvania. Hooker moved on parallel lines, always keeping between Lee and the city of Washington. At length, in the midst of the campaign, Hooker asked to be relieved, and George G. Meade became the fifth and last chief of the Army of the Potomac.

417. Gettysburg, July 1, 1863.–Meade now moved the Union army toward Lee’s line of communication with Virginia. Lee at once drew back. Both armies moved toward Gettysburg, where the roads leading southward came together. In this way the two armies came into contact on July i, 1863. The Southerners were in stronger force at the moment and drove the Union soldiers back through the town to the high land called Cemetery Ridge. This was a remarkably strong position, with Culp’s Hill at one end of the line and the Round Tops at the other end. Meade determined to fight the battle at that spot and hurried up all his forces.

418. Gettysburg, July 2, 1863.–At first matters seemed to go badly with the Union army. Its left flank extended forward from Little Round Top into the fields at the foot of the ridge. The Confederates drove back this part of the Union line. But they could not seize Little Round Top. On this day also the Confederates gained a foothold on Culp’s Hill.

419. Gettysburg, July 3, 1863.–Early on this morning the Union soldiers drove the Confederates away from Culp’s Hill and held the whole ridge. Now again, as at Malvern Hill (p. 321), Lee had fought the Army of the Potomac to a standstill. But he would not admit failure. Led by Pickett of Virginia, thirteen thousand men charged across the valley between the two armies directly at the Union center. Some of them even penetrated the Union lines. But there the line stopped. Slowly it began to waver. Then back the Confederates went–all who escaped. The battle of Gettysburg was won. Lee faced the Army of the Potomac for another day and then retreated. In this tremendous conflict the Confederates lost twenty-two thousand five hundred men killed and wounded and five thousand taken prisoners by the Northerners–a total loss of twenty-eight thousand out of eighty thousand in the battle. The Union army numbered ninety-three thousand men and lost twenty-three thousand, killed and wounded. Vicksburg and Gettysburg cost the South sixty-five thousand fighting men–a loss that could not be made good. We must now turn to eastern Tennessee.

420. Chickamauga, September, 1863.–For six months after Murfreesboro’ (p. 326) Rosecrans and Bragg remained in their camps. In the summer of 1863 Rosecrans, by a series of skillful marchings, forced Bragg to abandon Chattanooga. But Bragg was now greatly strengthened by soldiers from the Mississippi and by Longstreet’s division from Lee’s army in Virginia. He turned on Rosecrans, and attacked him at Chickamauga Creek. The right wing of the Union army was driven from the field. But Thomas, “the Rock of Chickamauga,” with his men stood fast. Bragg attacked him again and again, and failed every time, although he had double Thomas’s numbers. Rosecrans, believing the battle to be lost, had ridden off to Chattanooga, but Sheridan aided Thomas as well as he could. The third day Thomas and Bragg kept their positions, and then the Union soldiers retired unpursued to Chattanooga. The command of the whole army at Chattanooga was now given to Thomas, and Grant was placed in control of all the Western armies.

421. Chattanooga, November, 1863.–The Union soldiers at Chattanooga were in great danger. For the Confederates were all about them and they could get no food. But help was at hand. Hooker, with fifteen thousand men from the Army of the Potomac, arrived and opened a road by which food could reach Chattanooga. Then Grant came with Sherman’s corps from Vicksburg. He at once sent Sherman to assail Bragg’s right flank and ordered Hooker to attack his left flank. Sherman and his men advanced until he was stopped by a deep ravine. At the other end of the line Hooker fought right up the side of Lookout Mountain, until the battle raged above the clouds. In the center were Thomas’s men. Eager to avenge the slaughter of Chickamauga, they carried the first Confederate line of defenses. Then, without orders, they rushed up the hillside over the inner lines. They drove the Southerners from their guns and seized their works. Bragg retreated as well as he could. Longstreet was besieging Knoxville. He escaped through the mountains to Lee’s army in Virginia.